International Conference on African Studies #ICAS13 at Legon, Ghana

You have the mic.This week, my department, the Institute of African Studies at University of Ghana is organizing a major conference on the theme: “Revisiting the first international congress of Africanists in a globalised world”. The three day conference is apart of the institute’s 50th anniversary celebration and also links to the 1963 convention for Africanists opened by Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah. This conference will be opened by the current president, John Dramani Mahama!

Key note speakers are Kenyan professor and writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, professor Fatou Sow, specialist in gender studies and Dr. Carlos Lopez from the UN Economic Commission for Africa. Almost all the big names in the world of African Studies seem to be in the program, framed by exhibits, cultural performances and receptions.

I will be involved in two capacities – as a PhD candidate of the institute obviously I have to present a paper. Mine is a slight deviation from my PhD research project – concerned with migration aspirations among university students in Ghana –  instead this paper is on the future of graduate school in Africa. My presentation time is just after the conference opening on Thursday afternoon (Session A, Panel 3, Computer room of the INstitute at 12.20-2.00 PM to be exact). In addition to being a presenter, I have volunteered to handle social media for the conference. So you can follow the institute account for proceedings on Facebook and Twitter or follow the hashtag #ICAS13.

I will be posting here on my blog during the conference as well.

So let’s wish  all international participants welcome and while we are at it, please wish me luck!

Photo from an earlier post on AiD.

Back in Ghana: Ashesi, Election Petition Verdict, TEDxCapeCoastEd and a Funeral

Note the caption!! "Small class sizes, amazing teachers"
Note the caption!! “Small class sizes, AMAZING TEACHERS”

As soon as I have unpacked my bags, fall has started and I immediately have an interesting week ahead: 

Wed – Kick-off at Ashesi (who right now feature a pic of me on the website to illustrate what we do, see above)

Thu – Election Petition verdict comes in, stay tuned to Ghana Decides Website and Facebook page

Fri – Start my last year as a PhD student (hopefully!) at Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.

SatTEDxCapeCoastEd – a conference on “broadening the frontiers of education” and maybe Chale Wote festival pre-party in the evening

And on Sunday, this being Ghana, I of course have some funerals to attend…

Research, University of Ghana’s YouTube Channel and Video Lecture by Mkandawire

This week I am finally doing some research at the University of Ghana. For my work – that is now really taking shape – I wanted to cite Professor Mkandawire who came to campus in April for a three day lecture that I felt was very relevant. However, surfing around on the university website, I could not find his lecture. Then I tried the strategy of just Googleing “Mkandawire and University of Ghana” and then I found not just his lecture on video, but University of Ghana’s YouTube channel!

Sadly, this great lecture has 18 views(!) and the UG YouTube Channel just over 300 subscribers, so I thought I’d share it here (in the first video from Mkandawire’s lecture there is some drumming, dancing and intro before the lecture starts about 9.40 into the clip!)

What YouTube channels have you found that you’d recommend?

Where to start? Returning from A Blog Break

After a blog break, it is hard to find your voice again and frame an appropriate return. There is so much that could be said!

This time, some of the topics I would like to share with you are:

  • Life in a new house and a new neighbourhood
  • Academic role models in Ghana
  • Winners of the Blog Awards 2012
  • The Kenyan Elections, especially the online buzz surrounding them
  • Ghana @56 – our nation’s independence celebrations
  • Research spring, strategies and stuff
  • Checking in with my plans for the year, a quarter in!

This post is just to announce I am back in this space. And hopefully before end of next week, the list above will be filled with links to written posts…

 

 

 

 

Research Friday and Ghana Style Gagnam Style (Azonto)

Today, I am all about research. Finally! This semester, it has been more than difficult to find the time to sit down and read, write and theorize due to everything else I am doing, like teaching and Frontlining. But today, it is happening.

I have already had two cups of coffee (the second one as ice coffee as its already hot out).

I have sorted all my research related papers in five piles: unread articles and reports, read – but not incorporated, African studies research not directly related to my dissertation, teaching related research and my own drafts of conference papers, timelines and dissertation chapters.

I have realized its been so long since I worked on my documents I don’t even know what version is the latest! The one in Dropbox? In my computer PhD folder? In my email? On Google Drive? Arggghh.

But then I was sidetracked and found this cute Ghanaian version of Psy’s Gagnam style:  Cp3 Ghana style (She likes Ghana style) ripe with Azonto dancing, sleek Accra vistas and gorgeous people in slim jeans and everything was alright again.

Enjoy!

Migration and Development Conference in Accra

Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to a conference “Migration and Development: Opportunities and Challenges in a Globalized world”. It was a great experience in many ways – inspiration, networking and the personal growth that comes with sharing your work.

To me,  it is always inspiring to learn about research that is ongoing some favorite new aspects of migration involved gold scams in Ghana, changing migration patterns of unskilled labor to Accra (kayayeis, scrap collectors and others) and student migration out of the Congo finding new destinations.

The networking was superb – I met with many graduate students at University of Ghana – as migration naturally is interdisciplinary we never knew of each other! We have exchanged contacts and will meet up again soon. Also, in the main frame of the collage above, I met with a former lecturer to Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan!

Finally, the pressure that comes with synthesizing your work and presenting some aspect of it feels horrible, but I am convinced it is good for me. I presented a paper in progress about the migration policies of the north and their impacts on academe in the global south, naturally with a focus on Ghana.

Later this year, a publication from the conference will be put together. If my work meets the quality target (and I manage to submit in time), I will tell you  more!

See more of my photos from the conference here.

 

Guest Post by Kweku Ananse: How To Become an Employable PhD Graduate

Last week, Kwaku Ananse wrote a guest post about problematic supervisors. A main problem,he concluded is  misguided advice suggesting you focus only on your dissertation:

In our times, employers want graduates with experience, widely interpreted either as teaching, research experience as evident in a publication, or both.

This reality brings me to the issue of taking initiative outside the normal routines of the graduate program.

1.One is to visit the personal websites of other graduate students in other universities who are in the same discipline as you are.Know what these students are doing in terms of the conferences they attend, the types of publications they have (and the journals they have published in etc). Being on top of these things should alert you to what your competitors are up to.

2. Another thing outside the graduate comfort zone is to test your ideas by sending cold emails to perhaps established leading scholars in the field to give you feedback regarding your use of their analytical ideas (Here, I have to say I am hesitant with important but emerging scholars). You are not always guaranteed a response but you might be surprised how some of these scholars are interested to help young intellectuals with feedback and suggestions of recent literature. These people can be your pool of what Kajsa refers to as “informal supervisors” (see her post ‘Informal Supervisors: Surviving Ph.D‘) who can be both local (in other departments in your school as well as in your program) and as well as international.

3. One important thing to note in a graduate school is not to see yourself as incapable of publishing in leading journals in your field.

  • Read such journals and note what the leading debates are.
  • Examine such debates side by side your current research.
  • When you see a contribution that perhaps a facet of your research can make to such debates, ‘be bold’ (as they say in GH-politics) and write an article and send it out.

Several things can happen with such an approach: the paper might be rejected (and good reviewers will give you details as why the paper was rejected); paper accepted (but with some revision,either substantial or minor). Whatever the case, the plus side of taking such an initiative is that you have begun a process that is going to be part of your academic life.

This guest post is written by fellow graduate student Kwaku Ananse, one of my readers.

 

Guest Post by Kweku Ananse: Why Your PhD Supervisor is Not Reading Your Work

I am happy to introduce my first guest writer on this blog. This guest post is written by fellow graduate student Kwaku Ananse, one of my readers:

Just like most things in life, conventional wisdom posits that graduate school life is a linear process: you apply to the program of choice, you get accepted, you take and complete core and pertinent elective class classes, pass all those classes mostly with As (and Bs), and then you focus on completing your proposed thesis or dissertation. Even within the process of completing the thesis/dissertation, the accepted thinking posits that those committee members you select are the ones that eventually lead you to the finish line.

However, within my experience, being a ‘traditional graduate student’ who wants take the routine routes to complete a program should reassess such taken-for-taken ideas. One should realize that your supervisor most likely will not be the ‘ideal’ supervisor to deliver on the assumed responsibilities that he/she is supposed to provide.

There are many problems relating to why responsibilities are not fulfilled:

  1. Lack of time to read your work (but makes you to believe that all is well);
  2. Unwillingness/inability to provide you regular important feedback;
  3. Too many other ‘senior’ graduate students he/she might be attending to etc;
  4. The person reads,but doesn’t challenge you in your thinking/writing etc.
  5. Also committee members, understandably, will not like to step on a colleague’s toes (your supervisor’s) by seeming to provide research guidance that contradicts one’s supervisor’s (perhaps outmoded) suggestions.

Another reason to always be wary of the traditional route comes in the guise of ‘just complete your course work and dissertation advice’. Such advice doesn’t take cognizance of recent trends. Nowadays, having a transcript, a diploma/certificate and a dissertation under your armpit doesn’t cut it (unless of course, you already have a job security in a university/college).

In our times, employers want graduates with experience, widely interpreted either as teaching, research experience as evident in a publication, or both.

So, what should we do? Look out for Kwaku  Ananse’s next blogpost.

 

Informal Supervisors : Surviving a PhD

I cannot stress enough that you need more people than the one(s) on your panel if to succeed with your  PhD – well this is what I think, anyways, halfway into the project. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting up with three of my informal supervisors.

Ironically, the meeting I had scheduled with my official supervisor was cancelled as I missed our deadline last week. These are the three types of supervisors I have managed to get for myself totally outside the structures of  the university.

1. The Mentor

Here is a person who knows university politics, who remembers what it was like being in your too large PhD shoes and always shows support interspersed with some practical advice.

Will ask you: How are you?

2. The Senior Researcher

The Senior researcher has seen it all before and will suggest you look at the bigger picture, read the classics and start planning for the next step of your career.

Will ask you: What are your main variables?

3. The Visionary

The visionary points you to interdisciplinary related readings that you didn’t know existed, briefs you about the newest methods on the block with a YouTube video and asks some uncomfortable questions about your work.

