Sophomore and Bonner Scholar Stephanie Akota Bamfo of Lexington, Kentucky, performed 9 weeks of summer service working for the Ghanian Parliament and the Deputy Minster of Communications George Andah (Awutu Senya West constituency) in Ghana’s capitol of Accra.
Bamfo came to the U.S. from Ghana when she was four years old. So, while Ghana’s official language is English, she is able also to communicate in one of its other prominent languages, Twi.
“It was nice to be back home,” Bamfo says. “It was extremely fulfilling because we did great work. We worked with students, constituents and healthcare. For example, in the deputy minister’s constituency they have very high infant mortality rates as well as death rates among birthing mothers. So one of Andah’s goals was to provide better healthcare facilities for expectant mothers.
“Prior to my arrival, they were planning the opening of a new maternity ward, but when I was there it was all coming together and I got to be a very big part of that. I got to meet Ghana’s First Lady, who gifted the ward an incubator. That’s a very big deal in the small area of Awutu Senya.”
Bamfo played a large part in assisting Andah with his daily parliamentary routine, including picking up his daily parliamentary papers, reading the newspapers to make sure she was well-versed before the governing body convened each day, and often attending parliamentary sessions with him.
But much of her time was also spent visiting the deputy minister’s constituencies, such as schools.
“Students in Ghana take a test at the end of middle school, like a placement test, to see what kind of a high school they can go to,” Bamfo explains. “The current government gives free high school education to students depending on these test scores. Andah thought it would be fitting to motivate the students and remind them what’s at stake if they do well on their tests. So he brought them snacks and reminded them that they’re representing their constituency, and they’re making him proud, and their families proud, and their country proud by stepping forward in their education.”
Bamfo’s summer service project helped fulfill a part of the Bonner Scholars’ mission of developing international understanding that enables successful participation in a global society.
“I think we have this preconceived notion that all African leaders are corrupt, or that nothing good can come out of African politics,” Bamfo says. “But I’ve seen over the summer that there is an intentionality that has to be had in order to cultivate a productive and serviceable government. I think that by bringing government back to a sense of servitude we get the most out of it. Not just in Africa, but in a lot of other countries as well, it’s become as if politicians are separate from the people, when in actuality they should be as much a part of the people as possible, because their job is to serve the needs of the people.”
Bamfo, who is planning to major in politics and international studies, has been offered the position again, but she is still weighing her options.
“For now I think I want to focus my attentions domestically.”
Learn more about Centre’s Bonner Program.
by Cindy Long
November 7, 2018
Pictured above: Stephanie Bamfo ’21 in Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana