Education, education, education!
Every African who has been fortunate to attend school at any level knows the burden of this single word. Our parents would wantonly hurl it at us like a gauntlet in the face of any infraction, whether real or perceived.
“Heh? You won’t go and sit down and learn your books eh? Don’t you value your education?”
“My friend – you said you want to do what? Go to a school jam? Do you know how much money I spend on your education?”
Even the struggling groundnut seller harangues her young primary school children about their education. If they can do nothing else, they better be able to count and bring home correct change!
Ghanaians, Gambians, Nigerians, West Africans on the Continent and in the Diaspora – there is nothing we value more than education. Every West African of any class has had one thing drilled into us since we were a gleam in our Daddy’s eye: Pursue excellence, wherever that may be. I had an old man corner me one afternoon in my parking lot recently, and although he was not an African, he summed up our struggle very succinctly.
“If you gon’ be a monkey, damn it, be a gorilla!”
Everything we do as West Africans is with “vim”; That certain drive that makes us want to do everything harder and better than the next guy, even in the midst of imitating him/her. Our alcoholics are the hardest core drunkards you will encounter. Nigerians are driven to success at all cost, no matter the environment. Our crooks are the most brazen and innovative around. And now we have this Kwasi Enin unscrewing and resetting the bar for excellence in education.
Like other over-achievers before him, he has just made things harder for the rest of us. Oh, don’t worry! I will get to the part where I laud his accomplishments and even find a way to insinuate that I had some part to play in his achievement, but before I get there, I have to scold him!
You see, in gaining acceptance into ALL EIGHT Ivy League schools in this country, he has just made the existence of every Ghanaian child that much more unbearable. There is nothing that gives a Ghanaian parent more pleasure than boasting about the accomplishments of their children and secretly (never publicly) comparing those feats to those of other kids in their age range. One of my very dear friends is the eldest of four kids, all of whom has an advanced degree. The youngest of the lot is pursuing his PhD. Very frequently, his now-retired father will look at his wife and say:
“Eh? Look at your children compared to those of your friends? Can they say that their ALL of their children has a degree? They can’t!”
It is important to note that only two of these children is actually working in their field of study, and that the PhD candidate will most likely not using his letters in real world experience at all. However, that is none of his father’s concern. His job was to educate his children and get them ready should the opportunity arise. Theirs is to seek out those opportunities. He can therefore take pride in his work.
I say again: Now comes this Kwasi Enin and all his shark-brainess, gaining acceptance into Harvard and co. What are mothers like me to do when it comes time for our children to being their foray into the realm of tertiary education? He has shown that it is possible, and because it is “possible”, all children of his ilk must do it! Why do you think that every West African child born between 1962-1988 has been compelled to go to school to become a lawyer or a doctor? Because Kwasi Enin circa 1953 showed it was possible when we had no examples of that level of success before! It can be done, so it will be done. End of discussion. You will soon see hundreds of Ghanaian children applying to the all of best colleges in the world – in tandem – when one or two of such would have previously done nicely. I can hear the wailing of determined parents now:
“You said what? You only applied to three elite colleges??? Oh God. What kind of a child have I raised? My friend, go and find six others to apply to!”
You wait and see.
My daughter brought home a ‘C’ in mathematics for the quarter a week ago. I sat in bed and mourned as if she had committed the most felonious of crimes. No amount of apology could console me. And now we have the added pressure of Kwasi Enin’s accomplishments on top too? Woi! We won’t survive in the Grant house. Look at what this small boy has done to my family!
With all that said, I salute Mr. Enin. He is a fine young man, and his parents should be particularly proud. Of course, they cannot take this pride for themselves. We all want our slice. We will attribute his success to good Ghanaian upbringing, morals, and a steady diet of jollof or whatever. The family’s pastor will claim his share in the glory for praying over him, as will the immigrant cashier at his local grocery store. We will all say we “knew Kwasi when.”
Let us do what we do best and advise this young man. What advice would you offer him? Me, I would tell him to go to these campuses with caution and to remember Eric Frimpong, who was also an exceptional young man slated for glory. What the American ‘justice’ system did to that boy was unconscionable. Kwasi must remember to walk circumspectly and cautiously. The same tongues that are praising you now are the ones who will facilitate your downfall. Choose your friends carefully o!
Oh yes, and ayekoo!