The Ghana Files: Eat, Pray, Scrub

Students, fetching water for their scrubbing duties.

Let me tell you about a typical day for my students.

Every day, they are expected to attend classes from 7am to 3pm. Before attending 8 straight hours of lecturing they are not only expected to complete a series of cleaning tasks, but to attend a 6am church service. After a full day of classes they are given a break for food and bucket-showers, and in the evening, they are sent to their classrooms for mandatory study time. They will stay out there until at least 9pm, after which I usually hear them singing and praying again.

On Saturdays, they are all assigned a “special” cleaning task that is more involved than the sweeping and scrubbing they do each morning. I have seen girls with machetes down in the fields cutting grass. I have seen them on the road, sweeping rocks and dirt out of the way. I have seen them crawling on their hands and knees to scrub the gutters that are everywhere on campus.

On Sundays, they attend a mass that starts in the early morning and lasts until the afternoon. Each Sunday before mass, they are expected to carry benches down from the dining hall to the auditorium. Hundreds of people attend mass, so you can imagine how many benches they need. Once mass is over, carry the benches back up.

It really seems like their entire life outside of studying consists of eating, praying and scrubbing. It’s amazing to me, do you think for a second that if you rolled up to an American college you would see students scrubbing the pavement or carrying heavy benches? I think not!

When I’ve asked my (all female) students how they feel about their cleaning duties, their response is almost always the same. They tell me that they see it as part of their “training” – so they are “ready when they go to there husbands’ houses.”

I just can’t believe how these girls keep to such a strict schedule of classes, cleaning duties and church services. To be honest, the labor that the students do here strikes me as a bit much – but again, that is my American perspective. But here, it’s their daily life.

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