Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Ashesian Question: Education or Fabrication?

From r to l: Dr. Awuah, Mrs. Hutchful and Dr. Sarfo and myself
As a teaching assistant in 2003 at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ghana, Legon(my very beloved alma mata) I was asked by Dr. Martin Odei-Ajei( a very original thinker and mentor) to go act as a judge for a debate in his stead at Ashesi University College. The physical surroundings were obviously modest compared to say the sweeping, majestic, almost intimidating sprawl of Legon. But I noticed the very well manicured lawns, the almost poetic symmetry of the order in the classroom that served as the venue for the debate and the overall ship-shape feel of the surroundings. And I felt palpably the intensity and determination of the students to literally conquer the world: there was an obvious hunger. The opposing debate team was incinerated. I still remember it all like it was yesterday. I reflected as I left what this project was all about. And as it turned out Ashesi was then just a year old: very new and dogged beginning. I think I applied to teach there subsequently inspired by the dream. I got a response: Ashesi was not ready for me. I took it on the chin; I was not ready for Ashesi. I still have the letter in my collection of papers.

Dr. Awuah(right) making a point at the seminar
In 2005 my public service sent me back to Ashesi. I had set up with my friends Kojo Asante(now a leading light at the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development aka CDD) and Cofie Tawiah Cofie a business man what we called the Renaissance Network. Anguished by Africa’s great unactualized potential we sought to do something with our limited resources. We wanted to inspire thought amongst our generation about the pressing issues of the time. The redoubtable Thabo Mbeki was then helming South Africa; his renascent Africa theme provided energizing inspiration. We decided to have our first public event in Ashesi. We thought this new university embodied institutionally the African Renaissance project. Our theme was on education. The Kufuor Administration was then attempting some fundamental restructuring of the sector; we wanted to interrogate the process. We booked an appointment with Dr.Patrick Awuah the central architect of the Ashesi Dream. It was the first time I had met him up close. He exuded this quiet brooding intensity which balanced an almost disarming informality. He offered us Ashesi’s facilities free for the two day event and participated himself on both days. I noticed he walked to and from his office to the venue; a not too challenging distance which some of our big men and women will ride in cars to cover. Certainly this dude has a certain philosophy of life. Ashesi’s students participated with verve and in gratifying numbers.

In 2009 I finally joined the faculty of Ashesi on my return from further studies offshore. Ashesi is now a decade old this year and I have participated at close quarters in the unfolding of this dream that is now flowering as it weathers challenges and chalks every hard earned triumph. One of our triumphs is the rise of our gleaming campus atop the hills of Berekuso. One of our enduring challenges is the spine dislodging road which has tested us every day in our bid to transform first our Republic, Africa and then the very world. I think that Ashesi poses a deep question to Ghana and Africa. And the question is whether our institutions of higher learning going forward simply intend to fabricate our young people like the cars coming off the assembly plants or seek to educate them. Fabrication here is construed as an inordinate focus on equipping students with skills for the job market in contradistinction to education which touches deeply the mind, hands, soul and heart. 

Ashesi’s liberal arts framework attempts to focus on a many sided education that allows our young people to see the link between Akhenaten, Cheik Anta Diop, Langston Hughes,Plato, Ayi Kwei Armah, Bill Gates,Deepak Lal, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ato Quayson, Herman Chinery-Hesse, Allotey, Carlos Slim, Frantz Fanon, Adu-Boahen, Emmanuel Acheampong, Justin Lin Yifu, Bach, Amakye Dede, Reggie Rockstone, Ephraim Amu, Nii AyiKwei Parkes, Ha-Joon Chang and Michael Porter and to take on the world with a heart and a conscience. This focus I believe is what keeps me, my jazzy colleagues and all the heroic staff at Ashesi. To be sure the greatest genius without a heart and conscience will only gift to the world evil schemes and scams; the last thing a resurgent Africa and an unsteady world needs. May the Ashesi dream live on eternally for the benefit of our Republic, our continent and humanity everywhere. Happy 10 years Ashesi!!!!!


  1. Heard of bunch of unemployed graduates? Means something is wrong with cannery turning out the tinapa. (pardon me I say this without malice).
    Hope Ashesi is doing something really different, not quantity, by quality, molding creative doers and not chatterboxes.
    I visited Ashesi for the first time last year, when I took a an American tv crew there for a documentary on Ghana, Iam convinced something good and different in happening.
    We cannot change thing s for the better without taking another look at our education.
    I would love to visit the Ashesi campus in the hills of Brekuso. I saw a beautiful pix of it, misty, cool and academically friendly
    Thanks to the dreamer(s) and all who are making it happen. kumah drah

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  3. Thanks for the response chief...your visit should be extended soonest...we would be honoured...cheers!!!