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15 May 2016

I was having a chat with a dear friend of mine yesterday about an order for autographed sets of my books. When I asked her about the names to sign the books to, she mentioned three names, one of which meant “hope” in Twi. She explained that it was her sibling’s name and that they have an Akwapim side of the family. This friend has a Ga surname and so that was a revelation.

I was born and brought up in Kotobabi in Accra, but my parents made sure we were connected back to our hometown and heritage. I took it (from what I heard) that my paternal grandpa and maternal grandparents were Wasa; my paternal grandma, Maame Afua Abakoma also known as Elizabeth Amonoo I knew was Fanti. Her brother, S Appiah Wilson, lived at Agona Swedru and he was the one my dad stayed with for most of his education till he completed Middle School at the Agona Swedru Catholic Middle School. I was told Abakoma’s family hailed from Ajumako. Indeed when Nana Wilson died, we attended his funeral there. That was my heritage as I knew it for many years.

Until about seven years ago when I got to know, from my paternal aunties, that Abakoma’s mum was from Asanti Juaben. So overnight, I realised there was some linkages I needed to update.

Anyone who knows Brong (Bono) Ahafo well would know that there are a lot of people there would bear same surname as mine. I asked my dad once and he wasn’t very sure but said one of his uncles journeyed to Bono to trace that link and never returned.

A few years ago, my big brother told me my maternal grandfather has roots in Nzema.

When I proposed to my girlfriend (my wife now) and as we travelled to Wasa to introduce her to my parents, I thought about how times had changed from when parents went back to their hometowns or selected girls from their towns for their sons when they came of age. I reflected on how now sons and daughters are sent miles away to schools where they interacted with people from all over the world; some of these boys and girls don’t even know the roads that leads from Accra towards their hometowns. I took home a lady whose parents are from Winneba and Saltpond.

With a combination of Wasa, Asanti, Fanti and Nzema, what tribe do my children belong to?

What about those children born to parents of different nationalities and races?

That is why modern day tribalism amuses me. Because many of us don’t even know the full stories of our ancestral and ethnical make-up. Not a few people will tell you, for instance, that the attribute of great height in some Asanti families is imported from further up north. Professor H Kwasi Prempeh likes to remind us that the famed chief cum boycott-hene Nii Kwabena Bonne III was both Osu Alata Mantse and Oyokohene of Techiman. As Prempeh says, Nii Bonne claimed both proudly.

Elections are here with us again and politicians will appeal to tribalistic instincts again. Next time one of them attempts that, ask him or her if he or she is even sure which tribe he can claim.

Above all, ask yourself: which tribe do your children belong to? Are you even sure.

Nsempiisms. Even whilst I shake my head at such absurdity, my mouth has fallen.

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4 May 2016

I attended the Occasional Lecture organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) yesterday,  delivered by Prof Kwesi Yankah (Vice Chancellor of Central University) on the topic “The Three-Year-Four-Year School Pendulum: Towards A Stable Public Policy On Senior High School Education in Ghana”. This lecture had been originally scheduled to be delivered on the platform of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) as the 21st WAEC Endowment Fund Lecture.

However, the lecture was cancelled by WAEC.

WAEC said in an official statement that “…while admitting that the subject falls within the broad themes suggested by the WAEC endowment fund, we are minded to observe that it has the potential of generating political controversy, especially in an election year such as 2016. The council supports the exchange of scholarly ideas and works without any fetters. However, it recognises the tendency to be drawn into a political debate, which it strives to avoid in order to remain professional and not be distracted from executing its core mandate”.

According to Starr FM Online, the statement concluded : “We would therefore advise that your lecture be put on hold and save for another occasion when the season is right”.

Well, GAAS determined that the occasion was right and in the words of the Chairman for the lecture, Justice Prof. S.K.Date-Bah, a Retired Supreme Court Judge, “…the Academy encourages the ventilation of evidence-based views.”

And Prof Yankah did ventilate!

