an educational play [August 12, 2014]

Despite the other teachers’ avid interest in taking the book Gizo Gizo and making it into a series about water, hygiene, and sanitation, I was concerned we wouldn’t have the time to develop as intricate a plot or illustrations. Whereas last year I had nearly five additional weeks in Ghana after the project had officially ended to finalize the illustrations and ultimately give every child their own copy, this time I would be leaving following the closing ceremony. After sharing some of these concerns with others, it was an avid Zongo Water Project supporter who gave me the exciting idea of crafting an educational skit with the children that could be presented to the community at the closing ceremony. I was thrilled with the concept because not only would it build upon last summer’s work, but also that drama is commonly used here in Cape Coast as a way to educate communities. In this way, it would not be a foreign, imported concept. To further make the skit their own, I would work with the students over the last couple of days to choose the setting, develop the plot, incorporate new antagonists, and design masks for each of the characters. When I explained the concepts to the two teachers, they were very enthusiastic and wanted to discuss the details as soon as possible.

Three workshops later, we now have a working script, the actors assigned to their roles, and initial mask designs. In brief, Spider has the gift of communication; Tortoise has the gift of education; and Crab has the gift of empowerment. These three friends leave the Zongo for jobs in Accra, but while they’re gone, bad behavior ensues. Cock litters everywhere, Ram defecates wherever he desires, Cow drinks water without boiling it, and Lizard doesn’t wash his hands. They get sick and it spreads to their families and before long, the entire community is sick. Through the news, Spider, Tortoise, and Crab hear about the outbreak in the Zongo leave with Dove the Doctor to save their community. After the Dove provides prescriptions to every resident, the three friends make a plan to ensure something like this never happens again. Spider uses his gift of communication to bring everyone together, Tortoise uses his gift of education to teach the community members about water, hygiene, and sanitation, and finally, Crab hands over the responsibility of health to the residents themselves. Ruwa Zongo!

At the completion of today’s workshop, I sat on a wood bench putting my things away when the same girl who had confided that she had wanted to become a Muslim sidled up next to me. “Hi!” she grinned. She was clutching the photograph I had taken of her last week close to her chest. “I wish I could be in the play,” she said sadly. “My mother, she told me she will put my name in here so I can join.” I replied, “You would be excellent! I already know you’re a wonderful performer. Maybe we can find a way for you to participate.”

This same day, we had also met with the Chief Executive – I could go into detail here, but the gist of the conversation was similar to what was said at the Municipal Waste meeting – vague and skeptically hopeful. While I had thought this meeting would be the last in the political chain, apparently one last meeting had needed to be arranged during which time the Assembly would officially decide how/if they would help us with sanitation in the Zongo. Though also frustrated with the lengthy process, Hammad explained to me that at least this new Chief Executive “is very open.” He explained, “The other Chief was sacked. He did not even fix his own road! It is just there,” he pointed. “The road is not even full of potholes, but manholes!”

I once again rushed back to the guesthouse to meet with the instructor for the soap-making. I called his phone. “This phone number cannot be reached,” the taunting voice at the other end retorted. I tried again a half an hour later. “This phone is switched off. Please try again later,” the voice rejoined. Frustrated and nervous that this man would not show up for a program we had been advertising for a week, I paced back and forth between continuing to call his number. Three hours later, I tried one more time out of pure desperation. The phone rang…”Hello? Hello Madam,” was the response at the other end of the line. “I was feeling sick this morning and was at the hospital. Let’s make it tomorrow morning.” Through my teeth, I responded heatedly, “We must meet at 7am if this going to work. We have a big program tomorrow and it starts at 8am.” He replied, “I will be there madam. I will meet you at 7am.” I certainly hoped so.