by Lee Walton

A little over one year ago, I came to New York University with the mission of supporting The Third Chapter Project, Inc. (TCP) by studying International Education and Development. In the past year, I have come to respect that the education inequities and the root causes/solutions we find in Africa are quite complex. Just like the proverbial elephant, no single touch can adequately describe the whole animal. No amount of theory in the classroom can prepare you for what is happening in the field. Spending eight weeks in three African countries made me realize that, just like the children’s game of whack-a-mole, for every well-intentioned solution, another problem pops up.

TCP was founded to support higher education in humanities and social science by increasing access to digital scholarly knowledge and expanding the dissemination of knowledge products of African scholars through publishing and disseminating their work. When I started TCP, I was not fully aware that the issue I was trying to address was impacted by the intricate web of the education system. What I came to realize was that teachers are at the heart of this. Quality scholarly output is only a step in the cycle of education and can only be accomplished by scholars who have had an education that prepares them for higher education. This is a cyclical issue. Basic, or primary education needs to have well-educated and trained teachers to provide quality education for children, but if governmental and nonprofit agencies focus only on grades K-12, then how does the system expect to improve teacher quality without supporting higher education? This issue further amplifies the economic inequalities within these countries and the global community.

In Kampala, Uganda, I met with the Vice Chancellor of a well-respected university. He shared with me stories of professors ghosting classes, students who would receive good grades to keep quiet about missing classes, and students who were truant but expected good grades anyway. In Ghana, we heard about low teacher salaries and low standards for admission into the profession. We saw teachers coping with inadequate resources and large classes. In South Africa, we spoke to the Secretary General of the South African National Commission for UNESCO, the director of Basic Education, and the staff at the National Research Foundation. Of the 83% of students that pass their matric test (to move on from high school), only 23% are prepared for the rigors of university. We saw afterschool programs that are trying to bridge that knowledge gap among children in the townships, but the statistics are low for these children. According to Dr. Teboho Moja of NYU, only 10% of the first-grade cohort of black township children will make it to high school, and only 5.3% of black Africans ages 18 to 29 are enrolled in universities. The World Bank reported earlier this year that South Africa has the largest income inequality of all 164 reporting countries. Ten percent hold 85% of the wealth and 50% have more debt than assets (Sguazzin, 2021). The country has an overall unemployment rate of 28%, but a rate of 38.6% for blacks. Children of affluent parents go to private schools as do the children of middle-class families who spend disproportionately on education. It is not uncommon for children to be expelled mid-year for late or missed payments. This is similar to the situations in other African countries as stated in the article by Luke Akaguri, when he asks the question “Do poor rural families really have a choice?” (Akaguri, 2014). Akaguri states that because of fees in arrears, the dropout rate for rural Ghanaian children in private schools is about 8%. On top of this, teachers in Africa are insufficiently trained: “In sub-Saharan Africa, only about one-quarter of pre-primary teachers are trained. Upper secondary school teachers have a slightly better ratio: about 50% have training (The Borgen Project, 2017).

The picture is not all bleak. While in Ghana, NYU students had the pleasure of meeting with Denis Elello and Anais Doynaba, and their team at Education International (EI), an international teachers union. Internationally EI is made up of 400 affiliates representing over 32.5 million teachers in 178 countries. EI Accra is a regional office supporting 121 member organizations in fifty-three African countries. Because EI Africa is part of a global federation of teachers’ unions, they have access to a pool of information and resources including best practices for educational issues and systems.  They are setting standards for teacher training certification and advocating for educators with governmental agencies when it involves educational policymaking decisions that shape education systems. They fight for the rights of teachers worldwide and work to promote gender and racial equality issues. With their #Studentsbeforeprofit campaign, EI is pushing back on the global rush to commercialize education through the privatization of schools. This issue is about access to quality education and it has great importance in middle and low-income countries where resources are scarce and marginalized children are often sidelined. 

On September 19, 2022, government leaders were to come together to address teachers’ concerns, especially how to meet the UN sustainability Goal 4 of quality education for all by 2030. EI has been using social media and member activism to increase awareness and influence politicians as well as policymakers.

Teach for the Planet is another campaign that is designed to incorporate climate change and environmental education through science into curricula around the world after witnessing the damage our (wealthy countries’) modernization and consumption attitudes have had on the well-being of African citizens. The garbage we have either produced (fast fashion) or encouraged (plastic use) has no place to go and either piles up, floats out to sea, or is burned (creating toxic air). In 2021, EI introduced a report at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (or, COP26) in Glasgow, titled Education International Climate Change Education Ambition Report Card. This report identifies issues and perpetrators/contributors to the pollution problems and uses education in science and climate change to be the framework for change. 

The current focus of EI Accra regional was on the following:

  1. Advocating for educational financing 
  2. Advocating for UN sustainability goals 
  3. Defending members – protecting working conditions
  4. Democracy and civic educational support
  5. Protecting gender rights
  6. Child labor awareness and advocacy
  7. Advocacy for progressive taxation
  8. Scholarship to encourage women teachers into higher education (15% representation currently)
  9. Capacity building – strengthen unions
  10. Developing frameworks – toolkits for educators
  11. Research into the issues of access and equity 
  12. Mobilization/take action
  13. Policy briefs – What are the issues and what can we do about them?
  14. PACT Pan Africa Teachers Center – support training and professional development
  15. African Women in Education Network (AWEN) – encouraging more women teachers 

Education International represents 3 million teachers in Africa from kindergarten to university. They are a strong force with a good organization, but so much more needs to be done. They are fighting the good fight. Teachers are the backbone of education and education either transforms or replicate the inequalities of hegemony. Circling back to my original statement about the dichotomy between simple perception and complex reality, no one group can undo the structural inequalities found in Africa. But my money is on the teachers . . . it might a long shot, but it is worth it. Future generations depend on it.