I “understand” why WAEC cancelled this lecture: the trends and facts were frightening and damning! We have really been toying with the education of our children. This oscillating of our educational pendulum must stop. The data presented (from 2009 to 2015, without 2010 as there were no candidates for the WASSCE as both groups were in transition) showed better performance for the groups that did 4-years in terms of passes and failures, versus those that did 3-years. Better-endowed schools are not much disadvantaged by the 3-year system. The affected ones are the rest: the non-elite schools.

We have created a caste educational system.

One of the key recommendations by Prof Kwesi Yankah was for a flexible 3 or 4 year system where the first optional year is used as remedial and preparatory for students coming in from less endowed and socially-disadvantaged JHSs. High calibre students can go straight to the 2nd year of the 4-year SHS system.

During the lecture, a good friend of mine who is a journalist asked me whether there was a link for the data whose pictures I was sharing on Facebook. I told him I was in the hall listening to the lecture live and that those pictures were taken with my phone at the event. After answering him, it hit me that he didn’t know about the lecture and, by extension, his media house didn’t as well and, thus, there was no reporter from his station at the event.

I observed only one reporter who recorded the audio for the lecture. After the lecture, I asked him which station he worked for and whether he would upload it online. He told me he was from Starr FM and that they will play portions on their station. As I write this, Starr FM is discussing the lecture and the topic on their breakfast show.

Apart from a few journalists I know that I saw at the lecture, such as Francis Prince Ankrah (Sankara), who also works with the Academy, Kwame Sefa-Kayi and Emmanuel K. Dogbevi of GhanaBusinessNews.com and Kofi Akpabli, who also lectures at Central University, I didn’t see media activity and interest. Emmanuel and I posted about the lecture and shared pictures, but I still haven’t seen much on Facebook and Twitter about this fine lecture.

I was saddened. Considering both the topic and the history of this lecture, I expected more coverage. I was saddened the more when I reflected on the fact that if it had been a politician doing the lecture, the interest would have been higher. Even for the same topic.

We get what we are interested in. Our leaders know that. Perhaps the media know that as well. And they feed us what we hunger for, whilst the meatier issues go unattended to.

Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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When I started my career, learning to stride the Unicorn in the city that Osagyefo built, I had a Technical Director whose brother still remains the spokesperson of the President who married a Ghanaian and who speaks the language of the country he lashes each day like a native parrot of that nation. He is reputed to have reminded people who asked him to step down that the monarch of that nation was as old as he was and wondered why they were not asking her to relinquish power too.

During my first week, per custom, my Director called me to his office to chat with me and give me some tit-bits for life. One of his key points was that I should stay away from stating ‘On-going’ under timeline or update columns in any minutes of meeting I sent. He indicated that by so doing, I would showing that I wasn’t a serious manager and not keen on delivery. He said the least I could do was to state the extent of delivery per the intended deadline, and to give a tangible update at any given time.

This key advice never left me. It reminded me of a statement by one of my lecturers at UST who said that seeing ‘et cetera’ in an answer or essay by a student made him angry and that indicated a lazy student who didn’t want to exert himself to research or think. He used to blurt out ‘Who is to find out the et cetera – me?’

The no-ongoing stance by Charamba made me wary of promising deadlines I wasn’t sure of. It made me very careful of promises. It helped me remember my promises because it pushed me to make few of them, knowing that I had to track them and deliver. Within the Unicorn, I learnt that efforts meant nothing; only results counted.

It is with this attitude and training that I made it a pastime to track a couple of the promises given by our politicians and our leaders. They have a penchant of pouring out promises like water from burst Ghana Water pipelines, not caring where the water flows to, knowing that no one will follow the gullies or gutters the water creates. If our leaders and officials knew that we would track and measure what they say against actual performance, they would say little and deliver on what they say.

Let me just leave you with an exercise: just go through speeches given over the past year on what was said would be done on housing, roads, schools and the economy. Just take three such stories and find out about performance versus promise. Keep tracking. That could be your civic responsibility.

That would be measuring performance. We require performance monitoring not only in our private spaces. We need same in the public arena. We need that in our politics.

For we cannot improve what we don’t measure. No on-going here, anymore.

Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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In the early 80s, one of our teachers, Mr. Aidoo, used to teach us after school. We held those extra classes in the home of my classmate Paulina Aggrey (née Sackey). I don’t think it was cheap to attend and be part of those lessons. My dad was a driver and my mum a trader. My prep school was a good school but my parents wanted more for their little boy. They invested in my education. One of my dad’s favourite saying was that his children were his buildings.

Parents: the responsibility for your children’s education is not that of the state alone. You have a bigger role.

What plans do you have for your kids’ education? How much thinking time do you invest in that? How often do you chat with fellow parents and those who have done well with planning for theirs, for ideas about how to make yours as well and better? Have you started saving for their secondary and university expenses?

Are they part of your mental and financial budgets?

Do you make time to go through their homework? Do you make time to visit their schools and classrooms during open days or days when parents are allowed to come over to interact with teachers and staff?

Have you thought about and implemented extra curricular activities to augment what they get in school?

Their development will not just happen. It must be planned and the planning is part of your work description as a parent.

Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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Mr Avevor was famous in the neighborhood for his fierce protection of his three daughters. The beauty of his daughters was a popular topic of discussion amongst the young men in the area. It was said that if you as much as stole a glance at his passing Mercedes with an intention of catching a glimpse of any of the Avevor girls, Efo would stop his car, get out and give a warning shot!

Kwabena Afful was a new guy on the block and none of these warnings scared him. He tried to befriend one of the girls and when word reached Efo Avevor, he stormed Kwabena’s house and caused his arrest, accusing Kwabena of attempting to commit a crime against one of his daughters.

At the police station, the duty officer proceeded to take in Efo’s statement and asked him which of his daughters Kwabena had attempted to commit the crime against and specific crime it was.

Efo asked for sometime to go home and find out which of his daughters could be used to accuse Kwabena and which possible crime to accuse him of.

This week, I thought of Efo.

And I thought of how the BNI and the State of Sikaman behave.

Shoot before you aim.

Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

In our factory in Amalaman, which we built from the ground (starting in 2011 and part of it beginning operations in 2013), there was water hydrant line that ran along the main drainage as one accessed the factory from the pedestrian entrance. This pipeline used to make me angry because the contractors couldn’t construct it in a straight manner. It was so crooked that I blurted out once whether the contractor couldn’t get his artisans to use plumblines. My colleague Femi reminded me that this was how straight the artisans could get the pipeline done with the plumbline!

When we were growing up in Kotobabi, our football practice consisted of playing socks-balls on small fields, with the goals marked by two stones of each side, popularly called “small poles”. Most of the playing was focused on dribbling and defending. Someone has theorised that this could be one of the reasons why we have historically produced great midfielders and defenders, rather than strikers. We didn’t practise a lot with proper goalposts and scoring in those standard post dimensions.

Effort is important to the result but the finishing is what makes the effort meaningful. Dribbling is meaningless if it doesn’t result in goals.

In the installation of the packing lines in our factory, I observed the attention to finishing that the European engineers exhibited. With their plumblines in hand, they set the machines and conveyors in place. Similar tools, different results. A clearly different mindset in respect of the significance of finishing.

Today, my mind went to these situations as I reflected on how many of the stories we have heard, read or spoken about haven’t been followed up to logical conclusions. How many of the issues we have in Ghana are left hanging, unattended, unresolved and swept under the conveyor belt bringing the next juicy story. That explains why our problems never go away, why our national sores always fester and why our issues appear familiar, all the time.

We love to partake in the marathon of national building but not necessarily to finish the race. Activity without progress.

We have to look to our finishing.

Nsempiisms. My mouth has fallen.

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Update on Wa School Project

#kokoko

25 March 2016

Kindly find attached update of expenditure as well as donations. Cash at hand is also indicated. Surplus will be held for our next project to be announced soon.

All items delivered to the school. These are: 45 high density student mattresses (plus 45 pillows donated by Ashfoam), 20 wooden desks, 4 wheelchairs and 4 pairs of crutches. A friend has also donated footballs which will be added to the items.

Official handing over is planned for Friday 1 April 2016.

Thanks for all the support.

NAD (for Planning & Implementation Team)

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