Developing courage and presentation skills in the youth

  • A conversation with Dr Joyce Aryee

Courage was famously defined by the American writer and Nobel laureate, Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) as “Grace under pressure”. That definition resonated with Dr Joyce Aryee’s remarks to pupils from Crimson Dawn Junior High School (of Akosombo) when she said, “We learn because we want to get to the knowledge about something; we need to analyse the knowledge; we need to think through the knowledge; we need to apply the knowledge, so if we want to have a changed mind that focuses on what is right we need courage”.

joyce aryee
The gifted Dr Joyce Aryee

Her assertion was most articulate, echoing tones from William Shakespeare: “screw your courage to the sticking-place, / And we’ll not fail.”

Never fear to stand alone

Clearly, one of the most gifted speakers in Ghana – and speaking right off the cuff – she stressed, “Learning is not just the way we have been doing it, and I am sure that after listening to Uncle Anis you recognize now that learning needs to take a different turn, right? Yes, we learn not because we just want to go and regurgitate information, to give back to the teacher everything they gave us; no, that is not learning.”

Relating to pressures from the status quo, family – or peer pressure from friends – to stray off one’s defined course, she alluded to the biblical characters Esther and David, and said, “Never fear to stand alone if you believe you’re in the right.” She continued, “We have to be determined and focused to be in the right path of success. We sense that there is something in us that we need to develop to be able to make a meaningful impact in our generation. In fact, all of us need to recognize that we need to add value to ourselves through the way we get educated. We learn to learn. You have to learn to learn; you know that?”

pentecost convention centre, gomoa fetteh, ghana
Pentecost Convention Centre, Gomoa Fetteh, Ghana

And when better to prepare young people for a brighter future than right from their childhood. And that is why it was so appropriate for the proprietor of Corricrech / Crimson Dawn JHS, Mrs Corrine Sackey, to respond to the need through an Educamp retreat at the Pentecost Convention Centre, Gomoa Fetteh, Central Region, (2nd-5th March, 2018) for her JHS students. The Educamp topics included “Emotional Intelligence for an enhanced self-confidence” and “Adolescent reproductive health”. My two presentations included Presentation Skills as Learning Strategies and Career Planning.

dr. aryee on point
Dr Ayee on point

Presentation secrets

Presentations have become the de facto tool of communication across disciplines and boundaries: It helps when you not only tell your story but show it as well.

In any presentation the key is to adhere to the four criteria defined as follows: 1. The evidence of preparation through knowledge / mastery of subject to be delivered; 2. Body language exuding confidence through poise and proper comportment; 3. Making eye contact with audience so that both speaker and listeners feel each other; and 4. The nature of the delivery must engage the audience’s interests at all times through speaker’s enthusiasm and subtle waves of fun.

Once the criteria were established, the expectations were modeled through demonstrations or guided practices. Then, peer evaluation becomes appropriate through the scoring of group presentations along the following rubric: 4 points for very good; 3 points for good; 2 points for merely satisfactory; and 1 point for poor. It’s important that the pupils themselves own the contents, process, and judgment without undue interference by adults.

Career planning

Some young people come to school with career interests, values, or convictions already in place. And for those who don’t, they need to be apprised of such possibilities. As Richard Branson of the Virgin Atlantic fame put it, “Everyone has something valuable to bring to the table”. And one may add: if you are not at the table, you’re on the menu; that is to say, the world does not wait for people to be ready; and those that choose to stay passive do so at their own peril, to be unduly taken advantage of by others.

Two tweets by Fred Swaniker of African Leadership University come to mind to help raise awareness. He said, “Start young and get lots of practice if you want to be an entrepreneur. Don’t dismiss the ‘small’ projects you do today.” He added: “A moonshot thinking refers to a big, bold audacious goal that is beyond most people’s imagination when it is conceived; it’s what Africa needs.”

Steve Jobs

Know that the job you do for a living is one thing; the work you were born to do is another thing. And that raises the question: What do you want to live for? The question prepares every potential entrepreneur to discern a greater and wider horizon as they begin to think of careers.

