The first time I heard the name Ashesi was on national TV when a couple of students were being paraded as products of an esteemed educational institution. The students were sharing the experience they had interning with Fortune 500 companies like Google, Microsoft and Goldman Sachs. The videography looked cool and so was what the characters were talking about. Later, I got to know that Ashesi was the most “Dee Bee” school in Ghana.
For readers who have never heard the word “Dee Bee”, it is a local jargon referring to anyone with a rich and privileged upbringing. The type our primary school teachers taught us to describe as being “born with a silver spoon”. Given my OKAY financial status, Ashesi looked like a dream out of reach. It probably was not even a dream at the time. This was when I was still high off the Frat House and varsity leather jacket romanticizing of US colleges. Hollywood had fed me enough US college themed movies to get me hooked on chasing a liberal arts or state university education away from the shores of Nkrumah land!
When that dream failed, Ashesi was still not an option I considered. Maybe it drifted across my mind but I am sure it did so with the speed of light. Legon, as the University of Ghana is widely called was the go to school. Not Otumfuor’s Tech or the sea side University of Cape Coast. It was Legon or nothing. Why Legon? I am honestly not sure but since it prides itself on being the “nation’s premier university”, is famed for being the coolest of all universities and happens to be very close to home, the choice was simple and easy.
Four years later and I do not regret making that choice to call the hills of Legon home. When I do open my MIS Web account and see the state of my GPA, I question the choice I made but the cumulative sum of my experience makes everything worth it. From the vibrant student body which keeps buzzing from hall week preparations to SRC elections. The ambitious students I sit on those hard benches of the lecture hall with who hide their tenacity in the face of martinet lectures. The deep conversations we have in debate meetings and the countries I have visited as a result of this intellectual sport. To the shards of knowledge we picked up from broken attention in lecture halls.
The moment you hear what an Ashesi educational experience constitutes, that is when you start questioning whether what you had was a really consummate one. Two years ago, my best friend gave up a year of studying economics, statistics and mathematics at Legon to start over at Ashesi. I know this other guy who gave up two years of Legon to start over at Ashesi. These are two people I know personally. There are also other stories you hear of people giving up 3 years of lectures at public or private university to start over at Ashesi. Makes you wonder what makes them do so!
We hear of teacher student ratios which dwarfs what we have at the Jones Quartey Building lecture halls. While students in their classrooms engage in interactive sessions with lecturers, we struggle for leg room and are stymied from sustained interactions with 700 other students in tightly packed spaces.
We are told of how what you are taught in class has a direct application in real life. How this friend of mine undertook a project to find solutions to the toxic situation at Agbogbloshie as early as her first year while the first time we undertake a project like this is in our final year. Well Ashesi prides itself as being a Liberal Arts college so I guess that is what you get.
We recently heard of 60 or so companies heading to their campus for a career fair. Guess how many companies came to Legon when we had ours? A paltry number I cannot mention. When you do the math or at least attempt to do it, Ashesi’s student population is about 1/10th that of Legon yet Legon got somewhere around 1/10th of the number of companies heading to the hills of Berekusuo.
Should I add how recruitment to multinational companies, access to which is open to all students, tends to have Ashesi students making up about 80 percent of students selected? What is this secret syllabi that makes them so employable?
It might be a case of us not using the resources at our disposal to increase our employability. The level of apathy amongst students towards such programs is saddening. Over the years, the number of companies visiting campus has been on a descent and one of the reasons cannot be further away from the low patronage levels to career fairs. So maybe the problem is with the student body. Maybe there are very few “go getters” over here.
The Counselling and Placement center runs training sessions on issues bothering employability and leadership but we rarely seem to utilize it. Or maybe employability is not a skill acquired by attending short seminars annually. It needs to be drummed into the ears of students diurnally like it is rumored to be done at Ashesi .
The lure of an Ashesi education is strong but highly elusive. The average Ghanaian cannot afford the thousands of dollars charged at there. Scholarships abound but of course they are limited. So we all need to create our Ashesi experience in our overcrowded lecture halls. Achieving the teacher student ratio levels at Ashesi in Legon is as quixotic as building a Trump tower in Saudi Arabia. But we can instil that drive and zeal the students literally stuck up on the hills of Berekusuo have become associated with. That zeal that makes companies overlook Legon graduates for Ashesi products.
Sounds very much like I am gushing over this school but when students talk about their school like a Fortune 500 company “at Ashesi we are (insert any corporate sounding adjective)” and easily land jobs and internships, then you cannot help but rethink the possibilities.
Maybe I am on the outside looking in on a grass greener on the other side.