Celebrating the 350th column to begin the New Year
Happy New Year to all the cherished readers. Good health is what is truly needed to continue this column as the weeks roll by and deadlines have to be met. The last column to end the year 2018, marked the 350th piece, since I started writing for the Daily Graphic from the mid-1990s. So far, out of those articles have evolved three books: One, “LEADERSHIP: Reflections on some movers, shakers and thinkers.” Two, “MFANTSIPIM: The makers of a great school.” And three, “STRATEGIES for Effective Teaching & Learning.” There are others in the pipeline.
The first book was published as a supplementary reading material for Leadership Seminars I taught at Ashesi University (2010 /2011) to usher in the first year students. The second book captured the essence of the people who had led Mfantsipim since it was founded in 1876. It was launched about 2013 (with the support of my form mates – MOBA 66 – at the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence, Accra) to raise money for the school.
With the auditorium filled to capacity at the launch, the support from the Mfantsipim fraternity was amazing. [With new materials, I hope to do a second edition for the cause of a great school on whose hearth we were raised, and on whose mantle thousands of young people still flock to every year for secondary education.] Amen!
The third book (with focus on practical teaching strategies, yet to be launched at an agreeable date) contains selected insights from my years of teaching in a Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) programme in the United States, and teaching both teachers and students here in Ghana.
Kola is small, yet is big!
An Igbo (Nigerian) poem translated by one Lawrence Emeka, titled, “Breaking kola nut”, goes like this: “It is KOLA I bring! / It’s all I can offer! … / KOLA is small / And yet is big!” I used the symbol of the kola to conclude last year’s column, noting that the kola is a powerful symbol of mutual respect and represents the spirit of family and community.
It is quite refreshing to find that some schools use aspects of the materials from the column for their in-service teacher training, and also to enrich the skills of teachers of English. Last year, just as I was about to speak at an education programme at the British Council, Accra, a school head from Tamale (Northern Region) approached me, opened a brief case to show me some columns that he had collected over time and which he used to train the teachers in his community.
The same with another head teacher I met at Wa (Upper West Region) when I visited the area to speak at an event organized by the Ghana National Association of Private Schools (GNAPS). We became friends on the spot as he took me around his school to meet some students and teachers there, including his own son whom he was grooming to take over one day. Such are some of the humbling episodes from this labour of love of meeting weekly deadlines.
There are a few recurring insights from last year which need to be shared one more time:
The sustainable development goals (SDGs)
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 – the head – argued that the US President had no right whatsoever to be insulting. The second side – the tail – advocated that it’s time to call a spade a spade and accept the uncomfortable reality where Africa’s youth are scrambling in droves to escape poverty induced by poor leadership to places where they are detested and abused.
In considering the two premises, the third side of the coin – the edge – invites the critical thinker to think into the future: that is to trust, unequivocally, that with or without Donald Trump’s insults, Africa needs to focus and make the 17 sustainable development goals happen: including Zero hunger, Good health, Quality education, Clean water and sanitation, Affordable and clean energy. That is where the continent’s future lay.
Science education appropriate for each district
Education in a poor country becomes relevant when it is seen adding value to the natural endowment peculiar to the area. How exactly is knowledge power if not acted on to show that power in full bloom? We have to resolve to know each district’s potential and work from there. Once the districts find themselves, they will prosper and lose their misery. A most depressing aspect observed in the various districts is the sight of young people brimming with energy but sitting dejectedly like orphans.
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, but there is surely such a thing as a great parent. Similarly there is such thing as a great teacher. Whenever I’ve visited basic schools to do pre-service class observations to inform the design of an upcoming teacher training my first ports of call are the Kindergarten (KG) One classes.
My premise is simple: If children in KG One can learn to perform ample tasks by and for themselves, what then is the excuse for students in junior high school (JHS) not to follow suit and be exemplary? In the same vein, there’s the need to apply smart instructional strategies across the board – from high schools through universities – to help teachers and students benefit from working smart and not hard. Life is hard as is; why make it any harder?
[The author is a trainer of teachers, a senior lecturer, and a leadership coach.]