Education
 Ghana
Project #13214

Educate Ethical and Innovative Leaders for Africa

by Ashesi University Foundation
Engineering ceremony leaders
Engineering ceremony leaders

This October Ashesi celebrated the launch of its new engineering program and building. The launch marks a significant milestone for Ashesi, with engineering being the biggest addition to our academic programs since 2005. Over five hundred guests were present at the launch, including staff, faculty, students, alumni, parents and donors.

Ashesi’s new engineering majors – Computer Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering – place emphasis on hands-on learning, entrepreneurship, design and problem solving, and will equip students with skills to create long-term solutions to Africa’s engineering challenges and deploy better-designed infrastructure for local needs. 

“Our progress has been steady, and our determination unwavering,” said Ashesi President Dr. Patrick Awuah. “Choosing to start an engineering program was the next best step we believed we could take, because we could see in a strong way, how engineers influence the world we live in. [...] At its best, engineering encompasses the application of mathematics, science, design, psychology and economics. It touches all facets of modern human life. Agriculture, healthcare and education. The products that engineers make are all around us, in our homes and in the places we work.

If we really want to transform agriculture in Africa, then we must care about engineering. If we really want to improve healthcare we must care about engineering. If we want to enable private sector growth by building the enabling infrastructure, then we must care about engineering. If we want to drive economic growth through industrialization, we must care about engineering.” 

Started in 2013, Ashesi’s Engineering project was funded by $6.2M in philanthropy from donors worldwide, and will see Ashesi's enrollment increase to some 1,000 students by 2020. The new engineering building houses classrooms and labs designed for in-depth, hands-on learning. Uniting traditional design by local architects, world-class technology, and environmental best practices, this new building complements the existing architecture of Ashesi’s campus. 

Reading his address, the Vice President of Ghana, H.E Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, explained that, “This remarkable engineering facility we see here today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the life of this institution whose history of academic excellence and of producing great thinkers is well-documented. [...] Everywhere I go, I hear stories of Ashesi graduates who are making a real difference in our country. I am thankful that these trademark Ashesi qualities will now be imbued in engineering graduates as well.” 

Commenting on the timing of Ashesi’s engineering program launch, guest speaker and former US astronaut, Dr. Robert Satcher, added that “the vision of this young but promising university: namely producing engineering graduates that will help create a new era of progress in African industry and infrastructure, is timely and admirable. [...] Indeed, the future is bright, because you are providing a solution to an age old problem—namely, providing opportunity where it is most needed and has historically been unavailable; because In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success. History is on the side of those who are brave and just. Africa doesn’t need more dictators and strongmen, it needs strong institutions, like Ashesi University, to be successful in the 21st century.” 

Developed over two-and-a-half years, Ashesi’s engineering curriculum is the result of a collaborative process between Ashesi and several top engineering schools and stakeholders across the world. 

Engineering building
Engineering building
Students tinker with new 3D printer
Students tinker with new 3D printer

24th August, 2015 - The fourth edition of the Ashesi Innovation Experience (AIX) came to a grand close this past weekend, as parents, family and friends of over 100 students gathered on campus to see the projects students had developed. The AIX, previously named the Ashesi Robotics Experience (ARX), is an exciting two-week enrichment program, organised in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, that brings students from different high schools to Ashesi's campus. Ashesi’s faculty designs the curriculum for the programme, and students, alumni and other volunteers help as mentors and program assistants. This year participants came from Ghana, the UK, Kenya and Zimbabwe, with some mentors coming from the US. 

Students get coaching from Ashesi Professor

Over the two weeks, participants were exposed to design and creative problem solving, leadership, entrepreneurship, robotics programming and engineering, through hands-on projects and experiential learning.

[Click here to read AIX student blog

In the first week, activities focused on broad training in leadership and design, and students were taught how to apply creative thinking to everyday problems, and in their everyday lives. In the second week, participants broke into different groups around Engineering, Robotics or Entrepreneurship, where they worked on various projects in teams.

