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Today’s epistle is directed at modern African youth, especially those who are fortunate to
have acquired some kind of knowledge in the use of the tools of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and are unfortunately applying such tools for negative purposes.
First of all, they must take note of this profound Tanzanian proverb which says: “If you are taller than your father, it does not necessarily mean that you are more intelligent than he is!” Another Ghanaian proverb advises us that, “If your grand mother tells you a story, you don’t tell her that you are going to find out from your mother whether what the old lady has said is true or false.” All right!
Once upon a time, there lived a self-acclaimed learned man by the name Prof. Kweku Ananse. Prof. Kweku Ananse was so full of himself that he proclaimed himself the wisest man on the face of the earth. In fact, he was fond of hitting his chest to boast: “I’m the wisest man on this planet of ignorance. I’m even
wiser than the Creator who created the universe.”
Then, in order to preserve his wisdom for himself alone, he went and bought a pot made of clay. Because he did not want to share his wisdom with anyone else, he put all of his wisdom in the pot, closed it and sealed it with cement. Prof. Kweku Ananse tied a rope around the pot and hanged it on his own neck. With this strategy, Prof. Kweku Ananse was able to carry his pot of wisdom, dangling on his chest like a gold medal from Olympic Games wherever he went. He never removed his pot from his neck even when he was swimming in the river, let alone when he was in bed.
One day, Prof. Kweku Ananse went to his farm at dawn and said it was not necessary to take water along. “After all, I’m not thirsty now. Why should I carry water on my head for small boys to poke fun of me?” he said with pride. Then at about 12 midday, it dawned on Prof. Kweku Ananse that he was dying of thirst. He decided to rush home quickly so as to get some water to drink. On the way he saw a coconut tree and said: “Whaaat! I must plug a coconut to quench my thirst before I proceed.”
Prof. Kweku Ananse reasoned that, if he left the pot on the ground and went on top of
The coconut tree, by the time he descended, some one might have come to take his pot of wisdom away. For that matter, he attempted to climb the coconut tree with his pot in front of him. As he tried to chest the coconut tree, his hands could not go round the tree because of the pot between his chest and the coconut tree. For over three hours or so, Prof.Kweku Ananse struggled and struggled; he was sweating like a pregnant fish but he could not climb the tree. Eventually, he fainted and collapsed on the ground. The pot was weighing and balancing on his chest as he lied flat on the floor.
He was gasping for breath. As he was about to die of thirst, a seven -year-old boy by the name Kojo Nyansah appeared on the scene. He was on his way back from school. When he saw the old man groaning and dying under his pot of wisdom, he was filled with compassion for him. Kojo was taught in school that they should have compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS. Thus, he said to himself: “I must have compassion for this poor man, too.” So, the small boy rushed to the rescue of the “Professor”. Kojo Nyansah knelt by the side of Prof. Kweku Ananse and wanted to know what was the problem and if he could help. Prof.Kweku Ananse suddenly opened his eyes widely and started narrating his ordeal to the small boy. He lamented bitterly that he was dying of thirst and pleaded for assistance.
Without wasting time, Kojo Nyansah dipped his hands into his kaki pocket and brought out a mobile phone. He quickly dialed a number “zero, zero, zero six times and one” (0000001). That was the Creator of the universe’s number. Upon brief communication with the Creator, the boy went back closer to Prof. Kweku Ananse and said to him politely: “Sir, could you please remove the pot from your chest and put it on your back and try again?” Prof. Kweku Ananse quickly jumped back on his feet like magic. He did not argue at all. He behaved like a dying patient in the presence of a medical doctor. As soon as he did what the boy told him, he was able to climb the tree, plugged the coconut, drank the water and survived.
When Prof. Kweku Ananse fully regained his energy and power, he removed the pot from his neck for the firs time since he hanged it there. He looked at himself, looked at the pot of wisdom on the ground and said: “Why should I, a Professor of wisdom, with my wisdom in my pot, have to take instructions from a tiny boy before I could survive?” He became furious and angry against the pot. He kicked the pot with his left leg, raised it so high in the air and smashed it on the ground – “pkoaaa!” It was from that day that no human being was allowed to claim monopoly over wisdom, except the Creator of the universe.
I narrated this anecdote to prove to the youth of Africa that, it is not also always true that
every old man or woman has more wisdom than a younger person. In other words, someone can be very young but be more psychically evolved, spiritually developed, technologically advanced, and be wiser than some white- bearded and grey- haired octogenarian.
As a layman, I will not pretend to go into any ICT technicalities. Thus, for purposes of this article, what I mean by ICT tools in this context are basically some of the equipment
or machines that are used in communication or in dissemination of information or in transmission of messages, across the globe, if you like. For example, telephone, fax machine, radio, television, film/video, computer/Internet with particular reference to mobile phone and the like.
