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Opinions of Friday, 22 May 2015

Columnist: Cudjoe, Alfred B.

Bambulu’s School Days. Memories of Our School Days

Author: Alfred B. Cudjoe
Publisher: Multilingual Media Services
Pages: 155
Reviewer: Dr Kumi Ansah-Koi, PhD

Alfred B. Cudjoe’s latest literary product (titled Bambulu’s School Days, and sub-titled Memories of Our School Days), is indeed a welcome and very momentous literary masterpiece that makes its initial bow on the global literary landscape. It is bound to make a mark, and a positive one at that, on the Ghanaian (and indeed wider African) literary scene on account of its sterling qualities and impressive attributes. Cudjoe is a master story-teller; and his narration in this novel of the twists and turns and indeed the circumstances of life for the fictional Paul in the years up to his early manhood makes a very fascinating, and indeed grappling, reading. Cudjoe is excellent at creating suspense, and with it compelling attention and intense interest, in his novel. His choice of words are right on spot; he is a master at artfully interlacing dialogues and monologues into his narrative; and on the light side, his narration of the life-circumstances and experiences of Paul has a whole calabash-full of folk tales, tall tales, puzzles, quizzes and conundrums laced into the narrative. This is no novelette. It is a full-blown novel that runs into as many as 155 pages. It is condensed into twenty-one solid chapters.

Given the author’s dexterity and skills as a literary artist, one is indeed not surprised to learn that a previous novel of his has been approved as a Supplementary Reader for Ghana’s basic schools by the Ghana Education Service.

Great novels are not simply literary works of art; they invariably stand out for other reasons as well. Alfred B. Cudjoe’s Bambulu’s School Days revolves round such themes as Love and Romance, Culture and Traditions, Child-Care and Child-Upbringing, the Extended Family, the Rural Setting, Birth and Parenting, Leisure and Recreation, and Adolescence and Maturity. The story-line centres on the birth, growth, schooling and similar life experiences and life circumstances of a fictional Paul; whose story serves as a focal point for telling interesting anecdotes and highlighting a wide variety of complex issues such as foster-parenting, the broken home, single-parenthood, marriage, suicide, courting, and migration.
Above all the novel is about the school system and ‘our school days’. Nothing, really, about the school system is left out of the novel. Syllabi, curriculum, school discipline, teaching, learning, types and categories of students, studies, boarding life, and indeed all that pertains to the school and to education are intricately and artistically highlighted in the novel; and indeed the work induces serious reflection on the theory and practices of education in many an African state. Educational reforms galore have unfolded in Ghana in particular; Alfred Cudjoe’s book offers an anecdotal and perhaps satirical opportunity for all to reflect once more, through the genre of literature, on this all-important theme of education. Educationists, teachers, students, and educational policy-makers and administrators would find all there is to know or discuss in education raised within the pages of Bambulu’s School Days. For people in such categories Alfred Cudjoe’s novel under review now is very essential reading; and they need to take immediate steps to possess a copy of the book.
Similarly, Psychologists, Social Workers, Anthropologists, Historians and indeed all those professionally focused on African Studies and Culture would find in Bambulu’s School Days such wealth of crafted information that would engage their professional concerns and interests.Feminists, Human Rights activists, and indeed all manner of people and class of persons should find more than a gem of pertinence in this literary piece that goes by the name Bambulu’s School Days. But the above is only to identify a few professionals and activists who must necessarily read this masterpiece titled Bambulu’s School Days. Fact of the matter is that really everyone who ever went to school or sat in a classroom must read the book; for it is actually about ‘memories of our school days’ and all that they mean to us and to posterity.

Even though the work under review can justifiably be lauded to the skies, it is still the product of fallible human effort; and a few barely noticeable typographical errors mar this otherwise excellent work. Those who have not read James Ene Henshaw’s play titled This Is our Chance and who are not acquainted with his character called Bambulu would be hard put wondering why the work under review now is titled Bambulu’s School Days; and not Paul’s School Days. Those who are acquainted with that play authored by Henshaw would wonder why Alfred B. Cudjoe does not formally acknowledge his indebtedness to Henshaw –especially since a line or so from Henshaw’s play is reproduced without due acknowledgement in the work under review.

All in all, Alfred Cudjoe’s Bambulu’s School Days, Memories of our School Days, still remains an excellent work of art and of scholarship and is a very welcome addition to the growing crop of good literature written by Ghanaians and other Africans of the current generation.

It is on sale at leading bookshops throughout the country, especially Sogakofe SHS (Sogasco), Accra Academy, University of Education Winneba, University of Ghana and University of Cape Coast bookshops. Sales start after the launch in Sogasco on 16 May.