Congrats to UPSA Governing Council, and recalling the Mercy Busia campaign

BY: Ajoa Yeboah- Afari

Surely, one of the most uplifting developments in Ghana’s educational sphere in recent times was the surprise announcement last month that the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), is now to be renamed after its founder, Nana Opoku Ampomah.

The announcement was made by President Nana Akufo-Addo when he was the Guest of Honour at the Fourth Special Congregation of the university on April 25. The university also conferred on Nana Opoku Ampomah an honorary doctorate degree for his contribution to the development of education in the country.

The President said he had approved a decision by the Governing Council of the university to rename the school after its founder. After parliamentary ratification of the decision, it will be known as the Nana Ampomah University of Professional Studies.

President Akufo-Addo described the renaming as “a most excellent decision,” the Daily Graphic of April 26 reported.

I believe that the UPSA renaming will have come as a very welcome news to any fair-minded person who knows even just a little bit about the founding of that institution.

The UPSA, originally the Institute of Professional Studies (IPS), was founded by Nana Ampomah in 1967, but it was taken over by the state in 1978.

It received a Presidential Charter in September 2008 under former President John Agyekum Kufuor, which conferred on it the status of a fully fledged university.

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That UPSA will now bear his name is probably more cherished by Nana Ampomah than the honorary doctorate, considering all the stress he has reportedly had to endure for recognition as the founder, including the demolition of his statue which had been mounted on the campus.

Nana Ampomah, now in his nineties, a former member of staff of the then Graphic Corporation (now the Graphic Communications Group Limited), is the Paramount Chief of the Amoafo-Bekwai Traditional Area, in the Ashanti Region.

The renaming of the university is a step which I hope will be a cue for the authorities to correct Ghana’s numerous naming anomalies – which subject I hope to return to in future!

In this country credit is hardly ever given to people who originate things; or others take the credit due them. In the rare times when a few lucky ones have their initiative recognized, it is usually only after much delay and protracted toil.

I recall my own involvement in the 20-year campaign of Grandma Mercy Adebi Busia to be acknowledged as the one who introduced, and founded, the SOS Children’s Village concept in Ghana, and not her colleague and family friend, Alice Appiah.

On Mrs Busia’s behalf, I engaged in numerous interviews, petitioning, meetings, letters, lobbying of journalist colleagues, and arranging media support. She had made it clear that she had complete confidence that I could help her in her quest, and I was determined not to disappoint her. Eventually, we succeeded.

Special mention should be made of the crucial support given by the then PNDC Secretary for Mobilization and Social Welfare, Mr D.S. Boateng. He responded to our petition for rectification by setting up a committee to investigate Mrs Busia’s claim. The committee’s findings confirmed that Mrs Busia was indeed the founder of SOS Ghana.

Thank God the then Board of SOS, chaired by Mr Nick Opoku, also accepted that Mrs Mercy Busia, was truly the founder of SOS in Ghana.

Mrs Busia was the sister-in-law of Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, Prime Minister of Ghana’s Second Republic. Her husband was Mr Kofi Boateng Busia, the PM’s brother. Mrs Busia had suffered a tragedy and taken time off work and it was during that period that the ouster by Mrs Appea had occurred.

Typically modest and charitable, Mrs Busia had said after the vindication: “Though many others deserve credit for their contributions to SOS Ghana, the original idea and the establishment of SOS in Ghana came about through my humble efforts and God’s Grace.

“The way I see it, I was only an instrument of the Lord and I never wanted anything more than the truth to be known about how SOS came to Ghana.”

She acknowledged the hard work Mrs Appea had put in, but added firmly: “The plain truth is that the one who builds on another one’s foundation is never the founder.”

To their credit, after Mrs Busia’s claim was confirmed, the management went all out to make amends. They built and named after her a recreational centre at the SOS Village, Tema, and I was a proud guest when she inaugurated the ‘Mercy Adebi Busia Hall’ on June 23, 2005.

Mrs Busia, mother of leading fashion designer Nana Akua Busia and siblings, died on May 31, 2007, aged 87.

Touchingly, even now, one SOS website still has the In Memoriam they posted there last year on the tenth anniversary of her passing:
“In remembrance of a great soul, Mrs Mercy Adebi Busia. Forever in our thoughts … Your instrumental role in the establishment of SOS Children’s Villages Ghana cannot be forgotten.

“Mrs Busia, SOS Children’s Villages will forever remember your vision.”

Another naming concern of mine was, and still is, the capital’s street names, a topic I have written about a number of times. In my column of January 6, 2017, I wrote for the attention of the just inaugurated Akufo-Addo administration:

“The Accra street-naming project should be part of the new Government’s ‘TO BE REVIEWED’ priority list.

“Furthermore, any plans for the capital should include a serious review of the city’s chaotic street-naming programme ….

“Many of the new street names were not needed. All that was required was to have written the old, well-known, names on the newly-designed signposts.”

Obviously, if the countless wrong spellings on the street signs are factored into the current location addressing initiatives, such as the digital property addressing system recently introduced by Ghana Post, the errors will become permanent! Thus they need to be corrected!

Anyway, once again, well done to the UPSA Governing Council and all those who pushed for UPSA to be renamed after its founder, Nana Opoku Ampomah.

I hope that the necessary procedures to make the decision take effect will not take too long.

And to inspire others, Ghana needs to establish a tradition of honouring its initiators, trailblazers and pioneers.

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