Tag Archives: KNUST

KNUST Graduation and a brush with royalty

Leah Wong at the KNUST Graduation Ceremony, photo taken by graduation photographers

Just like students graduating from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology I shook the hand of the Ashanti King.

A week after our tour of the school, I attended the first day of graduation, held in the school’s great hall. Unlike the week before when exams were in session, the grounds were filled with people. All around graduates, their friends and families were snapping photos.

When I reached the venue I was seated inside with the former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kwasi Adarkwa’s wife in the front row, giving me a clear view of the day’s festivities. Following the procession of both convocation, the university’s Chancellor and the University Council, I realized that I was going to be seated in front of the Ashanti King for the entire ceremony.

The valedictorian, Kwadwo Boakye Boadu, received the highest marks for students from the two colleges, provided the usual inspirational speech to his fellow classmates. He encouraged his fellow students to continue to work hard as his lecturers engrained in him that “only in the dictionary [does] success come before work,” reminding them that “it doesn’t happen in the real world.”

The motivational speaker for the event was Frank Tackie, the President of the Ghana Institute of Planners. Tackie encouraged the graduates to take hold of opportunities, even if it means leaving the country. In his 35 years as a planner, he has traveled to work in over 20 countries globally.

The graduation ceremony was for both the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the College of Architecture and Planning. Each graduating student shook the hand of the chancellor of the university, the Ashanti King, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

Following the graduation ceremony, Prof. Adarkwa and his wife took me to a reception at the Vice-Chancellor’s house. There I sat in the same room as King and enjoyed refreshments. The King did not eat the same food as I did though, as he travels with a cooler of his own food wherever he goes. We sat waiting for the King to depart, and though I did not have my camera, Prof. Adarkwa said he would introduce me to the King.

After a brief introduction about how I was the daughter of one of his Canadian classmates, and that I was working at Kapital Radio in Kumasi, I was able to say hello and shake hands with the King. Shaking hands with the King is a great honour by Ghanaian standards, something I truly realized when I told the story to my coworkers later that week.

Welcome to KNUST

We were fortunate enough to get a tour of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) after my dad got in touch with one of his classmates from his days at University of British Columbia. After finding out I was going to Ghana, my dad told me about his former classmate, who he had recently discovered had finished his term as the Vice-Chancellor of Kumasi’s university. With the help of Google, Linkedin and a few emails, my dad and his former classmate were able to get in touch 30 years later. Professor Adarkwa kindly arranged for Lin, Chris and I to go on a tour of the campus, which is located on a 16 km2 plot of land on the outskirts of the city.

The KNUST campus is beautiful. There are open green spaces and trees all throughout the grounds. As much as I love the downtown location of my own university, Ryerson, I felt pangs of jealousy over the botanical gardens located on campus. Both my school and KNUST are fairly close in age, with the Ghanaian university just kicking off its 60th anniversary year. The history of my university is also similar, while Ryerson’s roots began as a polytechnic institute, KNUST started as the Kumasi College of Technology. Both schools have full university status, while maintaining a technological focus. Though the campus takes up substantially more space than Ryerson, the student population is fairly similar; KNUST has a population of just over 28,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students.

Check out a mini-tour of parts of KNUST. If you want to read more about the university read Chris’ post on it.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K-u7X7MVT0

“Dumping” in Ghana

Kumasi Central Market

The structure of Ghana’s economy has made minimal changes since the nation’s independence in 1957. It is still heavily reliant on traditional agricultural and mineral goods, mainly gold, cocoa and timber, in a highly competitive and aggressive international market. According to Ghana’s Private Sector Development Strategy, some of the country’s economic challenges include: “limited diversification into manufactured goods and traded services, or movement to adding value to primary products,” as well as limited productivity, investment, innovation and use of technology. The strategy was designed in accordance with the Government of Ghana’s vision of attaining “The Golden Age of Business”: to create and maintain an appealing business climate directed at both local and foreign investment. The  concept is a Presidential Special Priority; however, as it stands Ghana’s market is in a slump. There are many systematic issues to which one could point the blame–corruption, undeveloped infrastructure and weak taxation practices, for example.

According to Professor Appiah-Nkrumah, head of the economics department at Kumasi’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), one of Ghana’s biggest economic challenges is unfair subsidized competition from other countries. During our discussion last week, he asked me if I had been to the central market (the biggest in West Africa). When I revealed that yes, I had been just the day before, he asked me point blank: “What did you observe?” This was a loaded question. I had spent hours exploring the endless stalls, overflowing with merchandise such as cooking utensils, electronics, clothing, car tires, colourful kente cloth, pig hooves and entire goat carcasses. Put simply, it was a sensory overload and I couldn’t narrow it down to only a few observations.  I muttered something about the vendors all selling the same merchandise and his face lit up. “And they’re selling a lot of imported products?” I asked. “Yes!” he exclaimed, as he opened up a local newspaper and read me a headline. Ghanaian manufacturing company Aluworks had recently closed down citing unfair subsidized competition from Chinese aluminum imports and unfair international trade practices as the main reasons. (Ironically, Ghana is the second highest exporter of aluminum in Africa.) Professor Appiah-Nkrumah elaborated: “Look at the textile industry. They take designs from here, then take it to China. That is a major issue. How do we compete?” He explained what economists call “dumping”- the process of selling goods in a second country at a cheaper price than they are sold in the primary country.

I think about some of the things I’ve purchased since arriving in Ghana a few weeks back: a plastic coffee mug made in China, a box of tea imported from Sri Lanka, chocolate treats from Turkey (although Ghana is the highest cocoa producer in Africa) and toasted rice cereal from Egypt. All items that Ghana has the capacity to manufacture. Ghana has the ability to be a big player in the international agricultural market, but its reliance on imports is still overwhelmingly dominant. The root of the problem stems back to the 1990s when Ghana was forced to agree to the demanding terms of International Monetary Fund and World Bank structural adjustment programs in order to save their economy and in spite of a gold and cocoa market crash. This involved eliminating tariff and exchange controls, cutting civil service, education and health expenditures and emphasizing free market policies. Ghana’s most recent Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy states accelerating the growth of the economy in order to achieve middle-income status (an average income of $1750 per capita) as its central goal, in accordance with the Millennium Development Goal of halving the population living in poverty by 2015. Ghanaians believe the path to financial prosperity lies in adding industrialization, high productivity and modern technologies to their economy, but their national development continues to be blocked by unfair international trading systems. Until the structure of Ghana’s internal trade and internal production regulations are radically altered, its economy cannot be self-reliant and will remain, as professor Appiah-Nkrumah puts it, “at the mercy of the buyers.”

Trials of Traditionalism

The Black Stars are in the World Cup quarterfinals!!!  That is absolutely the most high-profile news item in Ghana at the moment.  Even during Mufty’s show, “Know your Rights”, on Saturday evening, his guests – including an Islamic scholar, a Methodist bishop and university professor, and a former chairperson for the United Nations – all twisted their necks toward the television in the corner of the recording studio as soon as he mentioned that evening’s match between Ghana and the U.S.  The topic of discussion this week was the rights of homosexuals. It was examined from the perspective of the United Nations (a declaration extending universal human rights to homosexuals and opposing any form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was read in 2008. Sixty-seven nations have currently signed and 60 countries have signed the opposing the statement), as well as the Christian and Islamic perspectives.  The two-hour discussion–looking at the issue from scientific, religious, and human rights perspectives–was even more exciting than the football game that evening ending 2 -1 for Ghana in an extra half-hour of playing time!  Simply discussing the topic of homosexuality is a massive step toward social equality on the continent.

