Saturday, 20 October 2012

To a Great and Rare Teacher-Mr. Aidoo

I remember like it was just yesterday when he breezed into the classroom-Class 6S, Morning Star School, Cantonments, Accra. It was the Accra of the 1980s. That young flight-lieutenant who had taken state power by force of arms was in full flight and in control of the Republic of Ghana. Those were really hard times of curfews, excruciating shortage of what was labeled rather ominously and tastelessly ‘essential commodities’ and fabrics for our school uniform(white shirts over khaki shorts). What struck me was his almost Afro-style hair and his Fu-Manchu that snaked into a fairly shaggy but tended beard. Under his lower lip was this collection of hair as well that tended to jut out on an account of his almost impulsive habit( as we came to discover) of pulling at them in anger(he tended to display when rubbed wrongly a fiery temper) or happiness. Mr Aidoo had intelligent very aware eyes and framed by his facial hirsuteness he had the air of an intellectual about him.

Mr. Aidoo taught us for a while in Class 6S and then moved on to Class 7 H(my year held that distinct record). This implied that he prepared us for the crucial Common Entrance Examinations held countrywide to determine the future of youngsters. If you did well on that exam your chances( there was no guarantee given an admission process marked by favouritism and shady backroom dealings which even we as youngsters came to know as “backdoor connection!”) of getting to an elite secondary school were high. Otherwise you made do with the supposedly second and third league schools. The brutality of this pecking order produced a psychological dead weight with its attendant strains and stresses on our young minds.  It was an intense race to the best schools the Republic had on offer and we would discuss this under those Nim trees sitting on those rocks having lunch or snacks. On hindsight I think it was all unnecessary; probably over estimated and hyped. My father Yaw Adjei is probably right: every man or woman is the architect of his or her own destiny. A great secondary school might help but it provides no guarantee and might sometimes even provide a false sense of “everything stitched up without hardwork” with devastating future consequences. I have seen too many of such very sad examples thus far.

 Mr Aidoo recognized this struggle we faced and gave his all. My mathematical skills improved vastly under his feet. He made us think methodically and in an orderly fashion as he walked us through those quantitative puzzles and math problems. He had a sharp tongue when you slipped up unnecessarily and it helped(even though some of my mates balked at it all). Those mathematical skills and tricks he taught us have stayed with me to this day as I write an ode to a true Ghanaian hero. For me this speaks to the question of basic education and the quality and access for the masses of our Republic. For upon the way our very young minds are nurtured very early depends not just the development of this our Republic but crucially her SURVIVAL. That is why I find the debates or rather shouting matches on basic education and socializing and universalizing it desiccating. This is a matter we as society MUST find answers to or forget about our place in the sun on this globe. If we do not have the money we NEED to find it; it is that simple beyond the tardy esotericism, plain disingenuousness and pettily cheap ideological points scoring that has attended it all. On this matter we should not be PARALYSED by analysis but be INSPIRED by it: crossing the river by feeling the stones.

Where would I have been without this gentleman? He had such great facility for the English language and from his vast store of vocabulary some of us feasted to the point of satiation. But more importantly he shared with us what our future was going to look like. He will teach us simple equations and then indicate that as we went forward those same equations will take on a certain sophistication reflective of a higher stage of learning. He shared with us his experiences in his Teacher Training College. He seemed particularly enamored of the motto of Adisadel College: either the best or with the best. It became the unofficial motto as we stomped away to face the final exams. His social consciousness was deep. In a Morning Star School that was itself somewhat cloistered and sniffy he will lay it down as he deemed fit. Some of our school mates were spoilt arrogant pompous brats and he will take them on without batting an eye lid. I loved him for that. I think Mr. Aidoo could have expanded his professional horizons given his formidable mind. This brings me to  opportunities for teachers especially at the basic level. This can occur only through deliberately targeted policy that is alive to this matter. Ghana needs some of her best minds at this level not only in the banks and other corporate enclaves as seems to be the case.     

In a serious country Mr. Aidoo would have his place among the stars for the generations of pupils he moulded. It was under him that a dude like Ransford Brenya was formed. Ransford went to the University of Ghana Medical School and on graduation virtually won every prize on offer. Mr. Aidoo nurtured bankers, lawyers, economists, business people, artists, teachers and other professionals who are making a difference in Ghana and the wider world. Our nation never remembers such greats as it remains beholden to shysters and punks upon whom we shower and waste our resources and veneration. Some of us refuse to go down that wretched road and so I remember you and sincerely. And I am deeply grateful for all the hours you spent teaching in rain or blazing sunshine so I too could become at the very worst a useful thinking citizen. There will be no national flag draping your coffin nor a cortege drawing your remains nor a 22 gun salute nor screaming bill boards with syrupy infantile inscriptions. But the truth is that you were infinitely greater than so many of your country men and women including so many of our past presidents. Sleep well Sir!!!!!!           

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