Lizzie’s ASA experience

When I landed in Accra on the evening of the 1st September 2018, I had no idea that my experience at ASA would surpass all of my expectations. Welcomed so warmly by the girls who were ending their evening entertainment with music and dancing, I was immediately immersed in the lively, exciting environment that they all helped me settle into. It seems impossible to summarise my experience here in just a few paragraphs, so I’ll do my best to give a glimpse of my whirlwind of a stay.

From my first morning here I dived straight into the busy ASA life, running a maths SAT class on Sunday morning (the girls were preparing to take the test in just over a month) and participating in assembly in the afternoon, where I got to know each of them better. With their Maths AS Level exams coming up soon and university applications in sight, they were all keen for advice so I found my favourite spot in the outdoor chillout area where the girls came to see me. I really enjoyed getting to know each of them individually and knew from that moment that I would spend an exciting three weeks.

On Monday began the busy school routine. Levina and Hubert, the maths and physics teachers, were keen for me to assist their lessons and helped me to get a feel for what in particular I could do to help the girls during my stay. I worked a lot with the girls on an individual basis, going through A Level maths and physics problems with them, tailoring revision for their upcoming exams, giving advice on university applications and helping with general work ethic and organisation. Having recently been through the same process, I was so happy to be able to help them in any way I could during this hectic time in their school life. I ran sessions on anything the girls would find useful, ranging from practical skills (they were fascinated by my obsession for significant figures and units!) to specific maths and physics problem solving to general study advice. I held smaller group sessions on practicals too, where I was impressed with how quickly and enthusiastically all the girls picked up new skills and mastered the use of Vernier calipers and micrometers. I ran larger group SAT classes, preparing lessons on specifically requested topics and monitoring their individual progress to help them prepare in the most effective way possible. I have never met such a hard-working group of individuals, and I can certainly say that they kept me on my toes throughout the three weeks with their never-ending intellectual curiosity – I found myself working with them non-stop from 7am until 10pm almost every day!

Saturday evening entertainment marked a highlight to each week: the girls chose an activity and ran it themselves for everyone’s enjoyment. I was lucky enough to experience ‘ASA goes traditional!’ where the girls dressed up in clothes from their local region and told some of their local stories, accompanied by performances of their traditional dance. I will never forget the stories I heard or the impressive dances I got to see – I think all of us agreed that Meklit’s Ethiopian shoulder dance was one of the most unforgettable!

I have learnt a huge amount from my stay at ASA. The hard work of all the staff and girls produces a unique, fast-paced and intellectually stimulating environment with a very exciting future, where the girls are taught that they can do anything they want in life so long as they put the work in.

I’d like to end with a huge thank you to all the staff and students for enabling me to experience this wonderful school. Thank you to Carlene, Yaa and Bella for looking after me so well and for taking me around to discover a new culture; to Levina and Hubert for making me feel so welcome around the school; and to Ann and Efua for receiving me so well and ensuring all ran smoothly. Finally, thank you to all 22 girls of the 2018/19 cohort who made my stay here some of the best three weeks of my life: Eleanor, Augusta, Suliat, Nenna, Meklit, Mariam, Albright, Nancy, Mabel, Monalisa, Aminat, Seiba, Edith, Cedella, Emily, Alice, Anita, Shedika, Fiona, Melinda, Emmanuella and Vivian.

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Blogpost written by Lizzie Bru

ASA Staff Orientation and Training

The academic year began with mixed feelings and expectations as the school received an entirely new cohort of students as well as new staff members who are enthusiastic to embrace the ASA culture and ready to contribute their best quota to help achieve the school’s ultimate vision (Africa’s leading science and maths academy for girls). Meet the new staff;

Ann Fesu – Finance and Admin manager

The academic year started on 1st August with staff training and bonding.

These are some of the views from the staff;

Carlene and Beatrice – Hostel Guardians

”The sessions were lively and interactive, with moments of good humour. Everyone was teeming with enthusiasm. It was a great start to a great year in a great school. I look forward to working with a wonderful team and students who are zealous to change Africa. And I am really excited about my ripples project and I hope it would add to the wonderful profile of ASA.” – Hubert Agamasu

”Generally my first week was awesome and the training session was very informative and entertaining as well. Mrs Adabie paired us up and she asked us to interview each other for few minutes and each person was asked to tell the group what they had learnt about their partner. This exercise was fun and also we got to know each other better. We then learnt about ASA’s history, present and future. Mrs Adabie also shared nice quotes throughout her presentations and she picked one person in the group to read. I felt it was a good technique to keep us awake and active. Anabella took us through an exercise where we were put into 2 groups, we passed a paper around with each person writing down a

