Summer Centered: Four Fords Support Education Efforts and Community Voices in Ghana
With the Bi-Co Lagim Tehi Tuma Fellowship program, these students are a part of an inquiry into the role of education in creating, concealing, and challenging systems of power in Dalun.
For the fifth year in a row, four Haverford students are living in Dalun, Ghana, a community in the country’s Northern Region, as part of the Lagim Tehi Tuma Fellowship, which is co-sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship and Bryn Mawr’s Leadership, Innovation, and Liberal Arts Center. Following one week of preparatory study at Bryn Mawr, Carol Lee Diallo ’19, Sabea Evans ’18, Addy Lorenzo ’20, and Maurice Rippel ’19 are spending six weeks working and learning collaboratively with Dalun’s community members.
With Lagim Tehi Tuma, which means “thinking together” in the local language of Dagbani, the Fords are joining four students from Bryn Mawr and another four from the University for Development Studies-Tamale, located in a nearby Ghanaian city. The program combines intensive team-building, collaborative study, and education-focused projects to foster dialogue through which participants can think together about culture, power, history, and learning. Each participant works at one of four sites in Dalun for several weeks, but time is also reserved for learning Dagbani and for group discussions in formal and informal settings.
“We’re doing collaborative action research to interrogate questions of education, power, and history, specifically in a postcolonial context,” said Evans, “[and] we’re working on sharing culture and ideas in order to really make it a bridging kind of experience.”
Evans is working alongside Diallo at the Simli Radio, a community-based station that serves Dalun and other parts of the region. During broadcasts, listeners have the chance to call in and voice their opinions on a presentation topic. The radio provides a platform for criticism, discussion, and opinion that uplifts “the voice of the community,” according to Diallo, a sociology major at Bryn Mawr and Spanish minor.
“Different parts of society: the individual, communities, family units; it’s pretty interesting to see how people discuss those different roles and different institutions on the radio,” she said. “The radio functions not only to maintain social norms and bodies but also to dismantle them at the same time.”
When one community speaks up, others within the scope of the radio’s broadcast are also encouraged to do so. This makes the radio station a power platform to hold local leaders accountable and elevate community insight.
“It’s a way to uncover and empower the voices of marginalized communities, especially to the ears of their duty bearers and assemblymen,” said Evans, a linguistics major, religion minor, and Africana studies concentrator.
Lorenzo and Rippel are both working in traditional educational settings. With the Titagya School, an early education center in Dalun founded by Andrew Garza ‘08, Rippel is helping one classroom’s teacher deliver English lessons to five and six year olds (curricula are taught in both English and Dagbani). He meets daily with a mentor for lesson planning, and learns each day from young students eager to absorb knowledge.
“I think what I find really rewarding is just getting to be with the kids,” said Rippel, an English major and education minor. “Seeing how excited they are about learning, how every new discovery they have truly makes their day, how quickly they grasp material, seeing their progress over the course of the week, it’s amazing to see.”
Lorenzo also works with kids, but doesn’t stick to one classroom. She regularly visits nearby schools to meet with teachers and observe their methods of teaching information computer technology (ICT). Because many schools have limited or no computer access, teachers have to use creative methods to deliver curricula. During afternoons, Lorenzo also helps teach basic computer skills to students from nearby schools in Dalun’s ICT center, and has learned a lot from the area’s teachers.
“The conversations with the teachers are very enlightening because it gives me a chance to see the efforts they’re going through to kind of beat the odds and help these students learn computers without actual computers, which is really difficult, especially when you’re in a school that’s underfunded and crowded,” said Lorenzo, who hopes to major in psychology and minor in education.
Though all the program’s Bi-Co students are aiding local initiatives to uplift the community, their time in Ghana is not a service trip. Bryn Mawr Education Professor Alice Lesnick has stressed that they are not “problem solving,” but “problem posing,” that is, asking questions about why certain resources aren’t available, and why certain discourses exist about development, and foreign aid.
Hannah Banh ’14, a former anthropology major who first traveled to Dalun in 2012 with Bryn Mawr’s 360 program, recently finished a research project about Lagim Tehi Tuma for her graduate work at the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service. After spending eight weeks observing the fellowship, she’s confident in its ability to foster a unique setting for dialogue, education, and exchange.
“This program is beneficial because it is not focused on ‘making an impact,’ but rather on simply the sharing of ideas,” said Bahn. “I think the advantage of the Bi-Co students' participation is that they simply bring different perspectives and ideas with them—these are not better or worse than the local knowledge, just different, but it is these differences that foster compelling dialogue and the ability to think within and across the various different forms of education that are the focus of the program.”
The essence of Lagim Tehi Tuma is mutual learning. As its participants bolster pre-existing efforts at empowerment, they validate community knowledge and experience, and consider how they could apply the same sentiment to address marginalization both in Dalun and back stateside.
“It’s a very inside-out kind of situation,” said Evans.
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.