Ghana semester faces changes

Photo by Hayley Cox.
Photo by Hayley Cox.

Calvin’s semester in Ghana is likely to change following a push by the University of Ghana to standardize all international programs.

Calvin’s semester has existed as one of only two stand-alone programs at the University of Ghana since 1999. Recent changes to regulations at the university state that all students must enroll in their classes and visiting professors must also teach classes to Ghanaian students.

According to Hayley Cox, a Calvin senior who participated in the Ghana semester in fall 2012, there has been recent conflict because the university wants Calvin students to directly enroll in their classes.

Calvin students travel throughout the semester and are assigned to internships with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for three weeks at a time. This makes scheduling university classes problematic.

According to CAS professor Stephanie Sandberg, the current program director in Ghana, these internships and excursions are a big draw for students wanting to participate in the semester.

Current internships include speech pathology, documentary film, international development, psychology, women’s and gender studies, strategic communication, environmental science, education and childcare, healthcare and theatre for development.

“We do not want to lose these strengths,” Sandberg said, “but if we wish to stay working with the University of Ghana, we must comply with their new regulations where students take at least two courses from the university as direct enroll and then we can still offer our own courses as well.”

According to Cox, there is concern about the quality of classes the University of Ghana offers.

“Calvin students noticed that professors and students [at the university] didn’t always show up for class,” Cox said. “We wondered if it would give the same quality of education we were used to.”

According to Don De Graaf, Calvin’s director of off-campus programs, there have been a number of people who have confirmed that Calvin is committed to making a program in Ghana work.

“We have some wonderful partners in Ghana,” De Graaf said, “so we have to figure out what makes sense in terms of staying there. We met with the university and partners to discuss way in which we can make the partnership work.”

Sandberg agrees there is a lot of value in having a presence in Ghana.

“It is incredibly important that [the West] develops an Africa-consciousness,” Sandberg said. “Calvin has been dedicated to this in many ways, the semester program being the most sustained endeavor at building this Africa-consciousness.”

According to De Graaf, Calvin understands what the University of Ghana is trying to do, but would like to be able to maintain the most valuable assets the Calvin program has to offer.

One major problem the University of Ghana wishes to change is the lack of integration between Ghanaian and international students at the university.

Cox agrees this is an issue.

“This year students had a home-stay option,” Cox said, “but when I was there we stayed in a hostel and didn’t have Ghanaian roommates. You had to be very intentional about meeting local people. There was a definite sense of separation.”

De Graaf said this is something Calvin would like to strive for as well.

Calvin is currently considering options to move the semester from the fall to the spring semester to allow the program more leeway with scheduling.

“Our first choice is probably to stay at the university,” De Graaf said. “There are some challenges that we have to look at but we are hopeful.”

The University of Ghana now has nearly 24,000 students and is located about seven miles north of the center of Accra.

The semester will remain the same next year and all future changes will be made for the 2015-2016 school year.

This article has been corrected. A previous version of the story incorrectly reported CAS professor Stephanie Sandberg’s first name as Sarah.

About the Author

Lauren De Haan

Lauren De Haan is a Chimes Online Editor for the 2013-14 school year.

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