Ghana can leapfrog through strategic infrastructure projects.

· Says Dr Thomas Mensah, Africa’s answer to Albert Einstein.

Every aspect of modern life relies heavily on scientific applications. The pace of technology, for example, has never been as fast as within the past few decades. Scientific globalization allows every serious country to tap into genius wherever it may be, and if that genius happens to emanate from one’s own countryman, the blessing is double breasted indeed.

Users of mobile phones and the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) may not realize it but the applicable technologies rely on early 20th century inventors like Albert Einstein. In the 21st century, inventors of Fiber Optics and Nanotechnology like Ghana’s own scientist, Dr Thomas Mensah, have zoomed in where Einstein left off.

Dr. Mensah
Dr. Thomas O. Mensah

It was an eye opener listening to Dr Mensah explain how Ghana can leapfrog from poverty into the first world through strategic infrastructure project implementation on Citi Fm’s Breakfast Show with the ace broadcast journalist Bernard Avle (Accra, 21st November, 2017).

I had earlier listened to Dr Mensah on Studio 54 where the interviewer began the discussion with the following remarks:

“Well across Africa, huge infrastructure projects are transforming the continent’s landscape and fueling record economic growth. However, many wonder what specific sectors should be prioritized to propel Africa into greater prosperity. Dr. Thomas Mensah is a Ghanaian- American Chemical Engineer, an inventor, an expert on the development of fibre optics and nanotechnology; in fact some of his inventions are in use inside our studio right now.”

Studio 54: Now, I mentioned that some of your inventions are in use, can you briefly explain that?

Dr Mensah: Well, Social Media is a big thing, and as you know, in the 1980’s I was one of the four inventors of fibre optics, and these allowed the internet to explode because now you have the fibre optics being used as under-sea cables to connect Africa to China, Japan, everywhere, so you can call Japan, you can send Facebook pictures to Japan, to China, all over the world because of that technology.

Studio 54: How can technology be applied especially in the sector of transportation in Africa in order to help the continent grow even faster and get even more prosperous?

Dr Mensah: Yes, we are proposing that African countries can leapfrog by implementing serious strategic infrastructure projects, for example, high-speed trains. What you see here (pointing to a diagram) is a proposal to the Ghana government, and actually I had a meeting with the president of Ghana last Friday on this. The idea is to have a bullet train – high-speed train – going from the South – Accra the main capital – through Takoradi, Kumasi, all the way to the border, to Tamale. And instead of taking 4 days to go from the South to the North by trucks or by train, whatever, you can take one-and-a-half hours, so technically speaking you can live in Tamale and work in the south.

Studio 54: So these really fast-moving trains, like they have now built, like in Kenya now, they have one from the port of Mombasa, these can play big roles in creating wealth and helping the countries to grow?

Dr Mensah: This is very very important; currently Morocco has one, Ethiopia has one, and as you mentioned Kenya has one. Now in West Africa, Ghana will be the first … Another proposal we have is to put fibre optics cable along the train racks, and as you go up you can actually branch off into the different rural areas with this – so internet will be everywhere. But most importantly, Vincent, you are going to have these trains traveling at 200 mph, and with the fibre optic cables using the WIFI on the train you can connect to the internet.

Studio 54: So, you are saying there will be a double or triple benefits in terms of the advancement and the spread of technology across the country?

Dr Mensah: Exactly! With this single project, [you] can create factories along the train route that will supply to the train … China has about 40 trains now since I first proposed this in America. America is now building from California now, 2 in California. China built 40 in 10 years: that means they built 4 every year. Which means China, for example, can build this train in less than 3 years, and it will create jobs that are needed. You can train people from High Schools to be mechanics, from Colleges, Universities to be part of this infrastructure development. Strategic infrastructure means that if you manufacture anything in the factories, you just put them on a high-speed rail and already it is in the port to go all over the world. So, this is transformational for any country that develops the technology; you know all the experts in the diaspora, myself, everybody will be eager to go back to their countries: just like Indians that were trained here, and Chinese that were trained here went back home and helped their countries develop.

If these high-speed trains are built some of us will be advisors, some will be back helping the country to maintain these trains. The maintenance and operations alone will really create, in some places, about a million jobs.

