AAI Scholars in the UK
“My journey with Ashinaga started in 2014 when I got an offer to take part in a summer camp in Uganda. After a few months of preparation, I was accepted by the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to study Politics and International Relations.
Ashinaga has given me financial, academic and emotional support to help me start to achieve my kokorozashi (my hearts’ ambition), which is to take part in the improvement of politics in Gabon and to help people in rural areas to be listened to and to access better life conditions.
English is not my first language, so at the beginning, I thought that my low English level would be a disadvantage, but I received great support from the Ashinaga staff and also from my teachers at SOAS. At the Ashinaga UK office, we have the support of our Student Relations Team who provide guidance and advice to make sure we do not feel alone or excluded in our learning environment. The support we get from Ashinaga is more than I had expected; they are more than mentors, they are a family that always motivates and encourages scholars.
One of the most important parts of the AAI is the leadership programme. Ashinaga helps us to enter into the professional world through activities such as internship programmes. This has helped me to develop my English, my professional skills and my academic performance. In 2017, I did an internship in Gabon in a metal company. My tasks included developing contracts and taking part in conferences with foreign investors. It was a great experience for me and it was valuable to put my English skills into practice, as well as what I have learned in during my studies.
Being far from my home country and my family was hard at the beginning. Now I believe that it was necessary to live in another environment and adapt to another culture to fulfil my dreams of contributing to Africa. I feel at home in the UK even though there are many challenges. I am having an amazing time at SOAS, developing new skills and working hard. In addition to that, I have learned to be open–minded and more communicative with people from different backgrounds. This has helped in my Student Ambassador role at SOAS.
I feel more mature, more knowledgeable and like I have gained valuable experience that will help me achieve my goals. When I came to London, I was unable to do things by myself and I was scared of facing issues. Now I am transformed. I feel confident that I can have a real impact on improving politics and the social situation in my country.
I am really grateful and honoured to be a part of the Ashinaga Africa Initiative, which is helping me to become a leader.”
“I joined Ashinaga after being accepted as the 2015 AAI candidate from Uganda. I attended a study camp in Uganda before embarking on my studies in the UK in 2016, and I am now studying Accounting at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
The educational and emotional support provided by Ashinaga is contributing significantly to the achievement of both my short-term and long-term goals. The mentorship provided by the staff in the Ashinaga UK office, in addition to my lecturers’ support, is enabling me to achieve the best in life in terms of education. I’ve been able to draw on their experiences and guidance to overcome road-blocks that might hinder the achievement of my goals. The conversations during my meetings with Ashinaga UK’s Student Relations Team and the Director lead to what I feel is the best part of the mentoring relationship: the tremendous benefits of career and leadership guidance and of building up cultural understanding. Ashinaga is transforming me as a student and individual by developing my sense of purpose and responsibility in the community, which will be vital after my studies.
At first, it was a challenge adapting to my new life in the UK. However, after working to understand the UK’s teaching style and academic expectations, I am now thoroughly enjoying my course and working hard every day to achieve the best grades. This year, I also undertook an internship in Malawi in a start-up company founded by some students at the African Business Institute. This was a great experience because it provided me with entrepreneurial skills and improved my interpersonal skills. It also helped me to apply my classroom knowledge to a real-world business environment, which was a great milestone for my career and academic performance.
I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Ashinaga African Initiative Scholarship Program for blessing me with this life-giving learning opportunity.”
My name is Sena and I am from Ghana. I am a scholar of the Ashinaga Africa Initiative. It is my honour and privilege to share with you today, my journey from an orphanage in Ghana to university in the UK, and how education has influenced my future goal to make an impact on Ghana.
I was raised in a care home as a baby and grew up in an orphanage. Around the age of 6, I began to develop my identity, find my voice, and question the world I lived in, through education. I came to the realization of my environment and began to ask questions, where am I? Who are all these children and caregivers? And which of these caregivers is my mother?
When I went to school, I would see my peers arrive, receiving hugs and kisses from parents, which was a bitter pill to swallow. All I had was a bus taking me and picking me up from school. I often found myself lost when my classmates talked fondly about their families, leaving me with nothing to contribute to the conversations.
