I was the last to arrive on the first day at school quite later in the day after everyone else was present! I thought I was going to have an exhausting night unpacking and getting comfortable generally. However our lovely hostel guardian, Auntie Beatrice, helped me to get my luggage out of the car and into my new “home”. It was an interesting evening I must say. I met with all the other girls of this year’s cohort. I was excited by the idea of having to live with and learn with twenty-two other brilliant girls in STEM. It was even more amazing that these girls collectively come from seven (7) countries. I am learning a lot and from different perspectives of life every single day.
This week has been everything. It has been very eye-opening for me; from hearing stories from volunteers and being exposed to several opportunities. I realize that so much is expected of me but that everyone here is ready to help me succeed. I have been plunged into a world of so much more than I could imagine. A world of curiosity. A world of excellence. At ASA, every day, we girls get the opportunity to express ourselves and to share our stories. We get the opportunity to have one-on-one interactions with our teachers, volunteers and mentors. This was very new to me and I find myself enjoying every bit of it.
Meeting Tom Ilube, CBE (turns out it doesn’t only stand for Central Bank of Ethiopia!) was one of the highlights for me. I remember looking him up on the internet and the next moment he was right there! He was only with us for a few moments, but I can confidently say he left a huge impact on me. His passion for introducing STEM to young African girls like me was very infectious. He taught me to always ask questions and to appreciate the little and big things that people do for me. It was impressive that he took time off his busy schedule to be with us, to interact with us and share knowledge with us.
Each day rolled by with its own intricate story, adventure and lessons. But the things that stood out for me are:
The ASA way is honesty, innovation, integrity for Africa
Always have a question to ask; Be curious
And a wonderful quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Isaac Newton
By: Emmanuella Agormeda-Tetteh, Accra, Ghana (Class of 2020)
It all started with a well-timed email. My Harrow School colleague, Johny Marsden, mentioned a “very good school in Ghana” that was keen to host a Physics teacher with some experience of preparing students for A level Physics. Well, who wouldn’t be excited by that prospect, even if the dates overlapped with our UK term? Yours truly, however, happened to have been granted a sabbatical term and was sufficiently intrigued to look into it all further. A quick Google search for African Science Academy and, within ten minutes, I was already convinced that this was something I would definitely like to do. I was able to meet Tom and Efua at a delightful reception hosted by Tom in London shortly thereafter and it was pleasure to be able to thank them both for giving me the opportunity to come and spend some time at ASA.
I was met at Accra Airport on Good Friday by the inestimable Justice who was to be my guide and travelling companion for the next few days as I took advantage of the Easter weekend holiday to see some of Ghana’s wonderful country. There was so much to admire in the natural beauty of Kakum Rainforest and the Cape Coast landscapes, but by far my most vivid experience was the visit to the Castles at Cape Coast and Elmina. It was extremely distressing, not to mention humbling and mortifying, to learn of the atrocities committed there during the vile slave trade and to sense in the commentary of our excellent guide the passion, indignation and fire that, rightly, prevails to this day. So my first few days in Ghana were anything but a relaxing settling-in period, but I quickly gained a sense of the country’s extraordinary history and culture, and felt, even more strongly than before, that I wanted to contribute as much as I possibly could during my stay.
Finally arriving in Tema and settled
into my lovely apartment, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and meet my new
colleagues at ASA; and most especially, of course, the students (whom I was
promptly informed preferred to be referred to as “ladies”!). The flags of
multiple nationalities that grace the entrance to the school building
immediately give a sense of ASA’s internationalist outlook and it was wonderful
for me to meet girls from so many different countries in Africa. Coming
from a very traditional boarding school in England, I was already very used to
the idea of the ‘school community’, but, before arriving at ASA, I was
sceptical as to whether such a feeling of togetherness could be instilled in an
institution where girls stay for just one year – but I was wrong. The
fantastic sense of teamwork and the closeness of the relationships between the
staff and the students was immediately evident. I knew instantly that I
was going to have a very happy, enjoyable and productive time. The warm
glow of good feeling was raised yet further upon meeting Ann, Beatrice, Bella
and Carlene who were so kind and welcoming to me. I was supplied with
plenty of cold water, helped to rather large portions at meal times (more on
this in a bit) and solicitously positioned under electric fans in order to
alleviate my sweating and gasping (Ghana’s heat and humidity were initially
something of a shock to my system I must say).