[Dr Mensah is a product of Wesley College Practice School, Kumasi; Adisadel College, Cape Coast; and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi. He attended Montpelier University, France; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA]

Right Stuff



Mentoring the youth for “Creative and Critical Thinking”

· KSM at the Accra College of Medicine

 In 2010, I invited Kwaku Sintim-Misa (KSM) to a Leadership Seminar I was teaching at Ashesi University to share his views on how one developed a positive mindset for leadership roles. His insights motivated me to write the article, “Nurturing human capital through critical thinking mindset” (Daily Graphic, November 22, 2010). He said, in Ghana we set the bar so low it is painful as it induces the poverty of mind and spirit. To support that outlook let’s consider this imaginary dialogue between three men arguing about the lack of water in their communities.

The first person begins: “In La Bone, we haven’t had water in three weeks.” The second person reacts: “Ah, you don’t know anything; in Ashaiman, we haven’t had water in three months.” The third person, with pomp and self-assurance, outshouts both: “You guys are so lucky with your weeks and months; you haven’t seen anything yet. In Adenta we haven’t seen water in three years.” In the shout-fest, the person with the loudest mouth and worst case scenario won the argument.

With ignorance, a twisted irony, and a hollow sense of reality elevated into the status of victory, the real loser pounded the first two to recoil in defeat to the behest of all three.

It was an honour to have had KSM again to interact with my Level 100 “Creative and Critical Thinking” class at the Accra College of Medicine at Adjiringanor, Accra. He offered the youth those profound and precious potions of insight that can change the course of one’s life. Why aim for average when it is possible to be first class, and when first class is in demand everywhere every time?

With KSM at the Accra College of Medicine

The following are excerpts from the students’ reflections after the interaction with him.

Set the bar high

The one statement that left me thinking was “The bar has been set so low in Africa, don’t be jubilant when you jump over it.” He pushed us to understand that we shouldn’t be impressed by the low standards of the bar. We’re in society where the worst situation becomes the winner. We shouldn’t settle for average when we can be great. There are too many ordinary people in the world: Dare to be unique! Choose to be different! [Gbagi Omemawa]

Be among the best

“The modern age has so much dynamism but we lack the ability to be critical thinkers”, he lamented. We are blessed with so much in resources but unfortunately for us the bar has been set so low that we think we have achieved a lot yet we have achieved nothing despite all the opportunities availing themselves. “Knowledge, as it is said, is power but I say knowledge is power only when you have the ability to apply it to effect a course,” he relayed. And so with this idea about what knowledge is, he urged our class to strive for extraordinary achievements without any mediocrity. He made us understand that it was very important to build ourselves and be hungry to be among the best. Some of the ways he advised us to adopt was to read widely, research more, practice always, re-evaluate one’s self and have a positive self-talk. [Francis Sanchebe]

Face your fears

Always face your fears. You shouldn’t run away from your fear but rather face it at all costs. You shouldn’t be afraid because someone might laugh at you, or be afraid of how to start something, or what people will say about you. Always have a goal and that goal will help will you conquer your fear in life. It is difficult to face your fear without a goal in life so therefore we ought to have a goal in life in order to face our fears. For you not to fear so much, be prepared for any obstacles on your way and prepare to overcome them. [Emmanuel Botchway]

Apply your knowledge

Knowledge is not power, rather power is the application of knowledge. Being able to apply what you study is the key to attain greater heights. We are in an era where accessing information is very easy so in order for an individual to stand out or become “the go-to-person”, he or she must be able to apply information in an uncommon or unconventional way that will bring about solutions to the world’s problems. Doing research that will challenge your thinking capabilities and going to places where you can draw inspirations are steps you can take now to help you think outside the box. [Yvonne Harley]

“Thoughts of a confused black man”

The presentation of his life’s journey vividly showed how critical thinking in many instances have put him where he is today. From the very beginning, Mr Sintim-Mensah explained how he achieved one particular goal that has truly made him unique in his profession. This is that of becoming the first African to stage an original Off-Broadway play when he produced “Thoughts of a confused black man”. This was made possible through critical thinking whereby, he first identified his goal as making a mark in his profession then critically analyzing it in order to find a defining factor that will make this goal possible. This was the birth of edu-tainment where he used comedic acting performances to explain certain pressing issues in the American community at that time. [Emmanuel Kwashie]


Learning to realize education’s promise

· A practical response to the World Bank’s 2018 Report

The fabric of any meaningful life is woven with the treads of quality learning; for that reason, civilization’s chief purpose is to raise everyone to be the best they could possibly be. In effect, the best measure of education must visibly promote beauty, quality of life, and longevity. It is with such notions that one must appreciate the essence of this World Bank 2018 report.

