Ghanaian duo blazes research trail

June 14, 2002

Ghana's aspiration to be a middle-income economy by 2020 is being aided by a new scholarship scheme that sends research students to the UK.

Unilever chairman Niall FitzGerald launched the Unilever Ghana Foundation for Education and Development in 1999 with the objective of advancing medicine, technology and science by providing funding for students, universities and hospitals.

The first students to come to the UK under the scheme are Charles Asiedu, 29, enrolled on an MBA in financial management at Hull University, and Benjamin Tetteh Aang, 32, studying for a masters in agricultural economics at Imperial College, Wye.

Mr Asiedu has found his reception by academic staff at Hull "very good", and from fellow students and the local community "good". When he returns to Ghana, he expects to apply what he has learnt to improve the system there. He said: "UFED is another step in the right direction Unilever has taken in its corporate social responsibility. I hope it could be expanded to cover from five to ten students."

After his one-year course at Wye, Mr Tetteh Aang intends to return as a lecturer to the University for Development Studies at Tamale, where he took his BSc in agricultural technology.

"I knew the standard here was good and that agriculture at Wye was highly rated. I knew, too, that the training would make me well equipped for my future career as a lecturer at the university," he said.

Academic staff, fellow students and the local community had been very helpful, Mr Tetteh Aang said.

There is a need for qualified faculty in Ghana. Only 45 per cent of the 421 academic staff at the University of Ghana have doctorates, obtained mainly from universities abroad, and many of them are due to retire in the next ten years. In 1993-94, only 7 per cent of students went on to do graduate studies. Poor levels of funding are largely to blame.

Ishmael Yamson, chairman of Unilever Ghana, said: "As well as university chairs, research grants and undergraduate scholarships for study in Ghana, UFED offers postgraduate scholarships for study at UK universities.

"We hope that by giving this opportunity to outstanding young people, we will help to develop future leaders for Ghana."

UFED is endowed with 5 billion cedis (£1 million).

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