“Arise Ghana Youth for your Country”: A Study of Young People’s Learning and Life-making Pathways amid Socio-Ecological Crisis in Ghana
Yaa Oparebea

About the research

Award

NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year

2024

Institution

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Comparative Education
As youth across Sub-Saharan Africa grapple with intensifying crises marked by climate change, socio-ecological degradation, pandemics, and economic and geopolitical disruptions, there is urgent need to reimagine knowledge and learning about socio-ecological conditions, guided by the experiences of youth navigating these rapid changes. This ethnography explores how Ghanaian youth experience and learn about crisis, socio-ecological change, and human-planetary wellbeing as they move across the institutions and learning spaces that make up daily life; and how they situate their needs, responsibilities, and future livelihoods within these understandings. Through six months of community mappings and institutional ethnography and twelve months of extensive interviews, participant-observations, and focus group discussions with focal youth participants, this study examines (1) how core institutions associated with youth education (family, schools, religious institutions, and workplaces) socialize young people about crisis, socio-ecological change, and human-planetary wellbeing; (2) how youth make sense of and respond to these efforts in relation to their daily experiences; and (3) how youth generate knowledges and actions that may offer new hope to their survival and thriving. A study of how youth learn across diverse institutionalized spaces offers a critical, interdisciplinary analysis of knowledge production, teaching, and learning, and new ways of understanding sense-making, experience, and action. The project challenges pervasive colonialist approaches that overdetermine the importance of formal schooling and overlook youth's agency in knowledge generation. It informs how we might imagine radically different and decolonizing educational pathways to support youth in generating alternative, hopeful livelihoods and futures, for themselves and the planet.
About Yaa Oparebea
Yaa Oparebea Ampofo is a PhD candidate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a Planetary Health Scholar at the Global Health Institute and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. As a student of comparative and international education and with a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Yale University, her work sits at the intersection of education decolonization, socio-ecological studies, and sustainable development discourses. Against the backdrop of climate change and environmental degradation across Africa, Yaa Oparebea’s research journey is enhanced by her own hopes and anxieties about our futures as young people. Her dissertation, funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, explores how Ghanaian youth learn about, experience, and make sense of climate change and other socio-ecological disruptions to their routines and livelihoods. This work also examines how different learning frameworks, environments, and pathways attend to human-planetary health and wellbeing, with a focus on examining their capacities to capture the broad public imagination and influence public policy. Her goal is that such research may deepen our understanding of how various crises are shaping and transforming the work of educators, as well as how we create opportunities for new and powerful educational approaches to realizing sustainable human and planetary well-being. Her work speaks to how we might reimagine the educational programs, pedagogies, and policies that support African youth as they situate their needs, responsibilities, and future livelihoods in response to the rapid socio-ecological changes that are reshaping life across the continent and the world.

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