Also, for any report to help realise education’s promise, it must be handy for the users: the narrative, then, has to shift from mere abstractions to concrete examples, with cause and effect as one reasonable measure for understanding. Quality education is not to be sneezed at: it is really about life and death.

It happened that I had the World Bank report with me when I took an elderly parent to a major regional hospital right here in Ghana. In between the patient being attended to, and waiting for receipts and procedures, I read the report.

The Korean example

In a foreword to the report, the president of the World Bank group, Jim Yong Kim, wrote: “Education and learning raise aspirations, set values, and ultimately enrich lives.” He cited the Republic of Korea where he was born as a good example of how education can play the important roles.

He said, “After the Korean War, the population was largely illiterate and deeply impoverished. [But] Korea understood that education was the best way to pull itself out of economic misery, so it focused on overhauling schools and committed itself to educating every child – and educating them well.”

He continued: “But providing education is not enough. What is important, and what generates a real return on investment, is learning and acquiring skills. This is what truly builds human capital … Schooling without learning is a terrible waste of precious resources and of human capital … this is the case in many countries stuck in low-learning traps.”

The low-learning traps

The efficient practical skills lacking in our educational system was quite evident at the hospital. To begin with, the X’ray machine in a particular unit had broken down – very likely from the lack of periodic maintenance or the skill to repair it. So the operational machine now serving a larger number of patients had become a bottle neck, drawing a long cue of sick people. The X’ray and other files were in a heap of disorder (see picture), and it is anyone guess how any document could be retrieved in a timely manner if ever. So why is the education system not pushing digitized filing and retrieval of documents?

Abandoned broken beds rusting away
Abandoned broken beds rusting away

The toilets lacked water for flushing so the stench paraded the corridors. Buckets, floor mops and brushes were scattered along the floors. On the walls of the buildings water dripped and weeds grew out of them. The lack of proper supervisory skills had resulted in abandoned broken beds, chairs, and desks (See picture). On the payroll, however, there was no doubt that people were paid monthly for the services that were clearly not being provided skillfully.

It is one thing to measure decadence in the abstract; but when that decadence is clearly visible in practical reality – where you see people suffer and die unnecessarily as a result, reports about the lack of quality learning take on the seriousness they deserve. In the abstract, we note that education standards in many sub-Saharan countries keep falling and do not measure up to the level of the more serious countries. Why, for example, is Ghana still stuck in meaningless paper work in this day of digitization?

Hospital files
Hospital files 

The lack of soft attitudinal skills

The lack of comportment, the childish playfulness of the attendants, the noisy cross communications within the corridors, the reckless spitting – all removed traces of the seriousness with which hospitals are identified. Besides the doctors attired in white coats, it was hard to recognize the hospital staff – clerical, technicians, nurses, custodians – from the sick patients or visitors. How does a sick person heal in chaotic environments like these? The education that support organizations to thrive must be seen clearly in action. Even the simplest things can be made difficult out of sheer semi-literacy. It doesn’t matter how potentially rich any country is if they lack the quality learning to take care of the very mundane things they’d still be impoverished. As the report indicated, “Learning shortfalls during the school years eventually show up as weak skills in the workforce.”

Strayed traditional and political leadership

Besides attitude, the lack of quality learning explains why some nations are prosperous and others are poor regardless of the abundant natural resources available to them: the gold, diamonds, oil, bauxite, and the rest. The focus of education must be about attitudinal changes and the ability to get things done locally. Viewed from that perspective of the lack of serious traditional and political support, as the report made clear, “the low level of learning should come as no surprise.” Is it any wonder that the various Africa’s leaders save monies abroad to buy houses there, and to take care of their own medical needs on a rainy day?

Many aspects of the culture must change to make education meaningful to save each nation and its children in visible ways.



How the alumni and PTAs must support the Free SHS

· Examples from Accra Girls Senior High School (AGOSA)

Show me the head of any institution, and I’d show you how that particular organization fared. That note was exemplified during Accra Girls’ Senior High School’s celebration of its 57th Speech and Prize Giving Day (28th October, 2017) under the management of the energetic headmistress Mrs Joyce Acolatse.

The dynamic Headmistress Joyce Acolatse

It was an honour for me to have chaired the event under the theme “Promoting Holistic and Excellent Education for Nation Building”, in the company of Dr. Yaw Adutwum – Deputy Minister of Education, Prof. Akua Kuenyehia – retired Judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Hague, Mrs Awurabena Okrah – Board Chairperson, Hon. Enyonam Baku (Agosa ‘77), and others.

