In only four weeks time, 20 Canadian students will head off to Africa in an attempt to help fix the ailing Ghanaian education system. The students are traveling for six weeks with the World University Service of Canada.
WUSC spokesperson Emily Chartrand explained the organization was a network of individuals and post-secondary institutions that came together to help developing nations. The Canadian students are taking part in their international seminar which sends a group to a different developing country each year.
"WUSC's mission is to foster human development and global understanding through education and training," said Chartrand.
The 20 students will be paired with Ghanaian students once they arrive and will work for four internship coordinators.
"We're dealing with the basic education sector there," said fourth-year business student Chris Secreti, who is taking part in the trip. "Their primary education system isn't up to par or even close to western standards. That leads to all of the problems [in the country] because without basic education, it's pretty hard to advance when you're a Third World country."
Secreti said he had always been interested in Africa, but never knew projects like this existed. He heard about WUSC in his POLI 371 class. He estimated between 150-200 students applied nationwide.
"You always hear about the things that go on in Africa and all the problems, but [the class] really opened my eyes to what was going on over there," he said. "I was very intrigued and I wanted to see how I could help out so I ended up applying."
The students will first go to a training session in Ottawa for a week to learn about intercultural relationships and the Ghanaian culture. Chartrand stressed that the research completed in Ghana will be practical for Ghanaian officials. Work will coincide with the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, which include universal primary education and developing a global partnership for development.
"They're going to break up into research groups partnered with a Ghanaian student to undertake research on the quality of basic education in Ghana," she said. "They're doing that with local partners in Ghana so that the research will be useful to them."
The students will be working with Uniterra, another Canadian volunteer program with a presence in 13 countries worldwide. The students will later be required to participate in a public engagement program.
"The students will be, upon coming home to Canada, sharing what they've learned with their fellow students on campus and throughout their communities," said Chartrand. "A lot of the focus is not on what they'll be achieving overseas, but on what they'll be doing once they return home."
This is the 61st International Seminar hosted by WUSC. The organization is funded by donations and supports refugee students studying in Canada. This year they will also be starting their first Refugee Summer Seminar, sending students to a refugee camp in Kenya.