State of Open Access and its Implications on African Researchers: Notes from a webinar and an interview with Joy Owango

Joy Owango, Photo borrowed from Africabusinesscommunities.com

Recently, I attended a webinar on the state of open access in Africa where I had a particular use of every presentation, focusing on support for early-career researchers like myself. See my notes with links below. The program was organized by the Training Center in Communication and led by its founding director Joy Owango. After the webinar, I made an interview with Joy Owango and will share some of the highlights of out 45-minute call, but I have cut out our children in both Kenya and Sweden joining us!

  1. What is Training Centre in Communication, (TCC Africa )?

We are a center that supports researchers’  in increasing their research output through training in scholarly and science communication.  In addition to this we host monthly thought leadership webinars on capacity building for early career researchers with a focus on open science.

In the beginning, the focus of the center was supporting researchers communicating among themselves, particularly how to write academic papers that could be understood at multidisciplinary levels. Within five years, we broadened the scope and started supporting researchers on how to communicate with non-scientists, even as we are going through this process, I increasingly noted the challenges early career researchers faced in the process of academic publishing. 

Before we start crucifying researchers about not being able to write, we need to ask, how are they getting resources for their research discovery? Just by answering this question, our model transformed, which, included providing open access discovery solutions to support their research lifecycle. We do not just offer training, but also advisory services, where we guide institutions on how to set up research and grant offices and also guide governments on ways they can improve on monitoring their research output especially with the support of open data. Before the COVID19 Pandemic hit Africa, we were in Malawi and guided the Government of Malawi through the National Commission of Science and Technology on how they can use  Scientometrics and open access data in monitoring research output from the country.

2. What is your funding model?

We are a not for profit organization with a self-sustainable business model, where we charge for our services, and as a result, funding is one of the revenue streams.

3. Do you apply for grants?

Yes, we compete for grants as well, however, it is not our main revenue stream, as it comes with the objectives of the donor and rarely in line with our objectives as such we work with donors who support early career researchers regardless of research background in improving their research output.  As a result of this, the donors we have chosen to work with support multidisciplinary research backgrounds and are not restricted to the research interest areas of the  African continent (namely research in, health, agriculture, and climate change). This decision was deliberate and  15 years later, we have survived and are self-sustainable. We have seen programs similar to ours come and go as they are 100%  reliant on funding and we did not want that as we wanted a more sustainable approach to supporting early career researchers in improving their research output through training.

4. What do you see as the most important issues for higher education on the continent?

Open Science. In its totality from data, infrastructure to academic publishing. Open science is the glue that holds together good quality scientific output from research discovery, academic publishing to dissemination. When a researcher is unable to complete his research due to paywalls, you understand their academic fatigue. Taking a postgraduate course is not easy and limited access to resources to conduct your research can be very frustrating. It was because of the frustrations and academic fatigue  I noted in researchers we trained that we thought of getting research industry partners, who supported open science.   So when we tell researchers, “you need to be involved in the process of scholarly communication”, it is really the whole research life cycle, from research idea, writing the paper,  and the whole process behind it, that helps you write that paper!

5. You founded TCC already in 2006, what is your own journey to where you are now?

From experience, I remember in the early 2000s’  I was studying for a postgraduate certificate in Mass communication research and the only library in Nairobi that had the latest resources in my research area was at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). For five days I sat in that library until 8 pm when they shut down, I  would sit outside until midnight as I needed access to the library Wi-Fi and the resources. Fortunately, ILRI is within a campus full of early career researchers, so no one bothered me.  This was a typical scenario that early career researchers may face in pursuit of resources for their research discovery process.

If your own university does not have subscriptions to the journals you need, as a student, you are stranded. Even then, I did not understand how bad it was until I got to work with Clarivate Analytics, then Thomson Reuters, and I was like “hold on! this is what I have been asking for… Access to data. But  all the good data is behind a paywall!” 

When we are talking about open access it is not just journals, it is the whole system! It’s not just “Oh, I want the full-text journal!”, no, it is the research discovery system that needs to be open. I understand there is a business model to it, but it needs to be open because a majority of self-sponsored researchers who may not have adequate support systems fall through the cracks and are unable to complete their education due to lack of resources. In essence, open science democratizes education.

You can watch the Webinar which was broadcast live on Facebook here.

Joy Owango, TCC

Plan S, an initiative for making open science a reality

Dimensions.ai open access publication data

Elizabeth Merincola, African Academy of Science Open Science

No charge, funded by grants directly.

Main point: The impact factor is not a valid quality measure!

Osman Aldirdiri, AfricArxiv

This is a preprint platform, so no peer-review, no charge!

Sherpa /Romeo, data on journals!

Preprint, Postprint, Open access journal, Predatory Publishing

Matt Hodgekinson, Hindawi

Open access journals since 2007 (220 peer-reviewed journals)

Better access to research for researchers in resources limited situations

Article processing charge (APC), payment when published (Waivers for Africa based researchers and others)

Other models: Open Library of Humanities , CIELO

***

My own reflections from the seminar are that sitting in the middle of the information age exploding, it is easy to just get tired and not research well where you “host” your research, however, it is as important as ever. All the links I shared above are mindblowing in their own way, it is actually as exciting as it is tiring! But you need to understand how to make your research visible and readable to the constituencies you write for! As Joy shared, open access publications in the last two years are many (44%) and growing fast from Africa, however not all fields are well-represented.

The movement toward open science is in a way a “going back” to the foundations of science – sharing progress for the common good – and public and private funders are now going back to this ideal. As a researcher believing in the public good of science, I believe all of us have a responsibility to publish our data and findings open access.

Policy Note on Key Challenges for African Universities

Last month, the NAI policy note I have been working on for a while now was published. Find it here: Resources, Relevance, and Impact – Key Challenges for African Universities. (link to PDF)

Abstract

Global and regional goals, such as Agenda 2030 and the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa, foreground higher education as an engine for development and job creation. Yet, many African universities perform weakly in international comparison. This policy note looks at the challenges in strengthening the freedom, relevance and impact of research and higher education in Africa.

The Recommendations In Short

Writing for Clarity

As a researcher who is also a blogger, I am very much interested in the availability and ease of use of my research. Even though I went into the process of writing for a policy audience highly motivated, I was challenged by the level of work that goes into a shorter paper simplifying the issues.

After writing and rewriting a text that in the end was 1000 words longer than the format, I had several of my researcher colleagues read early drafts and come with comments – especially how to phrase recommendations and limit the scope I found tricky. Next, our communication unit read the text and we had conversations on what aspects to visualize and what to cut out, and then there was (very much needed) language editing. It is actually quite scary when I saw how many words can be altered for clarity, thinking about how I have gladly been pressing “publish” on the blog for many years without any such editing! Then a few back-and-forth-emails on final titles, illustrations and other details – and then four months later – voilà: The finished Policy Note.

Please download, share, and let me hear your comments!

My Last Graduation at Ashesi University

Saturday, June 1st, 2019 will be my last graduation as a lecturer at Ashesi University in Berekuso. After the summer, I will explore a new path in my career journey.

I have been an employee at Ashesi University since August 2009, I even experienced the ground-breaking ceremony for the Berekuso campus! I can look back on 10 years of joy, incremental learning and meaningful meetings on two different campuses. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been provided and I have been proud working for the important mission of Ashesi University – to educate a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa – if even in a small way in the classroom and in off-campus interactions. See some photos in the gallery below.

Over this past decade, I have written many blog posts about my time with Ashesi University, here are some of them: Teaching a summer course humbly called Thinking Like a Genius! Fall semester 2012 teaching Written and Oral Communication and Text & Meaning, Teaching Social Theory 2012. Career Fair 2013  (with photos). Reading Mahama’s biography for Social Theory class 2013. Doing a “Grown Woman Internship” with Citi FM. About Ashesi students being cool! Passing on the baton of teaching from my mother to my daughter(?). Getting extremely excited about Virtual Reality in the Classroom in 2016 (now Ashesi alumni led company Nubian VR are doing research on how science instruction in Ghanaian high schools can use VR technology). Having a writing team kickoff and welcoming new talents. On my fav assignment personal artefact speeches in 2018. On my sabbatical – time to think, read and write in 2019.

I also wrote an article for Swiss newspaper NZZ about Ashesi’s approach to ethics which was published in English for University World News as well.

