Medicine or Expire: Araba Nunoo on surviving Ghana’s school system even if you are half dead by the end of it all


As a child think about important things like Jollof and chicken

Araba recalls, “One Christmas when I was 9 yrs old my cousin came to visit with her dad. We were the same age. My old man asked her what she wanted to be in future, and without a moment’s hesitation she announced that she was going to be a doctor. The proud satisfied look on my uncle’s face could have lighted all the street lights in Accra. Then turning to me with a look which said that nothing I could say would beat this, my dad asked me the same question. Not only did I not want to be a doctor, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. All I cared about was the fat chicken trapped in the backyard that was about to feature in my Christmas jollof. My old man was clearly disappointed, and I got a dressing down on how I would not amount to any good if I didn’t become as focused and purpose driven as my cousin.”

Frustrations, Favoritism and False standards (F*ck the F’s and the A’s too :))

She says, “When a 19 year old commits suicide because he could not make the required A’s to enter medical school it’s not WAEC (West African Examinations Council) that is cruel. Parents in Ghana start hitting it into the heads of their kids’ right from infancy that their proudest moments in life would only be when their kid becomes a doctor. Teachers pick out ‘smart’ kids in primary school and assure them that they would become doctors, while kids who are also truly gifted in other areas are beaten down and made to believe that they are dumb, unfocused and without a future.

You go to our secondary schools and these ‘smart’ kids who are by now pursuing science courses are being conditioned to believe that their brightest prospect is a career in medicine. How many secondary schools in Ghana bother to hold career fairs for young people? How many bother to take students on education trips to the various Universities to see how other people in the sciences have made wonderful careers without becoming medical doctors? How many scientists in Ghana reach out to kids in secondary schools to mentor them or assure them that there are careers in the sciences that are more fulfilling and financially rewarding than medicine?

Many of us have been victims of a cruel education system and an insensitive society that offers us very few choices when we are young. My dear young people, no matter how your WASSCE (West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination) results turned out, believe me, taking your own life is not a solution. The last time I checked, none of the faculties in the various universities were admitting corpses.”

Let me add here, really, if you survive first year in any senior high school in Ghana, you are stronger and smarter than you think. Between having to eat bad “dinning chow” on a daily basis, following rules that make no sense at all, and reading archaic learning materials you become a warrior. And when you get out of school, dear warrior, regardless of your results, the world becomes yours. You get to make some new rules or break all of the ones you don’t like. Success is not an event, it’s a daily decision to not give up on yourself, to keep dreaming, to ask for help when you need help, to do something all over again, to try something new, to cry if you want to, but also, to never forget that you decide what is important in YOUR life every day.  

Ms Nunoo continues, “Our parents can do better. [Stop parenting out of fear] Our teachers can do better. [You are trying to help build lives not examination results, learn that] Those who are grown up and made it can do better, [don’t forget too easily how hard it actually was to be a teenager] but ultimately, we the young ones can do far better than suicide. In this same cruel system others have made it, and so can you. If WAEC becomes Santa Claus and hands out straight A’s like candy there would still be many people who won’t make it to medical school. If at 19 you cannot appreciate this, then perhaps we need to send you back to SHS.

Author: Araba Nunoo. Words in italics by Nana Nyarko Boateng/ 

2 thoughts on “Medicine or Expire: Araba Nunoo on surviving Ghana’s school system even if you are half dead by the end of it all

  1. Thanks Nana for the publication…… Araba, i think u should compile all your pieces for more publications…


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