Congratulations, Ghana’s President-elect Nana Akufo-Addo.

· At last, everything beautiful in its own good time.

On March 6, 1957, Ghana set the tone for independence in sub-Saharan Africa led by the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972). In the continuum of Ghana’s premier role on the continent, equally historic was the December 2016 political elections that evolved so seamlessly, with the loser gracefully conceding defeat. Soon after the contest, a political cartoon went viral: The sketch depicted a Civics class in Uganda (East Africa), where – to the teacher’s question, “What is democracy?” – various hands went up, with the decisive answer, “Ghana”. For those two feats alone, the nation needs to pat itself on the back, stand taller, and prop itself for the future of economic prosperity which it so clearly deserves and has to pursue relentlessly.

Nana Addo’s victory

This is a most opportune time in Ghana’s history. The tailwinds are in Ghana’s favour. And as William Shakespeare would advise, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.”

There are victories, and there are victories! The 2016 electoral victory of Nana Akufo-Addo as the president-elect is astounding; it resonates impressively beyond the borders of Ghana. Without a single shot fired or a fatal machete brandished in the electoral process, Ghana has made Africa proud once again. The nation continues to be a beacon of democracy on the larger continent, worthy of international collaboration and investments.

The enduring flame of political stability confirms the country as an oasis of peace, to be replicated across the parts of the wider world experiencing political instability and destruction. The spirit, experience and maturity of the man who endeared the people’s mandate so decisively matter. For that reason, Nana Addo must be commended, and wished well with God’s blessings and guidance.

The battle to the top

The former British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), devoted a chapter of his book, Great Contemporaries, to Joseph Chamberlain (1836 – 1914), “the Radical Mayor” of Birmingham. In celebrating the man, Churchill wrote: “The amount of energy wasted by men and women of first class quality in arriving at their true degree, before they begin to play on the world stage, can never be measured. One may say that sixty, perhaps seventy percent of all they have to give is expended on fights which have no other object but to get to their battlefield.”

He added, “but it was not Chamberlain’s fault that he had only arrived at the commanding viewpoints in later life. He had meant to get there all the time, but the road was long, and every foot of it contested.”

That memory resonates with our own Nana Addo, born in 1944, now 72 years old. Like Chamberlain, he, too, had meant to get there all along, and fought several political battles, tooth and nail, angling for the prize, the room at the top. From his education, international exposure, years of activism, fluency in the French language, service to the nation and the sub-region, he’s clearly most prepared to lead Ghana.

The milestone adventures

By design or faith, he had prepared for his political future with sets of adventures which served him as complete careers. With measured steps he advanced and expanded his objectives and they helped to pivot him for the top spot. The milestones speak for themselves:

He co-founded Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co in 1979, where many of Ghana’s outstanding lawyers cut their legal teeth. He used the practice to champion human rights, rule of law, democracy, and equal access of all political parties to the state-owned media. In 1991, he served as the chairman of the organizing committee of the Danquah-Busia Memorial Club which evolved into local organs of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

In 1995, Nana Addo led the “Kume Preko” demonstrations of the Alliance For Change. He was elected three times between 1996 and 2008 as a Member of Parliament, and from 2001 to 2007 appointed as Cabinet Minister, first as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, and then as Minister of Foreign Affairs in president J.A. Kufour’s administration.

In his presidential bids, he lost the NPP primaries to Kufuor, and lost the presidential contests twice; one to John Atta Mills, and then to Mills’ successor John Mahama, both of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). The lessons we take from failures can be the stepping stones to later success; they serve as case studies of persistence and resilience, in the love of God and country.

At Last

There’s a blues song that came out in the 1960s or so titled, “At Last”. It had been sung earlier by the iconic Nat King Cole, but the rendition by Etta James shot her straight up into stardom. The lyrics flowed like this: “At last my love has come along / My lonely days are over / And life is like a song … / I found a dream, that I could speak to / A dream that I can call my own / I found a thrill to press my cheek to / A thrill that I have never known.”

The lyrics happen to be metaphoric: To win a bride – against a competing brigade of suitors, and prepare a sumptuous wedding to knot things up – is one thing: To make the marriage itself work fruitfully thereafter is another matter. In other words, once the state is secured – as this happens to be our case in point – the progress and well-being of the various districts across Ghana are the dominant duties of the new leader.

Will he succeed or will he falter? As Winston Churchill asked about the United States president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), during the Great Depression. He added, “That is not the question we set ourselves, and to prophesy is cheap.” But when, at last, he is in office, Ghana’s new president must prevail. The electorate is counting and courting his accomplishments. When he succeeds, it will be a “win-win” situation for both Ghana and the larger African continent. Amen!