For some moving images of me on campus, see this interview from 2016. (Pulse Ghana)

Recently to my joy, two of my students started blogs of their own. Do also read: Theresa on getting a Visa for her study-abroad when the time was running out, and Masateru on helping his family’s cake business in Malawi with the skills he picked up at Ashesi University. Alumni Karyn went to Sweden for a Master’s and won the Global Swede award!

So on Saturday, it will not just be Class of 2019 leaving the Ashesi community – I will be clasping my handkerchief and remembering the good times as well! Thank you to all fantastic individuals: students, colleagues, alumni, parents, support staff, foundation folks, board members, friends, all who have crossed my path at Ashesi since 2009!

My Week Following The @Sweden Curatorship Experience, #SMWiAccra

So last week, I had the honor of being the curator of the twitter account @Sweden. With a click, I increased my following by 10 and was the seven-day temporary face of my native Sweden. In a tropical setting. I thought I’d sum up my experience and also share what this week, following all the excitement, was like.

Monday, I woke up sick, with a swollen (!) nose. Had I been in a fist fight? The doctor said it was rather a sinusitis infection in my nose and I was on antibiotics before I knew it. I am not sure it was the curator experience that made me sick, but it was a day lost to pain and rest.

Tuesday, my children both started their new school. I accompanied and excited three-year-old to Nursery school and my husband took our six-year-old to Primary 1.

My school girls! ????? #maryjane #sisters #schooluniforms #mahjong #vamlingbolaget #233moments

A post shared by Kajsa Hallberg Adu (@kajsaha) on

On Wednesday, I was well enough to share some of my thoughts about the @Sweden experience on the Citi Breakfast Show on Ghanaian radio station Citi FM. IN an interview with the brilliant Bernard Avle, I talked about 

  • Traffic (I was late to the studio)
  • Knowing my audience
  • Missing my TL
  • Thinking about Swedishness
  • Wanting to be a Ghanaian citizen

Find the full program here, I come on around 9.40am.

In the afternoon, I met with a researcher, Hanne Geirbo from the interesting research project Learning Flexibility. We spoke about social media activism, solar energy adoption and strategies for infrastructure challenges.

Last, I attended the Social Media Week Accra, and was a speaker under the heading “Social Media: The Ghana Case”.

I tried to give a quick overview of how blogging has developed in Ghana since BloggingGhana started in 2008, but also to critique the use of social media as heavily entertainment, one way, consumeristic instead of appreciating the true revolution of social media and harnessing the promise of social change. I suggested we support each-other ventures more, create and use more hashtags to curate content and campaigns, we produce more content.

On Thursday, I met with my Ashesi students for the first time. Ambitious, fresh-faced future leaders make me so happy. I also finalized the contract with two final year students who I will supervise on their papers. Two very interesting projects, I will tell you more about later.

Today, Friday is for research and preparing for next week. I will also fit in some meetings. This evening, I’ll be seeing my friend to celebrate her birthday.

 

I feel like this week was as intense and interesting as last week, but I was back on my own social media accounts and I had missed the people I am following and learning from. The Sweden curatorship, made me rethink what I publish and how much I share my personal life. While I have a high sense of integrity, and usually post quite minimal “this was my day”, “this is my breakfast”- content, I now think there is also value to sharing more personal details and life circumstances as that goes to the heart of the prospects of social media: bringing people closer together by showing how diverse and how similar we all are.

Do you think it’s useful or interesting to read about other people’s daily lives?

Last Chance: Orderly/Disorderly BlaxTARLINES Art Exhibit

Here is an important Public Service Announcement:

The Orderly/Disorderly Art Show curated by Blaxtarlines (follow and support on FB, read the curatorial statement here) opened at the Science and Technology Museum in Accra at the end of June. If you did not yet see it yet, you only have until Friday 1 September to do so. 

The magnificent show where young artists both from KNUST and the professional fold in Ghana treat the order and disorder in our society, spans installations, video, cartoons, photography, textile and new techniques I cannot even describe. The show makes you happy, sad, marvel and it is miraculously free!

The show closes in grand style with a talk by the grandfather of Ghanaian art, Prof. Ablade Glover at 4 pm on September 1st, 2017.

