Ama Ata Aidoo, forever a teacher

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 Source: Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh

By Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh

I had signed a letter without closing. I felt embarrassed that I should do that. So my spine shivered when I read that the great Ama Ata Aidoo had deserted a function elaborately planned to celebrate her. Her name had been spelt Atta instead of the correct Ata.

Quickly, I phoned to check with a colleague if she still had in her possession the two EC presidential poll announcement posters.

Each had the same name spelt differently: one as John Evans Atta Mills and the other as John Evans Atta-Mills. When in 2012 an EC rushed through creating 40 something constituencies three months to a major election, Parliament condoned the error-ridden document. It is now history that that election was an error in all its aspects.

Insidious it might seem. But my gut feeling tells me there were congress elements who felt some kind of embarrassment replacing a Rawlings with a Mills. Apparently, people outside the motherland, would ask: ‘Is he a Ghanaian?’ anytime the Mills precursor name was mentioned. Congress must, therefore, have found it expedient to hyphenate Atta and Mills. Those who knew the professor well knew J.E.A. Mills. Strange a whole EC fell for the trick; unless it lacked thoroughness or was being incompetently complicit.

Hyphenated Akufo-Addo has often been spelt Akuffo-Addo. Kufuor is also often spelt Kuffuor.

The suggestion is that, as a people, we lack detail. A colleague professor once remarked that as we sat next to each other at a public function. As I read the great feminist writer’s departure from that event, I started self-introspecting in a backdate of occasions when I have messed up because I wasn’t detailed enough.

I have seen an institution struggling with misspelling someone’s Susana name as Susuanna. A friend for long struggled with a Kate versus Catherine spelling with official documents. As someone interested in names, their formats and spelling, I thought Teacher Ama’s action was timely. I think it is a positive wake-up call to us all who strive for precision and accuracy.

In the heady false revolution 1980s, I had been invited to ostensibly serve as her deputy in a military junta. Today, I can say it would have been a tough assignment because I was made to understand the invitation was at her personal instance.

I had known and admired her political views at UCC in the early 1970s when I was a student and she was a lecturer. She did not teach me but I found myself listening to her in many ‘socialist’ fora. I saw her as a compassionate intellectual with deep concern for social justice.

Unfortunately, I never met her to discuss the invitation and I never ended up being part of the junta. It was no surprise she lasted only for a short period of time with the regime, in charge of education. There were even rumours she was removed in her absence by competence intolerant forces within the regime who could not withstand her forthrightness and desire to apolitically do the right thing.

When I failed to meet her because she had traveled outside the motherland, one of her assistants told me about her thoughts about me. I remember asking him about the education revolutionary agenda. He enthusiastically showed me an ‘education reform’ draft document which had a lot of Paulo Freire plagiarised material. They had even named the innocent philosopher as a panel member in the West Africa magazine. When I met the man face-to-face in my then university in Canada, he denied any knowledge.

In the interim, I had taken a quick glance at the document. As someone with some little knowledge about the theory and practice of education, I quickly looked for transformative ideas. Nothing, absolutely nothing was written about the dropout challenge which needed transformative treatment. It confirmed my view that there was no revolution going on and that pretenders were destroying the little the motherland had. Fast-forward, I have been proven right.

A3 (Ama Ata Aidoo) is known, acknowledged and celebrated as an intellectual with feminist convictions.

She looms large in Africa and in international feminist circles.

She may have disappointed those who strove to put that programme together.

We should understand her more, though, for her commitment to the good of the woman and the propriety to be thorough.

Let that be explained to the young girls ‘she disappointed’ that it was only to encourage them to do the right thing.

As to the rest of us, we may take up her challenge to keep trying to be excellent in a hurry and in the midst of a flurry of things and activities to accomplish.

She is accomplished because she believes in excellence and I think that should be more of encouragement than disappointment.

Care to know? Ama ends not.

Columnist: Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh