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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Columnist: Inusah Mohammed

Thoughts of a Nima boy: How I got a university degree after a decade of struggle

Inusah Mohammed, Writer Inusah Mohammed, Writer

Exactly a year ago today, I graduated from the University of Professional studies, Accra. But that is not news because there is nothing extraordinary about getting a degree in a world where doing so is as diurnal as breathing-in oxygen.

Having a degree is no longer special. Almost everyone has one these day.
But what is interesting about mine is the number of years it took me to be
conferred with one. It took me eleven long years to do so. Yes, you read it right.

ELEVEN solid years. I remember breaking it down for my social media family.
I reproduce it below.

“I completed Senior High School in 2007 and entered then Accra Polytechnic in
2008 to study for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Science Laboratory
Technology as a stepping stone to a degree in a university. Instead of the HND, I came out with a Letter of Dismissal for Academic non-performance about three weeks to end my three-year stay on campus.

I still remember that day when I was called to the Departmental office and handed over my letter. It was not a joyous moment. In my protest letter to Reverend Quarcoo, then departmental counselor, I stated that it’s going to be suicidal if that decision is not reversed. It was hell.

The sudden gush of a hormone beyond adrenaline poured all over me. But since
that day I told myself I have a long journey. I can’t disappoint myself. Schooling is what I had done to that point. I remember giving my laboratory coat to a friend telling him “I have no future in the laboratory”.

I never knew that future will lead me to pursue a two-year Diploma in UPSA but use four years to complete it. I never knew it will take me further three years to do a top-up that should have seen me using two years. I never knew I’ll do two different National Service (Mercy Islamic School and Graphic Communications Group Limited) all in a bid to raise monies to aid me at various stages.

I never knew I’ll hawk light bulb at Weija, sell sanitary pads in the Dome and Madina Markets, sell newspapers in Nima, teach in a school at Maamobi, have shorts stints at Cleaning Masters (East Legon), GLICO Life (Lapaz), Melcom (Industrial Area), Legend Health at Adenta and a whole lot of things I can’t remember now just to ensure that I also get a degree.

At a point in time I thought I was destined never to have a degree in my life and I came to believe in every bullshit of family superstition. Why? I had done assignments for numerous people who have gone on to get their degrees. I taught many students in SHS who have moved on to get their degrees and I have inspired a lot who had forgotten they’ve even been to the university. And I was always struggling to get mine ... But in all of this I moved on,” So I congratulated myself.

I had to do it because our elders say “the lizard that jumped from the Iroko
tree to the ground said it will praise itself if no one else does.”

One of the many questions I was posed with was whether I will do it again if need be and I always replied with an emphatic yes. I will do it with some panache, style and verve again. In my nuclear family of five children, I am the first to ever wear a Senior High School uniform before the sister that comes after me followed suit.

I was the first to get to the tertiary and I got myself sacked. I could not afford to abandon the educational journey. That I believe will have been disastrous because at a point in time, someone sets the pace. As I type this, the youngest in the family is now in his second year studying Political Science at the University of Ghana.

You see? The light one sees is the light one appreciates. A precedent has been set and it has been followed and I am hopeful that it will be bettered. In some families, everyone is academically-educated therefore every child that is born in that family has no other option than to follow. In many families in the part of the world I find myself, a child grows up in a family where no one has ever stepped beyond Senior High School, some with wayward siblings and a host of other descriptions we cannot list here.

And the child has no other reality to hold on to than to follow. It is
usually by grace that you see such a child looking up to someone else in the
community before breaking the jinx in his or her family. The light a child sees is the light that he or she appreciates. I had to provide that light to my family and by tether, my community.

Another reason I will do it again is the restoration of some dignity to our children; something we were deficient of. In plain language, we used to write “Self-employed, Trader” etc. anytime you were asked “what is your father or mother’s occupation” back in primary school knowing very well that our parents (with all due respect) had no label to their hustle.

The generation that comes after us should be able to say boldly that my dad or mum is a Neurosurgeon, Radio Therapist, Lawyer, Bank Manager, Marketer and many other decent hustle that could have a definite label. I am not clamoring for only white collar jobs, I am clamoring for a label with a true and actual work behind it; not the lies we used to tell about the self-employment of our parents knowing very well they are not engaged in any meaningful employment.

Finally, I find myself in a prestigious company today. In my daily work, I come across a host of many prominent members of the society as my customers. I service the cars of Members of Parliament, Board members of giant organizations, former Ministers of States, Medical Doctors, Chief Executive Officers of prestigiousmcompanies, Justices of the Supreme Court, Media men, people who have made airwaves meaningfully on our national television etc. I interact with a lot of people as I am the first point of contact before any other process commences at my department.

It provides me with a breath of joy and opportunity to see the minds of people doing great stuff on the land to shape mine. The last time I made a Medical Doctor friend who happens to be someone whose works I had read profoundly yet not met. I finally met him at my desk and today we share ideas and thoughts together. I also got books from the driver of Albert and Comfort Ocran because I let him know I am their biggest fan and many other things I cannot recount here.

I will not have gotten this opportunity without braving the odds for a degree.
And mine is the least of the opportunities a degree could possibly give you.
Our system is designed in such a way that you will need that to contribute
‘meaningfully’ to national discussions and output. There are many intelligent and brilliant people down there who because they do not have a degree do not get the chance to share their wonderful minds.

So I will do it again. I will do it with rare passion, with bravery and with a sparkle in my eye. I will do it will all intensity because “even if it takes a long time, the educated get ahead over the long run” as stated by Marc Brodeur.