I put this up on Facebook about 6 months ago but I just decided to post it on my new blog! Enjoy!
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of 2013…
We all know the broad strokes, that we were admitted four years ago; that we matriculated on Saturday 5th September, 2009; that we lived in halls, shared rooms, made friends, ate out, broke rules, failed exams (wished we hadn’t), passed many, fell in love, broke hearts, wept, laughed, skipped classes, perched, lied, made more friends, fought with roommates, got saved, gossiped, got jealous…
I can’t be gladder that henceforth, my first degree days can confidently be referred to in past tense.
Leave aside the contorted hairdos our eyes endured, leave aside the theoretically malnourished lecturers, leave aside the hungry stomachs, leave aside the exams pressure, even leave aside the lecturers who vowed to see hell freeze over before all their students passed exams (and admonished them to save money for resits), and I’d say, it’s been a great time.
Some are leaving discouraged either from the realization that after four years here, they are still very much intellectually bankrupt; or the bitter truth that they lack the expertise to be employed in anyone’s service. Some have become masterful in their pursuits. Francis has so ingrained the rudiments of psychology that you needn’t talk to him for five minutes before he dangles a theory (or its distortion thereof) before your very unexpectant eyes. Some have become as unerring in their precision as a terrorist making bombs. And I am sad for those who, considering that our primary purpose of coming here was to pursue that sheet, will be leaving with grades below sea level. Passing exams is not everything. Go to an employer and tell him you were good in school; you were not just good at passing exams.
Very soon, we are going to have to buckle our chinstraps to contain jaw-drops as news of deaths and marriages reach us. It will remind us that time is watching. Some of us are going on to have more degrees than a thermometer; some are going to look back on this as their last cherished memory of formal education.
Knowledge of the future might have influenced my choice of friends. There still remain some to whom I am affectionately distant, some to whom I wish to have been affectionately close and some to whom my affection has no dealings in my relation to, or distance from them. I enjoyed the friendships and bonds that were formed here. We had on one side, leech-like friends that big bucks attract, that cling unflinchingly to the very skin of your flesh, suck with parasitic intensity and like all bugs after a good bite, fall off (or fly off if winged) remorselessly; and on another side, those the Good Old Book calls “friends that stick closer than a brother”. Take away “that stick” and they were truly good brothers. Mike, you’ve been a brother.
And then there were those whose ecclesiastical alacrity surpassed the piety of the Pharisees. These were seen on Sarbah field calling on the supreme God either solemnly or in times of adversity (adversity herein known as examination pressure, emotional trauma occasioned by unrequited love or both), aggressively bidding Him intervene. These bore the yoke of the faith like a knight’s medals and had such humility, fortitude and forbearance that could make Job weep with envy. These did exploits in spiritual realms, calling forth fire to burn enemies, healing the sick, wishing to raise the dead, trampling on innocent serpents and venomless scorpions, invoking confusion into enemies’ camp (enemies herein known as the Vice Chancellor and his regiment of unseen cohorts) regarding one school policy or the other, pronouncing victory on Man U, Barca [or any of those other teams whose fate in this world is obviously of no eternal consequence for which reason we doubt the efficacy of those supplications and the earnestness of the supplicants]. They too have their reward.
Books: minds gleaned unto pages, experiences etched on paper. Books. We read a great many. We photocopied even more. If copyright laws were observed in Ghana and the sentence for each pirated book was a day in prison, some students would have spent two eternities behind bars. Ask Mavis if she ever bought a book with a cover.
I do not regret reading English. It “opened my eyes” to a whole new world of language, the power of communication and understanding society. I soon acquired the uncanny habit of choking on the use of abused English expressions. Today, I can sniff out all sorts of errors and disinfect the language of any such desecrations when necessary. I suddenly noticed how some folks, not content with the comparative and superlative adjectival markers “more” and “most” would somehow manage expressions like “more beautifuler” and “most healthiest”. Some others, seeking to further “nounify” certain nouns begot “regretness” and “enviness”. You might not take this seriously but someone actually nearly said “cordful” when he meant to refer to the opposite of a cordless mic. When the term “like seriously” became hackneyed, an Evandy damsel (whose identity will remain undisclosed since this is her first known assault on the language) still managed to remark “like a serious?” amid cackles and giggles. “Without much I do”, “without much we do”, “without much he do” all soon became “allo-expressions” of “without much ado”. I was mortified when I discovered that some Ghanaians thought the word “unprecedented” meant the death of Atta Mills, and so to say this was unprecedented meant Ghana had been “un-presidented”. There was even a point at which an unsuspecting fellow was asked if he would “kindly pomp the champagne for us”. When I feel self-righteous, I’m forced to wish grammatical errors were a sin, with eternal damnation as wages.