Will ask you: Have you read Spivak?

Ideally, I think the culture of the academy starts and begins with sharing information, roadmaps and ideas, however I am still amazed at the generosity at which my informal supervisors have approached and challenged my work. If you read this, thank you!

 

 

Migration Monday : Electronic Survey on Migration Aspirations

So right now I am working with the questionnaire that I was hoping to roll out this semester. After more than a year of library studies, I need data!  However, with less than a month left of the spring semester and the questionnaire + logistics around it not being ready, the prospects of that happening grow leaner each day,  foolishly, I remain hopeful.

I have decided to do an electronic survey for many reasons. Being able to ensure confidentiality  (which will improve the reliability of my study) and keep admin to a minimum (which will improve my personal economy) are the top two reasons. I am using an open source software, LimeSurvey, hosted on LimeService for my survey.

Last month, I did a pilot of the first version of the questionnaire. On a Friday, I walked into the ICT building, cleared my voice and asked the students that were sitting there to navigate to my survey URL and fill my questionnaire. 15 students volunteered. Now I am trying to understand what to do with the information I got. (Most of the responding students have not been abroad, however a majority wants to migrate, most for a graduate degree, only one imagines working abroad in five years time. Half of the respondents hold a passport, only one a valid visa, one in five have gotten a visa application rejected, a majority plan to apply for a visa as a student, a majority of those who indicate wanting to migrate say they plan to be away for a shorter period of time (less than 3 years) and most that they will  like to return ***Read this write up with caution as the sample is very small and not randomized or controlled in any way*** ).

1. Adding questions  – what gaps were left by the current questionnaire?

So far I have come up with that financial situation need better specification, year group (although second year students are targeted it would be interesting to see how answers varies, if at all, for the occational other-year-student) and maybe more questions about visa applications and why they were denied in so many cases.

2. Clarifying questions – were some answers ambiguous because of wording/answering options?

Here I have some work to do. Some questions allow for multiple choice (“check  all that apply” etc) others for ranking. I find that sometimes those answers were difficult to analyze. However choosing one option also hides interesting nuances. Hm.

3. Dropping questions – were some questions unnecessary?

I have a bunch of questions on “local” aspirations, coming from the idea that if local labor market opportunities are not advertised as well as the foreign options, the latter look like your only way forward. But as they are not mutually exclusive, now I do not know. Another idea was to similarly tone down migration as “the only option” in my study as to not get biased answers. Does it really further my study on migration aspirations if someone is knowledgeable (or not) about local opportunities? Cutting questions out also allows for space to put new more focused questions in and, even better, not replace all them as to make the questionnaire more brief.

One of the more interesting preliminary “results” is the pie-chart above. When  asking students if they had taken the first step toward studying abroad – obtaining information – two out of three students answered yes.

This tells me my study is looking at something relevant for Ghanaian youth.

This post is a Migration Monday post, taking you behind the scenes of doctoral studies in Ghana and giving me the opportunity to write about what I do in less formal language.

Student Mobility Book-Agony

Monday again! This week I am concluding my literature review rewrite. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up, so it will be a busy week. More importantly, I will have to find the book “Student mobility and narrative in Europe: the new strangers” by Elizabeth Murphy-Lejeune. Well, that is I have found it already, now I will have to find a way to read it!

First of all, lets look at what this book is:

  • A new key text in my narrow research field of student migration.
  • Key as in cited in 92 places!
  • Introducing the concept of student mobility that I think would be extremely useful for my theoretical frame.
  • a European case study, which in part could be very interesting to duplicate in Ghana.

Now, remember how I bought a Kindle, predominantly for these situations? Needing a book in far-away Ghana (far away from Internetshopping that is). Well, I never knew an e-book could cost USD 148! Really, Amazon and Routledge, really? It is almost painful when it is a book I would so love to read!

The Google books version only covers the introduction and not the much anticipated “Chapter 3: Student Mobility: a taste for living abroad.”

All help, or plain sympathy, is much appreciated!

This is a Migration Monday post with the double aim of sharing with you what my research is all about and for me to integrate my academic stuff with my blogging!

Emigration Out of Developed Countries

It is crunch time for an important presentation next week, but let me share with you an insight that came to me through text yesterday.

Emigration rates are highest not from the so called Global South, but out of developed countries!

Migration researcher Ronald Skeldon suggests in a overview of the migration and development debate in the book “Migration in the Globalised World” from 2010 that mobility is an integral part of development:

Migration is essentially a response of populations to changing development conditions and what governments need to do is to lose their fear of population migration. Migration needs to be accepted as an integral part of the development process, not feared as something unusual…Rising prosperity brings increased population mobility and migration. (p.156)

Skeldon further points at evidence of developed nations having high levels of migration (UK is mentioned as a case in point with 5,5 million citizens, or 9,2%, living outside the country ) and concludes that developed societies are “based upon systems of high mobility” (p. 157).

As a twist, when I came home the top news on the Swedish news site I follow was that Swedish levels of emigration is higher today than under the peak emigration years in the 19th century.

Point taken.