Thoughts of a Nima Boy: Celebrating the Zongo youth…telling the Zongo story

Thoughts of a Nima Boy: Celebrating the Zongo youth

Ibrahim – a Global citizen, Policy analyst and Arctic advocate – gives us an interesting comparison of his dad with President Akufo-Addo. Not to take the wind out of his sails, take a read.

“President Akufo-Addo is just 2 years younger than my father. My dad put himself through school at the age of 19 – getting house tutelage from his Christian Zongo childhood friend Victor Boye – until he passed an entrance exam to class 5 and then move on to complete his middle school. My dad was one of only 3 from the whole of Nima-441 ‘Muslim students’ in school during the 1960s.

A Zongo boy who was already a ‘master’ in tailoring would later become a school prefect at New Era Middle School around Korle Lagoon. He tells me how he often shaved his beard and moustache in order to conceal what we will call in modern times the ‘grandfather of the class’.

In all these, he had tenacity, resolve and an unwavering faith in education.

My dad had three challenges after middle school. Pressure from home, as he was seen as
spending too much time on his books to the neglect of bringing income home through his tailoring; and the fear that school might convert him into Christianity. The third was the fact that despite his passing from form 4, he could not enrol into the nursing school he wanted because of corruption and the ‘who you know’ syndrome. Here you had an enthusiastic young man who wanted to make a difference, but he could not do so because of his environment and bad faith from corrupt individuals.

Meanwhile, his contemporary President Akufo-Addo (and other big men as kids) was chauffeured to school while my dad walked to the Korle Lagoon area. Akufo-Addo was flown to London to take his A-Levels and later became a lawyer, while my dad had to find his way to Libya to seek ‘greener pastures’ and an Islamic Education.

Can anyone mention to me – so I can get ‘Ashamed’ – any 75-year-old Zongo man they know of as a Lawyer Doctor, Architect or Nurse or whatever profession you can think of? Of course, there were tailors, as my dad was one of them; there were masons doing patch-work, but what impact did they have on their community and their children. They did their best to provide food for their families, and the majority of them sought greener pastures in Libya, Kuwait, Algeria and Saudi Arabia.

My father loves education. He would later realise the importance of his ‘little education’ when he found himself in Libya struggling for the betterment of his family. He got a job with Total in Libya, and with both Arabic and English got a job as a messenger when his other colleagues were doing menial jobs. He blended well with the expats, who could interact with him in English without stress while at the same time getting the meaning of things from Arabic to English (we’ll continue this story another time).

Now, Ibrahim – a boy with this background – started school in Nima-441, a slum of despair. He moved to Accra High School and then to the University of Ghana. From there, he worked as a Salesman with FedEx and then moved to Norway. He’s now a Research fellow at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway. A remarkable feat – a tour de force, as the French would say. Is it not fair and valid for us to celebrate Ibrahim? I personally believe we need to celebrate him. Nkrumah says “Those who would judge us merely by the heights we have achieved would do well to remember the depths from which we started”. Solid.

And my grandfather Chinua Achebe added that “The lizard that jumps from the high Iroko tree to the ground says it will praise itself if no one else does”.  I therefore wholeheartedly support the initiative of the Change for Zongo Youth to bring to the fore many of Ibrahim’s kind from the Zongo – who are making impacts in their communities across Ghana by trumpeting their activities and achievements to the world.

The situation of Zongo communities in Ghana has been dire since Ghana’s independence. These are communities which have poor showings in terms of education, infrastructural development and the friendly environment needed for the growth of responsible citizens. And this has culminated in many of the youth taking up all sorts of iniquity and crime. However, from these same communities there are young men and women who believe it should not be so. They believe education is the passport to a better future. They believe education is a way to a meaningful life and a wonderful legacy.

They believe education can change the narrative of their communities and produce a generation that will be – in the words of Barack Obama in his A Promised Land – “generally impressive young men and women who will grow up with the justifiable conviction that they were destined to lead lives of consequence”. They believe this will be the walk that Bob Marley says will spark the millions of children in these communities to follow suit. It will inspire them to be enlightened. An enlightened citizenry, they say, is an empowered citizenry. They believe education coupled with industry and commerce moves the world.

On Saturday 18th December 2021, a historic event will take place at Kotobabi Wembley Park.  The event’ss historicity lies in the fact that the youth-engineered initiative is geared toward preventing youths of Zongos from becoming victims of circumstances like our father we talked about in the opening sentences. Our elders did not do enough to place us on a very good footing in the national development agenda. The youth of Zongos are awake now.  Three organisations have come together to organise the Zongo Youth Day Out.  These organisations are Change for Zongo Youth, Zongo Focus and Zongo Inspiration Team – three organisations that are working assiduously to change the situation in Zongos for the better.

The Day will be characterised by various events, such as Business Exhibition that is meant to expose young Zongo businesses to potential clients and investors. This is done through an open market where various Zongo businesses represent their brands and exhibit their products and services. The event also provides a platform for networking, as well as honouring change-makers among Zongo youth. There will also be a Study Abroad Desk: which will be an extension of the ongoing awareness creation on available opportunities for youth to study abroad in the USA, Canada, Europe and other places in the world. This will be in partnership with the Education USA Centre.

There is going to be a forum that is also an interactive session during the business exhibition, led by a facilitator who will lead the group to deliberate on the theme and possible ways of achieving it. The Day will also be used to honour young change-makers in the Zongo communities, who will be celebrated and presented with citations for their efforts and achievements in their various fields of endeavour.  These change-makers will each be tasked with mentoring at least one Zongo boy or girl to reach his or her full potentialities. The climax will be honouring the Zongo Persons of the Year for their diligence and exceptional achievements over the year.

The Zongo story is a one of resilience and community amid overwhelming challenges.
This, however humble, will inspire our people to wake up and work toward securing a reputable status in this country. It should be embraced by all who have Zongo at heart.  The Change for Zongo Youth initiative is not for a specific group of people in the Zongo. It is for all. It is for a people now awakening – rising and understanding that it has been ‘too long in slavery’.

See you on Saturday.

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


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