When I think of lecturers, I think of Anderson, Denkabe, Aggrey Darko, Bossman, Osei Owusu, Adika… I really enjoyed several lectures. Of course, we all had some terrible lecturers who lacked both the skill and the affability to teach. Some were so terrible you would think the university sent them as examples of how not to lecture. My roommate resolved to take his entire final semester from the room because he saw little value in going for lectures. To him, it just wasn’t worth it. Afternoon lectures were simply irksome. I once sent a text to Atchere: “Two balls of fufu swimming in my belly are contending for my alertness. My eyelids feel like semi-solid canons drooping onto my eyeballs. I see a halo on everyone’s head. And everyone is shaking like an atom. It’s worse than being bitten by a tsetsefly”. If you slept through many sermons as a child, you’d understand what I mean. Let’s call it the great helpless drag!
Research has proven that resolutely chewing one’s “pen-cork” does not produce answers any faster than staring blankly at the white ceiling, yet students the world over persist. That students have fainted, had bouts of epilepsy and lost their sight at the sheer sight of exam questions is no news. When I saw the Romantic Movement in English Literature paper, I gulped. The constriction in my throat felt as though my entire head was being sucked through my throat and had grace not been quickly made available, I would have beckoned the invigilators to allow my honourable exit before any prospect of collapsing became reality. Roundabout, I could see people cringe, furrow their brows and double-peer inquisitorially into the sheet as though it bore some relief to one of man’s problems. Some had these harrowing expressions faintly associated with those made by a woman in reaction to parturient pangs. Hearsay has it that people can get so perplexed by exam questions that both their bowels and their brains jointly give up. By the way, I soon walked through the paper, lavishly quoting Wordsworth, promiscuous Byron and Shelley, punctuated at intervals with thoughtful contemplation, a few muttered words of gratitude to God – lest the heavenlies tag me an ingrate – and a flustered sigh whenever I lost a fleeting thought. If ever I become a lecturer, I would know never to put the best options in “either or” relationships as I now know that it interferes with blood flow, causes momentarily loss of memory and/or negative patient care outcome (death) depending on the stakes.
Had it not been for UG, I would never have regarded some things as clothes. I was always taken aback by scantily-clad ladies in skimpy nothings. The era of hot pants gave way to those bottom-hugging tights that reveal more than they conceal and are potent enough to draw the eros of a monk. On heads, I have seen every hue and strand imaginable; waves, curves, twists, knots, bolts and rolls. Some looked whipped as eggs, some like nests, some a microcosm of a voodoo shrine. They were purported to be of Puerto Rican, Indian, Chinese, and Brazilian origin and did much telling of a lady’s pecuniary circumstances. In the final weeks, I noticed a certain trend. A pound or so of hair was positioned atop the head, perpendicular to any given roof, equidistant to the neckline at the rear of the head and the chin in front. A few times, the seemingly-furious knot was positioned anywhere else on the head in which case the bearer often looked decidedly dreadful. It wasn’t uncommon to see hair that looked obviously fatigued from years of tortuous experimentation and assimilation of concoctions promising it sheen and lustre. Some hairstyles simply need to have a disclaimer as they are as distant from beauty as toothpick and hell are unlike the other. Upon request, I can send you my full disquisition on this hair, lips and ‘shada’ matter.
It is only in keeping with public morality (c.a. Hisroyaldudesty) that I have chosen to steer clear from elucidating such terms as grabbing, narrowing and all the others in that semantic field. Explicit images evoked by these terms may be harrowing to untilled minds. I have no intention (if ever a retrospective analysis was done) to add mine to the literature that corrupted the next generation.
We were all so happy writing our last words in the final exams. It was as though a heavy burden had finally been lifted. Myself and a couple of friends celebrated the day with a healthy bowl of fufu and well-spiced meat obviously comfortable in the light-soup. It’s scary to think that I’ve already seen some people for the last time in my life. It’s wonderful to know I shared this part of my life with you. I’m privileged to be your mate.
Let us not forget the baser elements of life: family, friends, health and faith. You will soon find that money and fame, power and opportunity cannot buy you these. They are sure foundations in a world on stilts. I pray that the trappings of power and fame, money and unbridled desire for more will not blind us to whatever virtues there may be: integrity, humanness, love etc. I have had opportunity to drink deep draughts of living water that Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, and have found it immensely satisfying. Nothing else satisfies.
At the risk of sounding preachy, I daresay that I have high hopes for us. We are going to transform our country. We’ll oil the wheels of the development chariot and outrun the West. We’ll bring sanity to our rural areas and restore opportunity for our children. We’ll give them the promise of a life their counterparts have access to elsewhere. The knowledge we have acquired here has equipped us as another generation of nation builders. We’ll break the hinges of aid dependence and shut the door to mediocrity and all those who tell us we can’t make it. We’ll not be remembered as that generation that wavered when history beckoned.
See you on the other side of things. Welcome to grownup world. “Ghana, show us around”.