As Steve Jobs put it, “You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

My concluding advice to the youth: Be a brand; be the go-to person; be a lifelong learner; select mentors who fit your interests and develop your own unadulterated values.

group picture before departure
Group picture before departure


Voice from afar

  • K.B. Asante’s book revisited

[Introduction: It gets lonely on Mondays these days with the loss of a great mentor and vocal advocate of all that is good for Ghana. I’ve been too accustomed to reading K.B. Asante’s columns on Monday mornings on the editorial page of the Daily Graphic when this column too appears. Now I have to make the emotional adjustments to the fact that the great mentor has finally been called to his village, and we’re now on our own. Today’s column is a revisit of a review (published June 9, 2004) when K.B. Asante’s book, Voice from Afar, first appeared.]

vfa kb asante

The influences

Familiar strands run through Edmund Burke, George Bernard Shaw, Aneurin Bevin, George Padmore, and Kwame Nkrumah. Certainly, this intellectual quintet belonged to a class of eloquent activists and inspired writers. They have influenced many including Mr Kwaku Baprui Asante. The snatches of spirit – in the medley of Pan-African, socialist, and democratic undertones – showed in Mr Asante’s intellectual choices.

Indeed, any of the following titles – Observations on the Present State of the Nation (Burke), Too True to be Good (Bernard Shaw), In Place of Fear (Bevin), Birth Pains of Black Nationhood (Padmore), or Class Struggle (Nkrumah) – could be fitting sub-titles for Mr Asante’s book “Voice from Afar: A Ghanaian Experience”.

The book is a 192-page anthology of 52 selected articles published between 1994 and 2002, in Ghana’s Daily Graphic. Sporting a classy cover design by Amarkine Amartefio, the book captures Mr Asante’s sense of duty: that of putting an interpretative handle on Ghana’s fate and fortune for the understanding of his fellow countrymen, and women. The core of his work resonated similar challenges that stimulated the writings of the intellectual quintet in their respective periods.

Kwame Nkrumah

Among other urges, the author shared mostly Nkrumah’s sentiments for Africa’s economic and political freedom, and belief in the African. Said Mr Asante: “I never tire of recalling the faith Kwame Nkrumah had in Ghanaian doctors to build a medical school even though they had no previous experience of teaching in a medical school”. “You can do it,” Nkrumah assured Dr Charlie Easmon.

Mr Asante knew Nkrumah in the flesh. He served as the principal secretary of the African Affairs Secretariat from 1960 – 1966 at the Flagstaff House. A chapter, “Of ‘Hosannas’ and ‘Crucify Him’ ”, contain Mr Asante’s insights to Nkrumah about the peace mission to Hanoi – which spelled Nkrumah’s doom.

Asante’s optimism

Vice is needed if virtue is to stand a chance (so observed Machiavelli in 1513). To Mr Asante’s credit, his weekly columns contain faithful attempts to make the state safe. The pockets of optimism deep in Mr Asante’s veins are strong motivators. Besides, his conscience – elevated to a pedigree status via the esteemed influences – deserved release and use, lest they withered like raisins in the sun.

As the American, Henry David Thoreau, put it, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live”. Mr Asante served as Ghana’s ambassador to Switzerland and Belgium, and high commissioner in London. He was secretary for Trade and Tourism in 1982, and for Education and Culture in 1988; and was involved in many OAU, Ecowas, Unctad, and Unido deliberations. In addition to receiving the Grand Medal (Order of the Volta), he was honoured by the University of Ghana with a doctorate in 1999.

Anis Haffar with K.B. Asante

The topics in the book are wieldy, but timely: the IMF/World Bank, the civil service, land sales, chieftaincy disputes, Ghana’s dwindling forests, population, energy, education, illiteracy, filth, environmental destruction, self-disrespect, intellectual laziness, poverty! He offers impressive illustrative details.

K.B. Asante quotes

Consider these “K. B. Asanteisms”: On work ethic: “Civil servants have learnt to do nothing unless directed because ‘if you do nothing, you do nothing wrong and you survive’ ”. On the IMF/World Bank: “The major economies ‘sin a little when it is in their interest to do so … We should not only listen to our benefactors but also observe what they do … our future lies (in) manufactures and not in more commodities’ ”.

On civic issues: “it is time for serious politics and not political promises that ‘would be bedtime infatuation or a lie’ ”. On self-knowledge: “If you compose your own obituary at 20, you have time to make sense of your life. Think about it”. On discipline: “we Ghanaians do not seem to like the discipline of working within rules, within a well-defined system”.

On scruples: “Fufu was put in the middle of sacks of rubber. Years later beer bottles were broken by some foreign companies to cripple Accra Brewery”. On sharing: “Today we tend to hide the food and wipe our mouth when a visitor approaches while we are eating, because we do not have enough”.

