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Opinions Mon, 7 Oct 2019

Patience Asante still teaching at 88: Happy birthday grandma

Patience Asante, an educationist – yes, a teacher, taught us the rubrics of radio and TV production on 29 September, when we visited to wish her happy birthday.

She was among the first ten persons Kwame Nkrumah sent to Manitoba and Winnipeg in Canada to study TV Production.

How did the switch happen?

Asante “was a teacher at Odumase” [Krobo] when she was “roped into school broadcasting.”

When Ghana television was started in 1965, Nkrumah selected 10 individuals to travel to Canada and study TV Production.

“You have a radiogenic voice, grandma,” we said, when she switched the meter band from Akwapim to Ga to English.

“Yes,” she admitted but quickly reminded us that she was a “back office” person. Her sense of organization and memory recollection remains supreme; she still writes down everything.

“Gladys [Andrews] was a year after me, I was her senior, and we were among the first [pioneers] at Bepow so hann,” referencing the motto of Aburi Girls Secondary School.

“Nyame ne hene,” one of us responded to keep up the pace.

The Akwapim transliterated means, “Light of the mountain – God is King.” These days many people – not just the young – have a rather poor frame of reference.

Hence you have to spend half of your time filling in the knowledge gaps; they seem to be so blissfully ignorant and or misinformed.

“Ny?kwraa k? ak?ny? ‘mgba sane ‘? e???,” my mentor will say in exasperation, to people who lack BASIC DIDACTIC INFORMATION. The Ga quote transliterated in full means, “It’s rather unexciting conversing with you; everything that is made reference to, you don’t know anything important about it.”

Now this is how Asante taught us radio with her wits still sharp.

“What school do you attend?” she asked one of us.

“…….Senior High School,” was the part she heard which made her respond with a twinkle in her eye, “Which part of it is the senior high?”

Patience Asante deliberately ignored the “senior high” part and told us all about the said school and other hard info about the school which we had to research later.

And then with great attention to detail she made sure we got all her coordinates.

She wrote her mobile number and land line number for us, used the mobile number to dial the land line to demonstrate that the number works, and then explained to us how long she has to walk to reach it, so that callers to her house will know clearly the difference.

Then she bid us ring her cell phone with ours.

She held one of our local daily newspapers and a pen – and there were plenty of other newspapers in her room – we bet she is still marking……well, never mind.

Patience Asante told us she will later have to telephone people and mention what everybody brought for her birthday, not because she is discourteous, but to show to them “how you remember and appreciate the presents.”

It was heart warming to hear that Elen Odamtten and many of the posse at Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Accra, telephoned her and wished her happy birthday.

Later in the evening we telephoned Grandma to confirm details on this story and she helped us with the spelling of Elen – “E-L-E-N”, she emphasized, and commended our journalistic attitude of calling to confirm such supposedly simple details. Grandma even taught us that the “i” in her local name Siaa is a diphthong and hence is silent.

Reflecting on her career, she recalled that many teachers were worried about her leaving the classroom; they thought that the teaching profession was losing a gem.

But school broadcasting and TV production turned out to be equally important and rewarding.

How many of our radio and TV guys write a full script before going on air?

And by the way, do we still have a system for grooming teachers for school broadcast? Again and again, we hear our mentor say, “All is lost.” Uhmmmmm.

Happy birthday Grandma Patience Eugenia Siaa Asante. Keep marking and correcting those newspapers, many of those stories need to be rewritten anyway.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah/ Augustine Williams-Mensah