From April 26 - 28, 2023, more than 100 educators gathered in Accra, Ghana for the first-of-its-kind alumni conference for West African alumni of Fulbright Teacher Exchanges. The event drew inspiration from Vice President Harris' recent visit to the region with a theme of Sharing Ideas and Innovation in Education.
Alumni applied for and were selected to participate in the conference based on how they have shared what they learned on the Teacher Exchange program in their home schools and communities. Spanning more than twelve program years and three different teacher exchange programs, the alumni hailed from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal.
Welcome remarks for the event were provided by Nicole Chulick, Deputy Chief of Mission, and Virginia Elliott, Public Affairs Counselor, of the U.S. Embassy in Ghana. Ghana's Minister for Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum also addressed the group, sharing his story of working in Los Angeles schools before returning to Ghana to contribute to educational reform efforts in his homeland. Other notable guests included the Deputy Minister for Education Rev. John Ntim-Fordjour, Laneice Brooker, Cultural Affairs Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, and Dawn Rogier and Safietou Ndiaye of the Regional English Language Office at the U.S. Embassy in Senegal.
"The minister's call to action and storytelling approach was very inspiring. Challenge Accepted. We will continue to use our voice as teachers and leverage technology to make impacts beyond our classrooms.... Together we can do better."
-Bernard A., Ghana
Professional development workshops were conducted on a variety of topics, such as improving access to educational technology, girls' education, and environmental education; preventing school-based violence; supporting displaced students; and implementing inclusive education practices. Twenty Teacher Exchange alumni attendees facilitated workshops, as well as the following Ghanaian and U.S. subject matter experts, including alumni from other U.S. Government-funded exchange programs.
- Bright Kwaku Dey, Program Coordinator for Partnerships & Affiliations at Ghana Education Service Headquarters and 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow
- Dr. Jim Nehring, Professor at the School of Education, University of Massachusetts Lowell
- Otuo-Akyampong Boakye, Environmental Scientist, Teacher, Climate Advocate and 2022 Community Solutions Program Fellow
- Barbara McCormack, Media Literacy Consultant
- Shana Ferguson, Teacher Librarian at Columbia River High School, Vancouver WA and 2019 U.S. Fulbright Teacher to the United Kingdom
- Dr. Maria Anastasiou, Associate Provost for International Programs, University of North Carolina Greensboro
"Amazing individuals. They reaffirmed the notion that education should not be confined to the four walls of our classrooms. As educators, we have much to offer our communities and must participate in a variety of activities."
-Loveline C., Cameroon
A cultural excursion to contemporary art and cultural institution, Nubuke Foundation, spotlighted the culture of Ghana as well as that of the other participating nations. Music, dance, food, and art were all enthusiastically celebrated.
Attendees at the conference - alumni and staff alike - were left with a reminder of the importance of community and coalition-building. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
"The Fulbright Teacher Exchanges conference that I attended last week was truly a remarkable experience... As I sat in the audience, listening to the opening remarks, I felt a wave of excitement wash over me.... I have traveled to nine countries across four continents, but Ghana has become my second home, and it's not difficult to see why. The people, the culture, and the vibrancy of this country are truly captivating. The conference was no exception... The conference was not just about learning, it was also about networking and building relationships with like-minded individuals from different countries."
-Olalekan A., Nigeria