But often his inner self stands aghast at ugly obstacles that block progress and create horror: “We live in a world which does not look into the heart [but prefers] riotous living or yielding to desires and the base instincts … some old habits must die to make life better”.

Purposeful journalism

He has held the field of journalism, and raised the ante for professionalism by supplying fertile mines for mature study. Embodying the answers to a forward-looking society, his concerns and methods require continuity, and resolve. Such outlooks bridge distances between hope and fulfillment: “What is important is to have a purpose in life”, he counsels.

Mr Asante’s ear for the entertaining story and eye for the telltale detail score points. A number of committed readers welcome the no-nonsense, born-again kind of kinship with him. His ideals and ardent analysis are testimonies and give the assurance of a man who knows his own mind, with apologies to none. He stood a tall silhouette against the zone of professional journalism in Ghana.


Is the older generation failing Africa’s youth?

  • A BBC Africa Debate & The Komla Dumor Award 2018

I was pleased to receive the invitation by Kai Wang, a broadcast journalist of the BBC World Series in London, to attend the Komla Dumor Awards and participate in the debate: “Is the older generation failing Africa’s youth?” Quite a bit of prominence was attached to the occasion considering the esteemed presence of Ghana’s former president John A. Kuffour for both the debate and the launching of the Komla Dumor Award 2018 (at the Alisa Hotel, 23rd February, 2018).

Komla Dumor Award 2018

The BBC sought “a rising star of African journalism” for the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award. Now in its fourth year, the award invited journalists from across the continent to apply. Aimed “to uncover and promote fresh talent from Africa”, it was established to honour Komla Dumor, the exceptional Ghanaian broadcaster and presenter for BBC World News, who died suddenly at age 41 in 2014.

Komla Dumor

With the applications closing on 23rd March, 2018, the winner would spend three months at the BBC headquarters in London, gaining skills and experience. The award will be made to an outstanding individual living and working in Africa, who combines strong journalism skills, on-air flair, and an exceptional talent in telling African stories with the ambition and potential to become a star of the future.

The winner will receive a once-in-a-lifetime training with the BBC in London, starting in early September 2018 and running for three months.  Working with teams from across BBC News, the winner will produce an African story for the BBC to be shared across the world.  They will be supported by a BBC mentor and attend courses run by the BBC Academy.

The BBC will pay for the winner’s flights to and from the UK and for their visa, and will also arrange and pay for the winner’s accommodation in London during their placement.  The winner will receive £2,000 per month for the three month placement to cover their living expenses and a one-off payment of £5,000 as a contribution towards loss of salary in their home country.

The Debate

The BBC’s Africa debate came on each month where “distinguished international panels, along with a hundred live audiences” were invited for the debate to discuss issues that matter to Africa and also help inform global perceptions of the continent.

In response to the question from the buoyant presenter, Akwasi Sarpong, my response was clear, explicit, and unambiguous: Yes, the older generation has failed and continue to fail Africa’s youth. Nowhere in my travels far and near do I encounter the depravity of the youth more so than in Africa.

Why on earth do the African youth desert the continent in droves on perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean, and even to be sold in slavery?

It is no secret that until such time that Africa has conscientious leaders across board, committed and skilled government officials, concerned parents, the plight of the African youth may remain in the same deplorable condition.

In a 2017 column titled, “The plight of the Ghanaian child: A plea to the better angels in the nation’s leaders, chiefs, officials and parents”, I noted that “the amount of money, the time and energies wasted on expensive funeral rituals and billboards, with tears showered on the dead but not on the well-being of the nation’s children” is a puzzle indeed. Such cultural practices makes no sense whatsoever. And I pose the question: Is the African child any less important than children in other parts of the world?

The begging older generation

This response sent by a reader needs to be shared: “If I were an African president or minister, I’d be ashamed to go to the Chinese government to ask for aid. The Chinese have more people to feed than the whole African continent. It’s the Chinese who should be coming to ask our help. I’m ashamed to see how little pride we have left in our culture.”

“The same for India. India has more people to feed than the whole African continent. Still our Presidents go there to ask for aid from India to feed their people. Aren’t they ashamed? Don’t they see that they are the laughing stock? India has a population much bigger than the entire African continent, but the country is managed by one Prime Minister and 23 Ministers. Africa, with less population than India, is managed by 54 Presidents, and over 1,080 [One thousand and eighty] ministers who collectively still achieve less than a single Prime Minister in India.

