Attempted Prophecies: You’re only as good as those eyes


Chapter 1 – Rewards and punishments

Oh, examinations, what can I say?

To spend months upon months trapped in terms or semesters, learning as the teacher teaches, and finding yourself subsequently given mere days—perhaps a week—to prove what you have learnt, in what English speakers have long since termed ‘examinations’… Indeed, what can we say about this experience?

I know the accompanying image to this article may have just made you think of ‘medical examinations’ when mention of the word examinations was made. But no, in this piece, I want us to ponder over the trial and tribulation that is academic examinations.

But first, pardon this diversion…

Chapter 2excellence is a good feeling

These medical examinations, these visits to the hospital—particularly, to the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC)—even as pathological as they (the visits) tend to be, I must say, they do fill one with hope. At UGMC, one is presented with a synecdoche of a sort—the institution acts as a representation of what this whole country of ours could be. The human resource capital and infrastructural efficiencies of this health institution is reminiscent of this highly advanced world of ours.

The hospital finds itself rubbing shoulders (or on a journey of rubbing shoulders) with the developed nations of this 21st century. Ah! the Ghanaian is capable of creating and running something great. With formidable management, robust systems, this country of ours called Ghana can indeed make something of itself in this highly advanced globalised world of ours. And UGMC is testament to this fact.

Ladies and gentleman, this world-class feel begins right from the entrance gate. The security men stationed there—they take turns; there is one person there at a time—but they are same on one front: the warmth they present to you this person driving or walking to the hospital, vulnerable in your ill-health or fear of ill-health. Sickness is the absolute worst, but this warmth does wonders for the body. And then you get to the OPD block.

There, you meet yet another security personnel—oftentimes younger than those at the main gate—who does not cool down on the warmth, who sometimes even goes so far as to offer to open an already automatic door for you into the reception area. Now you are at the reception. There, you meet, among others, this particular dimpled young lady (I forget her name. For the purpose of this article, let her distinctive dimples be her name)… That lady, I wonder what drug she is on. To be able to remain perpetually welcoming, soothing, respectful—maintaining one’s composure day in, day out, this superpower, where does she get it from?

And oh, the doctors and nurses! Without permission, I am going to name names, for what use is there for permission when the purpose of naming is praise for good? Dr. Eric Hans Wilson, Dr. Twum, Dr. Quarshie, Dr. Daniel [I forget his surname], and nurses like Ms. Dzifa, Mr. Asare, etc., all of the Dentistry department are extreme delights. They are professionalism, expertise, and empathy personified. Dr. Peter Fynn, the hospital’s pharmacists, etc. are testaments to the heights reachable in civility and world-class service.

In this column we have discussed extensively topics like public/private partnerships, intersectoral partnerships, and university/industry collaborations and how these are indispensable engines of growth for nations. UGMC, an institution forged from a partnership between the Government of Ghana (Ministry of Health) and the University of Ghana, and having a mandate as, not only a health institution, but a research institution has, I daresay, checked out majority of the right boxes in the to-do list of national growth.

This flourishing institution whose management team comprises a mix of public and private sector players is a true testament to the power of PPPs in driving national agenda. This thriving institution erected by one political party and presently under the administration of yet another political party is a testament to how crucial a bipartisan and non-partisan governance approach is to national growth. [It’s a shame that the citizen had to fight to see to the above-mentioned happening. But that’s all behind us now. Let’s proceed in our praise…].

At UGMC, the world’s natural order is reflected—the female and male contribute equitably to build something. There are female doctors and male doctors; male nurses and female nurses; female security personnel and male security personnel, this duality is extended all the way up to the majestic janitorial wing.

Attention and praise are due its management—its CEO, Dr. Darius Kofi Osei and the various representatives and experts from the Ministry of Health, Finance, the private sector, civil society, its board, its Chair, the media, the citizenry, and the various stakeholders whose contributions (direct and indirect) have contributed to the success of this institution—pre and post establishment.

Indeed, the Ghanaian deserves great things too—and the Ghanaian is capable of creating these great things. [This sentence is a nonsensical and redundant one, but you and I know that we have so often lived our national lives in the spectrum of mediocrity and the horrible, making this reinforcement necessary].

So yes, there are great things happening at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC).

