Archive for July, 2014

Prep School Mental

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2014 by kola

When we were growing up we woke up at 4am, did our chores, tuned in to GBC Radio to listen to Everyday English and take notes. Then you headed off to school to answer questions from your English teacher on what you learnt from the program and you know some whipping was guaranteed. If you passed that then you moved on to the next class which was the mental. You closed from school and then went straight home.

Fast forward to kids of today. They’re on whatsapp/BBM at 11pm, wake up at 4am to continue IM chats and mostly communicate in shorthand, shoot sex tape videos, congregate at the mall at weekends with chums and groping gal friends whilst smoking cigarettes openly. They understand street English more than official English.

These two paragraphs with a little emphasis from me was the reflective post of one of the most witty social commentators I know Kofi Obirinkorang and had his friends commenting on the post.

One comment in particular caught my attention and inspired this article:
“I went the mall on one holiday and saw about 2,000 high school kids – all of them sporting skinny jeans, checkered shirts, ankle high trainers, ray ban-ish specs, and fitted hats…shocked I didn’t know it was the current trend….I was like “Damn I’m old”.

With regards to what went wrong a commentator made this point:
“When we were growing up, training us right was the focus of our parents’ lives since we were supposed to be a reflection of who they were as people. Nowadays our wealth and academic laurels plus societal standing have become a reflection of who we are as people instead of our kids so we strive for all these forgetting to train up our kids right hence the decay in their morals.”

This was also in support of the above statement:
“True we got naughty and lazy along the way when growing up but because we had a strong foundation. ..certain values stayed with some of us and once we went past the naughty and lazy stage. .. we excel in so many areas it’s amazing. ..
It made first and second degrees become like a stroll in the park”

There two comments epitomize the responsibility of parents in bringing up their children instead of passing the puck to teachers and we can attest first hand to the calibre and dedication of some teachers of today.

Technology It’s said is partly to blame for this anomaly. As posited in his post the mobile craze has hit the current generation hard.

“..Technology came with all these things we see. The best you watch then was Bop TV and akan drama et al. Now they are watching all these series laced with so much sexual stuff and an open invitation to learn about gay stuff. It is pretty sad. The dynamics changed.”

Okay so picture how I was brought up against the backdrop of all you’ve been reading so far.

Every other day after assembly we marched into class and teacher waited for us to be seated. “Take out your mental exercise books. Start work!”

This is even before he starts writing the 20 questions on the board.
When he was done, he walked back to his desk, picked up his cane and shouted STOP WORK!

We passed the books forward and exchanged it among the rows for marking. You took your book back and then the action began.

With “Class Stand!!” The whole class stood up and teacher started from the top 20/20 sit down. Everybody standing got 2 lashes each.
Then 19/20, 2 more lashes
Then 18/20, 2 more lashes
Then 17/20,2 more lashes
  – All the way to 0/20.
Now imagine if you got low marks every time.

After this the day proper started.

With all this you went home thinking of what was going to happen the next day. How would you not grow up with the ability to think on your feet when it matters most.

In this day, parents will call that child abuse.  Capital punishment doesn’t exist in schools anymore and there were some calls for it to be reinstated in the education system at the recent Tamale Forum. It has gradually become almost impossible to control growing children.

What do we expect with regards to morality in our society when the children of the high profile in the society are the ones having open air sex and recording it (beats my mind why they do that) and then leaking these videos all over social media.

It’s petty high time our generation took it upon ourselves to mentor these young ones, at least those willing to learn, to be better future leaders because the rate at which we’re going is fast going beyond alarming.

Various non governmental organizations (got my own problems with those) and foundations are doing their best such as Ghana Think with its BarCamp, JuniorCamp and other social media forums that delve into such issues and topics. But it’s never enough if we all don’t put our hands on the till.

One person can make a change one person at a time and like I always say,  it begins with YOU!! 


Millennium City

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 22, 2014 by kola

This piece is inspired by three very different incidents that happened to me whilst I was in Accra on various trips.

Firstly was when I took a trotro from circle to lapaz.  The driver was going to charge a fare, and impressed on the mate to charge a fare that was about 15% more than the original fare. His reason was that he was taking a direct route via the N1 to his destination and since that was longer he was gonna charge the passengers for the longer route.

But let’s analyze this. To go via the traditional route meant that he would lose as a commercial driver. This is because there was heavy traffic on that route and a whole lot of stoppages. This would invariably affect his fuel consumption and reduce the number of times he could come back for more passengers.

Inasmuch as the other route was longer it was quicker and more efficient and he could count on getting back for more passengers in the shortest possible time.

So why should the passenger pay for something like that when he wasn’t really in a hurry as much as the driver was.

When I pointed this out to the mate he got offended and abusive. Amidst the insults he said that he hadn’t migrated to Accra to look at the sea but also to learn how to be “tough and hardened”. This I found funny to which I retorted ‘how about those of us who were born in Accra’ (since apparently Accra toughens emigrants) much to his chagrin and the laughter of the other passengers.

