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Dr Awo Mana Asiedu: Motivated by parents, headmistress to ‘shine’

BY: Augustina Tawiah

She grew up with the conviction that she would not allow herself to be disadvantaged in any way because she was a girl.

Of course, with the confidence and encouragement instilled in her by her father and the headmistress of her alma mater, Wesley Girls High School (WeyGeyHey), this young girl was sure she could aspire to any level a boy could go. This pushed her to study hard and pursue education to the highest level. Today, she is not just a PhD holder in Theatre Arts, but has also occupied positions any academician would love to occupy in a public university.

Dr Awo Mana Asiedu, the former acting Director of the School of Performing Arts at the University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, as a young girl, did not allow her gender to prevent her from pursuing her dreams.

Speaking to the Junior Graphic about her childhood in her office at the university where she is currently on sabbatical leave, Dr Asiedu recalled how the inspiration from the then headmistress of WeyGeyHey, Mrs Rosina Acheampong, made her feel confident about her gender.

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 She recalled with nostalgia what her headmistress told them many years ago, which helped build up her confidence; “You see those boys out there; don’t allow any of them to intimidate you in anyway because you can do anything they are capable of doing.” 

Indeed, young Awo’s family background was also a motivation for her to pursue higher academic laurels.  According to her, education was considered very important, regardless of one’s gender in her family. “My parents had confidence that   my sisters and I could make it.  They encouraged us to achieve the highest academic standard.”

Young Awo’s nuclear family comprised herself, her four sisters and parents. She said in her home, there was no distinction between which job was for boys or girls. 

“My father made us to do everything including the washing of his car,” she confessed. She spoke so fondly of the discipline her mother gave her, citing instances where her mother made she and her sisters do a lot of the house chores, irrespective of the fact that there were house helps. According to her mother, the house helps worked for her alone and not for them.

“So we cleaned and swept every corner of the house,” she said. 

At a point during her childhood, young Awo had to help her mother in her trade by selling kenkey and provisions during vacations at Anloga. 

Then a student of WeyGeyHey,  Awo would often protest going to town to sell those items for the simple reason that she did not want her mates to see and make fun of her. However, she said, her disciplinarian mother always insisted that she had to do it. 

She told the Junior Graphic that, that childhood experience taught her about the virtues of humility and honour in labour. 

Apart from her parents inculcating some discipline in her, she was also encouraged to do a lot of reading. She recalled, for instance, that when her family lived in Cape Coast she used to visit the central library where she borrowed books to read.

Early years

Dr Asiedu spent her first seven years at Anloga, partly with her parents and maternal grandmum and aunties.

According to her, even though the town did not have electricity at the time, it was fun growing up there. “Because there was no electricity, during moonlit nights, we could play and tell stories out in the open under the stars!” 

Education

Awo started school at Anloga. She said at the time they were not allowed to wear sandals to school, so her grandmother would always carry their sandals from their home to the school so that after school each day she and her cousins could wear them and avoid hurting their feet in the hot sand while they walked back home.

She continued her primary education in Cape Coast following her father’s transfer to that town. After her basic education, Awo joined her father who had then left for further studies in Detroit, Michigan. After two years, she returned to enroll at  Wesley Girls’ High School for her secondary education. 

She spoke so fondly of the school: “We were made to really work hard and students were sanctioned if they did not perform well. The discipline in the school really shaped my life”. She mentioned that a student dared not copy another person’s work during examinations in the school, for instance. 

According to Dr Asiedu, there were a lot of co-curricular activities at the school. She was a proud member of the Joyful Way Incorporated while at WeyGeyHey and recalled that they used to perform at various events.

Dr Asiedu gained admission to the University of Ghana, Legon in 1985 to study Theatre Arts, Linguistics and English.  After her Master’s degree in Adult Education, she became a lecturer at the Theatre Arts Department in 1994.  

In 1999, she won a Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue a PhD in Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. She returned to the University of Ghana in 2003 and served as the Head of the Department of the Theatre Arts from April 2004 to July 2005 and became the acting Director of the School of Performing Arts from August 2009 to July 2013.

Dr Asiedu is married to Mr Ben Asiedu and they are blessed with two children.