The "Working in Ghana" Project

University Graduate Student

[Mr. Neywa taught primary school for six years in northern Ghana before taking study leave to begin graduate study in drama and dance at the University of Ghana in a suburb of Accra. Mr. Neywa is married, and has one child. His family remains in the north during his studies. Philip Awekeya invited him to Philip's room on campus for the interview.]

For almost one and a half years now I have lived a student life in Ghana's oldest and most reputable university. Prior to coming here I taught school. Then I lived a less restricted life. When I became a student my whole life pattern changed drastically. I now get up at 5:30 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. as I did when I was working as a teacher. The first thing I do is to pray beside my bed asking the Lord to bless me with health and strength so that I will be able to go through my day's program smoothly. After prayers I go to bath before I prepare my own breakfast, which is usually a cup of tea without milk and half a small loaf of bread. I take the tea without milk, not because I like it plain but because I cannot afford the high cost of milk these days.

Quite recently I am trying to do away with early morning breakfast. I started drinking two cups of water before leaving for classes at 7:30 a.m. I have observed that whenever I take breakfast before going for my first morning lessons, which are usually practicals based either on dance techniques, stage movement, or theater laboratory, I easily get tired before the end of the lesson. In order to save myself from the exhaustion during the practicals, I have resorted to drinking only half a glass of water before leaving for lectures each morning.

Apart from taking dance and drama practicals each morning, I also take theory lessons in play writing, theater laboratory, and stage movement. At l:30 p.m. each day I break off for lunch and move straight to the "bush canteen" (an outdoor area where prepared meals are sold to students and university employees). After taking my afternoon meal, I normally go back to the departmental library to relax a little and to do some general reading. I leave to go to the drama studio at about 4:30 p.m. to have play rehearsals lasting nearly three hours. Around 7:00 p.m. I leave the rehearsal grounds and return to my room in the dormitory hall. Sometimes I am lucky to find food already prepared by my roommate, who comes from the same region as I do. Other times, when he is busy and fails to cook, I put down my books and go to buy food from the small open market. Soon after taking my supper, I go to the hall library to read until about 10:00 p.m. when I return to the room to sleep. This is the picture of my routine life on campus, except weekends when I am generally less occupied. I do washing and ironing on Saturdays and attend church services and society meetings on Sundays.

On the whole I feel satisfied with the program I am in because it affords me both practical and theoretical training. Thanks to the daily practical course I undertake, I do not suffer any minor ailments like body pains and headaches such as I used to experience when I was teaching. Apart from gaining physical fitness I also now have the opportunity of exposing myself to a larger sector of the community through acting. I have appeared on TV programs in the course of my studies and have become very happy that "I am also somebody" who matters in the society.

Though I enjoy my studies, there are a number of problems that confront me as a student. With regard to my academic work, I sometimes feel frustrated because the departmental library does not have a sufficient number of the basic textbooks to enable students to do convenient private studies. Many a time we compete for the few books in the library. And when the university book shop takes delivery of some textbooks there are not usually enough for all of us to buy copies for private use. Moreover, the books sold there are often so costly that they take away the small pocket money I have for buying food and soap.

I also encounter a serious problem of insufficient pocket money with which I to buy enough food while on campus. The pay I get from my sponsoring department (Ghana Education Services) while on study leave is not big. And I have to split it into two parts; half for my family back in the north and half for myself. I also take two-thirds of the student loan but the combined amount is still too little to support me adequately on campus where the cost of living has risen many, many times over. Occasionally I just make do with simple, less nutritious food sold in the open market on campus; I take anything that will keep me from dying. This lack of an adequate diet has affected my performance as a student.

Despite such problems, I would encourage everyone interested in pursuing studies in drama and dance to do so. I would inform them that university studies in Ghana these days are no longer rosy due to the economic recession the country in going through. They should be ready to make sacrifices like other students, bearing in mind that "nothing risked, nothing gained." I would further advise them that once they have gone through the drama course and come out with a degree or diploma, they will be able get a job in either the public sector or private enterprise. I enjoy very good working relationships with each of my lecturers. This stems from the fact that I am a serious and hard working student. I attend lectures promptly and regularly and also take pains to do class assignments. Besides paying attention to my academic work, I show a great deal of respect to each of the lecturers and the general office staff by greeting them wherever I meet them, and also by rendering them little services whenever I can. I respect all my fellow students and share my study materials--notes and textbooks--with many of them. I even share food and drink with some of them when I am "wet in the pocket", that is, have some money on me. I generally share jokes with them and feel proud that most of them enjoy my company and are ready to welcome me into their fold anytime they are engaged in academic or private discussion.

There are good chances for me to advance academically and financially in the near future. I stand a good chance of making a good grade in my final year examination and if I do, I will be in a good position to do a further course in Ghana or outside the country. I have every chance to continue my present course to a doctorate level if only I continue to study hard.

The way is open for me to begin making money while I am still a student. For instance, from time to time some commercial enterprises and organizations operating within the country and outside call at the department to audition interested students who would convey their messages through dramatization.

I have something to say about the student association of which I am automatically a member, the National Union of Ghana Students, or NUGS. My membership is not by choice. I cannot divorce myself from policies and methods I do not wholeheartedly agree with, such as those they adopt for increasing student loans and the direct involvement of the Union in partisan politics. I also belong to a performing arts association and a campus ministry group. I like being a member of the latter two associations because each involves its members in the planning and implementation of their programs. They are unlike the NUGS executives who only call on us to demonstrate against government policies.

Although I enjoy my studies here, some of my family members and many of my village people see it as a waste of time. They wonder why I choose to go to university to read drama and dance. A few of the bold ones sometimes confront me and ask me questions: "I understand you are doing drumming in the university, is it true?" Others ask me what work I hope to get after finishing the course at the university. I never get angry with these irritating questions because I know that many of them are quite ignorant about the potential job market for those who graduate from the university in drama and dance.

People should be encouraged to enter into disciplines for which they have an aptitude, instead of forcing themselves into areas where they are less endowed. They should show interest and commitment in their jobs so that they can avoid boredom and frustration, which kills initiative and lowers productivity. Every person must make it a point to be cheerful at work.