Aside from working on the production side of Mufty and Mercy’s shows, we’re also working on a news story about the current rates of child abuse in Kumasi.  We’re still waiting for the most recent statistics, but in the meantime, we’ve discussed the issue with the Assistant Subtenant of Police, George Appiah-Sakay.  He gave us a history of Ghana’s commitments to human rights doctrines, including the Ghanaian Constitution, which enshrines universal rights for women and children.  What is still needed to end cases of domestic violence and abuse toward children, he believes, is a change in the attitude of Ghanaians. He explained that pre-colonial Ghana was a polygamous society. As marriage arrangements shifted to the European convention of one husband and one wife the shift away from traditional roles, in which the male acts as sole provider, changed at a much slower rate.  Even today, Mr. Appiah-Sakay explained, there continue to be marriages that seem more like an arrangement of ownership rather than a union of two equal parties.

A recurring theme we keep running up against in our research is this link between traditionalism and contemporary issues.  Multiple news stories at Kapital last week focused on the issue of perennial flooding in the low-lying areas of Kumasi.  As Laura discussed in her last blog entry, people are seriously affected by the flooding of their homes every time there’s a heavy rainfall.  Often, residents in these areas will wake up after a night of rain to find their furniture floating.   When Ashley and I talked to a representative from the Ministry of Town and Country Planning about drainage plans for the area (Kumasi is currently undertaking phase two of a city-wide drainage project which should end the flooding concerns in the worst affected areas by the end of this year) we learned that the issue is rooted in the ongoing problem of stool kings selling land, developers building structures, and families moving in to them, all without addressing the proper channels to ensure that zoning laws are being followed.  Even if a developer becomes aware that a stool king has sold him or her land for a purpose other than what it was zoned for, rarely would one choose to challenge the traditional authority of the stool kings by taking them to court and addressing the problem.  Now, Kumasi citizens are left with no option, but to wait for a government-sponsored solution to a problem that is anything but the municipal government’s responsibility.  According to the Kumasi Metropolitan City Engineer, Mr. Boateng, many of these stool kings simply leave town after selling their property – leaving unaware citizens out in the rain, literally.

The conflicts between contemporary institutions and traditional attitudes continue to influence politics as well.  In speaking with Professor Amakye Boateng, a political science lecturer at the Kwame Nkruma University of Science and Technology, it became evident that patron-client relations are still entrenched in many Ghanaian political institutions. Prof. Boateng ran as a parliamentary candidate in 2000, and was encouraged to run again in 2008.  A regular radio personality, he was popular at the ground-level, but party leadership (I won’t name which party as it seems both the NPP and NDC are considered relatively equal in their dealings of this nature) discouraged him from vying for a place on the ballot against another potential candidate who had “contributed regularly to the party” – referring to contributions of a financial nature, of course.  The interesting part is that the Ghanaian public recognizes that the party system operates on this basis.  When a popular citizen runs as an independent candidate, the public recognizes that a party has rejected him or her on the basis of patronage.  Many independents are then elected by way of voters punishing the parties.

Slicing the okra and garden eggs

On the weekend, we all went to the home where Mufty grew up. His sisters and Nana taught us how to make Banku with Okra stew – a traditional dish of dough-like balls in stew that you eat with your hands.  I was assigned to slicing up the okra and garden eggs.  Okra, a small green vegetable, is filled with a gooey, slippery substance that makes it very difficult to chop (difficult for me, that is, not our amazingly talented mentors).  I left with only one tiny slice in my finger – definitely better than expected.  The entire family, all of Mufty’s aunts, uncles, and cousins all live in adjoining homes with a common courtyard. It was great to meet so many people of different ages in one place.  Mufty’s little nieces and nephews never tired of playing hand games with us, and I never tired of dancing with his aunts (they sure know how to work those hips).  Apparently, making fufu is on the agenda for next Sunday.  It involves pounding cassava with what looks like a

Cooking the Banku

tall and skinny tree trunk of some sort. Check back next week to see how we do… I’m hoping for zero injuries this time.