17.07.2022 Feature Article

In The Footprints Of Great Teachers

In The Footprints  Of Great Teachers
17.07.2022 LISTEN

IN THE past few weeks, I've been forced to do a lot of memory-searching, as a result of preparing to be interviewed by Mr Sam Atta-Mensah, the host of Citi TV's Footprints programme. This is a very interesting programme, which caught my attention as a result of a very informative interview they did with that musical genius of our times, Agya Koo Nimo.

I had a wonderful time when the genial “Sammens” and his crew arrived at my abode and began to put me though the mill. “Sammens” was familiar with many of the stories I told about my career, for he has travelled and worked outside Ghana a lot, and my stories about Nigeria and Liberia, in particular, got him exploring my experiences in depth, whilst laughing his head off on occasion. The man can make an interviewee eat from his hand.

Because we devoted so much time to my exploits in the rest of Africa, I wasn't able to pay as much tribute to the Ghanaians who influenced my growth, through education, as I would have liked to do.

The first one was my Class One teacher, Mr. Kwasi Akwa. When I arrived in the classroom of the Asiakwa Presbyterian Junior School, I was already able to read and write and do sums. This impressed him a lot and he encouraged me to do even better in his class, by all sorts of clever ways.

On one occasion, he set us a difficult examination, and I was the only one who got all the answers right. So he placed me on a desk alone by myself, with no-one sitting beside me, as was the custom.

Need I tell you that this boosted my ego a lot?

But Teacher Akwa thought that that was not enough, and he wrote under the top of my desk: “Danger DD Boy”! He then went round the senior classes, inviting the bright kids he knew here to “come and see”. So, I became the best-know child in Class One.

In order to continue to enjoy Mr Aiwa's high opinion, I exerted myself: when he asked us to learn the multiplication table up to 6, I learnt it up to 12.

So he no longer went round the class asking them to answer questions like “3 times 4 equals? He left ME to do that for him, whilst he did what was “important” (to him — such as marking the register or writing his Teacher's Notes!

He made one mistake, though, which nearly injured my progress in the school. In the middle of the year, he decided, as an experiment, to promote me to Class Two. I was pleased at first, but on reaching Class Two, I found that the teacher there did not have the slightest interest in me. Maybe his approval hadn't been sought before I was sent to him! I couldn't know, of course, as I didn't, of course, attend teachers' meetings, at which such “experiments” must presumably have been discussed before being put into effect.

Anyway, this teacher didn't bother to teach me anything specially targeted at bringing me up to date with the class. He did not find out what I had been taught and what was completely new to me.

For instance, we hadn't been taught “fractions” in Class One, but he didn't teach me about it, and asked me the same questions as he asked those to whom he'd already taught the subject. I was very unhappy when I was continually ushered into areas of learning with which I could not cope, and in the end, I had to be sent back to Class One.

I enjoyed the familiarity of being on my old stomping ground immensely. But my ego was bruised by the idea, held by almost everyone that I had “failed” to survive in Class Two, despite the “noise” that had been made about me by Teacher Akwa. I was also disconcerted to realise that the Class Two pupils I had joined, did not quite welcome the idea of my joining them before I reached their age group. “Seniority” mattered to them more than welcoming someone into their midst who had a promising future.

I got my revenge at the end of the year: I was promoted to Class Three to rejoin my erstwhile fellow pupils of Class Two. In Class Three, we were all freshly taught our new lessons by the teacher.

And so, when we did our first Terminal Examination, I topped the class. This automatically made me the “Prefect” of the class. Getting my own back on the pupils who had laughed at me when I had been “kicked out” of Class Two was extremely delightful.

The teachers I met in Class Three and Standard One were not remarkable; In fact, I spent most of Standard One on top of an orange tree near our house, where I ate so many oranges, straight from the tree branches, that I almost got permanent diarrhoea!

But in Standard Two, everything changed. Our teacher, Mr. Osei, had come straight out of Akropong Teacher Training College, and we were his first-ever pupils, just as we had been Mr. Akwa's first pupils in Class One. He too made me Class Prefect, and renamed me “Champion”. In fact, we struck up a mutual admiration relationship that was so close that he walked me to his town, Anyinasin (about six miles from Asiakwa) to “show” me to his mother! I was so much in awe of him that when his mother served us food and I realised that I was to share his plate, I couldn't do it and pretended that I was not hungry. I paid a heavy price for my shyness, for on the way back, my lack of food gave me a monstrous head-ache!



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