Magazine article New African

Life in Ghana in the 1950s: "Imagine Me, at the Age of 13, Being Torn from the Bosom of My Mother and Father, My Brothers and Sisters, My Friends and My Schoolmates, to Go and Tough It in a Town in Which I Was a Complete Stranger." Part One

Magazine article New African

Life in Ghana in the 1950s: "Imagine Me, at the Age of 13, Being Torn from the Bosom of My Mother and Father, My Brothers and Sisters, My Friends and My Schoolmates, to Go and Tough It in a Town in Which I Was a Complete Stranger." Part One

Article excerpt

Isn't it amazing that some of the most important -- and often positive -- turning points in our lives, are created by people who, at the time, we thought were out to cause us harm, and whom we therefore passionately hated as a result?

Like many, I have a headmaster, Master Kwaku Ofori of Asafo Akyem to thank for one of those decisive moments of my life, which, at the time, I thought was disaster writ large. Because of Master Ofori, I had to leave my own town, Asiakwa, and go to a strange town, Kyebi, a whole seven miles away, to complete my elementary education.

Imagine me, at the age of 13, being torn from the bosom of my mother and father, my brothers and sisters, my friends and my schoolmates, to go and tough it in a town in which I was a complete stranger. And in the capital of our state at that; a capital which had the reputation of making heads disappear when the king of our state happened to die. It was a frightening decision to have to make for one so young.

Apart from the psychological problems, there were also practical ones, the chief of which was that I was sometimes taken to "stay with" people my parents knew at Kyebi, and who, they thought, would provide me with boarding and lodging in exchange for my labour.

I soon discovered, to my cost, that with a few very notable exceptions, some of these people regarded me as nothing but an unpaid, glorified servant, though I went back to Asiakwa every Saturday and returned with foodstuffs from my mother's farm to give to them, as part of my upkeep.

Quite often, therefore, I found myself taking French leave from their homes and striking out on my own to rent a room, where I had to cater for myself .

Once, I foolishly tried to "share" rooms with a thief from Asiakwa, called Kwaku T...., who was in another school at Kyebi, State Primary. This fellow stole all the money I brought with me, as well as provisions from my father's shop -- corned beef, sardines, sugar: the lot!

I would change the padlock on my "chop-box" often. No problem for him. He would go and buy the same type of padlock, and in those days, the keys of padlocks of the same make were interchangeable.

Sometimes, he wouldn't even need to buy a new padlock to be able to get at my stuff The padlock was so pliant that good thief that he was, he would merely pry the lock out, take out my stuff and press the lock in again, so I never had any proof that my "chop-box" had been interfered with.

He made my life a misery, but he was much older than me and if I had dared to complain, he would have belted the hell out of me. In the end, I left the house and found myself another room, whose rent I had to find all by myself.

Humble boy indeed

These disasters I "brought upon myself" did not quite please my parents, who had to fork out the rent as well as my school fees, and who blamed me for not being a "humble" boy in the eyes of those "in whose care" I had been left.

Whenever I struck out on my own, I felt the strain in relations all round, and wished I could have got more kindly people to stay with. But I never realised that I was being forcibly taught how to achieve independence and self-sufficiency -- attributes that were to help shape my life years later.

The life lessons apart, I found life at Kyebi Government Senior School both extremely challenging and adventurous.

Now, don't get me wrong: Asiakwa Presbyterian Senior School was as good a school as any of its type. But by Standard Four, I was bored stiff with the place. First place in my class had become the norm for me. …

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