When Rose Dodd has some downtime, she likes to tuck herself away among the growing shrubs and flowers she’s tending in her home garden. 

“It’s my zen place,” says Rose, who over the last four years has spearheaded the Education Collaborative at Ashesi, a network of higher education institutions in Africa. “I’ve found gardening an excellent escape from the hustle of daily life. It’s also a great space to think through some of the ways we can tackle some of the biggest challenges the continent has to contend with.”

By 2050, Africa’s population is expected to reach 2,5 billion, setting the stage for the world’s largest workforce by that time. While this presents the potential for economic growth, significant entrepreneurship opportunities, and wealth-building, there remains a skills-gap if we are to benefit from the opportunity the growth presents. And for Ashesi University’s President, Patrick Awuah, it is an opportunity for the continent’s educators to step up.

“The benefits that Africa will gain from a growing workforce will not be automatic,” said Dr. Awuah in a TED talk. “It will depend on productive citizens and the enlightened, effective leadership necessary to create an enabling environment on the continent. The way we teach is wrong for today. It is even more wrong for tomorrow, given the challenges before us. If through collaboration, we can improve the quality of education for our students, we would make a tremendous difference on the continent and our world.”

And over the last four years, the Education Collaborative at Ashesi has taken on this mandate, steadily building a network of universities focused on scaling the effectiveness and quality of education across the continent.

 “We believe African tertiary institutions can and should lead the African renaissance,” shared Dodd. “In the last four years, we have begun to build the foundations of a platform that allows university leaders and stakeholders to collaborate in teaching, management, and administration.”

From student to leader

For Rose, this journey started over ten years ago, when she first joined a then relatively unknown, Ashesi University, as a student. 

“Ashesi was a tiny university back then, both in size and impact,” she said. “Yet there was something different; the small class sizes, dedicated faculty, intentionality about doing things well – even the difficult things, and this bold mission to transform the continent. That boldness is what drew me in.

Several years down the line, Rose returned to Ashesi as a lecturer and also to start the Education Collaborative. To date, the Education Collaborative has engaged over 30 institutions across the continent, over 250 administrators, and through them, reached an estimated 50,000 students. 

“It’s remarkable the impact the Collaborative has had over the past years,” shared Abdul Mahdi, Dean of Students at Ashesi. “And it’s even more remarkable that this mission has been spearheaded by an alumna, one of our own, trained within the classrooms of this institution. A university’s impact can be measured by the roles its alumni are playing within their communities. Seeing the work Rose is doing with the Collaborative, we are confident we’re doing something right.”

For Rose, a key role the Education Collaborative plays is the mentorship provided to its growing network of universities.  

“The value of willing institutions teaching and learning from one another,  cannot be over-emphasized,” she says. “In many instances, this saves universities resources in not having to reinvent the wheel. Just like how mentorship provides an excellent value of growth for us as individuals, it’s the same for institutions, whether in the classrooms as lecturers or even in the communities as change-makers.”

Nurturing the next generation

In late 2020, Rose was a recipient of the prestigious Millennium Excellence award, a long-standing award that celebrates leadership and excellence in Ghana. The initiative has recognized other Ghanaians, including the late Kofi Annan and Ashesi President, Patrick Awuah. Rose’s award was in recognition of her ‘other’ passion – to provide a safe space for children of kayaye (head porters in Ghana markets) through Kaya Childcare, an initiative she started.  

Growing near Madina market, one of the busiest in Accra, Ghana’s capital city, Rose witnessed first-hand the plight of kayaye, many of whom migrated from the Northern parts of Ghana to Accra’s urban centres. 

“The kayaye issue has been long with us, and it’s been tough taking it on,” she says. “However, one of the ways we can help is by making sure their children don’t have to suffer as their mothers.”

So she started Kaya Childcare as an educational center for the children of these mothers while they were toiling in the markets. To date, the center has helped over 200 students get an education in a safe space. 

“Being selected for the Millennium award was in many ways a nod to the work we are doing, especially in a year where we’ve faced our most challenges like most people,” she explained. “It’s also a push to keep things going.”