Guest Lecture at Uppsala University African Studies Course: Closing the Circle

In November, I was invited to give a lecture in the African Studies course at Uppsala University. The lecture was to be based on my research, preferably with a link to African youth as that was a theme for this year’s course. I chose the topic: University students in Ghana, Migration Aspirations and the Colonial University.

The lecture focused on decolonial thought, reasons for studying abroad and the situation for Ghanaian and African students at this moment. The class was small, engaged and were happy to interact. Several of the students were also exchange students which led to a reflexive discussion.

I invited a Ghanaian student, Claudia Esi Dentu, a former student of mine to come co-lecture with me. Claudia just happened to be in Sweden this semester on an exchange program with Ashesi University and Malardalens University.

The lead for the course we visited was also a former colleague from Ashesi University, Clementina Amanquaah who now is a Ph.D. student and lecturer at Uppsala University. It felt powerful to reunite with people from the past in my first guest lecture at Uppsala University!

As I was a student of this African Studies course back in the day, I was quite happy to be able to guest lecture in it. It was a closing-the-circle kind of evening!

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 story up on the PhD Career Stories Podcast

Kajsa is holding a mic.
Photo: OP studios

Do you want to know…. what a morning in my home office sounds like?

What I did when I wanted to quit the PhD program?

How activism and teaching are very good companions to research?

…and what I did after completing my dissertation and finally sleeping properly again?

Yes? Then what are you waiting for? Tune into my story on the PhD Career Stories Podcast.

My Week: Teach, Do Research and Work-Family Balance?

This week, I have a demanding and varied set of tasks ahead.

Monday, I will be welcoming guests to Ashesi University from Kenyon College, Ohio, US (Their 2020 plan is interesting and impressive). I am the Global Liberal Arts Alliance liaison for my institution and the visit is happening as part of that alliance. I will also be working on a research project on social media in the Ghanaian elections with a  colleague to-be-presented at the upcoming African Studies AS-AA conference end of this month. I have a phone call related to the upcoming Uppsala University Global Alumni Day, I am part of organizing in Accra next month (UU alumn? Register here). Monday evening we have the Town Hall meeting at Ashesi for the fall semester.

Tuesday and Thursday I am teaching Written and Oral Communication at Ashesi to 80 Freshmen. This week, we will be talking about referencing in academic writing and how to use technology like Grammarly to write better. I will also grade their reflection paper. You can follow the course on social media under the hashtag #AshWOC. See posts for instance on Twitter. Instagram.

Wednesday, I’ll be working on a research project on higher education in Ghana and increasing university fees. I have a research assistant who is a former student and we have a meeting with an administrator at Ashesi who I think can help us. In the evening farewell dinner with the Kenyon delegation.

Friday morning, I will be talking to high school students at SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College here in Tema about diversity, using my own life as a starting point. I will also have a phone conversation with my mentor. In the afternoon, I will pick my daughters up from school. I am aiming at having a balance between my professional and family life, but rarely have time to pick them up from school, so value this opportunity to spend time with them and connect with their teachers.

Saturday and Sunday I will lay flat! Or something very similar like floating in a pool, resting in a hammock, or watching cookies rise in the oven.

What is your week like?

Green Ghanaian Akua Akyaa Nkrumah is Gone

Environmental Technologist Akua Akyaa Nkrumah passed away on Thursday. She was, write her colleagues in the death announcement, a “mighty tree”. I think it is not often such words are used about a thirty-something, but those were the same words that came to mind as I heard of her passing on Friday morning. I am devastated. 

In lieu of the one-week meeting for family and friends that is customary in Ghana, I want to sit an imaginary living room and share here on my blog some of my thoughts. I imagine an overcrowded room, some of us are standing. I see Akyaa’s family and colleagues in the room, friends from BloggingGhana, Chale Wote, Ahaspora, Golda, Maame Aba, Jemila, Edward, Ato, Naa Oyoo, Efo. Now that we are all here, let’s remember.

Akyaa was a blogger and member of the organization I co-founded in 2008, BloggingGhana. Do read her last blog post on the 15 things NPP can do for the environment. She was a very present member, featured in our “By the Fireside”-events last year, and a feisty and fun discussant on issues we would deliberate on when the official meeting was over. She was a passionate professional working with Jekora Ventures, doing the hard work that is cleaning up Accra, one of the places in the world most in need of sanitation. She was proud of her work and often talked about her projects. Additionally, she was an inspiration and a fellow creative in a space where creativity is rare. She was also an ray of light in the field of environmentalism, desperately needed for a Ghana that is quickly becoming a dump site. Last year, she was featured on Jill of All Trades with this beautiful interview.

In the beginning of the year, Akyaa and I had quite a lot of interactions. We met up and talked about life, she helped my student with information, I got to learn about her initiative to take Eco thinking and social media to university students in the Green Ghanaian Eco Tour. The program was masterfully crafted, intended to reach all regions of Ghana, prefunded by an international donor who Akua had approached and written a proposal to. I took notes and confided in her that under so many years of discussing such an outreach for causes I feel strongly about, I never managed to. She generously shared the details that made her project a success.

In February, Akyaa brought her initiative to Ashesi University. I played only a small role and finally could not attend the program on the Saturday she came up with her team, but was following the tweets online from engaged students.


 

In her last year of living, Akyaa spread her worldview to hundreds (thousands?) of young people, opened a waste management plant, and taught me personally about activism and outreach. Now that she is no more with us, my only consolation is in these endeavors Akua Akyaa Nkrumah will live on. Green Ghanaian…dubbed Great Ghanaian by a mutual friend. Green Great Ghanaian. Our mighty tree. Thank you. Da yiy3.

BloggingGhana will remember her in an event soon. 

