Free SHS : Can we sit and talk?

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Free SHS. Sigh!

It’s important I start this post with a critical point. I am not against free SHS in any way. I mean how? The love I have for education cannot allow me to. So free SHS, why not?

So what is my problem and why do I keep talking about free SHS on social media? My problem is, with my four eyes, I cannot see the policy as well thought-out. A well thought-out policy should have some structure and plans. So the response of most people is why should we sit down and be thinking? Let the program start, we will solve the problems. Okay. Year 1, program has started. It’s year 2, can we start asking our questions now? Or must we wait till year 5? Year 10? Year 15 when my son is ready to go to SHS?

All of us make plans for our future. Yes, they may not go as planned, but as least we have a structure. The structure guides us.

So Year 1. The students all went to school. Great.
Challenges? Infrastructure.

Year 2. Solution to Infrastructure challenges : Double track-system.

Year 3. Solution to Double track-system challenges : We all don’t know.
And this, dear friends is what I want to know.

So can I please ask my questions?

1. The Minister mentioned earlier in the year that there will be a voluntary fund for those who wanted to contribute to the program. I haven’t heard any news/announcement about this fund. What happened to it?

2. Prior to Free SHS, several NGOs existed that sponsored SHS students based on their own set of criteria. Has government been engaging them this time around to possibly get a contribution from them?

And then specifically about the Double Track System :

3. Education is holistic. Sports in a component of our SHS education that unearths the talents of those who are better on the field than in the classroom (and relaxes the mind of everyone as well). With the Double Track System, what is going to happen to interhouses, interco and superzo?

4. From the calendar I have seen for this year, at a point, the form 2s will be on vacation while the two form 1 batches will be in school with the form 3s. While in SHS, form 2s were the ones mostly involved in the informal training given (scrubbing, table manners etc) since the form 3s will be busy preparing for WASSCE. How will this be restructured?

5. What will be the criteria used to allocate students to Track A or Track B? Alphabetical order? Odd numbered vs even numbered index numbers? I can already hear a mother asking why Panyin is in Track A while Kakra is in Track B. Or why all the friends of her child is in Track A and her child in Track B. Can the details of this be spelt out as soon as possible so people can start getting used to the idea before it does happen? Next year, can people ask to be in the same track as their older sibling?

6. Given the fact that people are usually apprehensive about teenagers being idle, what is the a structured program for their longer vacation? Eg. A continuation of club activities or various forms of project work?

7. In 2021, WASSCE will be written by the two tracks. What is the plan?

8. The Double Track System would not go on forever. Some posts say 3 years, others say 5 years. Infrastructure will be built during this period. What is the plan? Can we see it so we can track it?

9. In my school at least, teachers lived permanently on campus. Now that other teachers will come in to teach the other track, will teachers’ accommodation on campus become temporal?

10. Last one, seemingly unimportant, but can actually be. In most schools, mattresses, trunks, chopboxes are left in dormitories, pantries etc during the vacation. Since these rooms will be in use during the vacation, what is the plan for keeping these? Or will students bring them home? Or perhaps, schools will purchase these items going forward so whoever is in school will use them?

If you have answers to any of my questions, I am ready to listen.

If you know anyone sitting in on-going meetings for stakeholders in secondary school education, can you forward my questions? Are these meetings happening? I expect they should! And oh, if interested persons like me are invited to such meetings, can I have the details?

As a citizen and not a spectator, my humble appeal is let’s suggest. Let’s ask questions. Saying free SHS is good is not enough. Let’s forget those talking for or against free SHS for political gains. Let’s agree that you and I are talking about it as citizens who know that one day, it may be our children sitting on stones under trees. Keep that picture in mind and let’s start a dialogue. Those who can make changes to this policy are on these streets silently reading. If they realise we are talking about the deep issues enough, they will listen.

The next time you are tempted to put out post that is saying anything along the lines of “Free SHS is good for everyone”, don’t just stop there. Add a line or two that suggests a way in which the policy can be improved. Let’s talk more so that we will be heard.

Too long, didn’t read? (Sorry, sorry, the passion makes me talk too much) In summary, you are the CEO of a company in charge of implementing free SHS. What are your suggestions to implement a sustainable policy?

Happy Birthday, Paschal

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My dear boy,

I can’t believe it’s a year already. Wow! Time flies.

