UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 1 | Jan.
UBC English Student Receives Rhodes Scholarship
Its not just about being a bookworm
By Erica Smishek
Yaa-Hemaa Obiri-Yeboah has covered a lot of ground in her
21 years -- and shes just getting started.
Completing her fourth year of an English Honours program
with a Political Science minor, she recently received the
2003 Rhodes Scholarship for British Columbia. She will pursue
graduate studies in English with a concentration in African
studies at Oxford University beginning in October.
It looks like Ill be spending a lot of time in
the library, the articulate and personable student jokes
about her future at Oxford.
As an international institution, there will be a lot
of opportunities. Ill be in a place where I can grow
intellectually and socially, Ill have access to a lot
of people and Ill have the ability to travel.
Obiri-Yeboah came to Canada from Ghana as a refugee at the
age of two when her parents fled a military coup. She now
mentors children in the African-Canadian community and writes
opinion pieces for The Afro News, a paper directed to Vancouvers
I see the African Studies programme as an opportunity
to become more political and eloquent on the subject of African
peoples, Obiri-Yeboah wrote in her essay to the Selection
Committee for the Rhodes Scholarship.
I want to shatter stereotypes placed upon African peoples,
thereby deconstructing the harmful images that have their
roots in the age of colonialism. The voices of African individuals
telling their own stories, defining their own identities and
speaking the truth as they see and live it must be heard.
I want to participate in this process of telling a new story
about Africa and its people.
The Rhodes Scholarships were established in 1902 by English
colonial statesman and businessman Cecil Rhodes. They were
designed to bring outstanding students from across the world
to study at Oxford University, in the interests of promoting
international understanding and public service.
The scholarships require a high level of literacy and scholastic
achievement, success in sports, strong qualities of leadership
and character, and evidence of public service. They provide
for all expenses for travel to, and study at, Oxford University
for two years, with an option for a third year. The current
value of the scholarship is more than $100,000.
They look for normal people, Obiri-Yeboah
says of the Rhodes selection process. Its not
just about being a bookworm but of people doing things in
their community and in the world.
Apart from her academic career, Obiri-Yeboah plays field
hockey, teaches piano and has spent a great deal of time working
in student politics and in writing and speaking on issues
related to human rights and the plight of marginalized peoples.
Eleven Rhodes Scholarships are awarded in Canada each year,
one of which is allocated to British Columbia.