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Opinions of Saturday, 27 March 2004

Columnist: Akaba, Senyo

Looking At Life Through An Ashesi Telescope - A letter to Ryma

Dear Ryma,

How are you doing at school? I hope you are doing well and studying hard too. How are Farouk and Kelvin? Do you visit them often at school? I am doing very well here. From the tone of your letter, I guess you had a wonderful Christmas. It?s been several months since we last met. Have you changed any bit? I met your mom last week in her shop. I was at her place to buy a Bob Marley shirt for my twenty first birthday.

Yes, Ryma I have turned twenty one. I haven?t changed much physically though. The only physical change is my beard which has now refused to hide in my chin. However, a lot about me has changed in the way I think. I no longer look at the world the way I used to. I know you are wondering, ?What has changed about his thinking? Hold on a minute and I will tell you what exactly has changed psychologically about me. Do you remember me telling you about gaining admission into Ashesi University? It is this university that has changed the way I look at things.

?How has Ashesi University changed your mind?? is the reaction of most people after hearing what I just told you. I wondered at first too but had to come to terms with the fact that I can no longer see the world the way I used to. As a child, I grew up believing that nothing good comes from our part of the world. I formed this impression because of what I saw, heard and felt. So as a child, I always prayed to God to whisk me out of this land of our ?death? as soon as I finish my education. I believed that it is only when one goes out of Ghana that his full potentials can be realized. Do you remember the last social studies class we attended before our basic education certificate examination? I hope you do. It was during that class that I told our teacher that Ghana can never be like Europe.

Even in my teenage years, I still carried this view. I also believed that a rich man has no cause on earth to be humble. After all, he toiled to make his money and must be allowed to enjoy it the way he wanted to. Politics, I saw as a golden opportunity to make money out of one?s country. I never believed that one could pursue politics in order to serve his people. Ryma dear, I didn?t just acquire these impressions on my own. It was due to what I saw and heard around me. I once did hear about a rich man who never talks to you unless you are rich like him. I thought that was all that life was about.

Ryma, but now, I look at the world differently. To me Ashesi University is a humbling experience. The story about Ashesi?s beginning is one that I will never forget all my life. Mr. Patrick Awuah, the president and founder of this institution was by all standards doing very well in the US. He had a job with the richest company in the world; Microsoft. He married a white and they had all the ?abrotsi niama.? He woke up one day with the dream of Ashesi University. A university where excellence will be preached. Unlike what most people will do, Mr. Awuah packed bag and baggage and headed for the shores of Ghana. Although, he got frustrated at certain points in time he persevered. What now stands in the residential area of Labone is a product of Mr. Awuah?s toil.

Just a year at Ashesi has transformed me. Looking at a man, leaving his job at Microsoft to set up an institution of excellence in Ghana has changed my perception about Ghana. I have now learnt that this is the land of my birth and it is only me and other Ghanaians who can make it what we want it to be. Ryma, tell all our classmates in basic school that I now believe Ghana can develop and I have decided to stay here and help in the development process. Tell Ekow that he should not be surprised if he does not see me on the shores of European countries. I might come to visit but never desert Ghana for Europe. I now believe Ghana needs me. I can make an impact either by becoming a software developer, business administrator or a politician.

Ashesi has created the forum for me to meet very rich and humble businessmen like Mr. Herman Hesse of the S.O.F.T. Tribe; a local software developing company and Mr. Alex Kwapong of Microsoft. One thing that I learnt from these men is that no matter how rich you are, humility must be your hallmark. I no longer think that being wealthy is an excuse to be arrogant. Another forum at Ashesi with Dr. William Easterly formerly of the World Bank has also taught me to always stand for what I believe in, with humility and honesty. I have now realized the sense in the saying that, ?don?t ask about what your country can do for you, ask about what you can do for your country.? Dear, anytime you see me aspiring for any position, be it political or non political, trust that I?m going to keep asking about what I can do for my country.

Ryma, I hope by the time you graduate from medical school, I will be able to make you look at Ghana the same way that I now do; believing that ?yen ara asasi ni.? I believe we will not be fighting for this cause alone. The ethical future leaders in the making at Ashesi will stand by us. I trust that we can make Ghana grow as I am confident in the victory of good over evil. When you get home for Easter before I do, please tell my grandma that I am doing very well. Tell her that, I belong to a family of future leaders here and that she should keep on praying for us.

Tell my little sister, Delali, that I will soon be home for Easter. When I come I will explain to her what GDP and interest rate as used in the finance minister?s budget mean. You may ask, ?How can a computer science student answer such technical issues?? This is only possible at Ashesi, where we believe in an all encompassing education ? a liberal arts education. This type of education seeks to nurture graduates to become knowledgeable in other fields in addition to their specified field.

I do hope to meet you when I get home for Easter. I then will explain to you further what it means to look at life through an Ashesi telescope. Remember to tell all our friends that life now can be looked at through a different telescope. Remember to send an Easter card to me so I could mail to my uncle. Tell my friends that I have been called to serve my motherland and I am getting prepared to do just that. Tell our friends that I owe it to Ghana, I owe to my family, I owe it to my mates at Ashesi, and I owe it to Ashesi?s donors to help build a better Ghana. To me now, Ashesi is not just an institution but a maxim. Have the best in all that you do.

So long, Senyo


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