Then in 2010, a viral video from Ghana exposed the inhuman treatment of children by caregivers in an orphanage. This was heartbreaking for me. At the same time, it was an opportunity for me to speak up about my questions that I had had as a child orphan and to find the answers.
In the same year I was given the opportunity to give a speech to government officials upon the enactment of the national action plan with regards to the video. During the speech I said, “children should have a say in decisions involving them as there is the need to integrate children in orphanages into the society through adoption and tracing of family members… it is unfortunate that those who are to protect us sometimes became our abusers”.
My personal experience, and opportunities such as this speech, cultivated an even stronger interest and passion inside of me, to pursue the questions unanswered. It greatly influenced my desire to further my studies and support children in similar or worse situations.
After I completed high school, I wanted to go into higher education, but I could not afford it. It was then that I first heard about the Ashinaga scholarship in 2014, which was the very first year of the programme, and decided to apply. When I was accepted, I can’t tell you in words the excitement I felt. The feeling became even more intense when I arrived in Uganda and met my fellow Ashinaga Scholars, who shared similar experiences to my past and also shared my passion of wanting to change the African continent.
After my time at Study Camp in Uganda, I was accepted into University of London. I vividly remember the day and moment I saw my acceptance email, and how I was overwhelmed with excitement. However, this also came with a fear of leaving Africa to study in the UK and the challenges that I would have to face of being independent in a foreign country.
Indeed, my transition from an orphanage in Ghana to a university in London was a huge leap, but one that has elevated my life. Currently I am studying Law and the opportunities I have encountered as a student in London are countless compared to home. The multicultural and dynamic milieu I find myself in, has allowed me to explore beyond my academics. Meeting experts both in and outside of university and learning from their experiences deepens my understanding and diversifies my knowledge in the field of law.
My personal experience in an orphanage and as a university student in London, as well as my desire to study, have assisted me in researching extensively about children in orphanages. I specifically want to research the legal aspects of this field, and to understand and work closely with the government of Ghana in giving orphaned children the needed support for their transition from the orphanage to society, especially into families. The gender ministry in Ghana states on their website that they are “serious in leaving no-one behind,” and we are led to believe that this includes the children in the orphanages. However, as we know from the viral video in 2010, they do leave the children behind. From my research so far, the Ghanaian government has not adequately provided enough legal support especially with emotional and psychological support, which are essential to successful social integration. I believe that a better implementation of the legal structure will have a powerful impact on how children transition from orphanages to society. That is why after graduating university, I will proceed to legal training and to become a solicitor. I will then specialize in family law and begin to support the children in orphanages. This is how I will leave my legacy to touch every life.
From my own experience from the orphanage to being an Ashinaga Scholar, and to being a university student today, it would be a great disservice to not support other children in orphanages after graduating and returning to Ghana. I will continue to be a role model for these children and instil in them that education is the most powerful tool that one can use to change any situation.
Our strategy sees AAI Scholars as uniquely positioned to determine the development goals of the communities, countries, and continent. Some of the AAI Scholars’ development goals include:
- Developing soil-less agriculture so Benin can grow crops in the dry season (SDG 2 – Zero Hunger)
- Reinventing ways to deliver nutritional education to pregnant mothers in Zambia (SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing)
- Ensuring equal access to education for children with disabilities in Namibia (SDG 4 – Quality Education)
- Eliminating child marriage in Malawi (SDG 5 – Gender Equality)
- Preventing waterborne diseases in slums in Uganda (SDG 6- Clean Water Sanitation)
- Electrifying Ethiopia so that all residents have access to energy (SDG 7 – Affordable Clean Energy)
- Opening an IT centre delivering training and access to the internet in the Central African Republic (SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth)
- Contributing to the development of Lesotho’s Infrastructure (SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure)
- Making communal resources more sustainable in Kenya (SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production)
- Developing technologies which predict and prevent landslides in the DRC (SDG 15 – Life on Land)
- Becoming a voice for the voiceless in Lesotho (SDG 16 – Peace and Justice)