At Practical Education Network we are on a mission to empower science teachers in Africa to engage their students in hands-on science learning using locally-sourced materials to boost learning and comprehension. We have a team of Local Representatives who act as PEN ambassadors professing the importance of hands-on learning of science.
We recently caught up with one of the Local Reps who, despite the pandemic, has been keen on introducing hands-on learning of science to students and teachers. His latest effort was delivering a pep talk to a group of students about to write their BECE, encouraging them to take their learning seriously and donating a few items to the school.
Tei Mensah Abbey (Chief Nene Ogbe Assumeng)
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your relationship with PEN?
My name is Tei Mensah Abbey. I am a recently installed chief in Ga-Adangbe - Chief Nene Ogbe Assumeng. I am a divisional chief registered with the National House of Chiefs. I was installed in March 2019 after my uncle who was the chief passed away. Professionally, I am an architect. I am also a science enthusiast. While in high school, I participated in the National Science and Maths Quiz in 1995 and my team won. That was the first time my school Presec won the National Science and Maths Quiz. So far we have won five times. Before I was installed as a chief, I heard Dr Beem on the radio describing her work with Practical Education Network (PEN) and I got really interested in PEN. After that, I had the opportunity to meet with her during a workshop that was designed for participants interested in becoming local representatives. I attended the workshop and became a local representative. Shortly after that, the Chieftaincy opportunity came up and I figured I would be a representative for the people of Osudoku. Last October, I raised some funds through the help of some family and friends and sponsored a PEN workshop for 25 science teachers.
Were you a teacher then?
No, I am an architect. We design and supervise the construction of buildings all over the country, from Cape Coast to Accra and as well as other parts of the country.
What were you doing in your capacity as a PEN local representative?
I have a place at Ablekuma in Accra. We went to the schools around there to try to get the attention of the headmasters and get them interested in what we do at PEN, that is practical science training for teachers. We went to some private schools to have them sponsor their science teachers for the practical science workshops but we were unable to get a good number of teachers before I got called up to take on the chieftaincy role. That’s a local representative’s role. Most of the local representatives are teachers but I am a science enthusiast. I want practical science to be a regular thing in our schools. We understand that it can be expensive to set up laboratories. But if the teachers inculcate this mindset of having children engage in hands-on activities, it will go a long way to improve their learning and impact their future
You have been a local representative for about two years now?
Please tell me more about the pep talk.
That was about two weeks ago. The JHS students are writing their BECE this week. I decided to go to some of the schools of the teachers who participated in the Osudoku workshop and give a pep talk to their students. I also donated some Veronica buckets in the spirit of sanitary hygiene. They could use these buckets for practical experiments who knows, I haven’t really thought about it. Maybe conduct an Archimedes experiment, some fluids experiment etc.
Sounds wonderful. Can you tell me about what inspired you to visit them, give them a pep talk and donate those items to them?
I encouraged them to be serious in their studies. I come from these parts and I am a professional now. This means that they can also make it. They can do it. No matter where they come from, they can become professionals just like I did, when they take their education seriously. I reminded them that the thing that comes with being a professional is your proven ability to execute in your chosen area of expertise.
Secondly, I encouraged them not to be afraid. I know that sometimes, students are afraid of exams. I encouraged them to be confident. This particular advice is key to me because fear is one of the things that make kids not to excel in their exams. They may not answer the questions even when they know the answers, as a result of fear.
The last thing I added was that I got to meet their teachers through the Practical Education Network. I took them through a brief session of what practical education is and how it can help them in their coming exam. "Even if you haven’t gone through such rigorous practical training when you are reading the question and you think, put yourself in there, the answer will just come to you.” That's what I went there to say . That was the pep talk.
Thank you so much for first of all taking the initiative to motivate them and encourage them then also highlighting what PEN does and how it can help them succeed in their exams.
Do you have children of your own?
I have three kids.
What are their levels of education?
I have three kids. My first daughter is in JHS 2. She will be writing the BECE next year. Then I have two little ones. Three years and one & a half years.
I hope you will motivate them or inspire them to go the science route?
Amen. We pray for that. We hope for the best.
Thanks for your time.
The pleasure is mine.