I remember so vividly when labour started at dawn. I remember getting into the car to go to the hospital in those few minutes between one pain and the next. Although I don’t remember the trip to the hospital so well, I do remember getting there and then talking to nurse who examined me and confirmed you were coming. I had been so eager to welcome you into this world just the previous day because frankly, dear, you had become far too heavy for my legs to carry. Suddenly though, it felt all those emotions were gone. The pain took it all away.

A few minutes later, I was on the delivery table and told to push. I was told after my first few pushes that they were powerless so I needed to do a better job. I could have given up then ; I was so tired. But I thought about you and all we had gone through together in the 9 months and gave it my all. Daddy prayed close by and held my hand. That gave me all the encouragement I needed.

At 7:45am, you finally arrived. I can’t even remember the first thought I had when you landed. I think all I thought about what the fact that I was so many kilograms lighter again. Ha!

Fast forward to the ward, we both slept like we were babies. Weren’t we? Daddy stayed close by watching us. We were indeed tired after our long journey. I finally held you as a mum in the afternoon. Sweetheart, you were so tiny! It’s amazing.

We went home the following day and my first challenge as a mum was worrying when the breast milk will come in so I could start to feed you. Thankfully, it came in that evening. Then came the sleepless nights. Sweetheart, I know you were hungry and couldn’t eat too much at a go, but frankly, those first few nights were stressful! I could barely sleep. There were days when I would even dream about you crying while I am sleeping and will quickly wake up to check on you. Sure enough, you will be stirring and I will pick you up and feed you even before you start crying.

The next painful day was the day of circumcision. I felt your pain, dear! But great God, we went through it. Like a friend had told me a few days before, “This too shall pass” and so indeed, it did.

By the time we had spent two weeks together, I was tired of being indoors. No, it had nothing to do with you. I had just missed “life”. Can you believe I hadn’t seen outside of the gate in those two weeks? Although it was simply a trip to the hospital for a postnatal checkup, it felt more like I was going to a party. I was just so elated!

Finally, after 4 weeks of being indoors and missing church, we had your Baptism. I remember telling you not to cry that day and you were so obedient. You slept throughout the ceremony and even the time we were taking pictures. Wow! Boy, was I grateful to God! I guess you are wondering why mummy wanted you to miss your big day? Well…let’s just say you go grow meet am!

Once you had been outdoored, we could officially spend more times outdoors and that was healthy for both of us. Time flew by so fast! You grew so fast!

We start counting your firsts…your first smile…your first coo…your first laughter (and how we will do all we can to get you to laugh again)….the first time you sat unsupported…the first time you had something other than breaskmilk (the story of exclusive breastfeeding is one for another day)….the first time you attempted to crawl (backward crawling)….the first time you actually crawled….the first time you stood on your own (I can hear daddy’s voice screaming to me in the kitchen to come take a look)…your first step….your first tantrum….your first hospital scare…while you are a baby we count everything, you know.

Now that we have hit your first birthday, our first announcement to the kids in the hood : you are no more a baby! If you hear anyone call you “Baaabie!”, come and report.

That aside, it is beautiful to look back at the journey so far, thank God and be full of so much hope for what the years ahead hold for us all. One of the strongest traits we have seen so far is that you are strong-willed and wouldn’t give up so easily. Not so much like Dad or I so we find this most interesting and look forward to shaping this will so you do great things with it as you give glory to God.

You are already attempting to repeat words with us, so we have officially entered the year where we build our language skills after spending the first year building our physical skills. We should continue to have a lot of fun. We are in for it!

Sweetheart, I love the guy I see already. I love your smile. I love your infectious laughter. I love your determination. I love how you eat virtually everything without giving me cause to complain. Should I say I love how you mess up every corner of the house? It’s more like if there’s anything well arranged, you feel unhappy. But well…maybe, I will just say I love the way you are committed to the work you can do now. I pray through it all, you learn traits that you will keep when you do need them in school and eventually in your work life.

Daddy and I love you!

 

Mum, I didn’t touch the flour

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When I saw the image above, it brought back memories of the crazy things we did as kids that we either successfully or unsuccessfully got away with. Kids will always be kids and it was always a pleasure to think we had outsmarted our parents.

Here is my story. Decide for yourself whether we really did outsmart my parents or they caught us but chose to ignore us.

When I was in class 4, we made caramel in school using milk and sugar. It was very exciting so after telling my sister, we decided to try our hands on it as well when we got home.
Dad picked us up and dropped us at home but unfortunately, the gas was finished. He took the cylinder to go and refill it. We were so eager to try out our caramel that we couldn’t wait. We had been warned not to put on the coal pot on our own but we did just that. We used kerosene so we would have the fire set as quickly as possible.