Hubert Agamasu – Physics Teacher

problem they would face in their positon. After, we categorized them under staff, administration, students and external. We ended this exercise knowing which group encountered the most problems and how they could be solved. Ann Fesu also organised charades with very impossible things to act out. For instance Mrs Adabie had to act out Health and Safety. It was really fun and we laughed a lot. I am happy to be part of the ASA team.” – Carlene Addico

”Orientation was very insightful, even though I had already started work, I learned a lot from the head teacher about the vision of the school and where we would like to see ASA in the future.It was also a great period for team bonding; as most of us were new and unfamiliar with ourselves. We hit off quite well and the moderators made sure to shuffle the teams for different exercises. We also needed everyone to understand and learn about the school policies in order to keep smooth the running of the workplace; and taking everyone through them together with Anabella helped me to know them better while noting down scenarios and suggestions for improvement.” – Ann Fesu

”My first week was great at ASA… From the welcoming, which was the first day through the one week training was great. I had a great time. Got the chance to learn new things and got much more ideas on how my work was going to be when the girls arrive. The old staff took their time to teach me what to know not about only the girls but about ASA as a whole. My headmistress, one wonderful woman who always inspire you. I spent great time with the whole staff of ASA. A family I know we always have our backs.. long live ASA, long live our staff.” – Beatrice Nana Yaa Agyeiwaa

”The 2018/2019 staff training was a mixed feeling for me as I formally started working with the New ASA Team. With this being my third staff training in ASA, there was something very interesting and mind-blowing about this year’s training and thus, this year, unlike the previous years, some Staff members were the resource personnel and this to me showed how far we had come as a school. The training gave me an opportunity to plan for the academic year and my contributions towards achieving our vision. I also had a thorough self-assessment, looking at my personal life’ which can affect my work output in one way or the other.” – Levina Ansong Owusu

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Blogpost written by ASA staff members

Special Debate held at ASA

On Saturday the 29th of April 2018, there was debate held in ASA by the students on the motion ‘Religion tells more truth than Science’. The event was honoured by our own founder Mr Tom Illube and his wife Caron, Dame Zarine Kharas, June Forbes, Jasmine Clark, Professor Andrew and his wife Nneka.

We had both Emeralds and Citrines on one team both arguing for the motion and Rubies and Obsidians also on one team arguing against the motion. Before the debate the audience were very confident of their stand where we had majority against the motion. But at the end of the debate there was a decrease of those against the motion even though it was still the majority and others who were no more sure of their stand and torn between the two.

It was such an amazing event with so much convincing from both parties but there had to be a winner which were obsidians and rubies. Two students Claris Oyonga and Adwoa Konadu were awarded the best debaters for the day for their outstanding performance.

The event ended with some presentations by our honourable guests.

I throw the debate back at you; Religion tells more truth than Science. I am strongly for the motion with my points burning to be shared. What is your stand?

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Blog post written by ASA student Wendy Essuman (4th May 2018)

ASA goes to the developers circle at MEST

On Saturday 28 0f April the students of  ASA went to MEST(melt water entrepreneurial school of technology) at East Legon for developers circle – Women Digitizing African through Entrepreneurship. As ladies who have respect for time we got to the place in time. On arrival, we met two ladies; Winnie (A former student at MEST) and a current student who took us on tour around the school.

After the tour, the program started where we were asked to have a chat with a person we don’t know and get to know more about them. Koby, the recruitment officer at MEST gave us a brief insight on what MEST does and how to be admitted. There was also a panel of discussion where ladies in the field of technology were asked questions about how they started their companies and also where they think their field of work will be in the next five years. These ladies were also questioned by the audience. They advised us to open minded in everything we want to do.

There was a short break and after that there was a session with Miishie Addy dubbed Women as elements of change in the Emerging Africa. During this session, I learnt the difference between a change agent and a symbol. There was an exercise where
we all asked to draw our tribe, symbolic community and our dream.

Finally, the program came to closure and we took a group picture. All in all, I loved the program because I learnt lot.


blog post written by our student: Abigail Appah (4th May 2018)

Aggy and Mark share their experience volunteering at ASA

On Wednesday 4th April, we boarded a plane for Accra, knowing very little of what was in store for us when we got there. It feels like an impossible task to encapsulate the two weeks that followed in a blog post, but we will certainly try and give a snapshot.

On our first day, we focused on getting to know the school, mostly observing the students and lessons, while coming up with a plan with Sir Chris, their Physics teacher, for the two weeks ahead. We were treated to a tour of the school by Iman and Abigail, who showed us around bursting with enthusiasm.

On Friday, our two weeks of intensive physics got going. When we arrived, the girls’ exams were to begin in just over a month. They were almost finished learning the syllabus, so we helped by teaching the last few topics, such as: the production and uses of ultrasound, the production and uses of X-rays (including CT scans) and some quantum physics (photoelectric effect, atomic spectra, band theory). It was particularly exciting when, the day after a lesson on the uses of ultrasound, a couple of Tullow representatives came to visit the school and were telling the girls about how they use ultrasound to “see” underneath the ground. The girls could explain the physics principles behind this perfectly.

