AfOx and AfriSoc have enjoyed a close working relationship, and the organisations have collaborated on several programs and events. AfOx is a proud sponsor of the Oxford Africa Conference – the foremost student-led interdisciplinary conference on Africa.
AfriSoc was founded in 1958 on principles of Pan-Africanism, community and solidarity by and for African students in The University of Oxford. The society focuses on African affairs at the University of Oxford and seeks to set the agenda for the future of the African Continent by providing a platform for students hailing from or interested in Africa to critically engage with the continent’s past, present and future.
AfOx fosters equitable and sustainable collaborations between African Academics and the University of Oxford, and ensures that Africa remains a strategic priority for the University. It is a vibrant cross-university platform made up of over 400 researchers and academics, both in Oxford and in partner African institutions, working on or interested in advancing research and teaching excellence in the Africa.
His research in Oxford is focused on Education and Welfare Policy, particularly addressing the limited access to higher education for economically and socially vulnerable students in Ghana. Prior to attending Oxford, he received a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Social Policy at Cornell University and a BA in Sociology and Anthropology at Swarthmore College. He is also a co-founder of University Avenue, an Education Consultancy that provides University Application Counselling Services for Ghanaian students.
The new Afrisoc president commends the past committee for all the good work it has done and aims to build on it. He states that “Afrisoc could, if it focuses its energies, be more purposeful and inclusive, as well as be an influential voice and actor in tackling issues affecting us here at Oxford and also on our continent right now and not later”, and envisions “a renewed Afrisoc; purposeful and driven, making indelible marks on our Oxford communities, and hereafter in our nations.”
Afrisoc is a student society at The University of Oxford concerned with the affairs of Africa and African students at The University, and Prof. Wale Adebanwi, Rhodes Professor of Race Relations is the society’s patron. Afrisoc recently commemorated 60 years of existence in Oxford.
Handing over to Botsio is Ndjodi Ndeunyema, a Namibian DPhil Law candidate at Linacre College. Previous presidents of the society include Tajudeen Abdul Raheem, Dr Sebabatso Manoelli and Prof Abena Busia.
The broad aim of the workshop was to provide a platform for early career scholars and postdocs to interact with each other and academics in their field. It brought together 50 participants from Zimbabwe (University of Zimbabwe, Great Zimbabwe University, and Midlands State University) and 7 academics from the University of Oxford including Miles Tendi, Simukai Chigudu and Dan Hodgkinson. The workshop organisers were Prof. Ushehwedu Kufakurinani and Prof. Jocelyn Alexander.
The organisers, detailing the success of this workshop as a capacity and relationship building collaboration, stated:
“At policy level, the workshop was an essential building block in the strategic goals of the university in capacity building and the forging of synergies to enhance academic excellence. The Oxford delegation led the morning session and outlined the wide range of opportunities for study at Oxford University and the rigors of the application process. Our local students were indeed inspired by the fact that the visiting delegation had three Zimbabwean nationals (two scholars and one student).
The mid-morning and afternoon sessions were devoted to two key elements of scholarship namely the essentials of publishing in peer reviewed academic journals and the possibilities of joint research projects. The Oxford team gave advice from their experience as board members of the Journal of Southern African Studies, one of the best area studies journals in Africa. The delegates then broke into smaller groups led by senior scholars where ideas were shared on research experiences and how to improve research and writing in younger scholars. The group discussions were the major highlight of the day because younger scholars were afforded the opportunity ask pertinent questions about research and writing. A number of areas of common interest emerged that may possibly result in collaborative work in future.”
Several areas of common interest emerged from the workshop and the organisers hope that these may possibly result in more collaborative work in the future.
The 2018 AfOx Visiting Fellows are: Dr. Augustina Adusah-Karikari (Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration), Dr. Abdelrazek Bedir Abdelrazzak Ahmed (National Research Centre, Egypt), Prof Abi Alabo Derefaka (University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria), Dr Seifu Kebede (Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia), Dr. Benta A. Abuya (African Population and Health Research Center, Kenya), Dr Tongai Maponga (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa), Dr Itai Magodoro (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Dr Nicola de Jager (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), Dr Caesar Atuire (University of Ghana), Dr. Amos Olalekan Abolaji (University of Ibadan, Nigeria), Prof Abdulkader Tayob (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Dr Amina Abubakar (KEMRI-WTRP, Kenya) and Dr. Christine Nalwadda Kayemba (Makerere University, Uganda).
