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Ghanaian-Canadian Professors Support Schools, Libraries and Hospital in Ghana

18 July 2008 at 19:35 | 1474 views

By Karilysa Michaels, Surrey, BC, Canada.

They are compatriots and colleagues united by a mission of compassion and a desire to give back to their land of birth. Ghanaian-Canadian professors, Dr. Charles Quist-Adade and Dr. Kwawu Agbemenu of Kwantlen of University College in Surrey, British Columbia have for the past five years, been collecting books and computers for schools and libraries in Ghana.

Working through Afretech, a Delta, BC-based Non-Governmental Organization specializing in supply computers to African countries have supplied several schools in the Greater Accra, Volta and Eastern regions over 500 computers and accessories, several hundreds of mathematics, science, reference, accounting books and laboratory science equipment to 15 schools, libraries and a hospital.

The latest consignment which, was received on behalf of the institutions by the Rotary Club of Tema Meridian, consisted of 240 Pentium III computers, with VGA monitors and enhanced keyboards worth GH˘120,000 or $115,992.74 CAD.

Explaining the background of their action, Dr. Quist-Adade said in the Summer of 2006, he travelled to his homeland and the town of his birth on a research trip. Funded by his institution, the research project was to determine the link between parenting styles and teenage reproductive behaviour in Suhum, a small town in eastern Ghana, and known for its high rates of teenage pregnancy.

His research took him to several secondary schools, the local library and the Suhum Government Hospital. He said he was struck by the lack of basic amenities in the schools. “I was saddened by the dearth of supplies of basic necessities in the schools and the hospital.”

He decided to do something. On his return, teamed up with his compatriot, Dr. Agbemunu and Afretech to collect and ship school supplies-computers (donated by Kwantlen University College and Douglas College) science, laboratory equipment and math textbooks, sports outfits, sports gadgets and medical supplies.

Says Dr. Quist-Adade, “While I am skeptical about foreign aid to Africa, since much of it tends to be palliative, merely touching the symptoms rather than root causes of the continent’s problems, donations of books and computers are exceptions. They are worthwhile investments in human development; the appropriate books and relevant technology can empower and pave the road to self-empowerment and self-reliance.”

He said it was easy for him to empathize with the students in the schools he visited, because he experienced “such deprivation” before as a pupil in a remote village in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Also, he said his belief in what he terms action research and praxis-that is “marrying research with practice” was the prime motivator for “me to go into the field to seek to bring change, small though it may be.”

He commended the Ghanaian government for introducing ICT in high schools, but faulted the government for a false start. The schools have no computers and ICT teachers, he observed. “You don’t start such an important project, without first providing the schools with computers and training teachers in ICT.”

He said he witnessed the absurdity of the government’s ICT programme when a teacher walked his students half a mile to an internet café in order to teach them about the computer. The teacher confided in him that he trained himself how to use the computer and that he had to use his own money to pay for his students to use the computers in the internet café. “ICT has been introduced into the school curriculum and students are required to pass exams in it, yet many of my students have never seen a computer before,” he said wryly.

Dr. Agbemenu had started the book and computer-drive a couple of years before Dr. Quist-Adade joined the Sociology Department at Kwantlen. Answering critics who say sending used computers and Western books to African countries harmful as they “add to the pile of junk “and create environment hazards in these countries, Dr. Quist-Adade said the “twin problems of irrelevance and environmental hazard has exercised my mind for a very long time, but until African governments can set their priorities right and invest in appropriate technologies and create and, at least, assemble their own computers, I am afraid, this is where we must go for now.” He noted that the computers he and his colleague collected and sent to Ghana were only three years old.

He said with proper leadership in Ghana, the old computers should not end up in the junk yard, but in the recycling bin. Ghanaians could be trained to re-build most of these used computers, he added. “As for the books, science and math books have universal relevance,” since “one plus one is the same two in Canada as it is in Ghana. The same goes for scientific formulae.”

Dr. Quist-Adade expressed his gratitude to Kwantlen University College, soon to be Kwantlen Polytechnic University for the opportunity to help deprived schools in Ghana. He also thanked Mrs. Bonnie Sutherland, president of Afretech, Universal Aide Society (which provided shipment money) and the local Rotary Club for assisting in sending the consignment to Ghana and his Kwantlen colleagues who generously donated their used books.

Photo: Dr. Charles Quist-Adade poses with the Suhum Colt soccer team donning jerseys donated by Kwantlen University College of Surrey, Canada.

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