What can I say about the ladies of
ASA? The difficulties of taking three such very challenging A levels as
Maths, Further Maths and Physics, and especially in just one full year, cannot
be overstated. Fortunately the ladies of ASA are amongst the most highly
motivated students I have ever had the pleasure to teach. The ability and
determination they have already shown just to get to ASA is hugely impressive
so I had anticipated a high degree of receptivity and engagement. I was
heartened by their evident grasp of much of the key detail (having been very
well prepared by Sir Hubert over the year) and I was further encouraged by
their eagerness to learn, to ask questions and to keep coming back for further
clarification if my initial explanations had not hit home. A quality that
distinguishes top scientists from much of the general population is not so much
possessing the ability to answer questions but, rather, always being prepared
to ask them; and to persist until a complete understanding (to “feel it in your
spleen” as the saying goes) has been gained. In this respect I am
confident that ASA is helping to nurture some great scientists and engineers
who, I am sure, will help to transform Africa in the coming years. I must
also say that another great pleasure for me was to arrive early in the morning
and have the privilege of sitting in on some of Miss Levina’s marvellous maths
lessons. To see such energy, passion, expertise, lucidity and caring in a
teacher is always an uplifting experience and it was simply wonderful to get to
know her and exchange ideas with a great professional. Clearly the ladies of
ASA are in great hands!
Of course I couldn’t possibly write
about ASA without paying tribute to the marvellous food produced by Grace and
the rest of the kitchen team! Fufu was my favourite dish, I think,
closely followed by waakye, red-red and banku (though eating soup with my bare
hands proved beyond me so, to my shame, I’m afraid I resorted to using a
spoon!). Jollof rice, of course, deserves a special tribute all of its
own. And on the subject of food in Ghana, how wonderful it is to be able
to buy fresh and absolutely delicious coconuts, avocados, pineapples, melons
and mangoes from the roadside!
Of Ghana itself I have to say I have
taken away only the strongest positive impressions. The most striking
feature of the country is the courtesy and friendliness of its people – a bit
of a cliché, admittedly, for any foreigner to say about a country in order to
flatter his hosts but, in this case, it is absolutely true I assure you!
By the end of my first few days, I was literally on first name terms with just
about every family who lived along my route into work. I lost count of
the number of strangers I passed in the street who simply said “welcome” to me
with a kind smile. I have travelled in many countries and have never
encountered such casual amiability and warmth and I hope Ghana never loses this
spirit of cordiality, acceptance and tolerance – it makes Ghana a very special
But most of all I will always remember the ladies of ASA. Spending time with them, and feeling their enthusiasm and love of learning, has reinvigorated my own feelings about teaching and touched my spirit in ways I am still processing (as we scientists do!). So good luck to all at ASA, thank you for your kindnesses and for having me amongst your special community. I have made some great friends amongst you and hope we will continue to stay in touch.
Fasting is part of the seven pillars of Islam which Muslims must follow. During this time Muslims fast for self-control, to gain a better understanding of Allah’s gifts and for compassion towards the deprived. This is not the first time I am fasting in a school but it is the first time I’m fasting during my final Exams. The main difference between fasting here in ASA and back at my Senior High school apart from not working much is the concern the staff members give us. Before we started fasting they made sure everything was ready for us and when we started, they kept on checking on us. This show of concern and love really touched me.
Fasting during my final exams is a new experience for me and I don’t find it all that difficult only tiring. During Ramadan, we have additional prayers to recite and this takes time. I wake up at 4am to start fasting and finish by 4:30am. I then take my bath, pray and the rest of the time till 6:30 I go to the class and library to learn. Also ASA granted the Muslims permission to stay in the classroom when it’s time to eat. This helps us make up for the time we use to pray. The teachers have also made time in their schedules for us to have time to pray so that we do not miss classes. We have written almost all of our papers and writing them was ok even though I was fasting. I was afraid of how I will write a three hour paper while fasting because we are mostly advised to send in water to help us through the paper but Allah was there for me and I wrote the papers without any difficulty.
The fasting is coming to an end and it was one of my best fasting times. This is because of the concern of the staff and the measures they put in place to make us feel comfortable and at home .The experience was akin to the one I have at home and I want to say thank you to the ASA family for being there.
My Experience In London Exchange program with St. Paul’s Girls’ School Sightseeing in London ASA Gala
I was filled with joy when I was selected to take part in
the exchange program between St Paul’s Girls’ School in the UK and the African
Science Academy (ASA) in Ghana. Being a first time out of country travel
experience, I was scared and excited at the same time.
On departure day, I was very vigilant and careful because I did
not want to miss the check in process and details. It was quite difficult for
me because I also wanted to observe other travellers and guess if it was their
first time too. I had a sound sleep when I finally boarded the flight. ‘Excuse
me ma’am, tea or coffee?’ that was when I woke up and realised we had 15
minutes to land at Heathrow airport.
