Ashesi’s Cool Students

ubuntuThis time of year, millions of students across the globe start their academic year, so also on a hill in the small town of Berkuso in  Ghana for students of Ashesi University College. As I teach mostly freshmen, I think of their journey – even during parental leave days filled with baby wipes, small socks and feedings.

At this point I read Akotowaa’s funny blogpost about Ashesi coolness. She writes:

In my head, there’s like, this group of the ‘cool Ghanaians’ […] Should I start calling out names? Deborah Frempong, Paapa, Michael Annor, Jessica Boifio, Lauretta (the coolest ballet teacher in the world), Kobla (the creator of Oware 3D) etc… The list goes on. But what most – though certainly not all – of the names I have in mind have in common is Ashesi.

First theory: when you get accepted into Ashesi, they perform numerous strange juju rituals over your documents and then let you join the cult, making you automatically cool.

Second theory: the GMI (I just made that up. It stands for Ghana Military Intelligence) comes to Ashesi to ‘talk’ to all the new recruits, and deliver the top secrets of the keys to success as a Ghanaian and swear them to secrecy.

Third theory: The teachers and the way they teach the students are cool.

Of course, this is the least exciting of all the theories, but whatever. Apparently, people like to be ‘realistic’ or something weird like that. Erm…

To this least exciting theory that the writer later zooms in on, I would like to add three things:
  1. Yep, teachers at Ashesi are cool. To the list of (very cool) lecturers such as Dela Kumahor, Kobina Graham and Ayorkor Korsah, I want to add virtually all other faculty. Their varying backgrounds, spark in eye and motivations make them amazing! In addition, I’d say all staff too are cool. (To get to know us better, check out staff and Arts and Sciences, Business and Computing faculty on the Ashesi Website).
  2. Yep, the way we teach at Ashesi is different, we follow the liberal arts method – you learn a lot about many things, about the world around you, about different ways of thinking (statistics, history of ideas, programming, leadership…), about problem solving, about working together, about questioning what is. You learn for life, not for the exam (hopefully).
  3. Finally, the cool Ghanaians mentioned in the list – many of who I am proud to say have been my students – are indeed cool, but not because of interaction with cool faculty and staff at Ashesi, nor because of the Liberal Arts the have imbibed, but because they have been encouraged over four years to grow THEMSELVES.  To be who they really are. To not be afraid of their ideas. To take themselves seriously and as much as possible do the best they can for a brighter future. And that is powerful. And quite cool.
Around this time, more than 100 freshmen are trying to find their way around the green Ashesi campus, get to know their classmates and check out kilos of books from the library.  (I am at home, comforting a baby and picking  up Lego from the floor). It might not seem so, but for these students, these are the first steps to coolness and an exciting journey into themselves.
Ps. Akotowaa, I was impressed by your on point observations after just one week on campus. I am guessing you might apply to join Ashesi full time? And also you are a swell blogger, why not join BloggingGhana?
Photo from a summer course I taught at Ashesi last year.