I never knew it had the ability to stand in the way of one’s career; I didn’t know it was this important. National Service! I detested it with a passion. But … I have suddenly become its self-styled advocate.
My odium for Service can be traced from a root-cause. Hm, it took my first true admirer so far away from me, the friendship, which possibly could have ended up in a great relationship (and who knows, could have ended in marriage) grinded to a halt.
I was in form four in secondary school when this traffic-stopping, handsome, tall, dark gentleman with a gap in his lower incisors gained admission to Lower Six in our school.
He used to be a student of one of the top Cape Coast Schools but had chosen not to go back there for his sixth form. Very intelligent chap.
He was a sportsman; the female students could literally die for him. From Forms one to Upper Six, everyone except me, wanted to catch his attention.
But of all the 264 girls in our school, I, the local Cinderella, was the one he chose. I became the enemy of many. Timothy Asiedu was his name.
His nickname however was Pythagoras. Boy, the guy knew his Maths. He liked me so much and taught me everything I knew in JSP 4 and 5. Eigh, JSP. Do we still have some in the “system?”
Pythagoras always had an ear to listen to a complaint or two I had with my academic work. He was a gentleman who had moral soundness.
In our friendship of two years, he showed me respect and never touched me in an uncanny way. I hope you catch my drift. Not once.
Never! So I had a lot of respect for him. I still remember how difficult parting was for the two of us each time school vacated.
He lived in Tutu (Akuapem), and I, with my guardians in Aburi. Although I completed my O’levels the same month he completed his A’level examinations, we knew we could sneak out of our homes to visit each other once a while.
Our dreams came true. At least between the months of July and early August that year, we managed to secretly visit each other three times.
Those meetings were secret because I was prohibited from talking to youthful or adult males. My aunt was a strict Presbyterian trained teacher who would punish your body to save your soul if she noticed your emotions were orienting towards a male child. Hm.
Then came the month of September when the National Service postings were released. Pythagoras visited me (the third visit) to inform me of his placement. He had been posted to Bolgatanga to teach. I almost expired at that disheartening news.
I deterred him from having his Service altogether. One, I would miss him, and two, I had heard of the many escapades of some of the young guys sent out to teach. Some used to impregnate some of the girls they taught, etc.
So I didn’t want this gentleman’s moral standards to be tainted or influenced by any freedom-inspired colleagues.
We had heard of how some even could go and register as having reported on their jobs and thereafter, never step foot in those places of work. I wanted him to do same. But he wouldn’t buy into my idea.
Try as I could, Pythagoras remained bent on fulfilling his civic responsibility. How were we going to keep in touch with each other? Yes, we could write letters to each other.
But I was sure I would never receive his, because letters addressed to me were always opened by my aunt who picked them up from the Post Office.
How was I to let my aunt know through a received letter that a Pythagoras had ceased and settled down in my heart? Our means of communication was going to be limited to a one-way route – only I was going to do the writing, not him (through no fault of his). So we kissed that idea of writing to each other goodbye.
That was the last I saw of my lover. Because of National Service, I lost the gentleman who doted on me in no small measure. His departure from our spot of hiding in Aburi that afternoon left me heart-broken.
And I had to nurse my emotional lesions unaided. How was I to let my aunt or anyone else in that compound house I had gotten a “b3h3”, as we termed the act of being broken hearted?
National Service. I was glad to have been placed in Accra when I finally completed sixth form; I wouldn’t have travelled outside Accra to undertake an exercise for an Institution which stole my lover from me.
No way Jose! It had done me enough harm emotionally; I wasn’t going to sacrifice further for it. Thankfully, after my first degree, I was placed in Accra again to have my Service.
It was as though someone who knew how awful I felt towards Service, had gone to inform those in charge to keep placing me in Accra.
I used to look back and wonder how beneficial Service was to some of my mates and I. Most of us got jobs but were never asked whether we had completed a post Sixth Form National Service or post First Degree Service.
So all along I thought to myself, “these two years were a waste of human time”. Hmm. Never knew those national temporary job placements were that useful ooo.
Huh, the ministerial vetting taking place presently have really opened my eyes to the importance of what I thought was just a mere waste of time.
I have worked in not less than seven institutions, but truly, none of those employers ever enquired of my Service Status. Well, now I guess I am going to encourage everyone supposed to undertake theirs to do well to comply with that requirement.