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Opinions of Monday, 27 July 2020

Columnist: Kordson Kwasi Ayrakwa

Advance Level Examinations and University Education: Experiences from Bishop Herman College, Labone SHS, to KNUST

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" Perseverance is the bedrock to success"

A levels was a great time of studying in Bishop Herman College. Our teachers Mr. Gidigasu, Mr. Adorboe, Mr. Agbodzi ( Uncle Ray), Mr. Ayibontey, Mr. Kofi Nti, Mr. Agbo, etc. did the best they could for us. Since A level work is pre- university, the courses can be very dense and difficult to grasp. For this reason, great effort and serious preparations are made to take the "A" level (Advance Level) exams. Some have private tutors, some go for special classes, some even see examiners for marking schemes, so that, their preparations/studies are in good standing of what is exactly required to pass the exam with flying colours.

And indeed, it was sometimes an audious or a challenging task to accomplish this in Biheco. The examination papers were printed in red, which gave the added impression of how important the exams were. It felt as though " there was blood in the papers". Scoring or earning a good grade ensures one's access to the best programs at the University. So, no stone was left unturned to pass the A level with good or excellent grades. Some of my Sixthform friends who fought hard with me in the trenches in Biheco were, Richard Ayigbe, Fanfana, Wisdom Tamakloe (Teewezay), Kwami, Kuto Kennedy, the Amoah brothers, Lord Fleming, Slyvanus Adzornu, Gebe, Divine Kwadzo, Sam Azasu, Adom, Biney, Otibu Addaie, Stephen Bakialogay, Gabriel Eglowobe, Ben Taylor, Theophilus Dowentin, Peter Zomelo, Kwadzo Adjoe, Innocent Dzidzonu, etc.

On the other hand, Labone Secondary School, had great teachers. For example Gok was one of the top examiners in physics and also taught Mathematics. In French Mrs. Kwame was second to none, whilst in Geography Mr. Samuel Adinyirah was excellent - one of the best money could buy. Infact, Labone Secondary School had a great group of teachers all round. And therefore students were expected to do well. Hence, my friends, Samuel Attah-Mensah, Oseti, Deegay, Michael Sampson, Maspota, High Fellow, Ebo Brown, Klufio, Pervis, Eben Adablah, Paul Mensah, Alex Waife ( Bruno Konti), Nordima, Kwadzo, Robert, Wanope, Kamsah, Evelyn, Rosemary, Emma Auther, Ashpit, Agykes,Tony Foli, Peter Ansah, Elongation, Vanpee,Gwyneth, Poshay, Patrick Dickar , Osei, Isaac Dolphan, Sally, Nashiru, Divine, Bannerman, Kwasi'Fori Grace, Dela, Kate, Yvelynne, Kwabena, etc, etc. all did their very best to pass the A level exams with flying colours.

But, be it as the facts may be, the obvious was not always the case. The A level results or outcomes were sometimes complicated, frustrating and intriguing.

Thus, the interesting aspect of the whole process was checking up for your results at WAEC ( West Africa Examination Council). The moment of truth came, when you looked at the display board where the results have been declared or posted and you either saw the stars flying in the air if the results were FFF or you felt a big sigh of relief and pride if you had good grades like, AAA, ABB or ABC or BBB or BBC, etc.

The situation can be traumatizing or so frightening that, some people even collapse when the results are very bad. You do not want to tell your colleagues or friends or your parents- or particularly your father. Sometimes, the shame was too hard to bear. The next course of action was, what do I do to remedy the situation. You begun to think about the" Nov-Dec Exams" or " Second World War " or " Remedial classes". Some, with okay grades, may even abandoned the "A" levels all together, and apply for Teacher Training Colleges or Nursing Schools or Vocational Training Schools or Apprenticeships- all depending on one's circumstances and choices.

However, gaining admission to your chosen field of study at the University is a great sense of joy. It is here, the real work begins. The University is no respecter of person. It is a leveling field, where all the "brains " in the country meet. It is called "Kpogadzi"; meaning "the great place of serious learning "- where no marking schemes or special classes can save you as the case was for the A levels. It is the jungle, survival of the fittest, - it is called " wo dormia bra".

The transition from the " A" levels to the University is quite great. At the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), you are told by your senior colleagues that, you have to defend your "Keys " or the VC ( Vice Chancellor) will take them away from you. You are matriculated and you sing "Gaudeamus Igitur..........."
and you are a full fledged student of the University community.

The only way out, was to study your hardest and form study groups- where we taught and guided each other as to how to study, understand the materials we were given in class or at lectures and apply the concepts appropriately.

I remember our study groups, where Pizzaro or Thaddeus my roommate will lead and Arobo, Josephine Aseidu- Terku and Tayoo giving us pointers as to how to present our study materials and research strategically for the exams. Tayoo had the foresight for " punching". He could easily predict which areas one had to concentrate their efforts on. It was amazing how he could do that so perfectly.

