‘Sir, I have read your book’
Since my fifth book “The Military, My Life: 43 years, 5 months 25 days” was launched on August 10, 2023, I have made new friends! The conversation usually starts with “Sir, I have read your book!”
At the Arakan Officers Mess, a young Major I had not met before accosted me saying “Sir, you must be Gen Frimpong (Rtd).
” When I replied in the affirmative, he said “Sir, I don’t know you, but I have read your new book.
When I saw you, I knew it was your picture on the book.”
However, the most interesting was a WhatsApp picture I received from a mother of her nine-year old daughter reading my book.
The inscription was, “my daughter is reading the book, Sir.”
When I asked if the nine-year old understood what she was reading, the mother said she gave her a detailed account of what she thought was a very interesting chapter titled “Crime of Aspiration?”
These occurrences took me back to my November 20, 2018 Daily Graphic article titled “Reading o reading, where art thou gone?” Part stated:
In her student days, Winnie had the privilege of being driven to Accra by her Professor.
Picking up the tune of a song on the radio, Winnie began singing.
Soon, Prof addressed her saying, “Winnie, if you had to sing for a living, you would starve!” Having eliminated bass, Prof was not sure which of the other three parts Winnie was singing in; treble which has now been rechristened “soprano,” alto or tenor! He found Winnie’s singing simply beautiful cacophony!
While Ghana has produced many musicians who are not starving, I have wondered what the Prof would have said if Winnie had indicated she aspired to writing for a living.
From my experience of having authored two books, “Leadership and the Challenges of Command” in 2003, and “Kofi Chokosi Speaks from Archaeology to Zoology,” in 2017, borrowing from Prof and substituting my name for Winnie, Prof may have said “Dan, if you had to write for a living, you would starve.”
However, unlike Winnie who would starve because of her voice, I would starve probably not because of poor writing, but because of poor patronage of books in Ghana.
Recently, while chatting with a Professor, I stated that students do not read the way we did as students.
To my surprise, Prof shot back asking “do we read ourselves now as parents?
Parents have replaced reading with politics.”
For over a generation now, the reading culture which our parents bequeathed us with has been replaced by a culture of politics of insults/invectives and total disrespect for adults and authority!”
For about two decades after independence, we had an educational system which made it possible for pupils from villages to qualify for any of the top secondary schools in Ghana at the Common Entrance examination.
Today, it will be next to impossible for a village pupil to qualify at the BECE for any top school.
This is because the rural areas have been so neglected and starved of basic necessities like electricity and water to the point that, teachers refuse postings there.
In a recent ranking of educational standards in Africa, Ghana did not feature in the top ten.
Zimbabwe was adjudged the most educated African country with a literacy rate of 90 per cent.
Kenya came fourth with 85 per cent.
Having lived in Kenya, I was not surprised.
On Saturdays at malls in Nairobi, I marvelled at children as young as five going through books at bookshops with rapt attention.
Parents would help them make their selections.
I also observed that, in addition to imported books, many books were published locally.
This contrasts with the situation in Ghana.
State of Education
Sadly, the term “schools under trees” has gained roots rapidly particularly in the rural, and sometimes, not so rural areas!
At a school in Tema I watched on TV, students were shown sitting/writing from the bare floor as they had no tables/chairs! Media houses like Joy FM, and TV3 in their weekly programme called MISSION, have regularly shown harrowing documentaries of schoolchildren attempting to learn under impossible conditions!
While some walk long distances to the nearest school, others dangerously wade through streams on a daily basis to school and back.
Indeed, some have to cross water bodies in rickety overloaded canoes.
Mahatma Ghandi said that, “there is enough for everybody’s need, but there is not enough for everybody’s greed!”
I have stated in earlier writings that, administering fellow human beings by government is not Rocket Science, if governance is done selflessly and humanely.
However, where leadership is driven by greed/heartlessness, an illiterate and dangerous/angry population is produced. President J.F. Kennedy of the United States of America summed up this danger by saying, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich!”
With good leadership based on simple honesty/humility and humaneness, Ghana can be lifted from the semi-illiteracy we are in now through reading!
We can do better than not appearing in the top ten educated African states.
This is premised on the assumption that rural areas will have basic amenities like electricity and good drinking water to attract teachers!
If what I have seen/heard in recent times about a renewed interest in reading is actually the new trend, one can only hope it continues.
For as the English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) said, “reading maketh a full man.”
To him reading fills a human being with knowledge, making him/her full to develop society!
Leadership Lead! Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA)
Family Health University College