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Personal Life and Educational Background
Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang was born in Cape Coast on November 22, 1951, going by the maiden name Jane Sam. She will soon turn 72 years. She is Fante. Professor Opoku-Agyemang attended the Anglican Girls’ Secondary School at Koforidua and Aburi Presby Girls’ School. From 1964 until 1971, she attended the Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast for her secondary schooling. She obtained her B.Ed. (Hons) in English and French from the University of Cape Coast in 1977 before earning her Masters and Doctorate degrees from York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1980 and 1986 respectively. Additionally, she holds a Diploma in Advanced French Studies from the University of Dakar. Professor Opoku-Agyemang is a Christian and Methodist. She has three children: Dr. Maame Adwoa Opoku-Agyemang, a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto, Canada; Dr. Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang, who holds a PhD in English Literature from West Virginia University; and Dr. Kweku Opoku-Agyemang, who also holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, United States. It is interesting to note that all her children graduated from the University of Ghana, Legon, with undergraduate degrees.
Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang is a full professor of literature and a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. She was the country’s first female Vice Chancellor of a state university. She took over on October 1, 2008, and served until 2012. Now, Professor Opoku-Agyemang holds the positions of President of the Forum for African Women Educationalists and Chancellor of the Women’s University in Africa. Since 1986, Professor Opoku-Agyemang has worked and taught at the University of Cape Coast. She has held several academic posts, such as Head of the English Department, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Warden of Adehye Hall, Valco Trust Fund Post-Graduate Hostel, and the Founding Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research. Her tenure as Academic Director of the School for International Training in the History and Cultures of the African Diaspora began in 1997 and lasted for 11 years. She was one of five academics chosen to present papers at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City in March 2007 in honour of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. She was again chosen in October 2009 to represent Ghana on the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Professor Opoku-Agyemang has been a member of UNESCO since 2014 and has additionally served as the organization’s president. She was appointed Chancellor of the Zimbabwe-based Women’s University in Africa on October 26, 2018.
Professor Opoku-Agyemang has served as the head of more than 20 boards and committees, including the Academic Committee of the Ghana Council for Tertiary Education and the Council of the University College of Education, Winneba 1998–2002. She has also served on numerous regional and global boards and committees, including the College of Physicians and Surgeons as an Eminent Citizen, the Africa Initiative in Canada, the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora editorial board, and the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD-Ghana). Professor Opoku-Agyemang is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, University Teachers Association of Ghana, English Studies Association, African Studies Association, African Literature Association, Commonwealth of Learning, among other organizations.
Both Winston-Salem University and the University of the West Indies awarded honorary degrees to Prof. Opoku-Agyemang. Additionally, she has been recognized for her global leadership by the University of South Florida in Tampa. Prof. Opoku-Agyemang has received a Fulbright scholarship twice and is currently a Fellow of the Commonwealth of Learning. She has twice received recognition from Vermont’s School for International Training for Outstanding Performance in Promoting International Education. She was recognized as one of Ghana’s 40 Most Inspirational Female Leaders in 2020 for being an inspiration to women throughout Africa and Ghana. She was also listed as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Africa by Advance Media. Prof. Opoku-Agyemang was ranked among the top 100 reputable Africans in January 2023.
Professor Opoku-Agyemang, the Author
Professor Opoku-Agyemang is a prolific writer. She has written articles that have been presented at conferences and published in academic journals. She has also written various books and chapters on topics like communication skills and issues in the African diaspora, oral literature in Ghana and Africa, and women from Ghana in literature. “Who told the most incredible story?” is a collection of folktales that she published and released in 2015, comprising the following titles: How Dog’s Nose Got Dark, The Spread of Wisdom and Other Stories, The Singing Competition and Other Stories, and Never Spurn Good Advice and Other Stories are only a few examples. She also published the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: Landmarks, Legacies, Expectations and Where There is No Silence: Articulations of Resistance to Enslavement. African Diaspora literary manifestations. A few more titles include The Corpse That Laughed, Kweku Ananse and the Wailing Cane, and Kweku Ananse the Magic Stone.
Professor Opoku-Agyemang is a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). She chaired and moderated with Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, a presidential debate towards the general elections in 2012. In recognition of her contributions to the growth and promotion of high standards of education in Ghana, she received the Officer of the Order of the Volta award for academic distinction in 2011 by President John Evans Atta Mills for Ghana Women of Excellence Award in the Education category. From February 2013 to January 2017, she served as the Minister of Education. She was selected by President John Mahama to fill the position after the National Democratic Congress won the 2012 General Elections. Education, particularly girl child education and women’s empowerment, were two of her main areas of interest. While she was working as the minister of education, she concentrated on putting into place policies covering inclusivity in education in Ghana, giving rise to the Inclusive Education Policy 2015. Additionally, the professor oversaw the conversion of Colleges of Education into tertiary institutions and successfully upgraded polytechnics into technical universities. Furthermore, she led the talks that resulted in the World Bank providing funding for the flagship Secondary Education Improvement Project, which saw the construction of 23 Community Day Senior High Schools and a significant upgrade of secondary school infrastructure. These are only a few of her many significant accomplishments.
Professor Opoku-Agyemang made political history by being the first female running mate of one of Ghana’s main political parties, when she was selected on July 6, 2020 to partner H.E. John Dramani Mahama for the December 2020 Presidential Elections. Women organizations and activists welcomed her nomination as an indication that Ghana’s political scene is committed to advancing gender equality and balance.