Thoughts of a Nima Boy: God bless our teachers, they affected our lives

The Institute for Energy Research and Policies (INSTEPR) is calling on government to fix the numerous challenges affecting the basic education sector to alleviate poverty, especially in remote communities.
A female teacher teaching science to a classroom of students at a primary school, Ghana, West Africa, Africa

I remember when I once listened to Citi FM’s Umar Amadu Sanda Amadu recount how a teacher basically became a father to him, and moved heaven and earth to ensure he never dropped out of school.  It triggered a gale of thoughts on the teachers that have shaped, developed and directed my life to this stage. Though all are precious and special to me, there are some whose memory I will take with me to the grave.

I begin with the one who really grew my intellectual capabilities at a very tender age. In St. Cecilia’s Basic School in Nima, I met a real teacher.  His name was as eccentric as his intellectual peculiarities. Mr. John Dzahene Tsuglo Anumu Atiogbe – affectionately called ‘tsoolo’ because he taught Ga language.  The man’s eccentricity went beyond his habits to cover his mode of punishment, mode of teaching and mode of handling students.

Under him, we learnt music – outlining its various intricacies. We used a graph sheet to plot a tortoise, the black star in Ghana’s flag and other shapes. We drew the Agama lizard, knowing its parts and how it lives. I can’t forget the hen we learnt about. It was later in Senior High School Biology class that I realised that the lizard and hen were removed from the biology syllables because they were considered above our level then. Our teacher had us learning advanced science, and my intellectual capabilities were as a result sharpened and harnessed.

In Junior High School, a teacher lingers in mind. This teacher was Dennis Nchor and he taught us Social Studies. It was through him that my interest in history was sparked. The Ghana, Mali, Songhai Empires, the Moroccan Invasion, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade are topics whose intricacies I could never forget because of how he treated them with what the Rastas would call TLC (Tender love and care). One thing he also imbued in us was vocabulary. At our young age he made sure we appreciated the importance of words. He brought to us to realise that words are not only “the verbal embodiment of power” but “are the pegs with which ideas are built”.

I attended O’Reilly Senior High School, then in Adabraka, where I studied General Science from 2004 to 2007.  Though a Science student, Miss Sandra Arhinful really whipped up the literature sentiment in me -something I still carry and, if need be, I am ready to die for; to liberate men from the manacles of illiteracy. “Illiteracy is a disease,” as my grand-dad used to say.

One person I can never talk about life in secondary school without mentioning is my form-master from year one to three. He was a Chemistry teacher called Kwabla Kuwornu.
“The man is different in many ways,” as stated by Mr. Ansah, the Physical Instructor and one-time Assistant Headmaster of Odorgonnor Senior High School. Mr. Kuwornu used unique methods to teach us. From his swagger and talk, one was careful not to laugh in his face. In the end one could easily conclude that he taught us English instead of Chemistry.

At the Polytechnic, my academic performance could best be described as ‘dismal and abysmal’.  I got withdrawn for academic non-performance and really had no teacher that stood up for me. I saved the money I made from my National Service allowance, enlisted the help of some friends, and put myself through school again without the knowledge and consent of my parents. Thus began my journey at the University of Professional Studies, Accra.

I met many teachers at the university, but one stood out to me the most. We were in a Business Management class when he entered. What stood out to us was his ‘outlandish dressing’ which one could describe as rivalling that of the late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. We laughed under our breath. However, little did I know that he and I would have a bond. He was the teacher that imbued in me the principle of uniqueness and distinction in my dealings. In the second year, he took me through Entrepreneurship. The man tried to break our traditional thinking pattern by introducing some simple yet different dimension to our lectures.

The man was described by almost everyone as a non-compos mentis (not in one’s right mind). To me however, he may have been the sanest lecturer I ever met. Every student of the class was required to come along with his or her school identity card, an exercise book for the course, the course manual (Advanced Entrepreneurship for Blockheads) and a reading highlighter. The absence of one item meant a student forfeited the class: an offense. As part of class one day, he took us to the British Council for a programme he thought we should be part of. The highlight of my relationship with Mr. Amo Bediako was the presentation in class that required our group to go to the Accra Psychiatric Hospital to find out how the right brain and left brain work in an entrepreneur’s mind. We never saw him again after that semester.

When I studied for my degree in Marketing, I made friends with a lecturer who took a special interest in me. He kept telling me to aim higher and not to lower my standards. Long after my undergraduate studies, I am to this day still in contact with him. Whenever I needed an endorsement or a reference, he was always available. He was my referee when I got a job offer at CFAO Ghana Limited, and a referee for the four schools I applied to for my graduate studies. He has transcended from the role of a teacher to become a guide in my life. To Dr. Majeed Iddrisu of the National Communications Authority I owe a lot. I salute you.

In Tafsiliyya, an Islamic school, I met another teacher who left an impact. He raised the bar for us and in turn raised our standards. He made us realise all the while we only had those around us and not just teachers. He revolutionized our thoughts on seeking knowledge and made us realize that a man could be an institution on his own. To borrow the words of William Arthur Ward, “The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires”. That’s it. He provided us with massive inspiration, and in my speech as valedictorian of my graduating class in 2012 I made sure I mentioned him.

“The last scholar’s life is a chronicle of distinction and dynamism. His regard of our progression is grand, filled with stories of virtue and heroism, various shades of patience and unique show of enthusiasm, the likes of which is seldom found in any other person. He always took a firm stand on continuity when fatigue began to set in. us. Indeed, he is a luminary of our time.

“He had the ability to control a wide intellectual panorama without losing sight of or compassion for the complexity and the intellectually different ones among us. We will never forget a saying of his which epitomises the fact that what we do not know is far greater than us. This has spurred us on and made us warriors with an all-empowering and all-encompassing desire for knowledge. He is Mr. Abu-Bakr Safo Yanki, the man whose impact on us transcended the classroom to other special places. We doff our hats for your resilience in coping with us.”

The role of a teacher can never be quantified. As we celebrate them this week, I leave you with a story recounted by Kwame Nkrumah in a speech he titled The Noble task of Teaching. He said:

“Before I end, I would like to repeat here an old story which perhaps many Honorable Members have heard many times before, but which serves to remind us of the greatness of a teacher. There was once a man who had a very beautiful daughter. He let it be widely known that he would offer his daughter in marriage to the man who could prove beyond doubt that he was the most learned in the world. Professors, Doctors, Scientists, Engineers and Lawyers all rushed from the four corners of the earth and spent much time and energy in displaying their knowledge and greatness before the assembly of judges. When they had all had their say and Judges were trying to assess the winner, a little insignificant man climbed on to the platform and asked if he could be heard. He wanted to say a few words which might help the Judges in their decision.
“These great, mighty, and renowned men, each in his own field, claim to be the most learned man in the world. I just want to ask one question. These men say they are learned, but who taught them?”
There was a mighty roar as the great congregation said in unison: “The teacher!”

“Exactly,” he said. “And I am a teacher.” Nobody could dispute the claim of this little man, and he carried off his bride.

Which teachers of yours do you remember?

God bless all teachers!

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NB: The writer is a Youth-Activist and a Student of Knowledge.

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