July 3, 2017
While at Ashesi, Affum Alhassan ‘17 was an active member of the Berekuso Math project, an initiative where Ashesi students help Berekuso students improve their math skills while providing mentorship.
For Affum however, the project meant a lot more than just continued effort at community engagement. For him, it was a personal duty. Having grown up and studied in Berekuso as a child, he understood the nature of education challenges in Berekuso more intimately. He had sat in the same classrooms as the children he was teaching, and had dealt with the same setbacks they faced.
“Berekuso has a lot more work to do in terms of education,” he says. “As far as I can remember, I have never witnessed any student complete basic school in Berekuso, and continue through to the university. From when I started school in primary one, there were barely any teachers available to teach, nor were there ever sufficient textbooks for everyone.”
Affum though, had learned to overcome the setbacks to reach for higher education. From a young age, he loved to learn new things, so even in the absence of teachers and basic school facilities, he sought ways to gather knowledge.
“Growing up, I loved politics, so sometimes I would just listen to radio shows and try to follow the conversations,” he said. “If someone gave a speech I would try to follow so I could recite it later. I would jot down whatever was taught in school, so I could look at it over and over again. If I wasn’t doing anything I would hide myself in a room and just read whatever material I could lay my hands on.”
Years later, in senior high school, he realized the significant difference dedicated teachers and access to books and facilities could make. Though he was keen on giving back to his community, he was hesitant about attending a university set in the same place he grew up – Berekuso. He wanted to attend a university in another part of Ghana.
“It was never my intention to attend Ashesi because I wanted to go away from Berekuso,” he explained. “It took my high school teacher to convince me about Ashesi’s unique education. Most importantly, it would also be an opportunity to be that role model and leading light for the children of Berekuso.”
Being named a MasterCard Foundation Scholar when he was admitted, Affum got the best of both worlds – a great education, and the opportunity to give back to his community. “I feel a special need to excel because I want to leave a legacy, an inspiring record, and set a precedent for the students in Berekuso to live up to, and even do better,” he says. “I saw my success as one that will challenge the status quo of a ‘Berekuso education’, and place me as a guiding light for children in Berekuso.”
From his first year at Ashesi, Affum spent most of his free time off campus, closer to home and back at his junior high school, teaching the students math and pushing them to aspire beyond high school. He extended his volunteer work to heading the Ashesi chapter of Pencils of Promise. For three years, he led the organization to help provide school services to children in underserved communities in Ghana.
In June 2017, Affum graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ashesi. Not only was he the first of his father’s children to enter and graduate from college, but he has also helped set the bar high for the pupils at the Berekuso basic schools.
For Affum, who is looking forward to pursuing graduate degrees in Finance and Economics, a quote by John Quincy Adams drives his passion: If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.
“One thing that I have picked up as a leader is that the welfare of people and society as whole should be at the core of every decision,” he says. “Leadership is only a privilege and a unique opportunity to serve humanity.”
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