Cameron Duodu's successful life as an international journalist, novelist, editor and columnist is hitched on one thing – constant reading.
He missed formal secondary and university education due to financial constraints, yet through constant private reading, this young man was able to write and successfully pass the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations.
In fact, instead of the five years most students in the formal schools used to study and write these examinations, our personality for this week used only 15 months to do so.
Again, through constant reading, he managed to become a successful broadcaster at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), even though he had no formal training in that field. While still aiming high, he read very widely in order to be enlightened enough to write for major international newspapers such as The Economist of London,
The Observer, The Financial Times and The Sunday Times as a correspondent.
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“I never thought of myself as handicapped because of the lack of formal classroom education because I was constantly reading. Reading helped me in my work as a journalist. I just had the urge to read and I read everything,” disclosed Mr Cameron Duodu when he shared his experiences as a child with the Junior Graphic.
Mr Duodu, who recently turned 80, is one of the country’s most celebrated journalists. For many years, he had been writing for the London-based New African Magazine and recently for the Ghanaian Times and the Daily Guide as a columnist. He lives in the United Kingdom but was in the country recently when the Junior Graphic caught up with him at the Primrose Apartment so he could share his success story with readers.
He explained that when he realized his parents could not afford to enroll him in a secondary school, he did not brood over it because he used the time that he was idle to read.
He decided to be a pupil teacher. Luckily, the then People’s Educational Association (PEA) ran a programme which offered classes for students who were not pursuing formal education but wanted to acquire knowledge privately. One of the graduate teachers of the PEA, Mr E C E Asiamah apparently noticed Mr Duodu’s ambition and aptitude and, therefore, advised him to pursue a correspondence course under that programme. He heeded the advice and began serious studies, while he continued to work as a pupil teacher.
He explained that the lessons for the course were sent to him from England by airmail and upon receiving them, he read and answered the questions that were part of the package and posted them back to England for marking.
While doing this, he was still not satisfied that he had learned enough and made sure that when his friends from secondary school came home for the holidays, he borrowed their books to read so that he would be abreast of what they had been taught in school. After doing this for 15 months, he managed to write and successfully passed the GCE ‘O’ Level. He obtained a pass at the ‘A’ Level a year later.
Asked how he cultivated the habit of reading and why he was so interested in literature, Mr Duodu nostalgically recalled how even before he was enrolled in school, he used to read his elder brother’s books and never stopped reading but grew more passionate about it as he grew older.
“I used to watch my elder brother read and gradually, I also began to read. Since I was reading all the books I could lay my hands on, by the time I got to standard four, I had virtually run out of new books to read in my town,” he recalled.
In order to have access to more books to read and continue to widen his horizon, young Duodu developed the habit of associating with people who were older than him.
He recollected how he ran errands for them so that he could pick books from their bags to read.
Life at Asiakwa
But young Duodu’s life at Asiakwa where he was born and grew up was not only about books. Like any child who grew up in the village, every Saturday, he went to help with work on the farm pointing out that, he used to enjoy the plantain, cocoyam and vegetables they cultivated because at the end of the day, he was sure to get food to eat. And cocoa from their farms brought the money that bought him clothes and books and also paid his school fees.
One of his boyish adventures in the village then was to go bird-hunting with other children. He also loved to swim in Rivers Supong and Twafuor which were close to the village. Like in an Olympic style, he said together with the other children they would jump into the rivers to see who would emerge the winner. He said this was really a source of fun for them as children.
While at Asiakwa, young Duodu’s dream was to become a taxi driver. This was because he had been introduced to motor vehicles by one of the older children he befriended. Besides that, he thought he would become very “popular” in the village as a taxi driver.
However, he was encouraged by his feat in both the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations that he changed his mind and applied for a job as a reporter with the New Nation, a magazine published in Accra.
From there, he moved to Radio Ghana. Within a year of joining the GBC as a reporter, he had risen to become a sub-editor and subsequently, a news editor.
Interestingly, he got the job at Radio Ghana because at the age of 18, he had written a fictional story which was broadcast. This encouraged him to publish a novel, The Gab Boys [Andre Deutsch, London; Fontana London; Horst Erdmann, Tubingen, Germany] at the age of 30.
Mr Duodu returned to the country in 1966 and in February 1970, he was appointed the Editor of the Daily Graphic. After only eight months on that job, he left – again after a disagreement with the government of the day – and in 1983, he returned to London and began writing for various overseas newspapers.
He has six children and has encouraged children to read in order to gain knowledge and also be curious of the world around them.