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

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New rules for vice chancellors.

·Reduce the academics, focus on skills to develop Ghana’s natural resources.

A group of graduate students – in their late twenties and early thirties – at a leading traditional public university, invited me recently to speak on Education for 21st Century Skills. After the self-introductions, I asked, “So far, what can you do with the education that you acquired in your undergraduate studies?” The silence, after that simple question, was deafening.

Education for the real world

Actually, what had happened to those robust but disillusioned young people was that having gotten their various first degrees, and having been released into the real world, they realized that there was a gulf between the academic degrees they had received in good faith and the skills demanded by the world of work. They had returned to do a master’s degree with the wishful thought of being employable thereafter. Considering that the unemployed graduates already loomed in the bracket of about 271,000 people at the time, their chances were still slim.

That frustration confirmed that a nation obsessed with the academics was a nation begging to be poor! So what are the education policy wonks doing about all this? And this is where the disappointment hurts. A vice chancellor once said that the role of the universities was not to train the youth for jobs, and that the nation’s concern in that regard was merely a populist agitation. Another said that whether we liked it or not, the traditional universities were academic institutions. With such ambiguous mindsets, how on earth can Ghana rise from the Third World to the First status, when it’s so clear that an environment so saturated with the academics hampered the nation’s economic progress!

It must be asked: Is the nation getting the value for money in the education budget for developing Ghana? Are parents and guardians too getting the expected worth in the education of their wards? If those questions have hitherto been swept under the rug, they must now be resurrected for cleansing in the coming new era.

 Tangible skills in all universities

Converting the polytechnics into technical universities is a good idea, but that alone will not suffice. The traditional universities – harbouring such large numbers of the youth – must especially join the crusade to help their students develop the appropriate skills for a lifetime of useful employment and self-employment for the youth’s upward economic mobility and satisfaction.

Credible value must incite and drive the bigger purpose of realizing the potential richness of this great nation of ours. The talk and listen theoretical culture that passes for education is too much with us. The time has come to exit that passive self-restrictive box. Lecturers and professors need to take the next step, by first updating their own practical skills, and then help the youth to develop the ability to convert the theoretical or academic concepts into tangible skills.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is talked about a lot, but it may have been best defined by the literary artist, Wole Soyinka, that “One has a responsibility to clean up one’s space and make it liveable as far as one’s own resources go.”  The avalanche of young Africans deserting their own countries on hazardous trips to live and work in places where they are not wanted, must give us pause. Are we thinking clearly?

Ghana is the envy of a good many countries that are not as blessed with our God-given natural resources, considering the gold, bauxite, manganese, diamonds, in the minerals department; shea butter, sugar cane, the variety of tropical fruits and nuts, the largest man-made lake for large scale fish farming, rubber plantations for vehicle tyres, large tracks of land for corn and rice production! Each of those items – including the many more not mentioned – are all for the makings of lucrative value-added industries, so why is education not directed there? Must the nation continue to import everything, and be poor, unemployed and indebted?

Education for the African setting

I recall a Daily Graphic report, “Develop educational concepts to suit African setting” (September 2, 2016), in which one Dr Joseph G. Burke of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) from the United States addressed vice chancellors, pro-vice chancellors, deans, directors and heads of departments, registrars, etc in West Africa including Nigeria and Ghana. He was quite honest and courageous in saying that “nobody can give you a specific prescribed solution to solve the challenges that affect your educational system. You must come together and do it yourselves.”

He noted, in Accra, that educational systems would only record meaningful progress if they helped the country to develop its own policies and best practices that would fit its culture.

On a similar note, Harvard Business Review (Oct. 20, 2016) in a report that studied the changes to be made for successful education intoned that “We are appointing, rewarding, and recognizing the wrong [education] leaders.” The review said, “There are leaders who talk a good game, but have no impact; leaders who make everything look great while they are there, but everything falls apart after they leave [and] there is the rarer, far more effective leader, who quietly redesigns the [system] and transforms the community it serves.”

Ghana has no reason to be poor, but we miseducate the youth into thinking that education is all about sitting and listening to theories, and ending up in cushy offices. Why, for instance, have such important subjects as Applied Engineering and Applied Sciences been reduced into “chew and pour” routines, instead of the production of electric meters, water meters, and other gadgets that require the application of science? Even in the health sciences that visibly educate medical doctors and nurses, why are such practitioners not being produced in larger numbers to serve the loads of patients at the public hospitals and clinics?

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

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The author stressing the need for education for the world of work at a Data bank forum

Accra College of Medicine scores a second anniversary.

·Advice from the renowned Prof Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe.

The second matriculation of the Accra College of Medicine (ACM) was emotional and prescient! From the dais, watching the swearing-in of the young men and women braving the challenges of studying modern medicine to add to the noble stock of practicing medical doctors in Ghana, brought me tears of joy. The occasion reminded me of two specific episodes in my childhood.

 Sickness hurts

Living in the same compound house at Amakom, Kumasi – at the dawn of Ghana’s Independence in 1957 – was an old woman who called her dog, “Yareɛ ɛya” [From Twi, “Sickness hurts”]. The residents often hosted relatives from the surrounding villages. Some brought with them an array of agonising diseases and colourful worms: tape worms, round worms, hook worms. Creative local medicines and other concoctions were applied, in vain.

 It was horrifying watching the children, especially, wiggle and scream in pain as the protruding worms in the legs were wound on twigs and dragged out till they snapped; the remaining piece of the worm ejected back into the holes where they had infected. It was gruesome! Needless to say, professional medical attention was either in short supply or discounted. As one may surmise, in that superstitious setting, opportunistic spiritualists, prophets, and mallams filled the void, inciting a blame game of witches and ghostly enemies, and in the process destroying families with insidious gossip.

 Even earlier before then, I remembered playing football in primary class one in Tutuka (in the Obuasi Adansi district) when a boy fell, crashing badly on the ground. In the fall, he must have broken a bone in his arm or twisted it out of joint. He was carried to the mines hospital where anaesthesia was administered on him. He never came around. His name was George. He died a needless death! The mother wailed and wailed: the community joined in her agony!

 Those ghastly memories – and the need for modern medical care – filled my mind at the first matriculation of ACM, and also at the second matriculation (26th November, 2016).

 Prof Tagoe speaks

 In his keynote address, to pass on the baton of his decades of experiences in the medical field, Prof Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe (an old boy of St Augustine’s College, Cape Coast) said, “for some years now medical schools in Ghana have been under a lot of pressure to train more doctors, with the view to improving the doctor to population ratio in the country.  We have come a long way since the days of Dr. Benjamin Quartey-Papafio, the first Ghanaian (or Gold Coaster, if you like) to qualify as a doctor in western medicine in 1886.”

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Prof Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe

Prof Tagoe recalled that “In the early part of the 20th century, doctors were trained in trickles abroad.  From a doctor to population ratio of 1:40,000 in 1923 when the Gold Coast Hospital – now Korle Bu Teaching Hospital – was opened by Governor Guggisberg, the figure has now reached 1:10,000 in 2015 (WHO World Health Statistics, 2015). This is a far cry from the desired 1:5,000.” Prof Tagoe, a respected medical educator with over 30 years of experience, served as Dean, University of Ghana Medical School; and the Provost of the College of Health Sciences.

 Role of technology

Recounting his memories, Prof Tagoe advised, “In our days, it was all chalk board for lectures.  If one was lucky, there may be an epidiascope which helped project diagrams from books, or transparencies also for projection using an overhead projector.  Now you have the Internet, PowerPoint, animation, your ever-present mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter and many Apps, all of which can help you in the learning process, and even the “Anatomage” (the virtual dissection table) while all we had were the slabs and their cadavers.”

 Prof Tagoe recollected that “from our first day in the dissection room and our encounter with those who had offered their bodies for our training, one of our classmates never slept with the lights off throughout medical school. Whether the new technology will help you learn and understand, or will be a distraction, will depend on how you utilise it.”

 Sacrificial discomfort for success

Dr Afua Hesse – a medical practitioner and educator of repute (from Wesley Girls High School, Cape Coast) – serves as the president of ACM co-founded with her husband Dr Adukwei Hesse (from Achimota School, Accra). In advising the fresh students, she said, “You have a great role to play. This demands a clear vision on your part: A sacrificial discomfort for success in a new world of your own making. There will be many temptations especially because of free internet availability and the lure of social media. Resist these temptations and stay focused … Here at the Accra College of Medicine, you will be challenged to move out of your traditional comfort zones into new territories and break new grounds. Your minds will be stretched; your horizons will be broadened; your spirits will be sharpened; your conscience renewed and your hearts set ablaze.”

 Visionary leaders

If Fidel Castro, with Cuba’s scanty natural resources, could inspire the island to educate medical doctors in such large numbers, what stops Ghana? Why must Africa’s leaders leave their nations’ hospitals to seek better medical attention in foreign countries? Why not save such huge costs in foreign exchange to improve the medical facilities at home? Ghana is blessed by the foresight and selflessness of the medical warriors who understand that the great use of life is to spend it wisely for something that will outlast one’s own life. Ayekoo: Accra College of Medicine! Email: info@acm.edu.gh / Website: http://www.acm.edu.gh

 (Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

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The second enrolment at Accra College of Medicine, 2016