My hometown is in the news

Thu, 4 Apr 2019 Source: Elizabeth Ohene

It is a well-known fact that I always find some reason to bring Abutia into everything I write or say.

I have heard some say I overdo it.

But quite frankly, I am unapologetic about it.

That is where I come from and it is in many ways the reference point for many things in my life.

If anybody pays any attention to my wishes when I die, my ashes will end up in the soil in Abutia.

I must admit though that sometimes I feel a touch fraudulent, because in truth I have spent a grand total of four and a half years of my life in Abutia.

The only reason I don’t feel too bad about it is when I meet all these people who were born and bred in Accra and claim to come from places where more often than not, they have never spent a night. So, I wear Abutia with justifiable pride.

Now here comes the difficulty.

Since I go to such lengths to bring in Abutia whenever the opportunity presents itself, do I have an obligation to publicise every story about Abutia, including the not so flattering ones or do I blink rapidly through such stories and hope that not many people notice it.

Deficit score

There are a surprisingly large number of young women called Nana Yaa in my life.

One late night last week, one of my Nana Yaas sent me a link to an unflattering story about Abutia.

This was the headline: Adaklu SHS debuts at NSMQ as Abutia SHTS scores -3.

To the uninitiated, NSMQ stands for the National Science and Maths Quiz, the very keenly contested quiz among senior high schools in the country, which brings the nation to a halt when the finals are being screened on television.

The regional preliminaries are being held around the country currently, and it might well be that for many who follow the quiz, the most dramatic result so far would be five-time winners, PRESEC, Legon (and my personal favourites) being dumped out of the competition by Chemu SHS, Tema.

But for me, the big story from the NSMQ this year is that headline, “Adaklu SHS debuts at NSMQ as Abutia SHTS scores -3”.

Abutia Senior High Technical School not only failed to score a single point, they ended with a minus three.

I am not quite sure if this means the school will be carrying forward a deficit of three into next year’s competition.

Not scoring any point at all in a competition is bad enough, but to score a deficit? How do you score a minus?

For years, “Abutia Sec-Tech” featured in everything I had to say on the problems we have about technical education.

I used to say, half in jest but dead seriously that the only thing that was vaguely “technical” about Abutia Sec-Tech was that they had a wheelbarrow.

They did not have any workshop and they did not have any science laboratory.

At the start, there were hardly any classrooms worth speaking about, and there were no dormitories.

I know that this is not the exclusive peculiarity of Abutia SHTS; it is in the same category as all the other so-called “Secondary-Technical” schools that were started in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Things have improved from those early days and they now have classrooms, dormitories, a dining hall and some computers.

I have been impressed by how many of the teachers and students have learnt to make do with what little they have.

I might add that since Abutia Sec Tech started as a community school back in 1991, it has produced some enterprising young people who are making waves wherever they go.

I notice when I lean out of the window in our house in Abutia and students from the school are walking past that students now come from around the country and not just from the surrounding communities.

I hear Ga and Twi being spoken; evidence that the computer placement of students has been working.

The community continues to take a keen interest in the school; we have just finished another round of contributions to raise money for the latest project to buy 300 desks and chairs for the use of students and teachers.

I have been trying to coax, cajole, beg, entreat everyone I know to help build and equip a science laboratory for the school.

I don’t know how to deal with our school scoring minus three in the NSMQ. Would it help my campaign or hinder it?

My pain

I have been examining my own reactions. I have no doubts at all that I have felt more pain than shame.

I cannot claim to ever understand how students and teachers cope in these decidedly underserved schools.

There were things that people of my generation took for granted when we went to secondary school, which are today considered luxuries in many of the newish public schools.

I don’t recall that there was ever any question about materials for experiments in the science laboratories when I went to Mawuli School, and we did not have to pay extra for practicals during Cookery and Sewing classes.

I ought to mention that the entire population of Mawuli School was less than 400; we paid fees and yes, very, very few of us went to secondary schools.

At the moment, I have to concentrate on Abutia Senior High Technical School.

We have a minus three deficit to clear and then we have to find a way to get some points and get the school into the finals.

I have been told the young people had extreme stage fright.

That is difficult for me to accept.

How can a school cited in Abutia suffer stage fright?

I have an article to write on the Strong Women of Abutia and that would explain this point.

At the moment, I know they need a properly equipped science laboratory and workshop and then we can send them out to do battle.

I have no idea if Adaklu SHS, the school that beat Abutia SHTS has a science lab, but I wish them well and shall be rooting for them in the later stages of the competition.

While I am on the subject, I ought to put in a word about Abutia Easter celebrations; it tends to be quite an experience.

This year it is going to be extra special. Keep it in mind as you make your Easter plans. Added attraction: the school that got -3 (minus three).

Sod cutting

I have been in the news recently cutting the sod at a ceremony in Ho. Considering how often I have written derisively about sod cutting, maybe a short explanation is needed. The Volta Region chapter of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) is building a Press Centre.

In the trade, it is considered a fundamental right that there should be a place where journalists gather at the end of the day to have a beer.

I am glad the Volta GJA is building a Press Centre; but more important, I have been assured the first phase will be ready for use by the beginning of May.

In other words, this particular sod cutting won’t be like the ones I rail against.

There is a date of completion. That is why I went sod cutting.

Columnist: Elizabeth Ohene