Akaguri, Luke. 2014. “Fee-free public or low-fee private basic education in rural Ghana: how does the cost influence the choice of the poor?” Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 44(2):140-161

Borgen Project, The. (July 2017). 10 important facts about education in Africa.

Kwauk, Christina. (May, 2022). Education International. 4 alarming findings about education across countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions.

Sguazzin, Antony. (Aug. 5, 2021) Time. South Africa Wealth Gap Unchanged Since Apartheid, Says World Inequality Lab.

By Megan Smith 

The Foundation for Contemporary Art (FCA) in Ghana is housed in a modern, modest wooden building at the W.E.B. Dubois center in the Cantonments, Accra. After rebuilding in 2015 because of flooding and a fallen tree on the building, the organization founded in 2004 by Professor Joe Nkrumah and Australian anthropologist Virginia Ryan made a vibrant comeback. The FCA offers its space to artists of all varieties for exhibitions, workshops, book talks, educational presentations, Critlabs, and networking that center development, presentation, and critical thinking of contemporary art in Ghana. Their space is also complete with an extensive library that is open to the public with books on African and world art, history, architecture, and culture. The FCA not only works on projects in their space, but they also bring art out into the community through building play spaces, murals, sculptures, and renovations that clean up run-down public areas.


(The FCA Building and Library, Photo: Smith, M. 2022)

At the FCA, public art that fosters community engagement has taken a primary focus with co-directors Adwoa Amoah and Ato Annan facilitating multiple projects around the city. Amoah received her BFA in painting from the Kwame Nkrumah University of science and technology in Kumasi, Ghana. She has collaborated with artists and organizations locally and internationally to curate, manage, and facilitate educational art projects that include, The Global Crit Clinic Ghana in 2012, 2013, and 2014, The Archive: Static, Embodied, Practiced in 2013 and 2017, and Curatorial Intensive, Accra, Ghana in 2017 (Critlab, 2022). Annan is also an artist specializing in painting, installation, sound, video, and performance and his work has been exhibited in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Holland, Denmark, Italy, and India. He has collaborated and facilitated projects on local and international levels such as three years of The Global Crit Clinic and the smaARTpower Laboratory workshop in  2012 in Accra (Curators International, 2022). Both Amoah and Annan have an interest in public art and believe in its potential to foster community engagement and enrichment as well as “democratize” or widen the audience of contemporary art (Curators International, 2022). Together they have worked on projects in Accra that include the Chale Wote Street Art Festival from 2011-2016, the Mmofra Park project in 2014, and the Longitudinal Diologues Project in May of 2022. 

The Chale Wote is Ga language and translates to “friend lets go” in English and takes place in James Town, Accra. The festival attracts over 200 artists from Ghana and around the world every year and aspires to break creative barriers with art as a tool to renovate public spaces (Visit Ghana, 2022). During Chale Wote, the streets come alive with musical performances, street painting, graffiti murals, theatre, poetry, skating, food and fashion vendors, and workshops in which the FCA is the visual coordinator during the event (Visit Ghana, 2022). 

(FCA Facebook, Chale Wote Festival, July 29, 2011)

Mmofra Place was a 2014 project collaboration between the Mmofra Foundation and the FCA with the goal of building a children’s park in Dzorwulu, Accra. Mmofra translates to children in Akan language and the space was brilliantly crafted into a playground, garden plot, and natural greenery space for relaxation and community gathering. Mmofra is an inspiration for more initiatives around Accra focused on public art spaces for children to play to connect to Ghanaian culture and nature. 

The Longitudinal Diologues was a collaboration between the FCA, The Line London, Arup Phase 2, and renowned Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey in May of 2022 that was funded by The British Council’s International Collaboration Grant. The project put on workshops on teaching and discussing urgent topics including migration, climate change, and water supply in six primary schools in London and six primary schools in Accra. Pupils then crafted wearable artworks reusing everyday recyclable materials that were inspired by Clottey’s art project, Afrogallonism (FCA, 2022).

(Serge Attukwei Clottey, AfroGallonism,, 2018

Through their creative brilliance and dedication, the FCA has established itself as a powerful, influential force in Ghana, West Africa, and the world that brings the critical reflection of contemporary art to African society. With the reopening of the city after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the FCA is driving forward in 2022 with more public art installations and projects to look ahead to. Amoah and Annan are in the beginning stages of planning an art walk in Accra inspired by The Line London, which is set to open in 2023 or 2024. The central vision of the project is to invite local and international artists to collaborate with Ghanaians to build artworks in public spaces that are reflective of their cultural heritage and present realities. The Art Walk will be strategically mapped out around Accra in different neighborhoods and also highlight other local attractions in the area.  






Works Cited:

Kiunguyu, Kylie. 22, October 2018. Serge Attukwei Clottey: The Ghanaian artist who pioneered “Afrogallonism.” Retrieved July 14, 2022, from 

Critlab. (2022). Facilitators. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from 

Curators International. (2022). Ato Annan – About. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from 

Foundation for Contemporary Art – Ghana. (2022). Retrieved July 14, 2022, from