Saturday, 19 November 2011

Kpala Island

The Island of Hope Christian Academy is on Kpala Island, a small patch of land that stayed above water when Lake Volta was flooded in 1965. Ghana International School (GIS) has a partnership with the school, providing support to the teachers as well as funds and resources, and GIS staff visit each year. Always up for a free trip, I gladly tagged along.

The bus journey began in typical Ghanaian style. A prayer for our journey, then a long delay while we picked some people up at the mall, followed by breakfast and singing on the bus. The drive out to the Volta region is my favourite in Ghana (so far) so I happily sat back and watched the now-familiar villages fly past.

The real hubbub began at Kpandu, one of the main ports on the Volta’s eastern shore. The market was in full swing as we unloaded the bus with the provisions brought for the school. I climbed onto the bus roof under the pretence of helping, but actually to get a better view of the chaos below. Particularly eye-catching were the four cows neatly arranged in the back of a van, looking like to solution to a mid puzzle. On a nearby rooftop, vultures watched the action below, waiting for some fish or meat to be dropped.

Boat loaded, we were soon sailing across the calm waters of Lake Volta. We passed tiny inhabited islands on the way, little more than a few rocks; pre-1965 these were the region’s high points, now they stood out as the last refuges in the water. The fishers who lived there waved as we went past; the constant traffic across the lake means they are unlikely to feel too isolated.

The school children greeted us at Kpala Island and solemnly carried the boxes to shore on their heads. We were then given a guided tour of the school. The basic nature of the classrooms was a stark contrast to the modernity of GIS.

The teachers showing us round then led us to the school's pride and joy: a roundabout in the playground. This is not just something to keep the kids amused; it is the school’s generator, powering their new ITC centre as well as houses in the village. Just two hours of use a day is enough to power the school, and the children need little encouragement to hop on. It's an ingenious example of clean energy and hopefully will be replicated across Ghana.

After a singing and dancing presentation from the school, we ate lunch – tilapia of course, fresh from the lake that morning – before returning across the lake to Kpandu. Rarely has helping out on a school trip been so enjoyable.

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