The AfOx Visiting Fellowship Program was set up to foster research and teaching excellence, as well as to facilitate sustainable collaborations between academics at The University of Oxford and in African Institutions. Academics working in any African institute are eligible, and the calls for fellows have drawn over 450 applications from across Africa. We are grateful to St Edmund Hall, Christ Church College and St. Peter’s College – who are with us for the second year running, and to All Souls College, Brasenose College, Hertford College, Jesus College, Oriel College, Mansfield College, Pembroke College, St. Antony’s College and Somerville College for partnering with us to host the fellows this year.
ABOUT THE 2018 AFOX VISITING FELLOWS
I had a long day of driving around today. As most local drivers in my fieldwork city probably do, I noticed the hawkers on the street corners selling everyday accessories (from hats and sunglasses, to car stickers and soft drinks). I noticed the dancers weaving through cars stopped at a red traffic light and entertaining bored drivers in the hopes of some money in return. I noticed the beggars asking for money and food.
At one red traffic light, I noticed a young teenage mother on the street corner. She held a one-year old baby boy in her embrace. He was swaddled in a dirty brown blanket. The young mom waved to me from their perch at the intersection. I smiled, indicated that I had no money, and waved back. The little boy smiled at me from the warmth of his mother’s back, especially important in the brisk winter afternoon air.
As the traffic light turned green, I drove away thinking about how each of us are walking a different life path – by choice or destiny – be that beggar or DPhil student. But how unfair, I thought, that some of us (like me) grow up with so much while others (like the little infant swaddled by his mother) grow up with so little? Of course, the situation prompting my existential reflection is not unique to my fieldwork city. Poverty is a global phenomenon, familiar to people at each stage of life or death.
I drove my car straight into the garage when I arrived at my apartment. As I walked through the door, I greeted my friends – other students with whom I shared my accommodation during fieldwork. Unlike me, they were all local to this city. After washing my hands, I walked into the kitchen and started to make my dinner: a boiled egg and steamed broccoli – again; no doubt a testament to my waning student budget and limited culinary skills. Gertrude, one of my friends, was also making her dinner.
I shared my driving reflections: I asked Gertrude how I could make sense of the unfairness of poverty and responsibility of privilege. I was voicing the usual, expected questions of a privileged person: How could I create equity in an otherwise off-balanced social system? How could I use my privilege to speak truth to power? What could I do to help? Gertrude shook her head while straining her rice: “You can’t really do anything. None of us can. We’ve come to accept it [poverty].” I felt uncomfortable, as though someone had told me there was no more chocolate in the world.
What scared me was Gertrude’s complacency. As privileged graduate students, did we not have a moral or civic responsibility to brainstorm and chew on possible solutions? While I acknowledge that the onus lies heavily on the have-nots to break through the glass ceiling, it is not solely their responsibility to correct social and historical injustices that have placed their communities at a disadvantage. If the haves become comfortable with a social system that is off-balance, then how can the have-nots break the poverty cycle?
As I reflected on Gertrude’s response, Amanda (another friend) chimed in: “It is not the baby’s fault. I feel sorry for the baby. When teenagers have lots of babies, then the children suffer. These girls know they can get a grant from getting pregnant. But the babies did nothing to deserve being born into poverty. I feel sorry for the babies.” Now I was speechless and uncomfortable.
I wanted to tell Amanda she was wrong: teenage pregnancies in poor communities are sometimes the result of assault. Even so, the rate of teenage pregnancy this country has in fact been declining since social welfare ‘child’ grants were offered. Besides, a grant is insufficient to support a child every month.
In that moment, I felt I had to teach Amanda, and share all the facts I knew. But was it my place to teach someone from the area? I remained silent. Amanda walked away triumphantly thinking she had convinced me with her opinion, given that I had said nothing in response,
Since my fieldwork started, I have reflected on my role: Can I influence the worldview of the people in my environment, or can the people influence me? Must I change the people in my environment, or must the people change me? Should I teach the people in my environment, or should the people teach me?
When I reflect on these questions, I feel terribly conflicted. On one hand, I understand that the fieldwork experience is one designed for an observer to learn. In this role, as an observer, it seems that my role is to do just this – to learn. In order to learn, I must let the people and their opinions change me, influence me, make an impact on me. I do not believe that I can learn if I am also trying to teach.
On the other hand, some of my interactions (like the anecdote described above) leave me speechless. It seems that some opinions are not only archaic and discriminatory, but are also biased and factually false. In this instance, I feel a responsibility to teach and share new information in my interactions; in the same way a journalist brings current information to her audience.
What makes me want to reconcile these ideas: learning and teaching? Perhaps I can attribute my need for reconciliation to my training as a critical thinker and independent researcher. These are, after all, the skills that we are taught leading up a culminating fieldwork experience.