In October, 2005 or so, the authorities of the Ghana Education Service in Accra had cause to ban the use of mobile phones by students of primary and second cycle institutions in the country. Even though some parents and guardians received that announcement with shock and dismay, a lot of concerned people hailed the directive as being in the right direction. In fact, the Director-General of the Ghana Education Service was commended for having taken such drastic but delicate measure. It was aimed at addressing the rising technological indiscipline amongst students and pupils, leading to general falling in the standard of education in the country. But, as to whether that prohibition is being carried out to the letter and spirit in the schools concerned is another matter altogether. Nevertheless, the directive was generally considered to be more popular among Ghanaians than elsewhere. Why?
One Saturday November, 2005, this writer attended a Parent-Teacher-Association (PTA) meeting at the Aquinas Secondary School in Accra. At that meeting, the issue of indiscipline among students, truancy, I don’t careerism in the class room, some awkward way of dressing, called “otofisher” or something to that effect, and above all, the use or misuse of mobile phones in class rooms during lesson times were raised and discussed.
As a matter of fact, the Assistant Headmistress in charge of administration of that school not only demonstrated but dramatized to us how some students went to school with all kinds of sophisticated mobile phones and used them to disturb and disrupt classes to the detriment of others. She recalled that since the Ghana Education Service’s directive banning the use of mobile phones in secondary schools, she has been seizing mobile phones from recalcitrant students on daily basis.
The respectable Assistant Headmistress lamented that sometimes, when a teacher was very busy explaining a very difficult subject to students, some “huhudious” music would suddenly emanate from some pockets of one student or another, interrupting the serious teacher’s focus and diverting the attention of all students to where the notorious sound of the mobile phone was coming from.
Sometimes, too, while a concerned teacher, who perhaps was yet to receive his/her meager salary, trying his/her level best to impart all their knowledge to their beloved students, some students would only take delight in enjoying music on their mobile phones. Some times some students would deliberately block their ears with ear-phones, and when a teacher asked them a question, they would be sheepishly looking into the teacher’s face like a “goat from the Sahara desert.” My dear young African brothers and sisters of the 21st century, this kind of behaviour or attitude is what I am referring to as NEGATIVE APPLICATION OF
At the PTA meeting in question, when the Assistant Headmistress told parents that she had seized about three mobile phones that very week and stated emphatically that she would never return them to their owners, the over 300 members present at the meeting supported her action in tow-tow. In fact, most parents and guardians encouraged her to be fearless and discipline any student who went against the rules and regulations of the school.
Pieces of advice
Please be informed that everything in nature has its positive and negative sides. So, too, is
the ICT. Depending on how you use the tools of ICT, it may affect your life accordingly.
For instance, if you visit any website, you can use the Internet to learn anything you want
to know under the sun. You can study e-mathematics, e-technology, e-biology, e-chemistry, e-physics, e-journalism, e-law, e-engineering, e-agriculture, e-science, e-business, e-football, e-music, e-boxing, e-writing, e-drama, e-health, e-life and e-death. In
other words, you can learn from archeology to zoology online. All you need to do is to apply any of the search engines like Google and put any subject you may want
to know about and you are there. This aspect of ICT makes it possible for you to be in what is termed as “virtual university”.
But, if you go on the Internet only to use your knowledge to steal other people’s money by hacking into their credit cards like some youth are reported to be doing in some countries in Africa including Ghana, Nigeria and others, then it is not enough. Others may be doing same on other continents. But Africans should not copy evil cultures. Again, if you go on the Internet only to browse pornographic sites, you are corrupting your own moral and ethical integrity and the effect it may have on you in the future may be devastating.
In 1994 or so BBC Network Africa did a programme about how the youth in Cameroon were using the Cyber Cafes in that country not to study anything good online, but to browse pornographic sites. The same thing was happening in Ghana some time ago. So when you visit some Internet -Cafes like the Busy Internet in Accra, a notice is posted there forbidding people from browsing pornographic sites.
Today, the mobile phone has become a very important ICT tool which is helping any people in their economic activity. In Ghana, for instance, fishermen are taking mobile phones to sea. While fishing, they are at the same time able to communicate with their chief fishermen at home to alert them about what situation they are encountering on the field. They also use the mobile phones to check the prices of fish at various market places with their agents and customers before they land with their catch. At least fishermen at Apam and Moree, all in the Central Region of Ghana are putting mobile phones to such profitable use. This is positive and constructive application of an ICT tool.
But, if you, the youth who are the future leaders are using the mobile phones to block your ears in the class rooms or listening in to music while your teacher is teaching you, then what kind of leaders will you be tomorrow? If you become a President one day, and teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers and other workers are on strike, agitating for better conditions of service, will you block your ears and be enjoying yourselves while your citizens are on the streets with placards? You can use the mobile phones in an emergency situation like the seven-year-old Kojo Nyansah did in the story. Therefore, beware of negative application of ICT tools.