Just when the fire was almost set, Dad returned. Ei bei! Were we hot! What were we to do? At that time, we lived in a two-storey building with two families – we were at the top. We carried the coal pot to a corner downstairs and put paper on it to hide the fire. How smart!

Daddy came up to drop the gas cylinder and smelt the kerosene. He asked us what happened and we said we couldn’t even smell it ourselves. Hehe. Well…after doing checks up and down, I guess he decided it was probably nothing and left. We stayed upstairs without following him with the intention to pick the coal pot up once he left. We waited and waited but we didn’t hear his car start. Several minutes later, he came and told us of how someone may have wanted to cause a fire because he had seen fire in the coalpot. We acted so surprised. He was so worried and even asked another woman we shared a compound with if she had seen any one. It was so mysterious to the adults but no one suspected us because we were such good children.

Later, as dad reported the incident to Mum, we had to keep a straight face eh! Today, when I reflect on the incident, I realise how much danger we put ourselves in all for the love of homemade caramel. We thank God for keeping us safe. Considering how much risk we take as kids without knowing we have gone overboard with being adventurous, I can just conclude that grace really does keep us.

So what do you think? Our parents knew, but kept quiet? Or they did not suspect us in the least?

How about you? Did something crazy in your childhood? Share with us in the comments below.

First Day of the Academic Year

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The second Tuesday of September. Who else didn’t look forward to this day every year? It was the day most schools reopened for the new academic year. Oh the freshness of it all!

If there was any day my sister and I loved to get to school very early, it was this day. I remember one day in our excitement, we told our dad on Monday how early we wanted to get to school. He promised us we will leave home by 6am. In those days, there was not as much traffic as today so leaving Madina at 6, we would have gotten to school even before 6:30. How pleased we were! Imagine, we woke up about 4am to get ready for school. When it was almost 6, we woke daddy up and what did he say to us? “Are you the ones going to open the gate?” How hurt we were!

So what made the day exciting?

  1. The fresh stationery : Everyone had a new set. From the Barbie themed pencils to the Aladdin pencil cases, to the pens and erasers that had obviously sat in a plane, it was ohhhhs and ahhhhs at the new stuff we all had.
  2. The stories from the “Borgers” : Yes, the borgers had stories! We listened to the truths that could have been lies and the obvious lies as well. 🙂
  3. The new uniforms : For all those who had their uniforms faded or torn, the new academic year was an opportunity to have new ones sewn. It was a great delight to admire one another in our new uniforms and laugh at those who did not have theirs as fitting as they wanted.
  4. The haircuts!!! : No, I am not referring to that of the boys but of the girls. Back then, my school required all girls to have their hair cut short in JSS. We those in primary school enjoyed looking at the “too-known” girls who had very long hair a few months ago back in school with short hair. Oh did we laugh at them! As if we were never going to enter JSS eventually. Lol.
  5. The new sitting partners : Got a crush in the class? Trying to steal someone’s best friend? This day was your golden opportunity to steal a seat next to him/her. Unless of course you had a teacher who taught she could choose a better sitting partner for you. :/
  6. The reshuffling! : This happened three times during my basic school education. Similar to most schools, my school had two streams, A and B. Every year, you move together with your classmates to the next class. Occasionally, the “letter” was swapped for reasons best known to the authorities, but of course nothing changed. Eg. I was in 3A but in 4B and then 5B. Anyway, on the first of the class six year, we had apparently gotten “too used” to one another so the class was completely reshuffled. Oh what great tears flowed and friendships that got broken over the course of the year. After getting adjusted to our new classmates, another reshuffle was done when we were moving to Form 1 and then Form 2. Sigh! Apart from the fact that this allowed us to get to know almost everyone in our batch, I did not see the point. Or maybe that was the point. Lol!abibas
  7. The new shoes : Oh mehn! If you love yourself, stick to unknown brands of shoes/sneakers like I did. Woe betides you if you brought an Abibas instead of an Adidas or a Pama instead of Puma. Trust the guys in my class to hang your shoe at the top of the blackboard (of course while the teacher was not in). Charley, it was painful, but you too, open your eyes before you buy eh. Hehe.
  8. The covering with brown paper : We were given our new books for the year and given the subjects that we had to use each book for. Next was brown paper covering! Hehe. Scissors out, ruler out, cellotape out, glue out. Let’s get to work.
  9. Those repeating the year 😦  : When your friend has to stay in your previous class even after you have all moved to the new class…You vow to stay friends forever and all, but charley, it is almost impossible.