Some of the projects students worked on included building model robots that could simulate collecting and sorting waste in Accra, building solar powered flash-lights and designing a business model for an initiative that helps put under-privileged children into after-school skills training classes.

“AIX is an opportunity to expose young people to new ways of thinking,” says Project Lead and Computer Science Professor, Dr. Ayorkor Korsah. “We are looking to teach participants how to take crazy ideas and make them realistic, and also have the courage to lead.”

Participants got the chance to interact with thought leaders and entrepreneurs across Ghana, including Ehi Benitie of Rancard Solutions, Anne Amuzu of Nandimobile, Regina Agyare of Soronko Solutions, Ghanaian NASA Rocket Scientist Dr. Ave Kludze, and a host of others. The students were also taken on field trips to recycling plants, engineering firms and a number of start-ups to have real world experience of what they were being taught in class.

“Last year, my son could not attend as he was too young,” said Kwame Amanquah Twum, a parent.  “Thankfully, he made it this year and I'm hopeful that aside learning skills in leadership and entrepreneurship, he would use this opportunity to come out of his shell and expand his network.”

In the closing ceremony, students and groups from the various groups were given awards around outstanding projects and personal development. Emmanuel Bimpong of SOS Hermann Gmeiner School was awarded for being the most outstanding student at AIX2015.

“It's been fun and insightful,” added Maame Efua Orleans-Boham of Wesley Girl’s Senior High School. “My journey started with lateral thinking - thinking around the rules – and I will be able to apply the problem solving skills not only in the classroom, but also in everyday activities.”

This year’s Innovation Experience was organised with support from Airtel Ghana, Rancard Solutions, Vodafone Ghana, General Electric, Ostec and Citi Investments Company Limited. Media partners included Citi FM and Joy FM.

Links:

Grace Amponsah leading her "New Dawn" initative
Grace Amponsah leading her "New Dawn" initative

MasterCard Grace Amponsah ’17, has been selected as 2015/2016 Dalai Lama Fellow at Ashesi. As part of her nomination, Grace receives $10,000 in funding to implement her girls' education project, “A New Dawn.” The project aims to tackle barriers to education faced by girls in Berekuso, and help them develop stronger potential for success.

“Teenage girls are among the most vulnerable in our society,” Grace says. “Statistics by the Ghana Health Service revealed that 750,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 to 19 get pregnant annually. I started the “New Dawn” initiative to reach out to young girls and help them understand how to succeed by making better life choices." 

Learning from research her peers had conducted in Berekuso, and working with an inaugural class of thirty, Grace has chosen to tackle issues of sex, education, entrepreneurship and healthy lifestyles. To make it easier for attendance, she has scheduled her weekly meetings on weekends, engaging in interactive learning activities with the girls.

“We wanted to build trust with the girls to allow them to share sensitive stories,” Grace explains. “At the end of every meeting we would reflect on lessons from the day’s interactions, allowing us to build closer relationships with each other. “

Dalai Lama Fellow at Ashesi

With personal authorization from His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama Fellows Programme encourages a new generation of emerging leaders to come together to address some of the most pressing global challenges. The programme also looks to advance in them, a deeper understanding of the need for ethical awareness and inner values as essential components of effective social change leadership.

Ashesi is part of an exclusive list of twelve international campuses that participate in the Dalai Lama Fellows programme – along with other schools such as Stanford, Oberlin and Princeton.

The Dalai Lama Fellows programme includes three interconnected components: a meticulous selection process to identify promising Fellows at select universities; ongoing, personalized support from programme officers and outstanding experts in their fields to equip Fellows with new understandings and capabilities; and lifelong participation by all Fellows in a Global Learning Community that will strengthen each individual's capacity to lead, while fostering a sense of collective global responsibility, service and action. 

As part of her Fellowship, Grace attended the Ethical Leadership Assembly in San Francisco this June to receive coaching and network with other Dalai Lama Fellows from around the world.

Links:

In September 2014, at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, I made a commitment on behalf of Ashesi to have gender balance in our new engineering program.

