The Journey

Ghanaian Students Want to See Their Home Country Advance
By Ninita Sporseen

Accra bustles like an American metropolis. Until he came to Whitworth, Emmanuel Anukun-Dabson rode public transportation through the rush-hour traffic that crowded the well-paved roads. The bus made its way through traffic between sidewalks full of pedestrians talking on their cell phones. But when Anukun-Dabson, '11, moved to Spokane to attend Whitworth, he began to see the differences between Accra, the capital of Ghana, and the cities in the United States.

Inside Ghanaian businesses, you won't find computerized networks and filing systems. Even the Ghanaian government is just beginning to create a computer network that connects the various ministries with the help of the United Nations.

"Networking the ministries reduces bureaucracy and increases efficiency," Anukun-Dabson said. "It is a good starting point for advancing Ghana."

Anukun-Dabson plans to use his computer science major to work in computer networking or database creation. He intends to live and work in the United States for a while, but he doesn't want to stay in the States indefinitely.

"I plan to move back to Ghana eventually," Anukun-Dabson said.

Seeing Ghana advance is important to him and he wants to be part of the process. Another Ghanaian Whitworth student, Kwabena Amponsah, '12, shares Anukun-Dabson's desire.

Ghanaian students in the United States are often concerned about the families and country that they left behind. Both Anukun-Dabson and Amponsah have goals that reach beyond their individual interests or plans for success. They plan to use the education and skills they gain in the United States to influence Ghana's future and enhance their families' lives. Anukun-Dabson and Amponsah said the United States has an advantage over Ghana in technology and science and they hope to see the disparity decrease during their lifetime.

Students choose to attend college abroad and to return home for many reasons. For the Ghanaian students at Whitworth, the equation starts with the way they have experienced culture.

Ghanaians hold a common belief that education is vital for the good of the society. For a developing nation to become a developed nation, its people must be educated, Anukun-Dabson said. For that reason, Anukun-Dabson's family made education a financial priority; paying school fees came first, even before putting food on the table.

In past generations, attending college in Ghana was much less common than it is now. Anukun-Dabson's father was the first one of his brothers and sisters to receive a college degree, and he pursued his higher education later in life, rather than immediately after high school.

"Everyone sees the importance of education because the leaders now are those who got educated," said Anukun-Dabson.

But a degree is not enough to return with, which is why both Amponsah and Anukun-Dabson want to stay in the United States and gain work experience before they return to Ghana.

"I have to stay here for a while before I can go back and do anything meaningful," Amponsah said. "I can't go back with just a degree; I need experience."

He wants to gain experience with sciences and technologies that the United States has but Ghana does not. American jobs will give Amponsah hands-on opportunities to work with sophisticated technologies. If he has worked with them, he will be able to play a role in the Ghana's advancement.

One reason that Anukun-Dabson and Amponsah want to use the education and skills they acquire for Ghana's benefit is because of the collectivist culture they grew up in. They were taught that their actions affect the people around them and they feel a responsibility to do what is best for the Ghanaian society, said Anukun-Dabson.

Ghanaian national awards perpetuate the collectivist ideals. The Ghanaian government rewards those who make contributions in their specific working fields. The idea of offering medals and awards combines incentive to work for the best of the collective society with recognition of the individual.

The president nominates individuals yearly and presents awards such as the Order of the Star-Member, the Order of the Volta-Officer, and the Grand Medal. In 2008, Ghana's last president, John Agyekum Kufuor, nominated 241 Ghanaians.

Recognition from the government inspires Ghanaians to work diligently and serve their country, said Amponsah.

Anukun-Dabson wants to benefit Ghana by using computer networking to improve the efficiency of doing business. Very few Ghanaian businesses have records or files on computer databases. They use hardcopies which are difficult to organize, bulky to store, and easy to lose.

Doing business in Ghana takes much longer than doing business in the United States, said Amponsah. On occasion, he has had to wait months to get a new passport or driver's license. He described doing business in the United States as quick, simple and easy. Anukun-Dabson and Amponsah would like to see business in Ghana become more efficient and simple.

A computerized system would solve some of the problems with delays, and as business becomes more efficient, it often becomes more successful. Successful businesses improve the economy, which would benefit Ghana as a whole.

Ghana is classified as low income by the World Bank. Ghana's gross national income per capita is $590, which puts it under the low income status cap by $235. The situation isn't likely to improve this year, according to the World Bank's 2009 Economic Outlook for Ghana. The Ghanaian government is going to have to spend 14 percent of the country's gross domestic product on fiscal deficit because of the state of the global economy, Modern Ghana reports.

Anukun-Dabson and Amponsah want to see change in Ghana during their lifetime. They want to see the economy strengthened, the wealth and infrastructure of the major cities spread to rural areas, and the government organized as advanced technology becomes available. They are choosing to be educated in a technologically advanced country and to return home so that they can be part of the process.

Large scale change always has to do with individuals' goals, attitudes and perceptions, Amponsah said. He and Anukun-Dabson know they can only be responsible for their own.