How a ‘dream’ project in Ghana started at York


Above: Joseph Adubofuor, ITEC CEO and York grad, stands at the podium for the launch of the computer centre in Kumasi, Ghana. 

A project that began as a dream for Ghanaian students is now a dream come true. And an enormous and enthusiastic team effort from York University played a large role in making it all happen.

Ghana may be far from York geographically, but many students there feel closer to the University, thanks to a special project that linked them. The project involved the University in supplying students at a teaching university in Ghana with some of the tools they need to increase their computer literacy.

York worked in partnership with outside agencies to send 26 computers and 200 books to the University of Winneba, Kumasi campus (UWK), in Ghana through the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA), which is responsible for the overall development of the city of Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest.

Right: Training teachers on new computers for the University of Winneba, Kumasi campus

For the project, York International, Atkinson School of Analytic Studies & Information Technology, Computing and Network Services, Academic Technology Support Group, Faculty of Arts African Studies Program and the Faculty of Education teamed up with the non-governmental organization ITEC (Information Technology Education & Communication), and with officials at the university in Kumasi and the KMA.

“The project started as a dream, an idea, back in June 2001,” said Joseph Adubofuor, chief executive officer of ITEC. “We wanted to enhance the technological infrastructure and programs for the University of Winneba, Kumasi campus, by giving them computers and books.” Adubofuor, who is also an independent videographer, former film student at York (Atk. BA ’98)  and environmental studies graduate (MES ’01), is now a PhD student at the University of Ghana, Legon.

The idea, in gestation over a long period of time, began to come to fruition when Adubofuor was a research student assistant working under York computer science Professor Stephen Chen, designing and developing new tools and methods for technology education. “Thanks to encouraging support from Professor Chen, the whole project evolved into a large, group effort.”

Then Rosemarie Nielson from York International stepped in and helped get the project off the ground. Jennifer Jenson, an award-winning researcher and professor of pedagogy and technology in the Faculty of Education (See YFile, provided 150 instructional CDs for a teaching technology program, “Computers for Lunch.”

Right: Dr.  Anthony Ossel, medical doctor and traditional ruler, representing King of the Ashanti Kingdom, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, with officials and teachers examining newly-delivered computers

Professor Pablo Idahosa, coordinator of York’s African Studies Program, helped with the redrafting of the proposal and he drew African students’ attention to the project in an effort to gain their support.  

York Faculty of Education professors George Frempong (an alumnus of the University of Ghana, West Africa) and Paul Kortnaar (who taught in Africa and suggested the federal Canada Fund for Local Initiatives in Ghana) also provided assistance.

In the end, there was a grand launch, in March 2003, of a new computer centre at UWK, with much publicity from the Ghanaian media, including Ghana’s Daily Graphic newspaper. KMA and the Ghana Education Service (GES) used the computers and books to assist teachers from Kumasi’s Subin Sub-Metro district to become computer literate. 

This project hasn’t ended with the arrival of the supplies from York.

ITEC recently submitted an application for seed funding to Global Knowledge Partnership, a worldwide network of organizations committed to harnessing information and communication technologies for sustainable development. The organization wants to start a pilot project involving distance learning for rural and urban portions of the Kumasi district in Ghana.

“This project would build on the foundation of the education-centred cooperation between York University and the Kumasi campus,” said Adubofuor.

Cooperation, and a lot of good will.

Joseph Adubofuor is involved with York’s Centre for Refugee Studies until December 2003, working on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council project entitled “International Development Ethics and Population Displacement,” carrying out research in Asian, Africa and Latin America. For the African segment of the project, he is doing field research under Professor Pablo Idahosa. The research results will be presented at a conference to be held in Canada and will be published in a book.

Kumasi (see map) is the second largest city in Ghana and the administrative capital of the Ashanti Region – a rich forest area of the country. It is located 300 km northwest of Accra, the national capital.