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Titan of the Week: Kwadwo A. Okrah

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Professor Okrah speaks about his time in Africa, coming to America and what shift education in America needs to make. Preface Photo/Leslie Lestinsky

By: LESLIE LESTINSKY
Staff Writer
@LeslieWriteNow

Professor Kwadwo Okrah has acquired vast knowledge over the years. With a smile on his face, he is eager to share this with all who will listen and learn.

“My primary education came from a Roman Catholic school in Ghana, and that continued into middle school,” Okrah said about where his education started.

Okrah went on to explain how the education system is different in Ghana.

“I come from a poor family background. When I completed middle school, I passed entrances into secondary and technical school but they could not take me,” he said. “My father had 28 children, I was number 10. He made sure we completed middle school, but once we completed that, the rest was left upon the mother. He had three wives at the time. My mother did very well, she sent me on to further my education. I went to teacher’s training college, I was there for four years. There were 10 more years of schooling needed in my country before I could go to university. The university I went to happened to be the only teacher’s university in West Africa.”      Not only was education always a priority for Okrah, he also spoke of public service opportunities.

“I was appointed by the president of Ghana to become a state linguist to the president, Jerry John Rawlings,” he said.

Once he had gained as much education in Ghana as he could, it was time to move on.

“In I994, I came to Ohio University where I got my master’s of arts degree in international affairs,” he said. “I studied African education, politics and economics. When I finished, I still wanted to be a master teacher. I then received my doctorate degree at Ohio University in 1999.”

Okrah went on to speak about his career path after graduation.

“My first job was teaching at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. In 2000, I received offers from several different universities. I chose IU South Bend. At that time, the dean was Jim Smith. He was a great administrator. He offered to make me director of the Center for Global Education, which is why I chose IU South Bend over the other offers. I developed a course for global education and global awareness.”

Okrah said he spent years in Greenlawn without a space but now, in the new building, he has a beautiful space to teach students and assist teachers.

“If a teacher wants to instruct on a specific country and is having trouble finding material, I can guide them. I have lesson plan samples and activities,” he said. “I even offer to come and talk to their classrooms or have one of our international students go and speak.”

Okrah spoke about his time traveling.

“I go back to my country almost every summer. The summers I don’t travel back home, I travel to another country either for a conference or speaking assignments,” he said. “I’ve been to Australia in Sydney, China, Taiwan twice, Toronto Canada, and Oxford University for the Oxford round table. I have visited almost every continent. I speak about African culture, multi-cultural and global education, curriculum development and language.”

Okrah concluded with a few words of wisdom.

“Something an immigrant needs to do when you come to America, is allow America to pass through you instead of just you passing through America. If I pass through and go, there wouldn’t be any change in me,” he said. “I want more knowledge and information. However, I will not force myself to become an American, because when a piece of rock remains in the river for a thousand years, it will never become a crocodile. When it comes to the education system, I have made some observations and I believe it is high time the American education system changed in a way to reflect the character education of our children. If we do not do that, we will end up preparing our children to become intellectual giants who are ethical dwarfs. We need to prepare the whole child.”

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