Things have gotten very interesting in Ghana over the last 3 weeks for me. Unfortunately, some of these stories are too personal to discus online. But in short, COME TO GHANA!!! All the people here, including young adults, men, women, and children are very hospitable and friendly. The parties are amazing and the men believe in chivalry still! Ladies, if you come to Ghana you will be treated like a Queen and will be respected (I can’t emphasize enough how well you will be treated by the guys here in comparison to the guys in colleges in the U.S.). Of course there are always exceptions, but I am speaking for me and my international female friends, based on our experiences in The Sates and here in Ghana. Anyway, I digress. I just wanted to be honest about that part of my study abroad experience.
I have noticed that the Ghanaian government turns the other cheek to many inequalities. For example, all public university teachers in Ghana are on strike now. This is the third week of the strike. According to the rules, if the strike lasts 3 weeks then all of the public Universities in Ghana will be closed for a whole year. According to my Ghanaian friends, the strike started because the government refused to pay the university professors the advance payment they agreed to in their contracts. One friend told me that the government owed 5,000 Cedi to each professor, and there are approximately 3,000 public university professors in Ghana. In other words, the government owes a lot of money and either the government does not have the money or they are refusing to allocate it to the professors.
It is very interesting how the universities have temporarily dealt with this problem. The Ghanaian students have no classes at all and they are spending the majority of their time sleeping, hanging out with friends, and relaxing. However, the international students still have classes because the professors agreed to teach only the international students. This is simply one example of inequality here. The international students are generally catered for, yet the Ghanaian students are left behind. The international students will write final exams on time, leave on time, and receive their grades on time. However, the Ghanaian students (especially the level 400 students) may not even graduate in 4 years. Who knows what they plan to do if they have no school for a year. Most students here do not have jobs and do not work, so most likely they will continue to relax with friends and help out their family if the schools shut down.
There is corruption all over Ghana, especially with the police. The police look intimidating in their blue army print uniforms, and they all carry rifles strapped across their chests. I noticed that whenever the taxicabs pass through certain checkpoints, they have to negotiate with the police. They usually wind up giving the police 2 or 3 Cedi. For example, one taxi driver did not have his new registration stickers for his car. As a result, he was charged 3 Cedi every time he passed through the checkpoint. In his case, it would have been a better idea if he simply got the sticker replaced (since it was not very expensive to do). Another time, the taxi talked to the police for literally 20 minuets because he had 5-passengers in a 4-passenger car. I am sure he had to pay for that mistake. He knew we had 5- passengers so it is unclear why he would chose to go through the police check point rather than taking an alternative route. Also, taxis that do not have a University sticker have to pull over into a parking lot and pay 1 Cedi every time they enter the University at night. Although this rule is pretty standard, it is not clear what that money they are collecting is actually going towards.
Other inequalities I am noticing on campus are seemingly random. International Student Hostel 1 is better that International Student Hostel 2 in many ways, even through the buildings are supposed to be the same. For example, the rooms in ISH 1 are more spacious and have tiled floors in some of them. The restaurant there serves larger portions, the food is better, and the food comes a lot faster. More importantly, ISH 1 always has flowing water. They never have to carry buckets to an outdoor faucet to get water and take bucket baths like we have to. However, even more significant than the water issue is the issue of electricity. ISH 1 ALWAYS has power and ever experiences “lights out” because they have a generator. This entire side of campus will have no lights, but if you look across the parking lot at ISH 1, they will ALWAYS have lights. It makes absolutely no sense why ISH 1 would receive all the upgrades before ISH 2, if they were supposed to be the same quality buildings. At least the price of housing should reflect these obvious inequalities between the two hostels.
The oddest example of gender inequality occurred to me a few weeks ago at the University pool. The university has the strangest rule about swim caps. They only require women to wear swim caps and men do not have to, regardless of their hair length, and the swim caps cost 8 Cedi (which is relatively expensive). I saw an international guy swimming with shoulder-length hair and he was not wearing a swim cap. Upon further inquiry, I was first told that women have cream in their hair and it will mess up the pool if they swim without a cap. I was not happy with this answer, so I went inside to speak to one of the managers. Then, I was told that women have perms in their hair and that the chemicals in the perm will mess up the pool. However, this explanation makes absolutely no sense because there are no chemicals in your hair after you receive a perm (otherwise I am sure your head would be burning pretty intensely). According to what my Mom explained to me in the past, when a person gets their hair relaxed (chemically straightened), the chemicals denature the protein in the hair, making it straight (then of course you deactivate the chemical cream and rinse the hair very well). I though it made absolutely no sense that women (all women, regardless of whether they have a perm or not) would be required to purchase a 8 Cedi swim cap because of the “creams in their hair” or the “chemicals from the perm”. I am sure you could imagine I was annoyed by this rule and immediately labeled it as an example of gender inequality. The only rule that would have made sense was if all people were required to wear swim caps to prevent loose hairs from falling out and clogging the drain. But as you could guess, I was hot and wanted to swim, so I bought the swim cap and went swimming anyway. I learned that in Ghana (and in life) you have to choose your battles, and arguing over a swim cap and unfair pool rule are not on my list of things to do this semester. However, I have not seen a more obvious example of gender inequality since I have been here in Ghana.