Politics is not only the grand activities of leaders or the effects of big numbers – economical, electoral or social. It is also the sum total of millions of tiny events, decisions and discussions. Politics is about the distribution of power and resources, material and non-material; political science tries to analyse that tangled mess.
The Winter programme that my university, The American University of Rome runs in Ghana is one example. Since 2004 we have been using Ghana as a classroom for our own international students and for Ghanaians. They visits sites and talk to experts and opinionmakers as well as ordinary people in Accra and the villages. For a fortnight, we learn about Ghanaian history – the slave trade, an earlier globalisation which brought together Europe, Africa and the Americas. Ghana has some of the most striking monuments; British, Dutch, Danish and Portuguese castles and forts which starkly illustrate the Atlantic trade. Then the colonisation and independence where Kwame Nkrumah’s legacy is felt keenly – his daughter Samia is now a member of Parliament and she gives us a direct link with the past and an up to date picture of today’s politics.
Politics and Ghana’s democracy are the programme’s second pillar. Over the last 20 years Ghana has moved from military dictatorships and weak democracies to a well consolidated example of democracy not only for Africa but the rest of the world. There have been two peaceful changes of party with the 2008 results fought down to the wire over a handful of votes; but with no violence whatsoever. A far cry from Kenya that year or neigbouring Côte d’Ivoire today. The third element is west African international relations; developments in the Ivorian crisis will show us exactly what the international community can and cannot do.
Finally, there is economic development; Ghana aims at reaching emerging economy status by 2015. Oil started flowing a month ago and everyone is very conscious of the perils that oil wealth might bring and working on making oil a blessing and not a curse.
And on our own micro level, we are part of that development; we have been awarded a grant by the Latium Regional Government (the regions are Italy’s second level of government and Rome is in Latium). Development aid and projects can either go through multi-million dollar initiatives run by governments of UN agencies like the FAO or they can be managed by NGOs and universities like ours; it’s called “decentralised cooperation”. Here the support comes from local government, like the regions or cities for much more modest sums, tens of thousands of euros.
Our own projects are both commercial and educational “Sustaining Education; Educating for Sustainability”. Our partner in Rome is La Sapienza, Rome’s first university and our partners in Ghana are the Kokrobitey Institute where we will be contributing to “Little Steps” an initiative which teaches young women from the village to produce and market fashion items from recycled material. The second part is at the Cape Coast School for the Deaf together with the Cape Coast NGO, DASFA (Development Assistance for School Farms) where we will be working on their school farm, building on the previous fundraiser which gave the farm a poultry unit. We hope that along with the very concrete benefits which the grant will be able to produce, it will also enhance links between Ghana and Rome and Latium. Apart from fashion items where Italian and African design could produce some very creative results, “Little Steps” produces shopping bags made from recycled sacking and posters – from 1 January, Italy has banned plastic bags from the supermarkets, so there’s a new market for us.
The other piece of excellent news is that we have our Spring 2011 AUR Ghana Scholarship beneficiary: he is Darlington Kwablah Wiredu, third year Business Administration student from the University of Ghana. Congratulations Darlington. Darlington will spend two weeks with us on the January programme before coming back to Rome with us for the regular semester. Our thanks too, to the Committee: Profs. Samuel Agyei Mensah and Kodjo Gavua of the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr. Kwesi Aning, of the Kofi Annan Inter¬national Peace¬keep¬ing Training Centre, Prof. Nana Apt, Dr. Zelalem Birhanu, a physician who works on public health and with refugees, Commissioner Anna Bossman of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Prof. Gyimah Boadi, Executive Director of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, and of course, the director of the Kokrobitey Institute, Renée Neblett who chaired. They did all the work publicis¬ing the award and then going through the applications. Thanks to Bliss Holloway who provided the funds to get the scholarship going and who provided the links to get the programme started back in 2004.
But in order to maintain the scholarship we will need contributions from others. AUR waives full tuition and I am normally able to find a home stay or a space in AUR housing. That leaves the allowance which at the moment is set at €500 per month or €1,750 per semester, €3,500 per year.
At the same time, I would like to offer a scholarship/grant to support a student going to Ghana. After paying for the course, the flight and spending money, there is little change from €3,000 which I still reckon is a good deal, but it is still quite a lot of money. I would like to aim at two €1,000 awards to be given to students from Rome who can show a combination of need, academic excellence and good reasons for wanting to go.
I would like to aim at €6,000 for the first year and to start the ball rolling I will put in €500 myself. Those of you who are earning in the US can of course make the donation tax deductable and I would guess that something similar exists in most other countries.
How to donate
From the US (in Dollars), wire to:
Bank of America
From Europe (in Euros), wire to:
Banca Popolare di Sondrio
By check (in Dollars or Euros) to:
The American University of Rome
Send check to:
The American University of Rome
Via P. Roselli 4 – 00153 Rome, Italy
Or send check to:
University of Rome, c/o NIAF
1860 19th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
Donors should specify what their donation is for. AUR President’s assistant, Maurizia Garzia, keeps a log of donations and issues thank you letters with tax relief notes to donors, but she needs to know what donations are for. Please can you let me know as well.
We have also established link with the Italian public broadcaster, RAI’s flagship international affairs programme Radio 3 Mondo; Anna Maria Giordano is due to be with us for the second half of our stay. This is another example of the synergies which this type of programme can develop.
Academic and policymaking research is also part of the programme. We have a project with the Real Instituto Elcano and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre on transnational organized crime. We will be meeting with Dr. Kwesi Aning of the Centre to work on the project.
As well as Anna Maria Giordano’s reporting on Ghana and West Africa, I plan to write on Ghana’s successful route to democracy, transnational organised crime and oil.
• Candidates for the Fall 2011 Scholarship or those who want practical infor¬mation about applications should get in touch with Nathanael Larbi firstname.lastname@example.org
• For enrollment or information about the 2011 and 2012 Program, get in touch with me at email@example.com