Ashesi University’s campus is built into a verdant hillside, overlooking Ghana’s capital, Accra, 25 km south. I am visiting Ashesi University as part of a field trip to Scholars Program partners in Ghana to help build our Scholars Community.
Our tour of the campus included the new engineering wing, featuring classrooms designed to foster innovation and creativity. These principles were also reflected in the curriculum and student work – we encountered sophisticated robots that could give you a tour of the faculty offices, and heard that every Ashesi student how takes a course in design thinking and entrepreneurship.
The highlight was seeing and speaking with our MasterCard Foundation Scholars. There are 200 Scholars at Ashesi, some of whom I recalled from my visit to the campus in 2012. It is gratifying to see them in their graduating year.
We also visited two student projects in the surrounding village of Berekuso. One project focuses on enabling farmers, particularly young people, to increase the productivity of their land and their incomes. The Ashesi students leading the project – all from urban areas – were especially passionate about improving the lives of the people in the campus community. They have created a demonstration plot that is growing maize and moringa and are connecting 35 farmers to markets. Farmers’ profitability has gone up 28 percent as a result.
Three MasterCard Foundation Scholars at Ashesi have also created “A New Dawn”, a project that educates young women and girls about reproductive health and entrepreneurship. We met 60 girls – ranging from ages 13 to 20 – the Scholars have mentored. Those who spoke exuded confidence about skills they have developed to better manage their time, improve their small businesses selling yam or beads, and personal hygiene.
I also had lunch with several Ashesi Scholars and other students who shared their ideas and experiences. One young man, Prince, was recently elected to the judiciary body of Ashesi (comprised of faculty, administration and two student representatives) that reviews disciplinary cases. He spoke with modest confidence about separating personal relationships from ensuring the ethical code of Ashesi is upheld. This is leadership in action, a core tenet of the Scholars Program and of Ashesi University.
Reeta Roy is President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation