View Full Version : The Generation that Missed it (Part 2)

25th September 2013, 03:08 AM
Dr A. Ofori Quaah

“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.” T.S. Eliot

Nelson Mandela was 76 When he Became President’
Shirley Temple was 6 when she became a movie star on “Bright Eyes’.

Midas touch?
In Greek mythology, King Midas was supposed to have turned everything he touched into gold. In fact, Midas touch was actually a curse not a blessing because he ended up turning all of his own food and drink into gold, so he couldn't eat. And then he touched his daughter, and she turned into a gold statue. That is what our generation’s touch turned out to be – the civil service, railways, agriculture, mining, judiciary, police service, industries, education, you name it; we destroyed them all!

Even up to the late 1970s, Ghana’s civil service was touted to be one of the best in Africa. Letters that were written by Principal Secretaries read like poetry. I still have an award letter from the mid 1960s. Recently there was the case of a Chief Director of a ministry who appeared at the Judgement Debts Commission and claimed he did not know anything about the sale of one of the properties of a corporation under that ministry. The old Principal Secretary would have held senior positions in the civil service for about twenty years, working in several ministries, around the country. He would then have spent the last five years in Accra, at the ministry in which he would become PS. He was a walking encyclopaedia. If you woke him up at 2 in the morning, he could tell you which file number contained which important letter.

Under the old system, there was no way an Assistant Principal Secretary would have allowed a minister to go to a function without reading through the final draft of her speech in his/her presence. At least two final copies would be made the night before.

Overnight, we sent in young zealots to hound them out of their offices, changed their designation to Chief Directors, to purge ourselves of “neo-colonialist tags.” They came in faded smocks and “Afro Moses” with toy Timex watches and eventually walked out in designer suits, lizard skin shoes and Gucci watches. We accused our seniors, uncles and aunties of taking “brown envelopes” and then developed ‘10%’ and turned it into a thriving industry.

Akyeampong’s “Operation Feed Yourself” led by Colonel Bernasko was so successful that in 1975, we bartered corn for cattle with Zimbabwe. There was a very successful large scale rice cultivation revolution in the northern part of Ghana which was beginning to become the bread basket of Ghana. Our medical doctor friends were pleading to be sent up there, so they could engage in part-time farming. We destroyed all that so our wives could import American long grain rice. It was the same with Kade Match factory, Tema Textile industries and many others. The budding knitting industries in Accra were destroyed so our cronies could bring in “Buronyi weewu” underwear, handkerchiefs, towels, anything.

By 1975, there were poultry farms about every one mile interval of the road from Agona Swedru through Winneba Junction all the way to Odwobi. An animal feed factory had been established at Pomadze, to supply feed to the poultry farmers. In a frenzy of tribally-motivated madness, the chickens and eggs were sold over night, for a song. The ones that were too small to sell were apparently destroyed. The owners never received one pesewa from those sales. Many of my relations who either owned poultry farms or worked at the Animal Feed factory never recovered from their losses. Many died broken men and women. There were similar cases in several parts of the Eastern and Ashanti regions.

The judiciary was not spared either. We wrote draconian laws to immobilise the fine system we had in place and set up kangaroo courts to try our uncles and aunties, seized and destroyed their businesses. Some were sent to Teshie firing range for taking loans that they were servicing regularly. We did not even have the moral courage to face them. We hid behind wooden screens to pronounce judgement on them.

We were the civilian advisers to the “Abongo Boys”. Our women married them and watched uncaringly as their men defiled Ghanaian womanhood in the most disgraceful episode of our national history. Some people believe that that particular outrage has become a curse that is going to hang on Ghana like the sword of Damocles, until every single member of that generation passes away. I am not superstitious but as a Christian, I believe that forgiveness only comes with confession and repentance and as long as those who perpetuated that evil deed have not shown real remorse, nothing much will change.


Of all the damage our generation of ”the children of independence” has done to Mother Ghana, the most painful and heartbreaking has been the destruction of education, especially with respect to rural education. My elementary school Form 3 teacher died suddenly during the Christmas holidays of 1961. When school reopened in January 1962, we had less than two months to sit the Common Entrance examination. Teachers from the other classes came in as and when they had some free time, to assign work to us. It was not until towards the end of January that we had our own class teacher.

Seeing that we were lagging behind, Teacher Quayson, bless his soul, went from house to house, asking permission from the parents of those that had been registered for ‘Common Entrance’ to stay in for one hour after school, so he could give us extra lessons, free of charge. Some of us showed our appreciation by fetching water to fill his drums at the weekends. His joy was that our year saw the highest number ever of pupils passing the exam to qualify for entry into top schools around the country. When it got to our generation’s turn, we began to charge for extra classes, even when we knew in our hearts of hearts that we had not worked hard enough on our regular schedules for which we were being paid.

School inspection (inspectors are coming!) was one time in the school calendar that was dreaded by both teachers and pupils. We never knew who the inspectors would call at random to read a passage or ‘work a sum’. May the heavens help you if you got it wrong! With a stroke of the pen, our generation consigned selfless, hard working teachers and inspectors to dusty district and regional offices with fanciful names like superintendent, assistant director, etc, and brought back untrained pupil teachers into the classrooms. Meanwhile we used all kinds of tricks to enroll our own children in the so-called “elitist” private schools, particularly the faith-based ones. Although many of us were brought up in the Church we pretended to hate it with a passion, but still loved to send our children to its schools. So we hypocritically got our wives to enroll in the Women’s Fellowships and other church organisations, so our children could be considered for admission to the Churches’ schools. When with all that and extra tuition and other means our children still failed to make the grade, we devised another devious scheme called “protocol admission,” to get around it.

The duration of the Junior Secondary School – Senior Secondary School system became a back of the envelope game of predicting Hearts of Oak – Asante Kotoko matches: 4-3, no 3-4, no 2-4, no 4-2, total confusion, just playing games with people’s lives.

Overall effect of the ‘independence’ generation

Many of us enjoyed Government of Ghana or Commonwealth and other foreign government scholarships through the Government of Ghana and are only likely to ever return to Ghana with our Zimmer frames or in wheel chairs, towards the ‘last post’. Some of us returned and when we met the obstacles that the ones we left behind took in their strides, chickened out, packed bag and baggage and returned to Europe and North America.

Lest I forget, we also planted the seed of “The politics of insults” with “Dzimakpla”. “Akronfoo”, “Habanasefo”, ”Nkwaseafoo” “Thieves” “Dwaam bii”, etc, and when our nephews and nieces nurtured it into a vocation and began practising it on us, we started moaning. The Law of Karma?

Please don’t get me wrong it has not been all negative. The “children of independence” are probably the best educated Ghanaian group of all time. We have produced some of the best mathematicians, engineers, pharmacists, physicists, historians and lawyers in Africa. One of the best heart surgeons the world of surgery has ever known belongs to this group. And there are the gyaenacologists and peadeatrcians that thousands call their “papas” in California and other parts of America. We have built roads, constructed major bridges, developed housing estates and thriving businesses.

It was this group that made the Ghana oil discovery possible. They designed and supervised the seismic surveys, processed and interpreted the data and picked the drilling locations. They even predicted what a major 3-D seismic survey in deepwater could do! They were right at the coal face, teaching the young ones, and at the same time learning with them. They were on the seismic boats on the high seas, on the land crews in the marshes of Anyako and Tekinta. They battled with the snakes and scorpions at Half Assini and Kabenlasuaso, locating and plotting the seepages that made Jubilee possible. But overall the “children of independence” make a lowly C-, instead of the A+ that they were destined to produce, to create another Singapore, South Korea or Malaysia in Africa! That is the missed opportunity; that is their failure.


About fifteen years ago, I made a decision to put aside two percent of my earnings in addition to the tithes I paid to the churches in which I worshipped, as tithe to the church that first gave me Bible lessons at Sunday school. Then two years ago, following an email I received from a small group in America, I decided to put away another two percent to purchase reading books and other learning materials for the school that first taught me to read and write. Our little library is growing. I also hope to retire to my local school one day, to teach English, Mathematics and Science pro bono. I have heard of similar gestures by some of my colleagues. Some amends? As the quotation at the beginning of the article said, “Nelson Mandela became President at age 76 and Shirley Temple a movie star at age 6.” Many more of us ought to start thinking about the state of our villages back home, and more especially about our old, crumbling schools.
Stay blessed.