Ghanaian Scholars Visit Worcester State

November 25, 2019
By: Maureen Stokes

Worcester State University students and others in the campus community learned what scholars are working on in the Ghanaian university system at an event in the May Street Building on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

Dr. Nana Akua Anyidoho and Dr. Joseph Frimpong, both of Ghana, presented their research in the first half of the event, then participated in a discussion with Assistant Professor Alison Okuda, Ph.D., (History) about the importance of research on Ghana to the WSU community. Between program segments, Ghanaian food was served.

It’s important to share Ghanaian scholarship with Worcester State students, staff, and the Worcester community because the city has one of the largest communities of Ghanaians outside of Ghana, according to Okuda. WSU has many students from, or whose parents emigrated from, Ghana and they are among the university’s highest achieving leaders, President Barry M. Maloney said, in remarks at the start of the event.

“Understanding more about Ghana, as well as what kind of scholarship is happening there, is important to us,” Maloney said. “By ‘us’ I mean not just those of you who have emigrated from there, or whose parents may have, but all of us at Worcester State and anyone who lives in this area. Our community is one of diversity, of immigrants, and the vitality that all of that brings.”

Anyidoho is senior research fellow at the Institute of Statistical, Social, and Economic Research, University of Ghana. She spoke on “Changes in Women’s Work in Ghana: Local and Global Dynamics.”

She noted that Ghanaian women have a history of working outside the home that dates back several centuries. It was only with British colonization (1844 to 1957), and the Victorian ideas of male and female roles that came with it, that the notion of women as stay-at-home caretakers was planted. It was mainly men who were tapped for outside employment during the colonial era, including for clerical jobs usually associated in Western culture with women, she said.

The entrepreneurial impulses of Ghanaian women could not be completely suppressed, however, and many participated in an informal economy offering services such as cooking and laundry for those with outside jobs.  Many women also became street vendors selling a variety of wares and contributing to the lively marketplaces that travelers still encounter when they visit Ghana today, she said.

More recently, women have begun to find more employment opportunities, especially in the rapidly expanding banking sector. In 1990 there were no private banks in Ghana, but now there are 19, she said. The downside is that rigid work schedules take a toll on family life and the ability to personally contribute to the larger community by attending funerals and other socially important events. A strong sense of community is particularly important in Ghanaian culture, she said.

Oduro-Frimpong is senior lecturer in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ashesi University. His topic was “Cartoons in Ghana’s Sociopolitical History: An Overview.” He studies popular culture and how it reflects important socio-political issues as well as offering entertainment. He is particularly interested in the role of cartoons in Ghanaian democracy.

During the panel discussion, he was asked how teaching Ghanaian students in the United States differs from teaching students in Ghana. “When I teach a course with U.S. students, they need lots of context,” he said. “At home, I don’t have to do that.” On the other hand, students in Ghana often mistakenly think they understand popular culture because they are so familiar with it. This leads them to sometimes skip the class readings, so they miss some deeper informational twists they hadn’t considered before, he said. In the U.S., students tend to delve into the readings as assigned because they don’t have that same familiarity with the material, he said.

The event, chaired by Okuda with an assist from Professor Charlotte Haller, Ph.D., (History), was sponsored by the Department of History and Political Science, the Third World Alliance, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

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