I had a lot of first time experiences during this program. My first culture shock was the weather. As someone who grew up in a country where the weather is mostly warm, London was extremely cold for me. On some windy days I could feel the wind carrying me back to Ghana. Another thing that took me by surprise was how cashless London is. Every transaction is about swiping and tapping. It took me some time to get used to the oyster card especially. I recall instances where I had to go back home for my cards so I could live a normal London life. I was open to trying most of the food I came across. There are some I enjoyed so much and there are some I will never try voluntarily. I ordered smoked salmon and Fiorentina Pizza at my first dinner out. I may never try those meals again because I struggled to eat them. The fish felt like jelly in my mouth and the pizza bitter because of the spinach topping. My favourite meals were fish & chips and burgers. I found myself eating more of those during my stay because it felt close to home.
I had the chance to present my story
and experience so far at the St. Paul’s Girls’ school Assembly on the Monday
after my arrival. Ella Boot and Miriam Agiru also shared the experience they
had in Ghana. Ella and Miriam are the two exchange students who came to Ghana
in December 2018. They were also my hosts during my stay in London. I lived
with Miriam and her family at Bromley South for 4 days and later moved to
Hammersmith to live with Ella and her family.
I experienced teaching and
learning at the school during the week. The senior school had just ended their
mock examinations and were going through the papers in class. One thing that
was completely different from ASA was their school day structure. There are
free periods and a lot of peer-to-peer tutoring. ASA does the A-levels in a
year instead of two so free periods are rare. The senior girls’ had a whole rest room with a
kitchen where we would go relax, have tea and toast when we had no class. The
study room is also very conducive for prep studies. The school setting in a
whole is fantastic. I was also amazed that the students could use their mobile
phones in class. At ASA, phones are allowed only on the weekends or during
I spent my
free days sightseeing at Central London. I visited the Colleges at the
University of Oxford, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tates Modern, the Science Museum and
the Oxford Museum. I also had the opportunity to watch the musical of Dolly
Parton’s 9 to 5 at the Savoy Theatre
and went shopping at Primark.
I spent my last Friday evening
at the ASA fundraising gala. Ella and I left school quite earlier than usual
since we had no class and rushed home to prepare for the evening. It was an
informal dinner setting coupled with fundraising and fun activities. I
interacted with a number of influential people and some past ASA students from
Edinburgh University. Together with the old students; Adwoa and Aisha, we sang
a song from Becca titled “African Woman”. There was also an Adowa performance
by Adwoa and a poetry recital by Aisha. I also had the platform to share my
story and show gratitude to our sponsors, supporters and trustees.
My trip was a memorable one. I felt like I had experienced every bit of London especially Central London the few days I was there. I am grateful to ASA and St. Paul’s Girls’ High School for giving me this incredible opportunity.
The 2019 ASA GALA Black women in Sci-Fi Raffles, Networking, Performances
On Friday 15th March we held our 2019 fundraising Gala at the African Centre in London. It was a delightful celebration of the African Science Academy and it was especially wonderful that we had 4 alumni who are currently studying at Edinburgh University down in London for the event. We also had the privilege to have one of our current ASA students at the event, who was participating in an exchange programme with St Paul’s Girls School.
On arrival, guests were welcomed by an amazing exhibition on black women in Sci Fi, created by students from ADA College in London.
The focus of the evening was to celebrate the ASA students and so they took centre stage, with amazing performances from dance, poetry to a wonderful song entitled ‘African Woman’. We also had speeches by Efua Adabie (Headteacher) and Tom Ilube (Founder and Chair), as well as, a presentation by the two St Paul’s Girls students who had visited ASA in December, together with Emily, their exchange partner from Ghana. Finally we had a panel discussion with the ASA students who answered questions about their time at the school.
We had so exciting raffle and auction prizes donated by the following organisations:
A Bolga basket and textiles book from The African Fabric Shop www.africanfabric.co.uk
A collection of natural soaps by Friendly Soap www.friendlysoap.co.uk
An African print headscarf from Knots UK https://knots-uk.com
A piece of African print stylish clothing from Mam-Maw https://www.mammaw.com/
A selection of books by African authors by Orbit www.orbitbooks.net
An array of African music CDs from Sterns Music www.sternsmusic.com
Copies of some brilliant signed books from Zadie Smith www.zadiesmith.com
A sculpture made from Zimbabwean serpentine stone from African Kitchen Gallery https://africankitchen.gallery
2 tickets for a Black History river cruise from Black Hisotry Walks www.blackhistorywalks.co.uk
A hamper by Award-winning hairstylist Charlotte Mensahs own Manketti Oil products http://charlottemensah.com
A signed version of an early manuscript for Swing Time by Zadie Smith www.zadiesmith.com
Thank you for all of these donations!
In addition, we had handmade jewellery by our very own ASA alumna, Aisha, and an anonymous donation of framed pictures on the night, which we added to the raffle. Throughout the evening we had delicious West African cuisine by Soul Delish and we ended the evening with wonderful music.
In total we had around 120 guests attend and raised more than £34,000.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for the event. It was wonderful to have you there and we appreciate your support.