Pizzaro and Thaddeus, were the " explainers in chief ". They could break down concepts so easily- it was great to watch them with admiration and confidence. Marian " Okesee" was the " baba queen ". She could memorize anything you gave her in the shortest possible time.

Olivia Minta was brilliant and amazing. She always had the best notes. She wrote very fast. Any time, I wanted to fill in my pot holes in Prof. Appiah Nkrumah's Economics class, Olivia was my saviour. Ricky and Solo were the lords in Econometrics and would always give pointers when we needed help. Rash, Solomon, Nii Moi and Amofah were the masters of general economic theory. "Classic" and Tayoo liked Geography very much. I remember Tayoo quoting Kant and Isaboma - " Geography is what I do" as we were taught by Dr. Bedele. History was the field of Habib, Otoyoo, Frank Ofori and Tony Kodwiw.

Gloria Owusu was Miss Socioso - her mini skirts were palpable and very powerful. Lilian Lamptey sometimes used to challenge her, but Gloria always won. Nevertheless, they were beautiful, charming, sharp and very bright. They could master any subject at will. They had the commanding power to accomplish anything they wanted to do so easily.

French was for Adjei Lot and the King of the French language - Chris Afachatwo ( he was also a conqueror in other fields, that we will discuss later). Sociology was the domain of Thaddeus Adjoe and Law went to Nii Moi, Adotey Mingle and Pablo- the cool gentleman. Mrs Amelia Sackey was the overall champion, what I will call creme de la creme. For me, I flew through the process and came out alive prespiring but more conscious. Well, we all had our game plan to fight till the end for victory.

It is however imperative, to make a special mention of our favourite Professor, Dr Daniel Bor, who taught Geography with zeal, passion and intensity. He use to say " mun fa mami saa" meaning "give it back to me just as I gave it to you in your notes". He was found of describing geographic phenomenon with very flattering words " sinorcity".

One other interesting aspect of University life was dating- what we called " Inte" versus " Exte". Some were lucky to have hook- ups or had girls/boy friends. Some went 3 or 4 - 0. The benefits of being in a relationship was enormous. For the boys, one of the great benefits was food. Your stomach was taken care of. Some guys did not know how to cook and it was advantageous to have a girl friend who could fix you some good food when you were hungry. Some of the boys, on the other hand, were experts in " Anwa mor " special fried rice. I remember Pizzaro was an expert and occasionally, did help me out with some meals.

For the ladies, the guys gave them moral and financial support and other benefits needed by couples. Some studied together and were partners in every sense of the word.

Attending programs and entertainment activities together on campus as a couple was a wonderful experience and those who did not have partners sometimes felt left out. I remember some of the nice programs like the Kwadzo Antwi show ( Mr. Music Man) on campus. Everybody wanted to be at the show with his or her partner. Other programs like the Miss KNUST and Mr. KNUST shows were equally exciting. Mr. KNUST shows were dominated by the" Fire" brothers - Alex and Charles Dzogbenuku or Theosack- Theophilus Sackey, Iron (Steve Ababio) and Djaba Catenor.

Significantly, one other program that got students engaged in entrepreneurship and business was AIESEC. Tayoo (Theophilus Nartey), Josephine Asiedu- Teku, Larry Attipoe, Steve Ababio, Samuel Attah-Mensah, Ntim Okyere, Selasie Dzokoto, Sandra Kyere, Jackie Lamptey, Naakai, Gloria Oppong, Asamoah Johnson, Kordson Ayrakwa, Batuka, etc. were involved in the KNUST branch. We had a good time talking to companies about how students could reinforce their business operations and bring excellence to their work. We were involved in conferences and training programs on campus and other university campuses
across the country. We were able to link local companies with interns from the US, the UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Canada and many more other countries across the globe. Similarly, interns from Ghana through AIESEC were able to participate in internships abroad. We were also able to participate in conferences Internationally and within the West African sub region such as the Leadership conferences at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria which helped establish links with other students from various universities in West Africa. This was a worthy experience which boosted our confidence and helped promote many business links and opportunities even after school.

Indeed, KNUST was fun, full of memorable experiences. And on graduation days and ceremonies, we saw those who prevailed in their academic endeavours. Those who had first class - Suma cum laude and second class upper - Magnum cum laude and those who only came to participate in the academic process.

In all, one would never forget KNUST, for it taught us how to study, research and discover ourselves in fields we had never dreamt of. It brought the best in us where academic excellence collided with curiosity and the search for knowledge and science and the opportunity to rise to the level of achievement one had never imagined. It also solidified the bonds we have made with our friends forever and wherever we may find ourselves today, we know that, the story of our lives, the process of self determination and advancement began at the great meeting place called Biheco, Labone Secondary School and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi Ghana. It's with great joy and delight that, I share all these wonderful memories with you.