And Yes I didn’t pay the extra fare.

The next incident is when I came to Accra to attend a daughter’s engagement and wedding. During the engagement I happened to be with the groom who had to lurk around the venue until he was summoned in and presented to his bride’s family.

We were bored sitting in the car so we decided to find a different place to sit to change the venue add atmosphere so three of us walked into the nearest cosy place we could find and it happened to be a barber’s shop. The doors were open so we just walked in. Nobody was in the shop so we sat down in the chairs and got to becoming comfy.

Apparently the barber (owner of the shop) was lurking around and seeing us enter the shop thought we were clients so he came over and I explained to him the situation and why we found ourselves in his shop. This guy looks me dead in the face and tells me for sitting in his shop it will cost us an amount of money equivalent to 5 people having a haircut fees. 

I keep my cool and I ask him how much it even costs for a haircut for all three of us in his shop at the moment although it was obvious we were already well groomed for an event. He shamelessly names a prize after which I tell him my piece of mind and we walk out of his electricity_less and music_less shop and go back to the boring comfort of the air-conditioned four wheel drive and music of our choice.

The final incident happened when I sat in a taxi and dropped my new android phone with its rubber still on it.  I had collected a new phone to be delivered to its owner up north but with her permission I’ve been told to test the phone to make sure it was working so that it will be in a ready to use condition when it was delivered. The very first day I put the phone on trial is the day I lost it in bizarre circumstances.

I had 4 different phones in my pocket and I hadn’t slept in two days because I had to meet deadlines at work. I was tired when I took the cab and the phone kept slipping out of my pocket so I pushed it back into the depths of my pockets, put my legs up on the seat and went to nap till my destination. I had just been talking on the phone before I dozed off and was expecting a call back in the estimated time it will take to get to my destination.

So when the driver woke me up that we had arrived a few short minutes later I was amazed. He’d apparently taken a short cut and I was happy to get the business I had to do over and done with so I go home to sleep.

So I paid him and got off to check my change. It was whilst I had finished checking my change that I decided to call the party I ya meeting when I reached for the phone that I realized it had fallen into the cab, most likely. Cab driver was barely fifty meters away in the traffic when I realized so I took my other phone to call the phone so he could pick up and I tell him I was behind him to pick up my phone. That’s when it happened.

It was like I was watching a movie. In hindsight I have laughed several times when describing the incident to friends. The phone was ringing (I remember I hadn’t had time to change the loud default annoying ringtone) and I know he’d heard it and seen it. Just then the line went dead and the taxi cab just swerved out of the traffic into the sidewalk and with a blaring of horns sped off.

Mind you it was still in traffic and if I wasn’t so tired I would’ve caught up with him but I was too tired to bother. I actually felt sad for the taxi driver to have sold his integrity for a phone but maybe it’s just me. 

These three incidents characterize what the capital city has become.  Immigrants to the city think that it is a place not to play and be tough to survive. To become tough, one has to shed all sense of humanity and not think of the other person’s convenience or the lack of it.

The taxi driver had heard me talk on the phone with the person I was going to meet and he didn’t mind that by running away with my phone Hollywood style I will not be able to contact whoever I was meeting.

As for the barber, he saw a quick fix to a slow day with no electricity to make a quick buck off these hapless fellows who walked into his shop seeking respite. Lucky us, we had a choice but we were only tired of it.

This is your so called Millennium City riddled with filth and corruption. A city where when the millennium plaque is unveiled, right after the ceremony, a lunatic spreads himself on the tiled plaque right in the middle of the city and takes a nap. 

How iconic!

How else would fraud and robbery not be the height of exploitation in the city when people are trying to live beyond their means to show off. And in the current economic downturn it has become obvious that the biggest crooks and manipulative folks are the cloak and dagger types in expensive suits sitting in air conditioned offices or with pens in their breast pockets.

What happened to our African sense of communalism where we cared for each other. These days even greeting to an elderly person is becoming as extinct as the dinosaurs. How much more inter personal relationships. Relationships are now based on what each party is gonna get from that relationship and pitifully this has even extended to marriages.

With the family being the basic unit in society how do you expect the society to make progress in development. 

This is not about government. Yes we’re having trouble in that department but let’s take care of the smaller issues too. These deal with personal mental revolution and changing our attitudes to some things. Then and only then will we be united in getting our nation to move forward in unity and solidarity.

Like I always say it begins with YOU!

Ghana Must Work!

Shirking Responsibility

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 15, 2014 by kola

So whilst I was in graduate school an incident occurred that set my path to the sort of people we are as Ghanaians. In my university days I was an avid sportsman (and I still am though I have to accept I’m not that young anymore) and played on various sports teams for the university. We played several tournaments and attended several invitational and bilateral games.

It was in preparation of one such tournament, whilst the list of team members was compiled that the incident that is the focal point of this story happened.