Gender balance is rare in the world of engineering education, but we believe it’s necessary to aim for inclusion. More importantly, we believe in making sure that future engineering solutions to Africa’s problems gain from the perspectives of women. This will be very important for engineering success on the continent. So how can we collectively achieve this?

Women care about people, not machines.

If you go to a high school in Africa today and you talk to girls about machines, most of them are not very interested; if you talk to them about solving problems for humanity using machines, that generates far more excitement. This means that the way we communicate with girls about engineering is extremely important. The design of engineering programs—having real projects that involve solving problems for real people—will also be important.

Women engineers need more funding. 

In our part of the world, it is also important that we provide funding, especially for girls, because often families are pushing them away from pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math majors. If there is scholarship funding for girls, it’s more possible for them to pursue majors in engineering.

Women engineers need role models.

When we did the groundbreaking for our engineering program the two guest speakers were women; last year we invited two women onto our board who are engineers; the faculty member who is chairing the design of the curriculum is a woman.

The reason we are having women actively involved in our engineering program, is that they will be real role models for students. In my grandfather’s generation, women could not be head teachers of schools; in my mother’s generation, they could. In my mother’s generation, women could be nurses, not doctors; in my generation, a lot of the doctors in Africa are women. In my generation, women are not so involved in engineering; they are just a handful.

I think the next generation needs to change that and involve more women in engineering. I see this as a progression across generations.

This is the time.

There’s another generation coming, and this is the time for us to start preparing them to break that stereotype of engineering. Wish us luck.

 

Links:

Kpetermeni Siakor
Kpetermeni Siakor '15

Kpetermeni Siakor ‘15 has keenly followed the world’s work and the progress being made to stop the spread of Ebola. His home country, Liberia, has been one of the worst affected countries and has lost over 2000 people to the virus.

“The outbreak was not taken seriously in the beginning,” says Kpetermeni, as he adjusts his round spectacles. “By the time it was, it had gone out of control. As a Liberian I couldn’t sit and hope all would be well; I had to contribute to the work being done to control this disaster.”

From Ashesi’s campus in Ghana, the country where the United Nations team for combating Ebola is based, Kpetermeni reached out to his colleagues at iLab Liberia, a remarkable not-for-profit technology space which he had helped start. He remembered how the team had been actively involved in crisis response in the wake of Japan’s earthquake disaster, and encouraged them to find ways in which they could help the fight against ebola. The iLab Liberia team spoke to as many people who were directly involved with the situation as possible, in order to understand the technology gaps in Liberia’s fight against Ebola, and how they could build custom solutions for them. They learned that health workers had a problem storing and managing data on Ebola cases—not having any digitalized records of cases, long periods of time between data collection and transmission to the health ministry, emergency dispatch delays and general confusion among health officers handling data—which was slowing down the work to track, control, and stop the disease.

Armed with this feedback, Kpetermeni has joined his colleagues in deploying effective data tools for the health ministry in Liberia. The team is helping provide computers, reliable internet connectivity and iLab volunteers to digitise paper case forms and track Ebola contact cases. The team is also assisting Medical Teams International to map out all the health centers in Liberia in order to track in new cases.

“Each morning I sign in to our team group on Skype, which has some 200 people connected,” Kpetermeni adds. “The group has people from the UN, the MSF and other health agencies involved in the fight against Ebola. We spend each morning understanding the progress we are making, the gaps that need to be addressed and new information that might affect the fight. What is clear to everyone, is that accurate data plays a big role.”

“I am hopeful that we will stop Ebola quicker than is projected. Recorded cases keep reducing, and when Liberia is finally Ebola free, we can continue to work to strengthen the weak systems that allowed it to grow so quickly in the first place.”

iLab team reviews cases with emergency dispatch
iLab team reviews cases with emergency dispatch

Links:

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Ashesi University Foundation

Location: Seattle, WA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.ashesi.org
Project Leader:
Amy Barbour
Seattle, WA United States