SPOTLIGHT ON MOGA
Professor Aba Bentil Andam
There are less than 10 black women nuclear physicists in the whole world – Mfantsiman graduate Professor Elizabeth Aba Bentil Andam (nee Bentil) is one of them.
Professor Bentil Andam did not start her secondary school education knowing she wanted to be a scientist, nor did her financial means at the time suggest her future would include criss-crossing the globe as an award-winning expert. In fact, when young Aba first passed through the gates of Mfantsiman Girls’ Secondary School in September 1962 - part of the third batch of students ever to attend the new institution - she wanted to become a school teacher.
It was her teachers at Mfantsiman, the successive Headmistresses, and the school’s merit system that gave her the confidence to pursue her gift for science. “Getting good results, scooping prizes at Speech Day”, she remembers, “gave me the self-confidence to believe I was on the right track”.
That track would lead her from Mfantsiman to Aburi Girls’ Secondary School where she received her ‘A’ Level certificate - “there was no Sixth Form at that time”, Professor Bentil Andam makes clear, “otherwise I would have stayed at Mfantsiman”. After earning her Bachelors degree at the University of Cape Coast, she went to the UK to pursue her Masters of Science at the University of Birmingham and her Ph.D. at the University of Durham.
In 1981, the now Dr. Bentil Andam accepted a Lecturer position at Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), thus beginning a 27-year tenure. She rose from Lecturer to Head of the Physics Department, and from Dean to Associate Professor - all the while was publishing seminal research papers in internationally acclaimed scientific journals; claiming awards and distinctions from prestigious institutions such as UNESCO’s Chair in Science & Technology for Women in Africa; as well as taking on the responsibilities of a wife and a mother. She retired from KNUST in 2008.
Looking back on her career, Professor Bentil Andam explains her success humbly. “There were several obstacles”, she says, citing limited finances and the prevailing attitudes that did not put a premium on girls’ education when she was young. “I did not have the means to overcome it, but the Lord made a way”.
To today’s Mfantsiman Girls and MOGANs considering a life of science, as well as those still unsure of what their futures hold, Professor Bentil Andam assures, “you can make a good career… lots of money, lots of fame and fortune, lots of travel, lots of international contacts”. She prescribes the simple formula that worked for her: “trust the Lord and work hard” - in other words "Obra nye woara bo"!
by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, MOGA '93, Web-Editor
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