This year’s Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) delegation saw a total of 13 students and 2 staff immersed in the cultural experience of a life time. In an activity packed three weeks the group had a range of enriching cultural, political, business, educational and social experiences.
Culturally, the experience changed the perspectives of the students. On the first day, they visited the famous Jamestown lighthouse, a landmark and reminder of old British Accra, and the Ga populated coastal fishing village beside it. Walking through the village with its evidence of poverty and climbing the 94 steps to the top of the lighthouse and its bird’s eye views gave the group a sense of the micro and the macro of the heart of old Ghana and one of its oldest settlements. The second day saw an opening ceremony and a lecture in Ghanaian culture delivered by an alumnus of Lancaster University UK, Dr. Clement Appah. He introduced his eager audience to the nuances of language in Ghana. Common words and phrases were compared with the intonations and pronunciations in Ghana to show just how diverse language could be.
Politically, the group received the opportunity to meet some of Ghana’s voices of influence. The first was a visit to the British High Commissioner to Ghana, His Excellency Jon Benjamin. Mr Benjamin had a hearty chat with the group, discussing his career as civil servant and diplomat, corruption in Ghana, and even how the British High Commission had helped support the work of whistle blowers like Anas. Asked by the students what he believed would be the solution to corruption, he responded that the effective enforcement of the legal system and anti-corruption institutions as well as the imprisonment of high profile individuals found to be corrupt would send a clear message to the public as well as others in positions of power. The team also visited Ghana’s first and premier policy think tank, The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA); Ghana’s trailblazer in independent thinking. Counting bills like the Whistle Blowers’ Act – a law that allows Anas to be who he is – as one of their many successes, the institute is best known for hosting the Ghanaian Presidential debates. During a discussion at the IEA, the economics and social sciences students within the group had the opportunity to ask some interesting and relevant questions on the state of the nation of Ghana’s policy experts.
The group also had several engagements with leading companies in Ghanaian business and industry. Companies like Vodafone, Blue Skies, Kasapreko, and Coca Cola opened their doors for the business students to view their operations first-hand, as well as the extent of globalisation. The highlight of the trip was the pineapple farm where students got the opportunity to see where the fresh pineapple used to manufacture packed juices in the UK came from.
The educational aspect of this trip was marked by a key inter university event: the 3rd Annual Inter-University Debate between Lancaster University UK, Lancaster University Ghana and the University of Ghana. This year’s topic focused on immigration and whether the EU should put quotas on immigrants coming in from the Middle East and Asia. The debate was hotly contested but ultimately won by those against the motion. The collaboration and networking served as a strong bonding period for all the participants. Another educational part of the visit was a trip to the slave castles in Elmina where the LUSU team got a gripping insight into the history of the transatlantic slave trade and its roots in Ghana. Many were deeply touched by this reminder of history’s brutal mistakes.
Another highlight was the African Women in Leadership seminar, which its strong feminist focus. Her Ladyship Mrs Justice Getrude Torkornoo was the plenary speaker at the seminar. The other speakers were Prof. Cynthia Forson (Deputy Provost, Lancaster University Ghana); Prof. Henrietta Osei Bonsu (Law Lecturer, University of Ghana); and Dr Roberta Lamptey (Deputy Director of Medical Affairs, KorleBu Teaching Hospital).
Socially, too, the students had a great time! The first major social event was a barbeque where the students and staff engaged in a group dance-off to familiar tunes. Throughout the visit, the LUSU students were generously assisted by student volunteers or peer buddies on outings and other social engagements. One weekend was spent at Coconut Grove, the beach lover’s paradise. There, the lucky team got a chance of a photo op with a Presidential candidate Dr Papa Kwesi Ndoum of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP).
All in all, the three week visit was one that the LUSU 2015 group is unlikely to ever forget! As they rounded up their stay in Ghana, many said that they would be back. The trip ended with an award ceremony on the LUG campus in which all were awarded for their participation and some honoured for outstanding leadership during the visit.