Not to sound too pompous but I was quite popular as a sportsman in my university days and the icing on that was that I was a postgraduate student having fun doing sports and a poster boy against the myth that only people who weren’t too smart did well in sports.

So the list of sportsmen for the invitational has to be prepared and presented and when the final list was called it had a student’s name and his course and degree to show he was a student of the university.  That was the beginning of the end. Lo and behold when I checked my name on the list,  at least that was spelt right (how difficult is it to spell Kofi Larbi anyway) but my course had been changed to a Diploma in Drama Studies (not that it’s a bad course).

OMG! How could such a blunder be committed when almost all the officials knew that I was a postgraduate student. At least if you didn’t know my course and you had to speculate put down a masters in some obscure course to be corrected later. Now the story proper starts – who is to blame for such a clerical error?

In the Sports Directorate office of the university is an old woman, Auntie Peace, who worked diligently and tirelessly to type all official documents. She had just transitioned from the old typeset typewriter to a computer. A very affable woman who doesn’t ask too many questions but types out what is put in front of her.

When I stormed into the office to enquire who was responsible for such a blunder at first nobody wanted to own up. From the sports coordinator to the office staff and some coaches present. First I jokingly asked how many of them didn’t know I was a postgraduate student and none of them was ignorant like that. So when I posed the question as to who was responsible for compiling the list and making such a blunder, they were all caught up in it.

To cut a long story short, they all now pointed their fingers and swayed responsibility to Auntie Peace, the typist who only types what you put on her desk and assign her to do.

And then that’s where I flipped.

For the next ten minutes they were compelled and spell bound – all the office staff – to get a lecture from me on responsibility and owning up to our own actions. Oh no! It wasn’t about the blunder that had been committed, that one could always be rectified but it was about the system that has come to stay and become part of our social fabric of passing the buck or finding a scape goat.

In some circles we say some heads must roll and usually it’s the least person sitting in their corner who ends up suffering for the incompetence and inconsistency of the people at the top.

Now do you see any parallels in our governments and government agencies? Do you see any parallels even in your workplace and in your daily life activities?

We easily point fingers are other people for stuff that we should take responsibility for especially as a collective. This is especially true in government and the brand of democracy we practice in Ghana and Africa. We are collectively to blame for the kind of leaders we elect into office and we should in the same way be collectively responsible to bear the consequences. 

When we go astray or make mistakes we should own up to it and be prepared to bear consequences of our actions because we are responsible for it. Ghana needs responsible citizens and responsible governance and if even at a university sports office we’re passing the buck then how much more big government agencies.

At the various learning stages, even right from infancy, the sense of responsibility should be instilled in the children. What do you expect a child to learn when their parents blame the teachers for everything that happens to that child. Is the teacher a parent or hi it their responsibility to raise your child for you? Let’s not get into that one too.

It is about high time we were responsible for our own actions. There is no shame in admitting you were wrong (sometimes there is even a loss of dignity when you’re carelessly irresponsible) and bearing the consequences of your actions. Let’s not go blaming the lower person in rank to us or especially as we often do The Devil because we did it.

Yes! You’re responsible for your own action and you’ve got to own up to it. Change will only come when one person at a time owns up to their responsibility and fulfills it.

Like I always say it begins with YOU!!

Be Responsible!

Relocation Retrospect

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 4, 2014 by kola

The month of May 2014 has been one of the toughest and most terrible in my life. Things have hit an all time low like never before and in every aspect of life there have been challenges.

Interestingly enough the same month has carried some untold blessings that have carried on to at least assuaged the low points and cause some highlights in the month.

Maybe it is because it is the anniversary month of my relocation of Tamale or it’s a general sense of foreboding that overshadows such activities. It could also be that I expected more from my relocation and it has proven to be a blowout.

I had my misgivings about the relocation but thinking all things being equal it was a new environment. The best of all being that I will have my sweetheart by me the whole time. No need to shuttle between cities ten hours apart just to get to snuggle with each other every other month or so.

I am pretty sure too things would have been different if the various factors were aligned together and going according to plan. Heck! These hardships will be none existent in the first place because it is true that money is the lever that pushes activities and it is the same money that acts as the grease.

With cash flow problems, it has become very prudent to be frugal in existence when being a city dweller I was so used to the blatant expenditure of cash for one thing or the other then later purchases or expenditure proved unreliable or unwanted in order of priority.

Truly I find myself looking at things in a different way and valuing more the quality of cash and how much goods and services I can exchange that cash for. My high school economics is seriously at play here now than ever.

After all it is not only me but it is the whole Ghanaian economy that is suffering. Mineral prices are going high, essential commodities cost more and the currency is devaluing faster than a giant cursed by a witch to become a dwarf.

Since it is a general problem I won’t say much about it but as I await my birthday I will find ways of surviving in this terrain and so should you. No need to wait for government policies and initiatives (we all know how that usually ends) but as individuals take the bull by the horns and survive for yourself.

Like I always say it begins with YOU!

Gear Up!