African, U.S. education compared in forum

David Anderson

Although money is a serious concern for young African adults when they reach college age, the concept of both studying and working full time is often foreign to them.
Ahortor Godson, a graduate religion student at the University, said students are often trapped because their overwhelmed parents feel they no longer need to provide financial support.
Godson and Pauline Ongudi, two former students at African universities, discussed student life in Africa on Tuesday in a forum held at the Social Science Building.
Godson, who organized the discussion, attended the University of Ghana in Lagon before going on a one-year exchange program in Minnesota.
Ongudi graduated from the University of Eastern Africa in Bariton, Kenya, before joining the University for a master’s program in 1998.
The speakers said the educational systems in their respective countries follow the model of their former colonizer, Great Britain.
There is less flexibility for students to chose their courses, and student-professor relations and grading are more strict.
“There’s no way I could make it through school in Nigeria working the amount of hours I am working here,” said Robert Ngw, a University economics senior who previously attended the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
However, Ongudi said private universities in Kenya adopt the American system more and more, and public ones are following suit, particularly with the American grading system.
But often in Africa the accessibility of education comes down to whether students can finance their way through college.
Godson said, as a consequence, many students are people on steady leave from their job.
“It is not easy affording university education (in Ghana),” he said. “This is because the wages are very low.”
Albert Aryee, who graduated from the University last fall, said fees were covered by the state when he was a student at the University of Ghana. The Ghanaian government decided to share studies costs with students in 1997.
In addition, the economic state of the country forces students to deal with space issues, book shortages and technological limitations.
“In terms of technology, student life (in Ghana) is handicapped,” Godson said.
Amadou Diaye, a University graduate student of management, attended UniversiteÇ Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. He said, at times, more than 2,000 students crowded the lecture halls.
Joyce Chadya, who attended the University of Zimbabwe in Harare and is now working on a history doctorate at the University, said books in Zimbabwe are too expensive for students to buy.
“Everybody has to rely on the library to a large extent,” she said.
A number of African students at the University, including the speakers, also said that one-person dorm rooms frequently accommodate up to four or five students.
“(American students who wish to study in Africa) do need to be prepared for the lack of technology, the lack of resources,” said Heidi Soneson, program director for the Global Campus. Soneson helps coordinate exchanges with universities in Ghana, Kenya and Senegal.
“Student Life in Africa” was the second presentation in a series of African issues forums sponsored by the Global Campus and the Culture Corps Program.

David Anderson covers international perspectives and professional schools and welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3237.