From January through May 2017, four Sewanee students and Amy Patterson, professor of politics, participated in a semester abroad program in Ghana. The program, organized by Calvin College (Michigan) and housed at the University of Ghana-Legon, was directed by Patterson. The Sewanee students—Olivia Deck, Andrew Hupp, Erin Moore, and Eunice Muchemi—joined 11 from Calvin in the program.
Students enrolled in three classes at the University of Ghana, in addition to taking two classes from Patterson. One of Patterson’s courses—“NGOs and Development”--involved a substantial community engagement component. Students committed to work with a Ghanaian organization that addresses a socioeconomic or political issue.
Hupp worked with the Center for Democratic Development, an organization that promotes good governance and citizen participation. Deck assisted Haven of Hope orphanage by planning activities for students and teaching lessons. Moore and Muchemi helped small community-based organization A Ban Against Neglect (ABAN) that seeks to empower young women by giving them sewing skills. At ABAN, the Sewanee students sought grant opportunities, engaged in an organizational assessment, and helped market ABAN products. The students came to understand the complexity of development processes and to more fully appreciate the dedication of many Ghanaians to their country’s development.
Students lived in the dormitories at the University of Ghana. The university was established in 1948, before Ghana’s independence from Britain in 1957. It is the most prestigious university in West Africa and hosts international students from throughout Africa, as well as Europe and the United States. Accra, the capital of Ghana and home to the university, is a bustling city with a growing middle class.
In addition to their classes and internships, students traveled in Ghana and to neighboring Togo. During January, they enrolled in a three-week class on religion and development, which included visits to several Ghanaian regions to visit NGOs working on development issues such as mental health, women’s economic empowerment, agricultural productivity, rural development, and child trafficking. They also visited Wli Falls (photo left, the highest waterfall in West Africa), Shai Hills, Kakum Forest (with its canopy walkway), Cape Coast (the site of European-built castles where for almost 400 years slaves were housed before they were transported to the Americas), and Mole National Park. (See more photos below.)
Students navigated daily life in Ghana with increasing competence: bargaining at the market; enjoying Ghana’s spicy cuisine; becoming acclimated to the direct sun and humidity; and using the local language of Twi to navigate public transportation. By the end of the semester, they were very knowledgeable about Ghanaian cultural practices, history, and geography. Moore took a summer internship placement at the Ghanaian NGO Challenging Heights that works on child trafficking. And Muchemi will travel across the continent to Uganda for a summer internship with an organization that combats gender-based violence.
While teaching in Ghana has challenges, for Patterson and her family, the rewards were countless. Patterson got to “teach in the moment,” as concepts about African politics and development that are hard to illustrate in a Sewanee classroom came alive in the Ghanaian setting. She enjoyed watching the students become committed global citizens—learning another language, engaging in deep political conversations with Ghanaians, practicing tolerance of different views on gender, race and religion, and recognizing the complexity and diversity of life experiences in Ghana.
Olivia Deck and Andrew Hupp visit Shai Hills, Ghana
Olivia Deck and Erin Moore visit Kwahu Mountains, Eastern Region