But in the mix of it all, there is Joyce.

Joyce says she also works at UGMC. In a nation of endemic unemployment, Joyce has been blessed enough to find herself in full employment. Let no human be without the means of feeding themselves, but if ever there was an argument for non-employment, Joyce would be one of the first names to come to mind. While her colleagues—all the way from the janitorial services, the security services, to medical practitioners—are churning out a level of service befitting of sane humans, Joyce, a medical officer, chooses to rather spawn bile and filth. Joyce works at the Women & Children wing of the hospital, but dear Lord, we pray Joyce never gets the opportunity of touching a child.

In this majestic hospital instituted with the aim of helping cure and manage all sorts of ailments, key among them, chronic diseases like cancer, Joyce chooses to be cancer herself. Joyce ought not to be employed, she ought to be denied the means of purchasing a day’s meal, so that in hunger, she learns some humility, but there she is, in a purposeful institution, doing what cancer does best, slowly but surely squeezing its life away.

We’ve got to take cancers seriously

We have a problem. As a nation, we have this big problem. And it is that we allow cancers to fester. Just like our attitudes towards medical examinations, we prefer to close our eyes to the problem; oftentimes, we prefer not to know the problem at all, hoping that by not knowing, the problem magically seizes to exist. But the human experience teaches us that most often the exact opposite happens when we close our eyes to issues. These problems, they bloom. They grow. The neglect, it feeds these problems to the point of obesity. Tiny tumours mature into full-fledged malignant tumours to the point where it begins to feel like there is nothing that can possibly be done to save the situation—to the point where all that seems ahead is death.

And as a society that tends to be our attitudes towards weeds like Joyce. In organisations, businesses, societies, etc. these tumours are left unchecked, little to no punitive measures enforced against them. For lack of effective supervision and management systems, people like Joyce are able to thrive freely and famously. And we all know how loud ‘bad’ tends to be.

When such people are left to fester in organisations, it gets to a point where all the institution begins to be known for is just their kind—the Joyce kind. Bad experiences stick out like a sore thumb in our minds, so yes, the patient begins to forget the heavenly delight that is Dr. Wilson, Dr. Quarshie, Dr. Fynn, Dr. Daniel; nurses like the amazing Ms. Dzifa, Mr. Asare, the delightful Dimpled Receptionist, etc., and all that is noticed is the fiendish Joyce of the Women & Children wing. It’s a shame.

For an entire institution, filled with numerous amazing people doing amazing work, to be known for just its few horrible nuts—nuts like Joyce… That is a real shame.

And when this happens, two different set of realities kick in:

  1. The great people, frustrated with this perception of badness begin to don this role of badness. It is painful when one’s good work goes unnoticed—it is even more so, when one’s good work receives condemnations. This is enough to render most good people discouraged from the good path and encouraged unto the bad path.
  2. The great people, people like the doctors, nurses, receptionist, security personnel etc. mentioned, begin to exit this horrible ecosystem. If an institution will be known for just the bad alone, the good worker would want no part in it. Sometimes these people begin to get frustrated not only with these institutions alone, but the country as a whole and make their exiting more absolute.

In these two different sets of realities, there are no winners—not these brilliant workers, not the patient, not the general public, but only Joyce. In this world where the horrible prevail, it is only Joyce who wins. To be foul at one’s core; and to be able to spew this vileness to the world around you, so much so that goodness cannot exist in the same space with one… Indeed, it is only Joyce (together with her kind) who wins.

Revisiting chapter 1

Oh, examinations, what can I say? Trust me, I know the accompanying image to this article made you think of ‘medical examinations’ when mention of the word examinations was made. But no, for this brief moment, I want us to ponder over the trial and tribulation that is academic examinations—particularly its infamous sub-segment called ‘apor.’

The learning experience, for me, is quite the fulfilling one. I know we humans tend to differ on how well we digest knowledge, or our preferred modes of digesting knowledge. That being the case, we tend to have different sentiments and experiences when it comes to the traditional mode of imbibing knowledge as often offered by the educational system. But at the end of the day, we can all agree that to know something, to be in possession of knowledge and insights into something, and to consequently be good at something, it really is a superpower. It is a mighty great feeling.

