Global Bryn Mawr: Ghana

In the Dagbani language spoken in Ghana, titagya means “we have changed.” Last spring, students in one of Bryn Mawr’s multidisciplinary courses, called 360°s, received a first-hand experience in change during a week-long visit to Titagya Schools in Northern Ghana.

“I didn’t realize how much the experience had resonated with me,” says Amanda Beardall ’14, “until I returned home and began to reexamine my own assumptions and perspectives on Africa, literacy, and education.” Beardall was one of 18 Bryn Mawr and Haverford students and faculty who journeyed to Ghana to explore child development in different contexts and the ways different cultures understand and represent that development.

Bryn Mawr’s Ghanaian connection began in 2009, when Haverford student Andrew Garza ’08 traveled there on a Center for Peace and Global Citizenship scholarship. His collaboration with community leaders led to the design of the Titagya preschool and kindergarten and, after the Bryn Mawr-Haverford Education Program signed on, a curriculum exchange, internship opportunities, and the 360° trip.

Says Bryn Mawr Professor of Education Alice Lesnick, “Titagya aims to build schools throughout all 16 regions of the north and to be a serious player in the landscape of early education in Northern Ghana. Eventually they hope be a model for other places.”

Envisioned as an opportunity for open-ended learning, the 360° challenged students to serve as “visitors and learners” but also provided them with opportunities to work directly with children and teachers. In addition, Lesnick collaborated on a teacher professional development workshop, with the 360° students joining in on breakout sessions and informal dialogues.

Earlier this year, Lesnick reprised that experience in a return trip as part of a BMC-Haverford delegation investigating ways to broaden the relationship. To that end, the delegation met with Titagya leadership and the Minister and Deputy Minister of Early Childhood Education of the Ghana Education Service.

The Ghana connection also provides internship opportunities for Bryn Mawr students. In 2012, at the East Legon Veterinary Clinic and the Accra Zoo, aspiring veterinarian Maria Zayas ’13 had the chance to accompany vets on rounds, assist with examinations and surgery, and provide general care to monkeys, civet cats, birds, and even a hyena.

Meanwhile, at Unite For Site eye clinics in Accra, Kumasi, and outlying villages, Kristina Sandquist ’13 – a pre-med student – learned first-hand how international NGOs can effectively partner with local medical institutions to provide low-cost, high-quality, sustainable medical care to low-income communities.