I finished my Sixth form education at Ghana National College in June 1993, and came to Accra , the capital city of Ghana , to be with my siblings at Kotobabi. Whilst enjoying the break after a hectic time of exams, I had a request from Amenfiman Secondary School (Amenss), the only secondary school in my holy village of Wasa Akropong, to come and help with vacation classes (tuition) for their ‘O’ Level students who were preparing for their exams the next year. I obliged with pleasure. I have a passion for teaching.
Having taught during the vacation, from August till October, I stayed on and got the opportunity to do my National service at the same school from November 1993 till December 1994, teaching Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Core Science.
When the National service period started, I was joined at the school by new Service personnel – Dadzie (Gabot), Ammah (Sir Sawyerr), Amankattah (Makey), Bessah (Uncle Bee), amongst others. We also had some personnel in Wasa Akropong, who were not in Amenss. Most of these guys had grown up in urban cities and had no experience of rural life. So it was a whole different experience, a cultural shock and adjustment in most cases.
My friends in Amenss and I had a wonderful time, though, in part due to the kindness of my Mum. My mum was operating a local chopbar (local restaurant) in my hometown, that served traditional Ghanaian dishes – fufu, banku, kokonte (botanical name: black calatus!) with light soup and groundnut soup, with choice of mutton, fish and ‘bush meat’ (game). Twice a day, the three service personnel, Gabot, Sawyerr and Makey, and I (sometimes joined by Bessah) would troop to her chopbar, and help ourselves to some food, for free. In the evening, either we went to my parents’ house to eat or food was sent to our lodging. We used to joke that we ate six times a day, because we had both breakfast and lunch in the school and were supplied supper as well!! This wonderful treatment from my mum caused Gabot to make his most famous statement: “Ekurase ye de!”, loosely translated as “Village life is good!” This practice continued daily for almost ten months.
Growing up, I observed my mum extend such kindness to many strangers, even to this day. Her philosophy, when I once queried her about her reasons for doing that, was that if she extended kindness to someone’s child who was domiciled in an alien land, the same courtesy would be extended to her child when the situation is reversed.
I must admit that I have benefitted from this, her crumps of bread thrown onto the waters, favour accruing to me after many days. At work, and living on my own in Accra and schooling abroad in UK, I have had other mothers and fathers looking after me, just as my mum did for someone else’s child.
In the Twi language, we have a proverb: “Ye obi dea yie, na wonso wo die aye yie”, meaning “If you treat someone else’s property well, yours will proper as well”.
I grew up in an environment where the responsibility for bringing up a child was not the sole responsibility of the parents but the entire society, because the child belonged to the community. A child who became an armed robber will not rob only the parents!
This week I read Proverbs 29:21 during my Bible study:
“He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.”(King James Version)
The New King James version translates that “he who pampers his servant from childhood will have him as a son in the end”.
It is a common practice these days to have house helps in our homes, either living with us or on contract. Are we bringing them up delicately? On househelps, my former boss, Auntie Aba Turkson, advises thus: “Apart from treating them as our children, let us also pay them more than the going rate if we can afford it and you will see the difference it makes. I have househelps, who left my home years ago, still visiting and sending me mother’s day gifts and stuff. Remember it is this same househelp who will look after your children when you step out of your home.” Need I add more?
We come into contact daily with people who are not in their home countries or are living away from home. Do we extend kindness to them?
There are instances where step mums and step dads find it difficult to bring up their step children, because they are not their offspring. Can we bring these kids up delicately?
There are lots of young people around looking for mentors and sponsors. You can make time for them and invest in their education and development. Thank God, I have had the opportunity to help a few, and it is so fulfilling.
Hopefully, I can count more than the two sons I now have!