Photo Essays

Education in the Context of Change: Who Gets? Who Provides? (Ghana)

Photos and Captions by Claire Bryant

During our week long stay in Ghana everywhere we went we were greeted with huge smiles and warm hugs. One of our most enthusiastic welcomers was Mary, a young girl who lives at the Osu Children's Home in Accra. Osu Children's Home is a community for orphaned, abandoned, and needy children from birth to eighteen years old. I was in Ghana with 25 Steinhardt students on a Deans Research Travel Colloquium to learn about education and development in West Africa. Visiting these kids was one of the best and most rewarding parts of our trip. The kids gave us just as much as we gave them just by spending time with them and playing for a few hours. One of the girls in our group brought the stickers for the kids and when we left there were only a few kids that were not completely covered in them.

On our second day in Accra we visited two schools, one public and one private. Before we arrived at the public school we were told that school was not in session but a few kids had come by to meet us. When we arrived we were welcomed by a huge group of students who had all come wearing their uniforms just to spend some time with us and answer our questions about the education system in Ghana. Despite the lacking supplies and classrooms these kids had nothing but positive things to say about their school. We came to their school to learn about the structure of their school system but when we left we had made a whole group of new friends!

Spirituality is very important throughout Ghana. To learn more about the traditional African religions and to better understand the connections between religion and education in Ghana, we were fortunate enough to spend a morning with Nana Abass, a spiritual healer in the Kumasi region. People travel from all around Ghana to visit Nana Abass for his guidance. This photo was taken during a traditional performance Nana Abass put on for us and our two faculty advisers, Jacqueline Mattis, who is a professor of applied psychology, and Suzanne Carothers, who is a professor of early childhood education. This performance was so powerful and moving it is no wonder that people will travel many miles to experience the power of Nana Abass and the Peace and Love Palace.

One of our final stops on our visit was to the Coconut Beach Grove Resort in Elmina. Ghana is such a beautiful country and the coast was no exception. We were able to spend a beautiful morning on the beach talking with men selling their goods and enjoying the breathtaking views. We are often overwhelmed by images of despair and need when we see Africa. Of course these images are real and immensely important but we must also be aware of all of the good and beautiful things as well.

Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482 as SÃo Jorge da Mina (St. George of the Mine Castle). It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, and therefore the oldest European building in existence below the Sahara. First established as a trade settlement, the castle later became one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic Slave Trade. The impact of being in this space was so overwhelming that is was nearly impossible to imagine the horrors that occurred in those cells. This was one of the most important stops on our trip because it reminded us of the history that will forever connect us to Ghana.