“Africa, with less population then China, has 13,320 [Thirteen thousand three hundred and twenty] members of parliament who are full time employees on the payroll of states with skinny budgets. Are Africans inferior to everyone else, to be reduced to international beggars running here and there asking for help? Am ashamed to see my people being the object of pity to everyone.”

The cow metaphor

Another reader sent the following:You have two cows, you eat them both the same day and you dream that donors or the international community will give you more cows to eat. You go to church and hope for the miracle cattle. You fast 40 days and 40 nights without eating or drinking so that the cows will fall from heaven. At last you die in extreme poverty.”


Promoting a reading culture in Ghana

  • A key to the information age

reading things
From left: Justice Essiel, Eric Appiah, the writer, Theophilus Kwei

Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963) wrote: “Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.” Warren Buffett must have taken the above advice not only literally but strategically. He was once asked, “How do you get your ideas?” He answered, “I just read. I read all day.”

From his reading habits, Buffett found ways to “magnify himself” and to “multiply the ways” for impressive financial profits, to become one of the richest men on the planet. Asked about Buffett’s reading habits, the Microsoft billionaire, Bill Gates confirmed that Buffett is “a creature of habits … He likes to sit in his office and read and think. There are a few things he’ll do beyond that, but not many.”

GNAPS theme for 2018

It was such an honour when Justice King Essiel, general secretary of the Ghana National Association of Private Schools (GNAPS), asked me to chair the launching of 2018 annual week celebration and speak to the theme “Promoting a reading culture: A key to the information age”, at the British Council 22nd February, 2018.

In justifying the theme, Mr Eric Appiah, the president of GNAPS, said, “The government of Ghana continues to take practical steps to remove barriers that impede access, equity and quality; however, it is increasingly becoming necessary to visit one of the most important outcomes of education, which is reading with critical thinking which our language policy seeks to address.”

He was concerned that “Although we are in an era where search engines such as Google, Kindle, to mention a few, provide unlimited information about anything and everything … we can hardly count schools in our country which allow student access to the internet … We cannot afford to keep our children in ignorance whiles we live in a world where knowledge abounds.”

One District, One E-Library project

Mr Appiah suggested the need to develop a national reading programme at the basic school level to augment the USAID reading project to make it mandatory to read particular books of significance. He said, “Another point worth considering is the establishment of E-Libraries in the 216 districts in Ghana” sited in places that are accessible to all learners of all reading levels. The GNAPS president proposed that government makes it one of its flagship projects, namely, One District, One E-Library Project.

Mr Theophilus Kwei, the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of GNAPS was concerned that all schools across the country focus on delivering the best for the Ghanaian child through teachers’ training and innovation especially in this era of digitalisation.

Reading for pleasure

In my presentation, I noted one of the most rewarding courses I ever taught in the United States – in the 1980s – titled simply, “Reading”. In the guidelines for instruction, the philosophy behind the course run like this:

The ability of students to use “reading process skills effectively is essential to educational achievement in all subject areas. It is important for the development of individual talents and interests as well as for participation in a society which relies on the printed word as a prime means of communication. Equal educational opportunity is only attainable when students have been provided with a level of reading skills instruction commensurate with the demands placed upon all in the content classes.”

In other words, the success or achievement in every single subject studied depended on one’s ability to read and understand what one read. That course was to change my life in the sense that as a teacher of Reading, I had to model the interest in reading myself every Reading period. I invested in books. The challenge turned out to be a bonanza for me where I chose a reading list every week, a reading list of interest to me personally. And the same with each student, as they too chose their own reading lists – according to their abilities and interests – for the week, reading through the hour every period.

The 5 Ws to check understanding

Though supporting reading for pleasure and not for examinations, I introduced a simple way to have students share their interests by speaking to their choices and selections occasionally. Firstly, they ran a reading log by simply filling in a template in a notebook with: Number #, Date, Title, Author, Page Begin, Page End. Secondly, for a Closure Activity for reflective purposes, they ran another log responding to the following five “W” prompts as necessary or as applicable:

Who: persons, people; When: time, setting; What: objects, things, meaning; Why: reason, intent, purpose; Where: place, setting. Responses to those prompts set the tone for talking points and clear thinking when occasionally we engaged in conversations about the books we had each read.

Simple but effective structure allows students to think, formulate their understanding of content, and reflect on their reading with as much precision as possible, and allowing them to become critical thinkers. That process also allows follow up questions such as: What book, topic, theme, or author will you like to consider reading next? Once hooked intellectually to what is meaningful and purposeful, children become life long learners. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, and it’s every discerning adult’s responsibility to support the nation’s children and youth to excel.


African Leadership University offers 100 scholarships

· In honour of the great Madiba, Nelson Mandela


Were he still alive Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 years this July 2018. To celebrate his centenary, Fred Swaniker, the founder of the African leadership group, confirmed that the African Leadership University (ALU) had partnered with the Graça Machel Trust and the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS) to launch the Mandela Centennial Scholarship Programme, a landmark scholarship that will celebrate the 100th birthday of one of the greatest African leaders of the last century.

100 outstanding young Africans

The announcement noted that “President Mandela firmly believed in the transformative power of education and its ability to bring dignity, self-actualization, and prosperity to Africans. Throughout his presidency and after, he dedicated much of his efforts to ensure that children from all walks of life had equal access to education, regardless of their economic background.”

ALU Rwanda
50% of  the scholarship will go to women 

The objective of the Mandela Centennial Scholars Programme is to honor President Mandela’s legacy and continue the important work he began in education by identifying 100 outstanding young Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend ALU. These students – selected as future role models – will benefit from a scholarship offering bold opportunities for leadership development.

Four leadership lessons from Nelson Mandela

Swaniker cited four powerful lessons from how Nelson Mandela led the Apartheid struggle. He said, One, “It only takes a few great leaders to change the world. While Nelson Mandela was certainly not the only hero of the Apartheid era, he was part of a very small group of people—O.R. Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Steve Biko, Helen Suzman and others—who served as the ‘spark’ to bring the entire Apartheid system down. I remember thinking at the time ‘if only Africa could create a few more Nelson Mandelas’. This lesson inspired me to start the African Leadership Academy & African Leadership University almost 2 decades later.”

[In that vein, Swaniker was enthused by the American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead (1901-1978) who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.]

Two, “Leadership requires perseverance: Nelson Mandela showed me that driving real change is long and hard. It requires resilience and perseverance against many obstacles that come in your way. I’ve learned that simply not giving up is one of the most critical ingredients for success as a leader or entrepreneur.”

Three, “The power of forgiveness: Most people would have been angry, bitter, and seeking revenge after 27 years in jail. But Nelson Mandela immediately forgave his white oppressors, believing that retaliation and anger would keep him mentally ‘imprisoned’ by his former oppressors. To be a great leader, you need to learn how to forgive people. You will be surprised at how quickly forgiveness frees your mind to focus on your real purpose.”

Four, “The power of education: Mandela understood that the true wealth of a nation lies in the brains of its people, not in things like mineral resources. As he famously said: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.’ I couldn’t agree more. It’s what inspires me every day to bring innovative, world-class education to Africa through ALA & ALU.”

African Leadership University, Rwanda

The selected scholars will receive a full scholarship to attend African Leadership University in Rwanda from September 2018 onwards. They will also receive a copy of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography: “Long Walk to Freedom” and will be invited for a special leadership seminar with Mama Graca and other great African leaders in Kigali before they start classes this September.

ALU Rwanda Tower
African Leadership University (ALU), Rwanda

The preferred candidates must be courageous, ethical, and innovative young people of university-going age who are also top performers academically. The idea is to make the selection as pan-African as possible and gender balanced, so 50% of the scholarships will go to young women. The application form can be found at:

This is a challenge for Africa’s youth to take the time to learn more about what Nelson Mandela stood for, and see how they can apply his leadership lessons to one’s own life. Now, more than ever, the world needs us to remember what good leadership looks like.


For questions about the Mandela Centennial Scholarship Programme, visit: or Email:


Prohibiting corporal punishment in schools.

· The African child must be loved and cared for, not beaten.

TIS Corporal 2
TIS Amnesty International Club

The invitation by the Tema International School (TIS) Amnesty Club to be the guest speaker and launch their campaign (January 2018) against corporal punishment in schools took my mind back to my own childhood, to a gory incident, which I shared with the audience. I was visiting an aunt in a compound house in Fante New Town, Kumasi, when a woman burst out from her room raging at her maid servant for something the poor girl had done or not done.

In her anger, the woman snatched a frying pan and slammed the side of the kid’s face with it: blood gushed out of the child’s ear. Besides some initial murmurings, people went about their business as if nothing had happened. It was the norm to make children suffer for their offences through any means necessary.

Mindless reasons for child abuse run the gamut from anger to moral outrage, resulting sometimes in the injury to a hapless child from an manic disciplinarian.

The TIS campaign brief          

The TIS campaign brief stated as follows: “As enshrined in Article 28 of the UN Conventions, Discipline in schools should respect children’s dignity. For children to benefit from education schools must employ orderly ways without the use of violence. Therefore, governments must ensure that school administrators review their discipline policies and eliminate any discipline practices involving physical or mental violence, abuse or neglect.”

The brief asserted that “schools should implement proactive policies and efficient monitoring measures that will enable members of the school communities to be self-responsible towards creating [a] friendly, orderly and safe learning environment in order to promote acceptable behaviours and actions.”

The panel speakers included the human rights education and activism coordinator, Amnesty International, Hannah Osei; Dr Wiafe-Akenten Brenya, University of Ghana Department of Psychology; Akua Boateng Duah, child’s advocate, Challenging Heights; and Rosina Adobor, Kpone-Katamanso district director of education, Ghana Education Service.

TIS was represented by Chloe Asiedu, initiator, TIS Amnesty Club; moderato Alistair Kirk; and MC Otuwa Dabanka, president of the club.

Who will throw the first stone?

In a previous column, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” (December 14, 2015), I noted how difficult it was to forgive the absurd reasons I hears when discussing (on radio or TV) the issues of school discipline with grown-ups who should know better than hurt children. The most abusive reason, the one that has become the default mantra or excuse-in-chief, for beating up kids, is the archaic biblical quotation, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Many adult abusers stand ever ready to throw “the first stones” without ever stopping to “remove the mote” from their own eyes, considering society’s own contribution to the overall indiscipline and poverty we see today.

CDN Kumasi
Children’s tennis club, Kumasi, Ashanti region

Throughout history, children have been subjected to domination, murder, abandonment, incarceration, mutilation, beatings, and forced labor – to name some examples from the litany of child maltreatment. Many practices we know today to be brutal and senseless were entirely in keeping with the ethos of the past, but unfortunately some still persist.

Some ideas promoting the abuse of children are stories with deep but primitive religious roots. Two famous examples of the widespread killing of children were those ordained by the pharaoh at the time of the birth of Moses (Old Testament), and by Herod (New Testament) when the birth of Jesus was foretold to him. For goodness sake, if muscular kings themselves couldn’t locate Moses or Jesus, why must children suffer? Children are the softest targets and continue be the victims of misplaced anger.

Another culprit, one King Ahaz, was cited also for barbarous behaviour. He “burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire” for ritual sacrifice [2 Chron. 28:3].  Such hideous unquestioned precepts possibly set the tone for child beatings that have lingered to this day.

Societal hypocrisies

When Jesus resorted to the whip himself, it was not against children; it was against the crooks who had turned the temples of God into “dens of thieves”. Societal hypocrisies are too much with us. In Ghana, for example, were naughty children the felons who put the ghost names on the nation’s payroll, paid out dubious judgement debts, and collected bribes for our learned judges? Children need good sanitation, water, and toilet facilities in the public schools. Such are the basic human necessities which every discerning adult must help to provide in their own communities and beyond!

Creepy interpretations of religions, insidious native superstitions, half-baked literacy, and cold-blooded illiteracy breed some of the spookiest offenders clothed in holier-than-thou pretenses. Silly notions and fallacies are still held and propagated to this day. In parts of Africa, widespread poverty made children an economic liability, and were often abandoned, sold, or mutilated to make them more piteous and effective beggars.

The United Nations’ 3 Ps

Today, in lieu of the abusive, decrepit adage, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”, the United Nations introduced a charter that cut across cultures, nationalities and religions. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) guarantees: 1. Rights of provision (adequate nutrition, health care, education, economic welfare); 2. Rights of protection (from abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation); and 3. Rights of participation (a voice in decisions affecting the child.

The UNCRC places an obligation on countries to provide and protect these rights. Ghana was one of the first nations to have ratified it. It’s now time to practice what was signed to protect the children.

TIS Akorlikope
TIS community service for children, Akorlikope, Volta region


God rewards effort and productive work.

· Lazy habits and sustainable development goals will never mix.

Why do poor African countries continue to pray so much but choose to do so little? There’s the gnawing wish list – perpetuated by tithe hungry prophets – for the good things in life: nice cars, designer clothes, gold jewels, wide screen TVs, mobile phones, and the rest; but why neglect to emphasise the relevant vocations and industries that make those wonderful things possible?

 No such thing as a free miracle

It’s so childish indeed, this business of wanting the good things in life without putting in the thinking and the work that goes into making those wonderful things possible. To crown such infantile attitudes, factories and industries have been bought, dismantled and converted for all night and day prayer vigils, daring God to leave His throne and come down to grow crops, provide transport, remove the trash, clean the gutters, fill our potholes, and then proceed to deliver a strong currency for the nation’s prosperity.

Each morning, like so many others, I am besieged on WhatsApp by numerous incantations, prophesies, decrees and spells like this one: “God will reposition you for breakthroughs, miracles, great and notable achievements … He will vindicate from you every physical and spiritual falsehood. Every decision that shall be taken up by any panel concerning your matter shall end up in your favour. Every unrepentant enemy of your glorious destiny shall be perpetually silenced …” on and on.

Meanwhile, the silent prayer between me and God is very simple: “Dear God, my heavenly father, please give me the strength and guidance to do my very best work.” Finished! The idea is to focus and commit to one’s purpose without fear! I often cite for teachers and students, the American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s admonition that “The fear of fear is fear itself”.

In that regard, I restrain both the young and old as follows: “You need to be afraid if you peddle half-truths and malicious gossip about others: You need to be afraid if you run after other men’s wives: You need to be afraid if you run after other women’s husbands: You need to be afraid if you trade in illicit drugs: You need to be afraid if you burgle other people’s homes. But if you do none of such hideous things, the blessings will tend to come to you naturally without some confidence trickster preaching down your neck for your money.”

Hiding behind the cloak of religiosity

In a column, I noted that a leader’s unflinching grit to look at his people straight in the face and tell them the uncomfortable but necessary truths is the stuff of which greatness is made. That courage reminded me of a conference organised by the Methodist University College (in March, 2017) dubbed: “International Conference on Entrepreneurship, Business and Technology” (ICEBUT). In the opening remarks, President Nana Akufo Addo urged Ghanaians “to desist from hiding behind the cloak of religiosity to indulge in habits that have robbed the state of countless hours of productive time.”

He said, “We arrive at work late and then spend the first hour in prayer; we become clock watchers and leave in the middle of critical work because it is the official closing time. Everything comes to a stop when it rains and we seem to expect the rest of the world also to stop.”

The president charged the leadership of the various religions and unions to lead a campaign to change that awful attitude: “We have no respect for the hours set aside for work. We pray; we eat; we visit during working hours. We spend hours chatting on the telephone. We take a week off for every funeral and then we wonder why we are not competitive.”

God rewards hard work

In 2016, I drove through the Silicon Valley to Palo Alto (California, USA) to visit Facebook and Stanford University. Enter Facebook and you witness the very epitome of “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. You start with the gardeners tending the flowers and lawns, and cleaning doors and windows. You see workmen painting the curb and clearing dust and dead leaves into garbage trucks.

Enter Stanford and the pride of ownership engulfs you heartedly. The commitment, the timeliness, and the diligence with which functions are attended to are so deep that they put shallow prayers to shame. The toilets in a library, for example, were so clean that you could see your face in the polished floors.

Miracles are created by God through the work of ordinary men and women who appreciate their godly responsibilities. Miracles are truly in abundance to any person no matter the prayers or religion. As Mahatma Gandhi put it so wisely: “God has no religion”. Spirituality helps those who are awake to make the world a better place.

The sustainable development goals

There was such a hue and cry about Donald Trump calling African nations “S#@%holes”. That brought to mind the three sides of a coin. One side held that the US President had no right to insult Africans; and that is correct. The second side advocated that it’s time for Africans to call a spade a spade and accept the reality where the youth scrambled in droves to escape poverty to places where they are detested and abused; and that is also true.

The sustainable development goals 

In considering the two premises, the third side, the edge of the coin, invites the critical thinker to think into the future: to believe, unequivocally, that with or without Donald Trump’s insults or reminders, Africa needs to focus and make the seventeen sustainable development goals happen. That is where the continent’s spiritual responsibilities lay, to ease the pain of the people. Amen!