Lorant Fellow Abi Ndikum ’20 Teaches Feminism in Ghana

Abby Ndikum ’20 was nominated by members of the Andover community for consideration by the Lorant Fellowship Committee.

As a teacher at Sunrise School in Ghana last summer, Abi Ndikum ’20 had her students spell out “C-o-c-o-n-u-t,” with their arms to get them involved with their learning. Ndikum worked with students in Ghana last summer as part of the Lorant Fellowship for Most Earnest Endeavor. This distinction is awarded annually by the Lorant Fellowship Committee to an Andover student who exhibits “the greatest fire in the belly to succeed,” according to Kassie Archambault ’06, Instructor and Chair in Russian.

Inspired by the book “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ndikum taught her students with the intention of discussing feminism in West Africa. Each class, Ndikum asked the students to take out a dictionary and recite the definition of feminism.

“I would return day after day and see the students run into the classroom as soon as I entered the school compound. When we first started our lesson on ‘We Should All Be Feminists,’ I told them to find a dictionary and look up the definition of feminism: ‘the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men.’ We would recite this definition every day because I believed it was important to understand the real definition of feminism, not the stereotype defined by African culture,” said Ndikum in her talk.

During her presentation, Ndikum shared a video of her students reciting their own definitions of feminism as well. Giselle Jones-Mollod ’22 felt encouraged by what Ndikum’s students had learned about the importance of feminism in modern society.

“What I most remember was the video footage of children at the school with their own definition of feminism and why it’s important. I think she talked so much about how in Ghana and in the culture, feminism is not something that is at the forefront of people’s thoughts and is something that is looked down on in the culture, but to have these children who genuinely have an understanding that they can apply it and they believe in it, that’s what stuck with me,” said Jones-Mollod.

When asked to describe the most memorable part of her trip, Ndikum recounted seeing her students run towards her to walk to their classroom together, and emphasized that her teaching happened alongside her own learning.

“The younger children, they were like my babies…. people that think I had an impact on them, no—they had such a huge impact on me. I didn’t go there to go and ‘save’ the children, no, they’re perfectly fine the way they are. I came to learn from them, and I came for us to learn together,” said Ndikum in an interview with The Phillipian.

According to Archambault, a member of the Lorant Fellowship Committee, Ndikum exemplified the attributes associated with the award.

“[Ndikum], like all of our previous Fellows, really does embody the ideal of ‘earnest endeavor.’ She gives 110 percent into everything she does – her work ethic didn’t end at writing the proposal and accepting the Fellowship, but she went above and beyond in the details of her trip, communicating with the committee and debriefing when she returned. She is a wonderful role model and ambassador for our program,” wrote Archambault in an email to The Phillipian.

As another part of her trip, Ndikum visited the ruins of Amina Castle and Cape Coast Castle, where she learned more about her personal history as a person of African descent. Ndikum shared that the trip allowed her to better understand the complexity of her background.

Ndikum said, “Ghana taught me about my history, the one that lacked a chapter in my History textbook. I traveled to the Cape Coast for Amina Castle and the Cape Coast Castle, locations from which slaves were transported to and fro during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I explored the dungeons that slaves were crowded into, stepped on top of centuries old remains of human waste, and walked through the same door of no return slaves were forced through to ships that would take them away from home forever.”

Ndikum continued, “Because I’m black in America, I’ve been taught to adopt the history of black Americans. Not until I visited Ghana did I fully realize that my history instead pertains to the colonization of West and Central Africa. My awareness of this reality furthered my understanding of the beauty of a complex history.”

According to Ndikum, she has learned to overcome the barriers that separate facets of her identity. This has allowed Ndikum to to create what she believes is her complete story.

“I’ve learned to challenge the internalized doubts that my American and African identities don’t belong because I am my culture, and I contribute to it with my own remarkable narrative,” said Ndikum.

Ndikum’s speech was preceded by a performance from Fusion, Andover’s Afro-Caribbean dance group, of which Ndikum is a co-founder. Fusion’s performance began with the words of Adichie, saying, “Culture does not make people; people make culture.” Building on the centrality of culture in her work, Ndikum shared how this message could apply to Andover’s culture in particular.

“People think we’re defined by the standard society put upon us, the standard culture has put upon us. But they don’t realize that for us to change as a people, we must start changing the traditions that are so toxic to our culture. And I want people to understand that this relates to Andover because we’re on a campus where we often talk about how campus culture is so unhealthy for students… But for us to step back, we must look at our culture and find what’s wrong, and identify it. We must determine what’s wrong and work on ways to fix it,” said Ndikum.