Friday, May 28, 2010

Like Wearing a Raincoat in the Shower

I finally slept like a normal human being last night. Mohammad tried to wake me twice, but I didn’t roll out of bed until just in time for our 7:30 breakfast.

Our morning adventure was a bus tour of the University of Ghana. It’s the country’s major Uni, and has more or less any department you could think of. Tertiary education here is nearly fully subsidized by the state, but all graduates are required to do a year of national service following graduation. I think the Obama administration is pushing for a similar program in the United States, and I think it would be a great idea, but  it would be very hard to implement without increasing government subsidization of college costs.

IMG_0358 Dept. of Political Science. ‘Sup?!

The University has some elevation to it, and we were able to get out and grab a few pictures above the northern part of Accra.


After the tour was our first morning lecture on the topic of the Ghanaian health care system from Dr. Kofi Ohene-Konadu of the University of Ghana. He discussed the history of healthcare in Ghana as well as the major diseases and causes of those diseases that Ghanaians face. He recognized the connection between education and health care, while also acknowledging that a great number of people live in ignorance and simply don’t understand the risks associated with certain lifestyle choices. While Ghana has a comparatively low HIV/AIDS infection rate, he addressed this as a major problem, reporting that some men compare sex with a condom to a shower while wearing a raincoat or eating toffee with the wrapper still on.

Malaria was also a major issue, and the most interesting idea here was that of a “mosquito police,” which Malaysia uses to enforce laws which require citizens to pay careful attention to preventing mosquito breeding spots to form.

From 1985 – 2003, Ghana’s health care system was “Cash and Carry,” wherein patients at a regular hospital had to pay before being seen by doctors. This resulted in a number of Ghanaians sticking to traditional medicines (roots, leaves, etc) or not seeking treatment at all, and was replaced with a basic system of universal coverage which all Ghanaians pay for with an annual tax.

Lunch was at Chez Afrique, and I had chicken with fried plantains and Red-Red, which is a sauce based on black-eyed peas, which were Furgilicious.

On the bus ride to our second lecture of the day, we noticed garbage burning on the side of the road. There doesn’t seem to be anything like a city dump, so much of the trash probably gets disposed of in this way, contributing to environmental hazards here.

The second lecture was on the Bretton Woods institutions and the social welfare cost of conditionalities, something much more up my alley. Our professor was from the University’s Sociology department, and clearly fell on the left side of the aisle. I talked with him a while at the end about the Ghanaian view of the Bank and the Fund and he told me they have both largely been discredited. I don’t know if I fully believe that, because Ghana is widely portrayed as a very good student of the BWIs. However, we both agreed that Ghana, which stands to soon start making quite a bit of money from oil, stands to benefit from lessons learned in nearby Nigeria.

After coming back to our hotel, a few blocks of a walk to a busier street netted me a yardage of cloth and a Black Stars football jersey from sidewalk vendors. Bargaining and haggling is going to take some time to get used to, and I feel bad doing it, but it’s expected here. Another picture I took serves a second example of income disparity.

IMG_0381 Just because you own a Mercedes S-Class ‘Get Out of the Way, Poor People” doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a roadside mango

A quick lightning storm just passed overhead, so we ran out to stand in the rain and experience a coastal African lightning storm first-hand. It died down by the time we got outside, but some of the lightning was impressive.

If you can’t tell from the monotony of this post, I’m exhausted. The plan for tonight is to write a little bit more, do some laundry, then pass out hard. Tomorrow we’ve got a morning lecture followed by a site visit about an hour north of the city.

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