I think I am out of memories for now. This has filled me with so much nostalgia. My whole life, I missed this day only once. And did it hurt me!

Have some first day of the year memories? Do drop them in the comments below.

Who are these Bookmen?

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Bookmen. Bookmen. Am I the only one who thinks they are not necessary at our stations? Am the only one who has no idea why their role exists? No, really.

So my mum once told me about how bookmen came to be, since her dad owned a commercial vehicle.

In those days, travelers were scarce. It was pointless parking at a station and waiting for the car to load because it would most likely produce very low results. What the bookmen did therefore was to make note of all the people who intended traveling from one place to another. Once he got a list of people that could fill up a vehicle, he would call up a driver. Now mind you, it could take about a week or so to get a full list. When the driver arrives, ta da! He will have passengers without sweating. Now this kind of deal definitely needs a reward. The bookman must surely be paid.

2 Ghana CedisFast forward to today. Who are bookmen? They are those who help the mate to call out the destination the trotro is going to and then hustle the driver/mate to be paid. They hardly ever seem satisfied with what they are given. And yet, I keep asking myself, what have they done? What work do they do to deserve ¢2.00 or ¢3.00 per trotro? Can anyone help me understand this better? I mean, even I can call out the destinations. Can’t I?

The worst happens when you get to the station and there’s no car available. They are the ones who will “help” you stand in a queue. The fact that they have laboured and toiled to get the passengers to stand in a queue means that they deserve to be paid. Really?

Somehow too, in this kind of scenario, they also have the right to deny a trotro the chance of picking up stranded passengers. It happened to me once. The bookmen had us in a queue waiting for the station cars which are all loading taxis. A trotro driver had closed the day and was going home which was exactly where we were going. The driver stopped at the station to pick us, but the bookmen refused. Picture this, a long queue of passengers, an empty trotro, but the bookman selfishly wants us to wait for the station taxis. Oh were we bored! It was downright annoying. But no, no amount of our anger could get us into the trotro. We had to wait. Sigh.

Maybe the transport ecosystem understands them better. But do they really? I hardly see a good relationship between drivers/mate and the bookmen. So if no one likes them, why do they still exist?

Are they doing something so important that I have not noticed yet? Someone, help me!

 

E-commerce : We are getting there!

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If you studied an IT-related course in school or work in an IT-related job and you are like me, you want technology to work. Like really work in a very sleek way. You know, sit in the comfort of your house and apply for a passport, check online if ECG “do you yawa” before you get home, simple stuff like that. Nothing sophisticated. E-commerce is definitely a huge part of this. When I see so many e-commerce sites that serve the US, UK, etc, I yearn for the simplicity. And yes, e-commerce is happening. Slow but sure.

I have made a few purchases online before but they have mostly been through the platforms where you call to order the item. You know, the OLXs and the Tonatons. They are doing great, and I love the enthusiasm of their merchants.

Last week though, I tried the other kind where you do the complete ordering and all online. Ideally, no call should happen until you need to be called to confirm the order. First stop was one of the big guys in this space. I choose not to mention their names because working with Kudobuzz, a company that helps companies create and display reviews, I feel the pain of having your name dragged in the mud. Yeah. So back to the story. This order was made on Tuesday. The telephone number in the automatic confirmation email was off. O…kay.

I needed 5 items in all. The first order was made for 1. So well, decided to have another go elsewhere. Visited Franko Trading‘s site. That was after five on Tuesday. Made the order. Got the automatic confirmation email as expected. Since it was past business hours, I did not expect a call so just decided to wait till the next day. But wait, the next day was a holiday. Will I have to wait to Thursday? Sigh.

Franko Trading

But no! They so proved me wrong. By Wednesday morning before 9, they called. I confirmed my order and was informed that I will get my items delivered that day. The delivery guy called later. I got my items in the afternoon. Exactly what I wanted. Receipt and all. I was happy.

Now, mind you, the big guys had still not called yet. I gave it till Friday. I headed to their Facebook page and sent them a message (private message). They replied in good time to ask for my order id. I sent that almost immediately and as we say in Ga, “kɛ ba shi ŋmɛnɛ” (up until now), no show.

