‘Going To School In The Middle East And North Africa‘ is a book authored by Dr. Kwabena Dei Ofori-Attah of Ghana. According to Dr. Ofori-Attah, he wrote the book to show the world that apart from the violence we read in newspapers, from social media, and other media, the Middle East and North Africa region is home to a good education.
The region according to Dr. Ofori-Attah, is the cradle for our modern school system. In the quest to find out more, TheAfricanDream.net had a chat with the author to learn more about the motivation behind the book published a decade ago.
“I got the inspiration to write the book from two of my college professors, Dr. Gifford Doxsee and Prof. Milt Ploghoft. I took three demanding classes with Dr. Doxsee about North Africa and the Middle East. After graduation, I decided to put my ideas together to write the book,” said Ghana-born Dr. Ofori-Attah when asked what gave rise to the book.
Dr. Kwabena Dei Ofori-Attah journeys into the genesis of his book
In June 1995 the author completed his doctoral studies in education at Ohio (OH) University in Athens, OH in the United States (US). Soon after graduation, he started teaching at University of the Cumberlands (formerly Cumberland College) in Williamsburg, Kentucky. After a while, he received the academic financial inspiration to write the book from Prof. Ploghoft.
“I was inspired by him to develop the online journal, ‘The African Symposium‘ from which I got a lot of information for my work. The online platform is for publishing educational research reports on Africa. The journal published by the African Education Research Network (AERN) is basically what set all of this off,” said the author who spoke highly of Prof. Ploghoft, the man who provided him with the funds to develop the AERN website.
Until he wrote the book, the Ghanaian author’s only connection with North Africa was through his studies and also letters from his younger brother who taught the English language in Libya. “Also, I had three students in my classes from North Africa and the Middle East who I interviewed for information about the book,” explained Dr. Ofori-Attah who also interviewed others outside his classes for the project.
Besides being Founder of the AERN, the author was its Managing-Editor for over five years. He has over 25 years of teaching experience in the West African nations of Ghana and Nigeria, and also in the US.
Impressed with literacy spurt in region ten years after the book
When asked of his opinion on what has changed in the region’s educational system since the book was published in 2008 vis-a-vis today, the author said some of the significant changes that he has witnessed are in the simple development of higher education systems in the region: “the halving of illiteracy which had aggressively begun even before my book started has been greatly improved upon today”
“The region has almost achieved a total gender parity in their primary education sector and literacy rates for young adults has greatly improved in the last 20 years from 59 percent in 1990 to 78 percent in 2010. That indeed is highly impressive,” — Dr. Ofori-Attah.
Looking back today, the author told TheAfricanDream.net that he is glad he pushed on with work to get the book published by the publisher — Greenwood Press. He said some of the setbacks he encountered at the time involved some interview candidates and students talked to for the book, who initially felt uncomfortable talking to him about education in the region.
“Again, I did not want to include Israel in the book because of the ongoing conflict but the publishers refused to agree with me on this because they argued it is part of the region. So we went on and added it. Today it is such a humbling opportunity to look back at all that good work and the impact it is having on lives.”
Higher education institutions from all over the world are opening up branch universities in the region. Qatar for instance now has created what is called the ‘Education City‘, where many countries outside the region are competing for space to build branch campuses.
What Dr. Ofori-Attah has been up to these days
“I am a Research Fellow for the AERN. In this capacity, I work with international students all over the world, something which keeps me busy,” said the author.
He is am a member of several international organizations such as the Commonwealth of Learning COL; an intergovernmental organization created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources, and technologies.
“COL is helping developing nations improve access to quality education and training.” said the author who currently teaches at Central State University, Wilberforce, OH. He has published a number of articles in places like the Encyclopedia of Education (2004), and a chapter in International Handbook on Urban Education, 2006, and many others.
Stay tuned for more info on two book chapters the author is writing on Teacher Education in Liberia and Sierra Leone. For now, you can get ‘Going To School In The Middle East And North Africa’ at Amazon by searching bit.ly/deioforiattah.
written by Oral Ofori