UPDATE: Meet-the-Artist Series featuring Adwoa Amoah, Ato Annan, Francis Kokoroko and Shimawuda Ziorkley, in collaboration with Foundation For Contemporary Art,Ghana (FCA-Ghana) and @thestudioaccra

Date: Wednesday, 30th August, 2017 
Time: 4pm
Venue: Museum of Science & Technology, Barnes Road, Accra
Rate: Free

The event will be broadcast live via Facebook

After that, it is over! Take your chance!

See my slideshow with a small selection of the works on display from my visit at the Orderly/Disorderly art show with my kids.

me>

I am attending Nordic Geographers’ Meeting #NGM2017

On Sunday, I’ll be in Stockholm for the 7th Nordic Geographers’ Meeting. I am excited to be presenting my work to a completely new audience – geographers, and a wider audience of social scientists – as I usually meet with Africa scholars or Migration scholars. The theme is “geographies of inequalities” which is almost a perfect topic to capture student migration out of the global South.

At the meeting, I hope to:

  • get some new ideas on how to take my work to the next level (Where do I publish?  What are others doing on students and migration?) and
  • pick up some clues on how I continue to do relevant interdisciplinary research. (What methods should I use?  Who can I collaborate with? Who else is interested in my work?)

I’ll be presenting two papers out of my dissertation research for the following two panels:

Session A3: Youth and Inequality: Perceptions, experiences, and aspirations. (PDF details)

Conveners: Prof. Katherine Gough of Loughborough University and Dr. Thilde Langevang of Copenhagen Business School.

Session description
Rising unemployment and sluggish economic growth are widely predicted to further widen income and wealth inequality worldwide. Young people, in particular, are being disproportionately affected with the OECD claiming that youth have replaced the elderly as the group experiencing the greatest risk of income poverty. This has widespread implications for the opportunities and constraints young people face as well as impacting on their aspirations for the future.This session will bring together papers which explore how young people’s lives and aspirations are being influenced by the inequality they experience and imagine both in situ and in faraway places. Papers are welcome from societies across the globe where young people are being affected by real or perceived high levels of inequality. Topics which may be explored in the session include, but are not restricted to, the implications of rising inequality at a range of scales for young people’ perceptions, experiences and aspirations of: Mobility and immobility /Education and skills training/ Work experiences and job prospects/Housing and home

Here my paper “Migration aspirations among university students in Ghana” will discuss my choices to focus on university students and not youth in general as well as aspirations and intentions and not migration per se . I also will share some results from the survey I did with university students in Ghana, in particular looking at social backgrounds of students and their view of migration. (20/6/17 1.15-3.00 pm. Room: William Olsson, House Y)

Session J7: The Politics of Movement. (PDF details)

Conveners: Dr. Nancy Cook & Prof. David Butz, Brock University.

Session description
The politics of movement  entanglements of power, social inequality and mobilities – is an abiding preoccupation in social geography and critical mobilities studies. Both scholarly fields identify mobility as a fundamental structuring dimension of social life. They also demonstrate that the capacity for movement under conditions of one’s choosing is a valuable resource that is unequally distributed in social contexts structured by hierarchies of power. In other words, movement is socially differentiated; it reflects and reinforces structures of power to configure inequitable social hierarchies. Critical geographers and mobility scholars are tracing the ways in which relations of gender, race, class, sexuality and citizenship shape discourses and practices of mobility that produce beneficial movement for some people and too little or too much movement for others.

For this session, I will discuss some thoughts around what a global South student really is in relation to mobility in my paper “Conceptualizing academic mobility and mobility exclusions from a global South student perspective”. Based on the data I collected for my dissertation research I will suggest some trends in the politics of movement from a student point of view. (19/6/17 at 5.15-6.45 pm in Room: U26, House U)

I am also looking forward to keynotes, especially with Dr. Brenda S.A. Yeoh who has a distinct global South perspective in her work and meeting new friends – and at least one old! I want to thank my good friend Michael Boampong who sent me the initial info on this conference, and who is also attending the conference as well as and my department at Ashesi University which made this trip possible.

Hope to meet you at #NGM2017!

Ethical Higher Education: The Ashesi University Case

My article from last year on how we educate leaders with a focus on ethics was in the news again this week, this time in English!

