Thoughts of a Nima Boy: Students must take up reading seriously


The purpose of this piece is to tell the intellectually-stimulating, powerfully-inspiring and significantly-revealing rendezvous I had with Mr. John N. Tagoe, the then Strategy Manager of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) few years ago.
As a norm, new entrants in any organization are oriented on the structure of the organization. And on this particular day, we were taken round the company by Leonard of the HR department of GCGL as a form of Orientation till we got to the office of Mr. Albert Sam, the Corporate Communications Manager. He gave us pieces of advice and took us through his experiences in life as a Media Practitioner. We then had to move to the office of Mr. John N. Tagoe, a man we were already told will check the efficacy of our skulls by asking us questions.

“What is a must-read story?” He quizzed the journalists among us.

“You read design. Tell me something about the front page of the day’s Daily Graphic.

“What are the four C’s of Marketing?” He asked me?

“What is the thrust of the Mirror Newspaper”? The man then took us beyond our fields of study and started asking questions he felt everyone who passes through the University should know.

Our interaction with the man was intellectually-stimulating because it made us realize how learning can be intensely enjoying and profoundly empowering. Especially when he gave us a very powerful quote from the one-time premier of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, to emphasize the need for us to nourish our brains and kindle our minds for the betterment of our lives.

Winston made this poignant statement in a speech at Harvard University on September 6th, 1943. He said “the empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” The powerfully-inspiring aspect of our interaction was the fact that we learned instantly how a spirited effort, determined spirit and persistent dedication to study can mold a person into a citadel of knowledge which is much needed in this ignorance-frowning world.

Finally, it was significantly-revealing because it manifested the state of the Ghanaian student today. It is painful but must be stated. It is the truth and must be spoken even if the mouth shakes. The truth is that the Ghanaian student now does not read! The Ghanaian student does not cherish books, the nutrients of a fertile brain. The Ghanaian student does not read beyond his notes. Creativity is stifled and innovation almost absent in the Ghanaian student due to the narrow dimensions of the mind of the Ghanaian student.

In his first place winning article in the International Essay Competition organized by the Center for International Private Enterprise (Entrepreneurship and Leadership Category) in 2009, Mahmoud Jajah registered this critical observation;
“Today in Ghana, most young graduates expect the government to employ them and in the absence of government employment, they cannot do anything for themselves ………….. The old concept of “go to school, get good grades, and you will get a good job” is still the order of the day. Students read only their course materials – nothing more – as they have no incentive to excel.” He further stated, “Most young entrepreneurs in Ghana lack the necessary knowledge and expertise to manage their businesses, especially knowing how to finance their endeavors. Whilst there is information available to young people through books or business magazines, they do not seize these learning opportunities since many are trapped in the old linear mindset of education: good grades mean a stable government job. Young people seem to start their business almost by accident without any clue as to how to manage it successfully.”  Powerful!

That is the appalling situation today in Ghana. Sterile arguments, unproductive ventures, adventurous and unabated beach parties, amorous social trips inter alia, are the current fad on our campuses. The most disgusting aspect is how male students expose their bare buttocks with their genitals sometimes showing as a form of ‘jama singing’. No wonder we churn out a lot of graduates yet cannot manage our simple problems. We still do not know how to manage waste in this seemingly accursed country of ours. In-depth study of courses is virtually-non-existent and literacy programmes on our campuses is a thing of the past. The Students’ Week celebrations in our schools is always laden with beach parties almost all of the days of the week, no quiz-contests not to even talk about debate competitions to whip up the spirit of research in students. And we have a whole back-log of graduates who because of the constricted nature of their minds due to lack of extensive reading, cannot do anything for themselves and  do not even have the confidence a graduate is supposed to exhibit. The earlier we start to rewire our minds, the better.

When we always say Nkrumah was ahead of his time, he did not achieve that feat out of the blue or by simply going to school to pass exams. No! Far from that! Nkrumah married books, he cherished them, and he read voraciously and ravenously fed on any literature he came across. This was how he captured what imbued in him the sense of organization which gave him the fillip to liberate Ghana and Africa from the clutches of colonialism.

“My aim was to learn the technique of organization. I knew that when I eventually returned to the Gold Coast I was going to be faced with this problem. I knew that whatever the programme for the solution of the colonial question might be, success would depend upon the organization adopted. I concentrated on finding a formula by which the whole colonial question and the problem of imperialism could be solved. I read Hegel, Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mazzini. The writings of these men did much to influence me in my revolutionary ideas and activities, and Karl Marx and Lenin particularly impressed me as I felt sure that their philosophy was capable of solving these problems.

But I think that of all the literature that I studied, the book that did more than any other to fire my enthusiasm was Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey published in 1923. Garvey, with his philosophy of ‘Africa for the Africans’ and his ‘Back to Africa’ movement did much to inspire the Negroes of America in the 1920’s.”

That was Nkrumah, then an undergraduate. How many of us students can boast of reading anything of such nature? We must begin to revise our notes and pick up extensive reading habit. That is the salvation for this country.

On the morning of 20th July, 1948, Nkrumah spoke without notes for about ten minutes to a first batch of ten students when he founded the first Ghana National College. He told the students: “The African today is conscious of his capabilities. Educational and cultural backwardness is the result of historical conditions.”  He then urged all present and future students, both boys and girls to consider laziness as a crime.

“Think! Study hard! Work with sustained effort. As never before we want thinkers— thinkers of great thoughts. We want doers—doers of great deeds. Of what use is your education if you cannot help your country in her hour of need?

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The writer is the Executive Secretary of Success Book Club

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