From $50 in his pocket to $500,000 prize

From BBC - November 14, 2017

The founder of a university college in Ghana and campaigner to raise the quality of higher education in Africa has won a major global education award.

Patrick Awuah left Ghana in the 1980s with "$50 in his pocket" to take up a scholarship in the US.

But after a career with Microsoft, he returned to found Ashesi University College, and has now won the Wise Prize, worth $500,000 (380,000).

Mr Awuah said there was an "urgent need" to improve education in Africa.

The prize, awarded at the World Innovation Summit for Education in the Gulf state of Qatar, was in recognition of Mr Awuah's work as founder of Ashesi University College.

'Ethical leaders'

The private, not-for-profit college was intended to help develop a new generation of leaders for Ghana and other African countries.

After working and studying in the US, Mr Awuah had decided to create a university in his own country to fill what he saw as a gap in institutions which had an "ethical mindset".

Ashesi opened with 30 students in 2002 and is now teaching about 800 students on a campus outside Accra.

Mr Awuah said that the university provided a "broader perspective" than simply studying for a qualification for a job.

"We started with the idea of ethical leaders and entrepreneurial leaders."

Students were encouraged "to ponder the big questions about what kind of country we want".

About half of the university's intake of students are on scholarships, half are women and they come from 18 African countries. All students have to study ethics and entrepreneurship and have to perform some community service.

Mr Awuah told the BBC he wanted to see more collaboration to raise standards in African universities.

Falling behind


Continue reading at BBC »