Somehow, like a child, I still wanted to trust another big guy. So I made an order for one item on another “big” ecommerce site. The sun was still up when I did, so I guess I should have been called. But no. Ah well. I decided to wait.

By Saturday morning, I had moved on. Got that item on OLX, only because it was sold out on Franko Trading. Ordered the remaining two items from Franko Trading on Saturday about 10. Before 12, I was called to confirm the order. Between 2 and 3, my items had arrived.

The story ends with a call on Monday from big guy number 2. They were finally calling to confirm my order. Like seriously? I informed them that since I hadn’t heard from them, I had ordered from elsewhere. You know what happened? In a very saucy tone, she tells me she called but I did not answer and so she will cancel the order. Bam. She was off. What ever happened to the customer being right always? What happened to a simple apology? Or a kind tone to encourage me to use the platform again? I was shocked oh. I was shocked! I checked my call-log too, no missed call from an unknown number the whole weekend. Sigh.

In truth, Franko Trading will never have been my first option to make an online purchase. No, I have nothing against them. I have bought quite a number of stuff by walking into their store but they just wouldn’t have come to mind. But looks like now, that is about to change. I highly recommend them to you anytime you need to purchase  electronic devices/accessories online.

If you need to buy any other thing online, you probably shouldn’t think the big guys are the only way to go. You should explore more for other vendors you wouldn’t have thought of immediately. Let me know when you find some cool ones.

Oh, yeah. One more bit of my story that I missed. I found this guy on OLX. He had what I needed to buy but says he does not do delivery because he has had a bad experience in the past. The only way I could get what I wanted was to go to his shop at Adabraka. Like seriously? Does this man mean business? Literally? I said I wasn’t interested. Later, after I had moved on, he sends a message saying he is at Spintex with the items. (I stay in Tema) Well sorry sir. The competitive nature of this fast-growing market will not wait for you to heal after your bad experience.

So I am excited. E-commerce is working. Petit á petit, we will get there.

As for those big guys who think they have the money to advertise everywhere but not deliver on what is expected of them…well. Time will tell…

*Disclaimer* : I am not associated with Franko Trading in any way except as a customer. I just believe good things must be praised. 🙂

How I got my driver’s licence for the price of a driver’s licence

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Last week, I read a news item about a woman who has been arrested for duping people who paid to acquire passports through her. Among many comments on Facebook were several that were variants of “It is impossible to acquire a licence or a passport in Ghana the right way”. I decided that my very annoying story must be told just to prove it is possible. Now this story is not in any way suggesting that corruption does not exist in these offices or getting these seemingly ‘easy’ items is not quite cumbersome. I just want to prove it is possible, full stop. Just possible. Stressful, yes. But possible.

When I had to get my licence in 2009, I wanted to debunk the theory that it was impossible to get a licence the right way. It was the path I decided to choose. Coupled with the fact that I want to see the extent to which it is possible to survive in Ghana without paying a bribe. Great ambition, but difficult to achieve.

My first time in the DVLA office in 37 for my licence was in February, 2009. I do not remember the events quite clearly but I do know this initial stage was not painful. I filled the required forms, got my learner’s licence and was given a July date for my written test. I paid a total of GHS 36 that day. In July however, I had to prepare for school so I did not take the test. I had heard the penalty for changing a test date was GHS 5 so I decided to relax and take the test during my long vacation in June the following year.

June 2010. I  reported at the DVLA office to take my test. Before the test started, a security man (I believe) strolled round the room to check the test date slips. When he informed me I needed to pay the penalty, I simply asked where I had to go to, my GHS 5 ready. I got to the counter and the teller asked me to pay GHS 50. For a second, I thought she was mistaken. I asked her to repeat herself. When I realised I was really supposed to pay ten times what I had budgeted, I asked for an explanation. I was told my entire receipt had expired so I had to start the whole process again but I be allowed to write the test that day. I was confused. Why did I have to pay for a learner’s licence, learner’s plate and books that I already had because my receipt had ‘expired’? Really? Receipts expire? When they have no expiry dates? When the teller realised I was not willing to let the issue go, she directed me to someone in ‘higher’ authority. My main argument with this man when I went to see him was if the receipt really had expired, why was there no expiry date on it? He calmly explained to me that a meeting had been held in February that year (2010) to change the validity of receipts issued by DVLA from 3 years to 1 year. Okay. Fair enough. So there was some expiration period. But hold on. This meeting was held in February 2010. My receipt was issued in February 2009. Dear friends, should I be affected by this new rule? Thanks for answering no. This man however did not agree with me. When I argued further, he directed me to go and see his boss. I walked out. Walked out of that DVLA office with the intention never to return. I didn’t know how I would eventually get my licence. I just knew they had annoyed me beyond reasoning.