I am not saying that our graduate school courses teach us to impart our privilege knowledge alongside learning in communities. At least I hope no respectable graduate school assumes their students know better than ‘the locals’ – without whom a student could hardly conduct research.
I am instead saying that our graduate training encourages us to critically consider our role in the communities where we spend time. Such consideration perhaps brings me back to my original question: do I learn or teach in the field? If I learn, then perhaps I indirectly or passively allow the people in a new environment to influence me and my worldview. If I teach, then perhaps I actively influence those same people.
How can I reconcile both ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ if I am meant to reconcile this ideas at all? Perhaps the true growth from any and all fieldwork experience is that we cannot always reconcile these ideas: both ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ are intertwined like symbiotic vines on which a host tree (researcher) has learned to depend.
Feasibly, the privilege of reconciling these ideas belongs to those who comprise the community instead of observers – outsiders – immersed in a culture for a capped amount of time. Perhaps it is the people who belong to, not only live in, a community who are invited (perhaps even expected) to dictate its mores of learning and teaching.
With this in mind, it seemed that I could not tell Amanda or Gertrude that I thought they were wrong. Growing up in the city, both had assumedly contributed to their communities much more than I ever could. It seemed to me that it was their privilege to reconcile ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ if and when they chose to – and my privilege to observe them doing so.
Sasheenie is reading for the DPhil in Area Studies (Africa) at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies at the University of Oxford. Supervised by Professor Lucie Cluver and Professor Jonny Steinberg, Sasheenie strives to mix Social Policy & Intervention and African Studies for her qualitative work in South African townships. During her DPhil, she seeks to understand social support structures for pregnant youth living with HIV. As an ambassadorial Rotary Global Grant Scholar, Sasheenie is hosted by District 7610 (Charlottesville, VA) and District 1090 (Marlow-Thames). She is studying at Oxford with the gracious support of the Rotary International Foundation. Sasheenie was a Jefferson Scholar and Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia where she earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Global Development Studies (2016). Her thesis considered masculinity and self-identity among HIV-positive men in low-income urban townships in South Africa. She was supervised by Dr. Richard Handler and Dr. David Edmunds. Also at the University of Virginia, Sasheenie completed her Masters of Public Health (2017). She was supervised by Dr. Rebecca Dillingham. For this graduate study, Sasheenie pilot tested a mobile texting application with an incredible team of supporting undergraduates. The mHealth application investigated modes of peer support among adolescent South African men at high risk for HIV/AIDS.
The 2018 CSAE Conference featured more than 300 presentations in 106 sessions over 3 days. Held at St Catherine’s College, Oxford various researchers converged from Europe, Africa and other places to present new research on issues relating to African economies.
Among the papers presented were Gender Inequality and Marketisation Hypothesis in sub- Saharan Africa presented by Tendai Zawaira of the University of Pretoria; Subsidies for agricultural technology adoption: Evidence from randomized experiment in Uganda presented by Oluwatoba Omotilewa of Purdue University; and Patterns of Poverty in South Africa: A Mixed-Methods Investigation presented by: Rocco Zizzamia, University of Oxford.
Professor Augustin Fosu of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, was awarded the Elsevier Atlas Award for his paper ‘Growth, inequality, and poverty reduction in developing countries: Recent global evidence’ in a special ceremony at the Conference. Prof. Fosu is editor-in-chief of the Journal of African Trade (Elsevier) and is co-managing editor of the Journal of African Economies (Oxford).
The Chief Economist of DFID, Rachel Glennerster gave the Keynote Speech titled ‘Using evidence to inform policy’ in which she exhorted economists to draw on a rich variety of multiple studies and data sources to inform theory-driven policy recommendations.
The CSAE Visiting Fellowship 2019 was also launched during the conference. It is open to citizens of all countries in Africa, and supports a two month residency in Oxford, including flights, accommodation, and a small stipend. It will be held during January to March 2019, and successful applicants will work on a specific piece of work during the Oxford University term, attend seminars and the CSAE conference.
The fellowship aims to facilitate collaboration, as well as to foster research and teaching excellence in African institutions and in The University of Oxford. The fellowship is for a duration of 4-6 weeks, to be taken up from July to September, 2018.
Fellows will be provided with accommodation, meals and temporary membership of Senior Common Rooms at their host colleges for the period of residency. The fellowship will also include airfare, visa fees and a maintenance allowance.
Applicants should be legal residents of an African country, holding an appointment in an academic or research institution in an African country. They may already have established links with an Oxford collaborator or, alternatively, can search the AfOx database for potential collaborators and contact them before making the application.
Application Deadline: Midnight, 11th March, 2018.
For more details, FAQs and to apply, visit: www.afox.ox.ac.uk/afox-visiting-fellows-program/