SPPH alumni Andrews Nartey and Marian Orhierhor are among the latest recipients of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. The program aims to support a transformative network of young people and institutions leading inclusive and equitable socio-economic change in Africa. Essential to this work are addressing the systemic barriers in higher education, building innovative solutions, strengthening capacity, and ultimately creating conditions that will enable young people from Africa to access relevant education and fulfilling work. Through the program, Andrews Nartey and Marian Orhierhor are co-researchers for Identities in Transition—From Africa to North America & Europe: Becoming Students, a joint project by UBC and Scotland’s University of Edinburgh. The project, which concluded in November 2022, focused on the complexities experienced by young people from African countries who are transitioning to study in Canada and Scotland such as the African experience and what it means to be Black in North American and European academia.
Andrews Nartey, who finished his Master of Public Health program at SPPH in 2022, says:
“Another piece of the transition story is people here not recognizing our qualifications earned back in our home countries. Many of us feel we have the skills and capacities for different professional jobs, but the mere fact that we are Black and Africans poses a great challenge to navigating the job market due to the wrong notion or misconception that Africans aren’t as excellent. That creates a lot of roadblocks for students when searching for work. We have the competence, but somebody else gets the job because that person doesn’t have an accent. That can be very frustrating.”
For Marian Orhierhor, a 2021 SPPH Master of Public Health alumni, another common issue pertains to the nuances of language and context:
“The language sensitivity. For most of us, we are used to British English where we come from. Coming to North America, there are differences in dialect and intonation. It can be hard to understand accents and what people are saying. There’s also a new context: the meaning behind the words.”
The project outcomes, which are expected to complete by spring 2023, include a “toolkit” for intercultural mentors of students from Africa, 12 study cases, a podcast series, and conference presentations by the researchers, with the hopes of incorporating more inclusive perspectives in effectively mentoring young students from countries in Africa.
Read more about the Identities in Transition project.