The Agosans

Mrs Acolatse noted that since she assumed office as headmistress in September 2016 Year groups have come in their numbers to discuss and embark on projects to give the school a facelift. The determined ladies that they are, most of these projects have taken off, some completed and others are in various stages of completion. A couple of them have been completed and duly handed over to the school.

In commending this high sense of solidarity by AGOSANS both home and abroad for their tremendous support, she said, “We all realize that, in our attempt to develop the School in these times of dwindling resources, we need to collaborate and synchronize our energies as stakeholders. It is in this direction that I would want to extend a warm invitation to all the year groups to mobilize themselves to support the School.”

The headmistress congratulated Bridget Otiwaa Eduah and Caroline Briandt, class of 2017, for scoring all A1’s in every subject they wrote on the WASSCE.

Celebrant Agosa Projects

The 50 years group, Agosa 1967, undertook and completed a Water Project for the Junior Classroom Block, including the supply of 4 Large Water Tanks and Pumps to pump water from the existing boreholes.

The 40 years group, Agosa 1977, completed indoor public address (PA) system with monitors, and catered a buffet for about 400 guests.

The 30 years group, Agosa 1987, and Agosa UK made a donation of paints for the classroom block (Pink House), and paid for full color newspaper adverts for the Speech Day celebration.

The 20 years group, Agosa 1997, refurbished the Computer Lab and donated 11 system units, 20 wire adaptors, 20 keyboards, 20 mouse, 2 system unit motherboard.

The 10 years group, Agosa 2007, refurbished the Assembly Hall washrooms and the sewage system, and provided water pumps. In 2016, the 1966 and 1996 year groups donated to the school 500 and 200 chairs respectfully.

The PTA’s efforts

The PTA chairman, Mr Emmanuel Thompson, indicated that the PTA had constructed “a modern Canteen for the Students and Teachers at a cost of over One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Ghana Cedis (GhS150,000) which was handed over in July 2017. We have also purchased for the School a Risograph Machine for printing examination papers. It is our vision to expand the Dining Hall and the Assembly Hall and improve security in the School. This will aid in expanded admissions and increase the number on enrollment when the Dormitory under construction is completed and becomes functional.”

Water Project
Water Project

He said, “Currently plans are far advanced to reconstruct the front fence wall of the school to a height of a minimum of 120 inches which is equivalent to the height of 12 blocks work all round. This will go a long way to improve security of the school since on a few occasions there have been intruders over the fence wall to disturb the peace.

“As part of the fence wall a modern Security Post, a visitor’s waiting room, a PTA office, washrooms and an Office for the AGOSA will be provided at the main gate. Going forward the Old Girls are going to take over some of the things we are currently doing for the school so there is the need to give them a place to co-ordinate their affairs to smoothly take over with the introduction of the free SHS.”

The Board, MPs and Puma

The board chairperson, Mrs Okrah (Agosa 1966), noted that, “With the implementation of the Free SHS system, the time has come for the private sector, particularly, our alumni [to] start asking the question: What more can I do for my alma mater … This is the time for Old Girls to stand up and be counted for adding value to what our forebears envisioned [to] make the school environment conducive to effective learning.”

The Hon Jaja, MP for Ayawaso West, helped grade a site after which “Right to Play Ghana”, “Puma” and “Daily Paper” (both of Germany) helped to construct the first ever football pitch to celebrate Puma’s 20th anniversary promoting sports. The MP for Ayawaso East, the Hon Mac Naza, donated paint for the fence wall.

Solar power

A 5KW Grid Tie Solar System was switched on November 1, 2017, by the Mayor of Accra, Hon Mohammed Adjei Sowah. It was a EU/AMA project to help the school reduce the energy bills. The solar system, fixed in the kitchen area, will generate between 20–25 units of electricity daily, with the excess fed into the national grid and credited to the school.



Why I continue to write

Education Matters

· Reflecting on my 305th article in the Daily Graphic

 Time flies! Today’s column marks a score of 305 (Three hundred and five) articles in the Daily Graphic since I started counting from March 11, 1998: that is, a span of twenty glorious years come next year, 2018. To think a good half of Ghana’s present population was not born at the start of this journey! I’m quite grateful to the Almighty God for the health, stamina and the means to provide this service to a country I appreciate and love so much.

The plight of the African child

Why do I continue to write? As this column has shown week after week, year after year, I’m concerned about the plight of the African child and the African youth, including particularly the Ghanaian child and the Ghanaian youth. To think that in this day and age, many public basic…

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