Fast forward to 2013. A friend had just gotten his licence from the DVLA office in Tema and the process had been smooth. Sharp! Off I went. That was in June 2013. The cost for the learner’s licence etc was now GHS 80+. I was given a date in September for my test.
examSeptember 2013. I got to the office before 9 am. I took my computerized test around 10:30 am. I must mention here that one of the invigilators tried to get me to change one of my answers that was supposedly wrong. Apart from the fact that I did not believe it was wrong, I did not go with what he said because I wanted a clean slate so that I can tell this story some day to you, my lovely readers. I must also admit I was scared I might end up getting a mark shy of the pass mark but I built up courage. Those are normal fears that come with challenging the status quo. My results came and I had passed! (I had 23 out of 30; the pass mark is 21) The invigilator laughed at me and said I could have made 24. I laughed and told him I had passed after all. After all, this no be WASSCE. Anyway. I was given a date in October for my on-road test.

October 2013. I reported before 7 am at the office. I used a friend’s car for the test. Apart from forgetting to turn on my traffic indicator light (‘trafigator’) twice, everything else was perfect. The instructor advised me to always remember to turn it on and handed me my forms for the next stage. I was told to come back in a week. Ah ba! Charley, this one diɛɛ, I was frustrated. A young man told my friend and I that there was ‘a way’ to get it that day. Oya! I run away. No temptation!

Later in October 2013. I reported at the office before 8 am. At the final stage, I was told I needed to return my learner’s licence. I had left it in my friend’s car on the day of the test. How careless of me! I was directed to pay a penalty for that, but apparently, that was not valid. I left the Tema DVLA office and went to my friend’s house around Ashaiman to pick it up. When I returned with it, two workers in the office were surprised I had gone all the way for it. But that was the only solution right? Of course. I paid GHS 70+ and I was done.

If you see the photograph of my licence (no, I wouldn’t upload it ;-)), you would notice I look very tired and upset. That’s exactly how I felt when I got back, but hey, I smiled at the end. I had my licence. For the right price. (About GHS 160 in total then) And I can tell this story. It was painful. It wasted my time. But it was possible. And that is the moral of my story. If you have the time and the patience, go through the right way of getting stuff in Ghana. If we are able to slowly put the goro boys and connection men (and women) out of business, maybe, just maybe, corruption would begin to decrease in Ghana.

The question I have once asked myself is : “What if I urgently needed the licence for a new job or something? What would I have done?” My answer, I don’t know. Maybe I’d advise you to seek these things when they are not a necessity yet. But admittedly, that is a weak answer. I judge you not for having no choice but to pay someone because you needed it done urgently. I only want to prove that is possible. Full stop.

Got some good or bad DVLA/ passport office experiences to share? Leave it in the comments. Thanks for stopping by.

Trotro Drama

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If you stay in Ghana and you take trotro as a means of transportation on a somewhat regular basis, you have definitely witnessed some drama on the road. Whether it’s a fight over 10 pesewas (which is very valid because the mate would never spare you if you owed him :p) or a mate getting annoyed because passengers are putting too much pressure on him to give them change or a driver getting angry because a passenger insists on getting down at a place that is only a bus stop when the driver wants to pick up someone but not when he has to drop someone or passengers lambasting a “preacher” because his preaching is centered more on money than God, it is always quite dramatic and sometimes hilarious. I know you have definitely witnessed one of these but I doubt you have witnessed what I witnessed. Which is why I want to share this with you!

On that fateful day, I picked a car from Madina to Ashaiman a journey of about 30km that can take about 45 minutes when traffic is quite minimal. As usual, the mate began collecting the fare right after we had left the station. Somewhere on the dual carriageway around IPS junction, while the driver was in the inner lane, a passenger in the front seat told the driver to stop. The driver was visibly confused and so was I. Why is a passenger asking the driver to stop barely 3km into the journey? The answer came right then because it was an “urgent” situation. Apparently, as the passenger was giving his fare to the mate, his money had flown out of the window. All this while, the driver was still moving (obviously) and so he was now too far away from where the money had fallen. Stopping would therefore have made no difference but the passenger persisted. The driver kept insisting that there was no way he could have stopped, one because there was no bus stop there and secondly because he was in the inner lane. The passenger was very annoyed with the driver because he had lost 20 Ghana cedis which was meant to pay the fare for four people. As the communication went back and forth, tempers rose and it turned into insults. The insults started on a small level and kept increasing as the level of annoyance of both the driver and the passenger increased. The driver by that time was in traffic so he had the “freedom” to concentrate on the argument. And then! Guess what happened next? A punch came from the passenger and this was followed promptly by a punch from the driver. Oh, I forgot to mention. There was a passenger sitting in between the driver and the angry passenger. More about this guy later. Let’s call him the silent observer.