The A-Level has a big emphasis on practical skills, with two of the exam papers being entirely practical-focussed. As a result, we were adamant to polish the girls’ practical skills and their usual timetable was restructured to give us three afternoons per week dedicated to lab work. One afternoon was spent finding the equilibrium position of a diagonal wooden rod with various masses hanging off it – a system that really doesn’t look like it should balance! Their focus was meticulous and even the fans needed to be switched off so as not to interfere with the forces acting on the system.  Thorough data analysis followed all the practicals and the girls revelled at Aggy’s obsession with significant figures, units, perfect lines of best fit and the importance of a perfectly sharpened pencil. The girls were working with the precision of true scientists by the end of the week.

The students were very much in the full swing of revision while we were there, so we took some revision classes on trickier concepts, such as op-amps and electromagnetic induction. These even spilled into the weekends! We spent our first Saturday exploring Accra, and a highlight for us was walking around Jamestown, the oldest part of Accra. Seeing more of the country was exciting but we found that we were missing the girls too much, so we decided to spend the rest of our weekend time at the school. This allowed the girls to come to us with questions more informally and on any topic in the syllabus, not limited to what we were looking at in class. We could also provide more individual attention, even working with some girls on their interview skills and conducting mock interviews for university applications. The mock interviews were particularly enjoyable because this gave us an opportunity to hear more about the backgrounds and aspirations of individual girls.

When we arrived, everyone was overwhelmed with excitement to hear that Mark’s PhD research is in the field of AI and Robotics. The girls have regular robotics classes and many have applied to study computer science at university. They were bursting with questions now that they had a specialist in the house. Mark decided to run a three-lesson introductory course on coding Python that many of the girls said was the most memorable part of our visit. Lessons were filled with a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as Mark showed them some examples of what coding enables. They were sat coding on their laptops long after the lessons had finished, testing what they could do with their new toolbox of computer skills. Before we left, Mark gave a talk (stretched across three assemblies) on Artificial Intelligence, introducing some of the basic ideas behind the mathematical methods used, and giving an insight into some of the current research being undertaken. The girls sat mesmerised as Mark deepened their understanding of the enthralling subject.

We will remember our time at ASA for far more than just the time we spent teaching the girls though. As the days passed and we began to know more of these twenty-two young women, we were magnetized by them. Their intellect is outstanding and their determination relentless, but this is only a snippet of who they are. Their genuine kindness and zest for life is truly unique. Their smiles are contagious and their curiosity and energy is boundless.  We couldn’t keep up with them when we joined in for sports! They would ask questions, eager to know about life in the UK, and similarly eager to tell us about their homes and cultures. Each day, the school meals will have a dish from one of the countries that the girls come from and they were always thrilled to hear of us enjoying their local dishes! On that note: the food at the school is delicious and allowed us to sample a host of traditional dishes from across the continent. One particular cultural highlight was when a few of the Ghanaian girls decided to teach us the game of oware, which Aggy developed a true obsession for. Credit is due to Rhoda, Abigail, Andrewla and Rosemond for teaching us both so well that we even managed to defeat Auntie Levina, the maths teacher, in a final game before our departure!

The staff at ASA are as impressive as the students. Before the end of breakfast on our first day at the school, the staff had made us feel like we were old friends. Their excitement to have us there was abundant and this remained true throughout the entirety of our time there. We were always met with the most heartwarming smiles and we learnt heaps, both from their positivity and their teaching. We were the most spoiled guests: Auntie Levina organised an unforgettable trip to the theatre for us and Efua, the head teacher, took us on a spontaneous tour throughout the communities of Tema, simultaneously introducing us to all the local fruit and facilitating a fruit tasting. We cannot thank all the staff enough for their hospitality, and particular thanks are due to Helen for hosting us.

On our final day, we were overwhelmed with thanks from the girls. They put on a presentation showcasing a variety of their talents; this left us speechless and even more in awe of them! These young women are not simply impressive: they are exceptional. Every minute we spent with them confirmed this. Teaching them was a true pleasure and it was an honour to contribute to a project that facilitates the most outstanding young minds from across a continent to reach their potential.  We absolutely recommend the volunteering programmes to anyone who can take a few months to come out to Ghana. As we drove away from the school, Aggy shedding a tear, all we could talk about was when we could plan a trip back to ASA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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written by Aggy and Mark (posted on 23rd April 2018)

Thank you from the entire ASA family for all your hard work and dedication. It is much appreciated.

If you are interested in volunteering with us too, please send us an email to info@africangifted.org