Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and Oboseke University of Excellence (OUE) in the West African nation of Ghana have reached agreement on a collaboration that will allow Cheyney to share its expertise, especially in aquaculture and aquaponics, and permit both schools to establish a student exchange program.
The Accreditation Board of Ghana requires a new university to have a mentor relationship with an established, accredited university that offers the same courses OUE intends to offer. That is where Cheyney comes in.
“It is our hope and intention that Cheyney University will provide mentorship and meet the ‘mentor’ requirement in the area of aquaculture and aquaponics program development and implementation for our proposed tilapia fish farming and other aquaculture programs,” said OUE’s Rector, Dr. Kwa David Whitaker, Esq.
Dr. Whitaker notes that tilapia is a staple of the Ghanaian diet. However, the country now imports much of the species from China. He says it would be a boon to Ghana to farm and produce more of its own fish.
Similarly, through aquaponics, farmers could potentially produce more food on less land.
“Learning aquaculture can change the whole situation not only in Ghana, but we can share this knowledge with other universities and could conceivably impact even a larger area of the core of Africa,” Whitaker said. “Our relationship with Cheyney will include more than aquaponics, but this one area in itself has transformational potential.”
This is Cheyney’s first-ever relationship with an African university and is in keeping with the school’s entrepreneurial and partnership model that ultimately benefits the university and its students.
Under the agreement, Cheyney will provide aquaculture knowledge and related research and best practices to aid the establishment of a broad and robust aquaculture program at OUE.
“This agreement marks a historic milestone for our university as our first international school-to-school relationship,” said Cheyney President Aaron A. Walton. “To be able to share our experience and knowledge with this emerging African university, and potentially help the people of Ghana develop a more accessible food supply, is an extremely significant opportunity for us, a tribute to our academic excellence, and an honor.”
Cheyney’s Aquaculture Research and Education Laboratory offers an academic/professional specialization in the culture of growing fish and plants in controlled environments, an ideal fit for OUE.
The university will operate a campus of student self-sufficiency modeled after the Booker T. Washington Tuskegee Model in which the production of food that will form a portion of students’ diet will be grown by students as opposed to being purchased. The tilapia farm endeavors to produce at least sufficient surplus fish to sell along with other farm items grown through aquaponics.
“Cheyney figures prominently in the plan as OUE’s the marquee partner in aquaponics and aquaculture development,” said Nana Obokese Ampah I, founder and president of The Obokese Foundation.
With the signing of this agreement, OUE plans to immediately commence development of its aquaponics facility and consult with and follow Cheyney’s lead towards implementation of an effective pilot program.
For its part, OUE will offer resources to Cheyney on the OUE campus, including land for projects that are mutually beneficial to both schools. The university, located in the Asebu Kingdom of Ghana’s Central Region, will also provide the opportunity for students, faculty, and cultural exchanges once OUE earns accreditation and it is up and running.
H.E. Nana Dr. Okatakyi Amanfi VII, Paramount Chief of the Asebu Traditional Area, as custodian of Asebu lands, has given OUE a 104-acre property and the OUE Board of Directors are in the process of raising funding to commence the build-out of its campus and operation of the university. The demand for college enrollment in Ghana is growing rapidly. High school attendance, for all, was authorized four years ago under H.E. President Akufo-Addo, which has added about 300,000 high school students in a nation of 31 million people.
“Four years from now, the number of students wanting to attend college will be more than the existing colleges can handle,” Whitaker noted. “Taking a bigger view, Africa has about 1.3 billion people. The average age is 20-25. It behooves us to teach these young people. They’re half the population!”
“Our plan is to find a way for the people in the village to have an opportunity to work on this campus,” Obokese said. “Our first goal is integrating the community into the economic opportunities. If they buy into the aquaponics model, we can potentially help them grow 12 times as much food on the same land.”
The director of Cheyney’s aquaculture program, Biology professor Dr. Steven H. Hughes, has led the conversations and planning for the university.
“We are exceptionally excited about the opportunity we have with Oboseke University, and what we’re going to do to help people in Ghana become more self-sufficient,” he said.
“The potential to showcase a partnership with America’s first Black institution of higher education adds an incredible significance to and underscores the promise of African-centered education and the spirit of Ubuntu,” Whitaker said. “We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership.”
While OUE awaits accreditation, it has developed and expects to begin offering online training and certification through a relationship with Cape Coast Technical University soon.
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