After the passenger received his punch, he got very annoyed, opened his door and walked across to the driver’s side. Uh-oh! The mate and another concerned passenger quickly ran over to the driver’s side to prevent our angry passenger from opening the driver’s door. Meanwhile, in the car, an elderly woman who had been advising the driver and the angry passenger with a motherly tone to let go of the issue quickly prompted the passenger sitting next to her to move to the front seat. They were both on the first seat. She then turned to me (Yes! I played a role :-)) in my seat beside the mate to move to the first seat with her. That way, the only seat left for the angry passenger would be the seat next to the mate. At least that would keep him as far away from the driver as possible.

Did I say only seat? Well, it was until my most favourite characters played their part. Two ladies who were also on the seat next to the mate decided there had been too much violence for them to stay in the vehicle. Of course, they didn’t say that with direct words but proved it with action. They picked their bags and with grim expressions walked out of the car. They did it so swiftly as though they didn’t want anyone to change their mind. And yes, people did try to talk them out of it. One of course because they felt the ladies were overreacting but also because they had gotten down at a point between Okponglo and Shiashie, where it would be almost impossible to get another direct car to Ashaiman. Oh, I laughed at them in my head and my heart. They made my morning!

By this time, our physical fight had been prevented by the mate and the concerned passenger. The driver was still insulting the angry passenger who was now sitting beside the mate not saying a word. Some minutes later, when all was calm in the vehicle, the angry passenger called out to the passenger in the front seat, the silent observer (He mentioned his name, but it’s lost in my memory). It was only then that I noticed that they actually knew each other. This passenger had stayed quiet throughout the entire fight as though he had never seen the angry passenger before. I found that both funny and smart. Anyway, the angry passenger asked the silent observer to pass his bag to him. He took another 20 cedis and paid the fare for himself and the three other people he was commuting with. I kind of respected him for that.

I got down at the last stop so I know for sure that no other drama happened in the vehicle. Hehe.

If you know me well, you know I narrated my dramatic ride to my family when I got home. Can you imagine that my parents actually felt I had risked my life by staying in the vehicle? Their favourite characters were also those ladies who left the vehicle but for different reasons – they believed the ladies had been the most sensible passengers. I’m rolling my eyes. Parents…

History Interview

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I had an interview today. An interview with Thasha, a student of anthropology from the Netherlands who is doing an internship with Leti Arts, a company in the Mest Incubator. Sorry, can’t say much about Leti and Mest because I want to talk about my interview but do follow their links to check them out :-).

The interview lasted a little over one hour – longer than I expected. It was however interesting. It left me reflective. It left me reliving my past and acknowledging stuff I had not thought about in years.

Thasha’s goal was to basically explore my past and how my experiences have influenced my current career path. I learnt several stuff.

1. I realised I was a more privileged kid when it came to my exposure to technology. More privileged than I knew then or than I had acknowledged until my interview. Growing up, we had several computers in the house because it was the ‘dump yard’ for used computers. Basically, any time my dad’s office was refurbished, employees bought the old stuff at very reduced prices. Since my dad worked in the IT department, he got a lot of computers and brought them home. I used them eagerly and happily like it was the most normal thing for all primary school kids in the late 1990s. But apparently not. Thasha told me that most of those she had already interviewed had one or no computer at home. Wow, was I privileged!

2. This is more of a question. Is the story of Ghana Airways in the history books of Ghana? Do kids in school today know anything about Ghana once having an airline and that the company was liquidated at a point? When I mentioned my relationship with Ghana Airways to Thasha today, it hit me that probably some kids of this generation do not know much about it. Or do they?

