by Jessica Carroll
From May 4th to May 23, 2015, eleven students traveled to Ghana as part of the African Studies Study Abroad class. This class, offered by the African Studies department, travels to a different country each year to study a theme in depth. This year’s course titled “Ghana: The Challenges of Development and Democracy in Africa,” explored economic growth and democratic consolidation within the country. NPSIA was well represented in the class with four first year students attending including: Chelsea Ruiter, Rasha Al Katta, Jessica Carroll and Samantha Damwe-Mante, who herself is Ghanaian.
The first two weeks of the course took place on the campus at the University of Ghana in Legon, Accra. The first week focused on democratic development in Ghana’s Fourth Republic. In 1993, Ghana emerged from military rule and democratically elected Jerry Rawlings as president. Ghana has been seen as a successful example of democracy in Africa since, with two peaceful transfers of power. The students participated in lectures at the Parliament of Ghana, the Center for Democratic Development and IMANI Center for Policy and Education during these first two weeks.
The last week was spent in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region, to explore rural development and inequality in the country. The Northern Region of Ghana is very different from the wealthier South, which produces cocoa and gold. Students participated in visits to the Regional Coordinating Council, Savelugu District Assembly and the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority. Additionally, students were given a tour of the city by a fellow student whose family is from Tamale. This all provided personal insight into the development of Ghana.
It wasn’t all work, however. Students spent the weekends traveling to different places in Ghana including Cape Coast Castle and Kakum National Forest. Cape Coast Castle is a former slave fort on the coast of Ghana about two hours from Accra. This was a profound experience for all of the students. This was followed by a canopy tour at Kakum National Forest. The class was a fun learning experience for all of the students.
Interested students can visit the Institute of African Studies webpage to see the tentative schedule for upcoming study abroad courses. Next year’s course will be in Malawi focusing on global health with Professor Paul Mkandawire, who is also from the country.