In my research, two times I came across students mentioning Ukrainian recruitment efforts of Ghanaian students. With the political developments unfolding as the focus groups progressed, the image of Ghanaians in Ukraine have burned into my mind.
When doing some online searches, I found this 2013 article about Ghanaian students being offered to study medicine there. Also, I sat down with MacJordan Degadjor, a friend who studied Management Information Systems in Ukraine 2003-06. His story was interesting and grim.
I went to do a MIS , yes a Bachelors, in Kharkov in Ukraine. I was there 2003-2006, I think. There are a lot of Ghanaians over there…It all started with Kwame Nkrumah’s scholarships and many Ghanaians went to train as doctors, engineers, then they could not return…Nkrumah was no more, they found wives, families. Now some work in hospitals, yes, some teach or just work anywhere. Some also transit to Western Europe from Ukraine.
When you get there, accommodation and tuition is cheap. I started, just like many others, with a six month intensive course in Russian. You know I speak Russian, right? I never learned Ukrainian as I lived on the Russian side. The country is basically divided in two.
I experienced racism against non-Ukrainians and especially blacks. I was beaten twice. There is agitation when they see you, especially with their females. They call African students “monkeys”. There is also general corruption and lawlessness. As a foreign student you must carry your passport at all times, else you are considered a criminal.
The education is intense, practical. For instance we traveled to see things we talked about in class and to see historical monuments and places, They care a lot about history!
It was a good experience, I went for the education, I am happy to speak a new language, for the experience of a new country, many of the people were nice. But even for a conference, I wouldn’t go back. It is so cold. When I first came, it was minus 42 degrees Celsius, and I was wearing a jacket like this!But I feel that as a black person I am safer outside Ukraine than in Ukraine, especially now.
How are Ghanaian students in Ukraine fairing now? Does the Ghanaian government that previously gladly cooperated with the Ukrainian authorities any plans of bringing them back if things get worse?
Photo credit: Ghanaian Students’ Association in Kharkov, Ukraine.