But how do you know that you know if never presented with a test—an opportunity to showcase what you know? What is the use of learning if never given the opportunity to demonstrate one’s knowledge—be it theoretically, in our human interactions, or practically—putting to good use that which one knows? So then, testing knowledge, that is a good thing too, right?

It safe to say then, brothers and sisters, that it is indeed good to know, and good also to be presented with the opportunity of showing what one knows. What we are driving at is that both the education and the examination are good. But what happens when there is truth in the former, but fraud in the latter?

An Examination into Apor

In a perfect world, there would have been little to no shame presenting to the examiner that which we have managed to learn. In a level playing field, many of us would willingly submit our knowledge, whichever level it has managed to reach during the course of the term, semester, or academic year(s) to the examiner without giving any recourse to ‘fraud’. But when one finds themselves in an academic ecosystem—an unlevel playing field—where apor runs rampant, where one’s mates interspersed across the country are able to gain access to questions pre-exam, what use is there to presenting oneself as they are—their knowledge as it is—to the examiner? What use is truth to the student at this stage of temporal reckoning called academic examination? This worldly reckoning, the successful completion of which offers such students either an admission or refusal into the top schools, an event that causes a ripple effect helping propel them unto a better future… In an academic world where apor runs rampant, a student who denies themselves a peek into these questions pre-examinations is very likely to deny themselves an academic peak—they are very likely to find themselves at the bottom of the academic ladder; and if care is not taken, the societal ladder.

Really, I ask, what use is uprightness to the student in an apor-densed world? I remember one particular science teacher of mine, some years back, posing this question to our class and posing himself as answer to it all: “On the day of our entrance exam, while my mates were flooding to take a look at these questions and pouring through textbooks for answers, I desisted. Many of them are doctors now; I am a senior secondary school teacher—and I couldn’t be more proud!” Poor man expected an applause from us, these students of whom he was immensely proud to stand before, teaching… Poor man expected an affirmation from us—these imperfect people in an imperfect system that praised only the end, giving no recourse to the means… We, we could only stare at him in disbelief—disappointment, in fact. Looking back, I’m disappointed by my disappointment. But that’s beside the point…

All this talk of students and examinations bring to mind the rich person and the church and society in which they find themselves. But more on that later.

An examination into society

I have always loved the learning process—to be able to seek and acquire knowledge, knowledge that sharpens brains and skills, one that culminates in future gainful returns, that is really a fulfilling endeavour. But what happens when one finds themselves in a system where they are easily robbed of this fulfilment, this seat at the table, merely because others deigned to employ fraudulent means of beating the examiner—the system?

I have always loved the working process—to put one’s talents, brains, and skills to use, and receive monetary rewards for it, so that one may undertake the act of living in this highly capitalistic world… It really is a fulfilling endeavour. But fulfilments are waned when we find our colleague humans, citizens, applying themselves first and foremost to thievery, and making enormous wealth, one that does not only put them ahead financially in this capitalistic world, but ahead also in prestige—in our countries, our societies, our churches, and families.

In a world where foulness runs rampant, in the system where corruption runs rampant, the honest and decent man and woman tend to find themselves at the bottom of the societal ladder. The end, but not the means is praised, the thief held in high esteem for their supposed wealth; not slighted for their misconduct of thievery. That is no way to build a prosperous society.

In a country where wrong is not only ignored but glorified, true national greatness is never achieved. Such institution, society, nation, it never progresses, it only retrogresses. Why? Because when good is ignored and bad recognised and heavily rewarded, the good people, in want of this same recognition and rewards, find themselves with the irresistible offer of transforming to join the bad. And we have all head what the ‘few’ bad nuts do to the groundnut soup, try preparing a soup with ‘all’ bad nuts.

A society that wants to succeed must first and foremost consistently render itself an infertile soil for the festering of all that is wrong. Otherwise, all that is left are fertile soil for the degenerative bad to flourish famously.

The next chapter

In the end, this article isn’t really about the UGMC, nor the BECE and the likes of it, nor Cecilia Dapaah and co.; it’s really about everything. I guess… [By the way, it’s been a while since we had these conversations of ours! And I don’t know whose fault it is—yours or mine. Let’s put that behind us; how have you been?!]


Leave a Reply