Ahaspora will be dedicating their June Happy Hour to celebrate her life.

Family GoFundMe collection for her burial.

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!

 

 

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.

 

My Flash Presentation and Workshop at Conference #DakarFutures2016

I’m spending a couple of days in Dakar for the “Innovation, Transformation, and sustainable futures in Africa”– conference organized by American Anthropological Association, African Studies Association, Codesria and WARA-WARC. The hashtag for the conference is virtual reality. I am giving one flash presentation (five minutes, 15 PowerPoint slides) and on Saturday a three hour workshop. My collaborators Dr Gordon Adomdza, Design professor at Ashesi, and Mr Kabiru Seidu, Ashesi alumni involved in VR with his company NubianVR, could not make it, so I have a big job to do!

Here are the blurbs.

 

Flash Presentation: Re-thinking “Education under Trees”File 10-01-2016, 6 44 03 PM

 

Where do you teach? In a classroom? Or a larger lecture hall, perhaps? Is it a place where you feel inspired? Your students feel inspired? Let me ask you: Is it an African space? Where you feel connected to the continent? Or is it mostly practical?

At the same time as “education under trees” or education without resources is being challenged in the African political space, the “education that never happens under trees” or does not relate to the physical world outside the campus must be problematized. Many schools and universities lock themselves away on beautiful campuses, while the purpose of any learning institution is to have a positive impact on the surrounding society. In addition, many classrooms are designed almost like stages for professors, instead of empowering students. Therefore, I feel static classrooms must be challenged and convenient, economically sustainable alternatives must arise.

In this flash presentation, I want to share innovation, transformation and sustainable futures of the African lecture hall and classroom.

 

Workshop: Learning Engagement in the Age of Social Media and Emerging Virtual Reality

IMG_0948This is a workshop on engaging, simple, and efficient use of Virtual Reality and Social Media in the classroom.

Recent developments of information technology offer new ways of teaching with small or no additional investments. With the use of Internet infrastructure already available on campuses around the continent and students’ own smart or feature phones, this workshop will show you how to bring social media and virtual reality into your syllabus. While there are many real world examples or experiences that could be made available to students, some experiences take time to acquire or do not occur at the most appropriate time in the learning cycle to achieve the desired learning goals. As a result, we explore opportunities to simulate real world examples and experiences through the design and development of virtual reality content with relevant social media integration to achieve learning goals.

 

The workshop will be a unique meeting between educators and will hone their different experiences and backgrounds. Based on teaching interests discussed in the first session, participants will be placed in groups that will work together on brainstorming a VR material to be produced. Alongside, practical tips on how to get started with VR and social media will be shared. Participants are encouraged to contribute. A tangible outcome and takeaway can be a crowd-sourced and active toolkit for learning engagement in the age of social media and emerging virtual reality.

 

…and finally here I am hanging out with a Senegalese rapper who speaks Swedish! Maxi Krezy!

 

The PhD journey: the Viva

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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.

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

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

Corruption in Ghana: What to do? (Occupy Ghana)

This week, I have been ranting on social media about corruption and how sick I am of it.

In my head, it has sounded much like this recollection of Prof. Adei’s recent and furious speech to the Audit Service : “Impunity…abuse of public office…fiasco…norm rather than exception”. However, the important thing is not what has happened (guineafowls, GYEEDA, SUBAH, cocaine, Woyome, CHRAJ-hotel and WorldCup comes to mind immediately) but what needs to be done.

1920352_704094466328010_6514441539004930424_nAbout a year ago, I sat next to Prof. Adei at the canteen at Ashesi where he taught leadership that semester. The conversation was good, his analysis clear, but what stood out was the positive energy: it doesn’t have to be like this, it can be different. A group called Occupy Ghana (currently 25 000 likes on Facebook) has taken this to heart and have through protests, petitions and lectures started challenging the status-quo.

Or as Prof. Adei said it with his clear analysis and positive outlook earlier this month:

“Civil society must continue to speak up and pressure the state to change the situation completely, so that a new culture of responsibility and accountability will replace the current terrible state of affairs.”

Only if we who differ with the indeed “terrible state of affairs” come together there will be a change. That is why I am openly supporting Occupy Ghana by wearing red today. Are you?

Institute of African Studies at University of Ghana – Now on YouTube!

My home department, the Institute of African Studies (IAS) at University of Ghana has taken a big leap forward this semester by broadcasting all of its famous Thursday seminars on Skype and uploading them on YouTube!

Last year, I suggested the institute should have a presence on social media and set up a Facebook account and a Twitter handle @IASUG (at the time, I could not believe my luck to get such an appropriate 5 letter handle!). I managed the accounts over the 2013 African Studies conference  (keynotes also available on YouTube) and then handed it over to the institute.

Now, however you can get more than photos and 140 character snippets – Thanks to new seminar coordinator Dr. Obádélé Kambon – you can experience IAS from the comfort of any place with Internet!

Social Theory: Taking My Daughter to Work

This semester I have taught Social Theory – Ashesi University College‘s introduction to Social Sciences and the world!

It has been a good ride, I especially have enjoyed the news presentations and ensuing panel discussions – my colleagues and I encourage critical research and creativity – and have been rewarded greatly by imaginative and interesting presentations. The course also teaches a history of political ideologies from Plato to Putnam, more or less.

Yesterday, I decided to show my daughter and her nanny what my work is like and they spent the day with me. We took the tour round the campus (here you can too) and when my first class was about to start, she took a marker and started scribbling on the white board to the amusement of the 60 member class: ” Look at, Mamma!”, “Mamma, mamma, make a carrot!”

I smiled and remembered the many, many times I went with my mother to her teaching job…scribbled on something, ran around in the classroom, watched my mother teaching…will my daughter be a teacher too?