I wrote:

“Africa is still the continent with the lowest level of university enrolment, at about 6% of the population compared to a 26% world average, according to UNESCO. What this means is that extremely few Africans ever get a chance to go to university. And those who do are destined to become leaders in society.

With this analysis, Ashesi University College has aimed to bring scholarships to deserving students, quality education to those who can afford, and making sure the future leaders of the continent are both ethical and entrepreneurial.”

But educating ethical leaders in a corrupt environment marred with inequality is a challenge.”

I also mention my taxing commute, here is one small section of it as recently shared with Facebook Live.

Read the whole article over at University World News.

Enjoy!

Celebrating 10 Years of Living in Ghana

This week, I have a major life anniversary: 10 years of living in Ghana! On April 17th, 2007, I stepped on the Kotoka tarmac in Accra with two big suitcases, and was hit by a hot wind of promise. 

And Chale, Ghana has delivered…

(Our wedding slideshow has more than 21 000 views!)

But despite worldly successes, the transition from a cold, Scandinavian country to a hot Tropical one has not always been easy. In my home of 10 years, I continue to be an outsider who hear “Welcome!” every single week. While I smile and say “Thank you!”, it hurts to know I can never fully be accepted here. I often say “I am a 7-8-9, now, 10-year-old in this context…” and I like that image as it often accurately reflects how much – or how little –  I understand of my surroundings. Many things (traditions, greetings, events, ideas, relationships, ends of relationships) here still surprise me, actually surprise me more than during the early days in Ghana.

In addition, 10 years away has made me start to feel like a stranger in Sweden. Swedish politics, fashion, topics for discussion throw me off, makes me raise my eyebrows. While I can walk the streets in Sweden totally blending in…ok, maybe not when I sport my colourful wax print in the sea of black, gray, and beige…but, at least, without hearing anyone welcoming me, I increasingly feel like a stranger who look around with a surprised face. I am reminded of what a family friend who grew up somewhere else said about living a life abroad: “soon, you don’t belong anywhere”.

Missing being close to my Swedish family is unfortunately a feeling that grows with time.

I am not saying the above because I want to complain, no! Life in Ghana for 10 years has undoubtedly been good to me,  or else I would not have stayed. My dreams have come true! But life in Ghana is not just good, rather it is continuously the adventure of my life.

I am still thinking of how to mark this milestone, if you have ideas, write a comment below. Thanks!

 

 

Sunday Reads are back! #KajsaHASundayReads

sundayreadsThis week I read:

  1. First things first: Bank of Ghana orders Swiss Gold watches for half a million USD.
  2. This touching article about Serge Attukwei Clottey and how he keeps the memory of his mother alive. (If you never read my Ashesi colleague Eli Tetteh’s piece on Clottey, do!)
  3. A passionate support for feelings by one of my favorite contemporary thinkers Martha Naussbaum, brought to us by the brilliant Brainpickings site.
  4. About our time: Post Truth Politics by the Economist.

This Swedish article I wish was available in English for all (ok, more folks) to read:

5. A fantastic article on the modernity of Swedish writer Sara Lidman’s work in the 1950s, by literature prof Anneli Bränström Öhman.

This week I watched this video, because: Standing ovation even before he said teachers are underpaid!


 This post is part of my #KajsaHASundayReads series. Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Boatman,  I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. 

Ashesi in Swiss Newspaper NZZ

Screenshot 2016-06-29 15.56.32

 

Earlier in the spring, I was asked to write about Ashesi University for a Swiss newspaper, NZZ. Under the theme “The Other Africa”, I wrote about teaching ethics in Ghana illustrated by my own experiences and that of students and an alumn.

My Ashesi article under the headline “Hauptfach: Ethik von Kajsa Hallberg Adu” was recently published in the newspaper in a special issue on Africa in the excellent company of write-ups by Ghanaian-Afropolitan novelist Taiye Selasi, correspondent extraordinaire Alex Perry, and an article on smartphones in Africa by literary scholar Mohomodou Houssouba.

Find an English version of my article below:

Major: Ethics

(my original heading was “The Rough Road to Educating Ethical Leaders in Africa” alas…)

On the red, dusty road an hour from Ghana’s bustling capital of Accra, children play and goats scoff around for something to eat. I drive through the village; expertly avoiding the potholes, pass the police barrier, the water well, and the primary school before I make a sharp turn to climb the lush, green hill. Up there, I wave a greeting to the woman selling pineapples before I pull into the 100-acre well-manicured campus. I teach at a non-religious, private liberal arts college called Ashesi University College, located in the town of Berekuso in Ghana’s Eastern region. I work in an institution that has the, perhaps lofty, mission of educating a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa.

Ashesi, as it is called for short, means “beginning” in local language Twi and is known for pushing the bar of private higher education in Africa, especially in terms of ethics and liberal arts. Perhaps others might also know of Ashesi as its founder and president is a very hands-on and influential leader. Dr. Patrick Awuah has been on the management listings of the world like Forbes 2015 World’s 50 Best Leaders, Fast Company where he was listed as number 87 of 100 Most Creative in Business 2010, and last year Dr. Awuah received the MacArthur “Genius Grant”. He can often be seen in the campus cafeteria having lunch with students and colleagues. In my view, Ashesi ought to be more known for is its recent pledge to run an engineering program for 50/50 men and women, something many top universities across the globe have not been able to do.

Since I was first introduced to the liberal arts institution in a 2007 TED video with Dr. Awuah and subsequently started to work there in 2009, much has happened in terms of growth and reach, but the focus on ethics, entrepreneurship, and leadership remains. The university college has doubled in size to 600 students of which 47% are women, 53% men. Ashesi has grown to have four undergraduate programs: engineering, business administration, management information systems, and computer science. While a majority of students come from Ghana, the institution aims to be pan-African with 21% of students from outside the country. The decision to make admissions gender-balanced was a pioneering move that impacts daily life at the university and underlines that women and men have an equal role to play in problem solving on all levels.

Africa is still the continent with the lowest level of university enrollment, at about 6% of the population compared to a 26% world average, according to UNESCO. What this means is that extremely few Africans ever get a chance to go to university. And those who do are destined to become leaders in society. With this analysis Ashesi University College has aimed to bring scholarships to deserving students, quality education to those who can afford, and making sure the future leaders of the continent are both ethical and entrepreneurial. But educating ethical leaders in a corrupt environment marred with inequality is a challenge. Ghana and its neighbors repeatedly scores high in corruption listings such as Afrobarometer or Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index and a recent particularly shocking corruption scandal exposed judges in Ghana’s legal system accepting cash bribes to skew verdicts. Related is the hierarchal structure of the society that will make many visitors raise an eyebrow at Dr. Awuah’s presence in the cafeteria queue. At other Ghanaian universities, the leadership would go to lunch in separate senior clubs with air conditioning, service at the table, and not feeling they missed out at all from not talking to students.

In this context, it makes sense that Ashesi’s approach to teaching ethics is hydra headed and importantly stretches over the four years of the undergraduate program. In essence the Ashesi way teaches you to see yourself as the beginning of an ethical society. Second-year student Sihle Magagula summarizes the method as “continuous reflection on your actions and their outcome”. In the freshman year, ethics is taught in a course called Giving Voice to Values, developed by business lecturer Dr. Mary Gentile of American liberal arts institution Babson College. This curriculum is very practical as it assumes we all know what is wrong from right and focuses on giving tools for speaking up. Local examples include values conflicts where your supportive uncle both gives you a job and asks you do act unethically. There are also ethics components in other Ashesi courses, from Design to Communication, and in the four-year leadership seminar. For instance, in designing a solution it is ethical to involve the beneficiaries of your solution on all levels of development. In ethical communication, giving credit to your sources is key. In the final year leadership seminar, which aims to develop students’ social consciousness, students do service learning in the community. Student Mawuli Adjei says of the experience that “this might seem obvious, but directly interacting with a problem’s stakeholders rather than just reading about them compels me to empathize and personalize the problems that I am solving”. Hence, ethics at Ashesi ultimately about being more than a shiny ivory tower: we see ourselves as a part of the town of Berekuso and some collaborative efforts include a football field, a literacy program for adults, and adding value to the most common cash crop in the area, the pineapple. All these programs are student-led.

