Traditional Ghanaian chief (center) was happy to meet with BYU nursing students as they asked for his permission to perform health screenings.
By Quincey Taylor
Ghana’s government is a unique mix of modern ideals and tribal tradition. They operate under a parliamentary democracy with a president and a separate judiciary branch. However, the constitution also protects the rights of local tribal chiefs, who demonstrate traditional authority and political influence in a changing world.
There are many different tribes in Ghana, each with their own king or chief. Passed down from father to son, or in some cases mother to daughter, this authority makes the ruler a custodian of the land traditionally owned by the tribe. They retain the culture of the tribe and continue with cultural customs.
When our 2019 Ghana section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course came to Ghana and began their work, they were asked to meet with not one of the chiefs like in past years, but three! This honor was appreciated and felt by all who participated, faculty and students alike.
Assistant teaching professor Dr. Michael Thomas said about the special experience, “We were wanting to do health screenings and we wanted to be as culturally respectful as possible, so we had the opportunity to actually ask the chief and get permission.”
One of the chiefs they met (pictured above) had an interesting story. He lived in the U.S. for years and became a professor. He was living a good life when he heard his grandfather in Ghana had passed away. He was informed that he was next in line to become king. He left behind his job as a professor and returned to Ghana to care for his people. His sacrifice and willingness to serve demonstrates the seriousness of this tradition.
BYU nursing students learned some cultural signs of respect, such as waiting to speak until they were spoken to, giving gifts, and always shaking with the right hand.
The chief responded to the group’s requests with dignity and welcoming words. Our students had the privilege to learn more about another culture and connect with others on the opposite side of the world.