A trip to northern Ghana by a Bi-Co delegation of five served as a relationship-building visit to the Titagya Schools, a partner in the Learning and Narrating Childhoods 360° course, as well as an opportunity to broaden the relationship between Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges with Ghanaian education organizations and government ministries.
Term Professors of Education Alice Lesnick and Jody Cohen, Assistant Dean and Director of International Programs Theresa Cann, and students Esteniolla Maitre (BMC ’15) and Besan Abu Radwan (HC ’14) spent 10 days in Northern Ghana, an area in West Africa that faces infrastructure challenges, including education.
The Bi-Co connection to Titagya Schools began when Andrew Garza (HC ’08) visited Northern Ghana through a Center for Peace and Global Citizenship scholarship and ended up collaborating with local community leaders in the design of a preschool and kindergarten project, Titagya. Garza, currently serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors at Titagya (and completing his MBA at Stanford), invited Lesnick to join the project several years ago, resulting first in a curriculum exchange, a few student internships, and then the 360° -linked trip in March 2012.
“This trip was designed to continue building relationships, but also to plan a suite of summer internships,” Lesnick said. “We also wanted to explore possible relationships with higher ed counterparts in Northern Ghana and also with other NGO’s and government entities that might host interns and might partner with us in other ways via curricular and other collaborations.”
The delegates co-hosted a professional development workshop, as did the participants of the March trip. Fifty Ghanaian teachers, including several who participated in the first workshop, attended the interactive session on child-centered education in a bilingual context. “We had the opportunity to revive what we did there and strengthen our knowledge and collaboration,” Lesnick said. “Their lead teacher ran the whole thing.”
The delegates also toured Titagya’s newest school in the Kpong village of Northern Ghana, two days before its scheduled opening. “[Titagya] aims to build schools throughout all 16 regions of the north and to be a serious player in the landscape of early education in Northern Ghana. Eventually they hope be a model for other places,” Lesnick explained. A meeting of the delegation, the Titagya leadership and the Minister and Deputy Minister of Early Childhood Education of the Ghana Education Service was a step in this direction.
The team participated in a daylong meeting with a non-governmental organization (NGO) that produces community health education workshops in Ghanaian villages, toured a local hospital, and explored partnership opportunities with the University of Development Studies and Tamale Teacher Training College, with one result being the development of community health summer internship opportunities in Ghana for Bi-Co students. Lesnick also established groundwork for a future 360° course on community health and education she is targeting for Spring 2015, together with Kaye Edwards in Haverford’s Biology Department and Kalala Ngalamalume in Bryn Mawr’s History department.
The delegates enjoyed several rich personal experiences during the trip – including hosting a dinner for Bi-Co alums from Ghana. Some of the most memorable moments were conversations, Lesnick recalled. “Many of our partners would come and visit with us and talk about everything from family to sharing about our religious experiences to gender equity to sharing stories.” The diverse cultural backgrounds of the delegates and their hosts served only to enhance their discussions, she said. “We each have distinctive ways of being in connection and being different – with respect to our team and to our colleagues in the North, but we share a drive to grow this project in a strengths-based, collaborative way.”