3. I left KNUST with the deepest respect for only one lecturer who taught me for only one semester. This was a  visiting professor from the US who made me fall in love with my course the moment I walked into his class the first day of lectures. Professor Oblitey is the only lecturer I met who was willing to sacrifice so much for us to understand the basics of information technology. You know the most touching thing he ever did? He climbed through an open window on a day that TEWU was on strike to open the door of a lecture hall so we can have a class. We were all so awed that day. He was a lecturer with a difference

4. I love kids and I love spending time with them. I know I love kids, but as I reflected on the interview and realised how each stage of my life had this love painted across it, I see how deeply I love them. And how much my heart yearns to spend time with kids. If I do not do something focused on kids somewhere along my career, I would die with my music left unsung. I shouldn’t do that to myself.

5. I talk about my passions more than I can show for. I love writing. I have no doubt about that. But I have little writing to show for it. I love quotes, but I do not have a record of them and so I could barely give examples of quotes when I had just told Thasha that “I get inspired by quotes.” Talk is cheap. I must talk less and do more.

It’s amazing what an hour taught me. Maybe I should be having interviews more often. But better yet, why don’t I interview myself every day? Why don’t I take time off to reflect? I realise how self-reflection gives you a lot to be grateful for and a lot to re-work on.

I hope you join me to take time off each day to reflect on our lives. There is so much to learn in the process.

Who pays the taxi fare?

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No. This is not another article of the role of a guy and a lady in a relationship and no, I’m not going to tell a story about which of them should pay when they go for dates. If that is what you thought you were going to read about, you can leave now.

Okay, I really didn’t mean. And thanks for staying.

So I know a lot of folks have had this very annoying experience but I really want to rant about it just because I want to. It was a Saturday evening and I was just returning home from an evening out with my buddies. As it usually happens after dark, the ‘trotro’ station was closed so I could only pick a loading taxi home. Of course I could pick a dropping, but I mean…really 🙂

So, I got to the station and unfortunately, I was the first person in the taxi. Arghh!!! I was dreading this! First person means a long wait for the taxi to get full. So I sat down. And waited. And waited. And waited. Then a second person came along. Phew! Not long after, a third person too. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. Oh! We really waited! At that point, I said to myself that I should call the driver to come move the car so that I pay the extra ¢1.50. But you see, spending extra money is not fun. So I told myself I would wait about 5 minutes. Maximum, 10.

As I was having this money conversation with my inner self, one person at the back said in twi, “Friends, let’s each add an extra 50 pesewas so the car can move for it is late.” Silence. He repeated himself. Silence. A few minutes later my ‘time’ was up and with reluctance in my heart but great determination to get home, I called the driver and told him we should leave. He asked me if I would pay and I replied with this tiny bit of confidence that we would pay. And my ride home began. Finally! Mr. Suggester who spoke twi was the first to get off. He gave the driver ¢2.00 and mentioned it to me. I nodded in acknowledgement. I silently waited for Mr. Quiet Man to pay. Luckily, he got off before me. He too gave the driver ¢2.00. And then! He waited for his change! What?!!! I mean I kind of expected it but I didn’t really think it would happen. Get what I mean?

When he got off, the driver commented that the man’s “head is hard”, literally translating that from twi. So from his comment, I thought he would take only ¢2.00 from me. No oh. I gave him ¢5.00, he gave me ¢2.50. Ah ah! And ah again! No, I’m not ranting about 50 pesewas. I’m just ranting about the fact that someone happily enjoyed an ‘early’ ride but was not willing to contribute. I know you must not judge a book by its cover but honestly, first impressions really count. I can easily conclude that this is the kind of person who lives to benefit from stuff but is not willing to contribute at the very least to it. But anyway, I didn’t see his face so luckily he technically still has a clean slate with me. And the driver. He sympathised with me but collected the 50 pesewas anyway. Hehe. Okay, I can’t blame him for that. He wants to make his ¢6.00 anyway. Nothing, not even sympathy must stop him.

So to conclude, there must be a point to this ranting right? Of course there is. Simple. Be willing to pay for stuff if you want to benefit from it. It’s totally human to want to spend less if you can. My earlier conversation with myself obviously shows that I didn’t want to spend much. However, if you must contribute something extra for a good reason, just do it! It won’t kill you! Yeah, Mr. Quiet Man didn’t ask for the ‘early’ ride, did he? So he is justified. No he isn’t. Speak! Speaking wouldn’t kill you. Too many of us suck things up when our hearts are burning inside. Speak. It’s that easy.

Start today! Contribute! Pay to benefit! Speak! Do it now!