Another aspect of Ashesi’s ethics instruction is the Ashesi Honor Code that allows students to take exams without proctoring. The Honor Code is signed on by one year-group at a time after extensive deliberation and agreeing by voting. The model has received keen interest from the surrounding society. In 2009, the National Accreditation Board threatened to stop Ashesi’s operations over the Honor Code, but was persuaded by letters from students, parents, faculty and staff of the benefits of practicing ethics in university through unproctored exams. Recently the Honor Code system has been piloted at another university in Ghana and adopted at lower level schools.

Alumnus Anna Amegatcher of Ashesi’s class of 2014 now works as a market researcher and business analyst in Accra. She agrees ethics was part of every course at Ashesi: “It is not necessarily explicitly said, but from day one ethics like the honor code or ethics like when we came to Berekuso having shared kitchens, ethics was always sounding. I think at a point it was sounding more with students than even with the administration, which was good. It became a part of the student body. The message was there.” The kitchen comment relates to trusting others to not steal your foodstuffs. However, a recent series of thefts on campus – of electronic devices and other items – has startled the university and seen us take steps to reinforce the practice of ethics. How can we make sure our campus is inclusive? How can we make sure ethics is lived and not just spoken? The sense of urgency around these efforts shows the Ashesi level of engagement with ethics is a visible, constant struggle, and an ongoing conversation.

In her office in Accra, alumnus Anna Amegatcher suggests her ethics training is central to her carrying out her job: “It has just kept me conscious. It has become a part of me, like issues of ethics is a part of me. You just can’t take it out of me. Fortunately, it had been nurtured in me even before Ashesi, but I got to appreciate an organization was valuing it as something core to them.”

The goal of educating ethical entrepreneurial leaders in Africa might seem lofty, but is there really any other way? Having taught at Ashesi University College for six years has been personally challenging in many ways, not least because of a commute on an unfinished road winding through the Ghanaian countryside, as well as mitigating Ashesi’s high ethical standards in a surrounding society that might not always appreciate you speaking up. But there is the rewarding side as well. I work with young people who are excited to learn and take on challenges. Additionally, I have been privileged to see our alumni little by little effect change in Ghana and beyond. Importantly, Ashesi also pushes the envelope by introducing a “new normal” or new benchmarks for businesses and universities in the region, the continent, and the world.

 

The PhD journey: the Viva

IMG_0267
PhD Viva. Photo: Jeffrey Paller

On Thursday 28th April in the morning, I did a 40 minute presentation of my dissertation “On a course to migrate? Migration aspirations among University Students in Ghana” and took questions for another 40 minutes or so. After a brief adjournment by the examiners, the verdict was in: I had passed.

Now there are some formal steps left, like making corrections in the final documents, and trying out a silly hat, but if they run smoothly, I am looking forward to graduation on July 23rd. This year!

The feeling at this point is one of great happiness and relief, pride and exhaustion. Happy to have completed well. On the day, I got into the presentation and just flowed, despite being nervous – almost cripplingly so –  the weeks and days leading up to the presentation. ( I did a mock viva two weeks earlier that I think I did not do well in, so I’d say I know the difference between flow and just making it thru). On the day, the questioning part also went well, save a few stumbling answers to unexpected questions.

I am grateful for all the people that have been supporting me in this transformative journey over the last 5 years. I am proud of myself for making it over all the hurdles and trying tasks. I am exhausted and try to be kind to myself.

I did it.

group
With colleagues and supporters in the graduate seminar room just after my presentation.

med dorcas
Relieved and happy after the viva with my student Dorcas who came to support me!

A Good 24 hrs : Tortoise, Hairy Legs, and a Video on Pulse

In the last 24 hours, the following all happened to me:

  1. A tortoise crossed the road in front of my car, I slowed down and allowed it to safely get to the other side. There was a slight drizzle, it was after seven PM so completely dark except for my headlights lighting up the dense forest. It was a magical moment.
  2. At the salon, I was told the hair on my legs is nice and “never wax it!” I already knew it is not an issue in Ghana, (in Sweden it is almost a political/feminist statement these days to not remove your leg hair as it does not conform with our beauty standards), but receiving compliments for my hairy legs was a magical moment as well!
  3. I was featured on Pulse Ghana for their women’s month! Journalist Stacey Knott recently came to campus and did this interview in which I talk about being a woman in the Ghanaian academy (“wrestling my way top the top”), blogging and my love for Ghana.

Needless to say, it was a good day.