‘Grandpa’, said Konka. ‘Please tell about the old times again!’ Grandpa Shadrack laughed and switched off the television. ‘I will have to leave for the hospital shortly. But okay, just for 15 minutes.’
Konka made himself comfortable on the rickety and creaky old couch and snuggled up to his grandfather. His little sister Sarah also joined in and sat herself down with them.
‘A long, long time ago there was this little boy. This little boy was very thin and also ill very often. All because he had barely enough food to eat and because he had to work very hard after school. His parents hardly had any money so there was always very little food at home for him and his siblings.
The little boy did not think that was strange. Not at all, there were many boys like him all over the country. To him it seemed like it was supposed to be that way. That’s why he was a shoeshine boy at the market every day after school. After he turned twelve he dropped out of school to shine shoes all day long, because his parents couldn’t afford to pay his school fees any more. They were always short of Cedis, as money was called those days. For in those times, at the start of the 21st century, the African Union was not functioning very well and also the ‘Afro’ did not exist yet: all African countries had different currencies.
The little boy was very unhappy. Not only because he could not further his education, but also because most people around him thought he was a very strange little boy. He always wanted to know everything and never stopped asking questions. He also knew about many different subjects and was curious about everything he came across. Some people were even afraid of him. They thought he was bewitched. The little boy noticed this and became increasingly quieter and very lonely.’
Konka had heard this story at least a hundred times before, but at this point always asked the same question. “But Grandpa, how could it be that everyone was so poor?” Grandpa sighed. ‘A long time ago, Europeans fought over our country for many years. Later on, when we regained independence from our colonizers, the Ghanaians themselves also started fighting over the land. Everyone wanted to be in charge, and because they were only fighting amongst themselves, we didn’t have time and the means to develop our country.
And when peace finally came, the country was in bad shape: no hospitals, no roads, no money and few schools. Only the rich people could pay for good education. But after getting a degree many of them left to be successful elsewhere instead of helping to develop our country!
Most people had been oppressed for so long that they no longer dared to express their own opinions nor could they think for themselves. They had no money, no pride and were unhappy. In such a situation there’s little chance a country will develop.
This was weird because there were many possibilities in our country. There was gold, coconut, cacao and wood. There were a lot of people who wanted to work hard, but nobody knew exactly how the country should be governed.’
“Then what happened Grandpa?” Konka asked, although he knew the answer. Grandpa continued the story.
‘One day, while the little boy was shining shoes on the streets, he was approached by a priest named Father John. He asked the boy a lot of questions. He wanted to know why he was shining shoes instead of going to school. He also wanted to know what his grades were in school and what he would like to become in future.’
‘I want to be a medical doctor, the boy answered, Konka’s little sister, who also had heard this story before, giggled.
‘Quiet’, said Konka. He wanted to hear it from grandfather himself. ‘And then a miracle happened, right grandpa?’ ‘Yes’, my dear Konka’, answered grandpa, as he brushed Konka’s cheeks and continued his tale.
‘”I don’t think at all that you are bewitched. On the contrary, I think you are a very bright boy”, Father John said. “A true smart kid! Would you like to go to a smartkid school? Where there are many more children like you? Where you can learn a lot?” The boy was struck dumb as his eyes shone with amazement. This priest was the first person who didn’t consider him ‘crazy’ or ‘different’ Father John found him special instead, and was willing to help him with his education. ‘ Sure’, he stammered, and Father John took him to school. A very special school for very bright children.’
Konka grinned. He always liked this part of the story best. ‘Continue, grandpa, continue!’, and grandpa did.
‘The little boy couldn’t believe his eyes. A completely new world unfolded before him. Just the other day, he thought he would be a shoe shine boy for life and now he had encountered a whole new world of possibilities. He learned many interesting things, like math, civics, biology, law and languages. He even had the opportunity to work with computers!’
‘Is it true that around that time there were hardly any computers, grandpa?’ Konka could barely imagine that. ‘No Konka, grandpa answered absent-minded. ‘Back then, that was very uncommon”; there were many poor people, many diseases and very little hope.’ Konka realized this part of the story always made his grandfather sad and thus he held and gently rocked his arm. ‘But this boy started working very hard, right?’ asked Konka. Grandfather picked himself up. ’Yes, the boy exerted himself to the utmost. As well as all his new friends at school. More and more very ‘smart kids’ attended his school. And they all promised they would help to develop their country in future.
And when they mastered their degree in the myriad of subjects they pursued, they truly did.
Some of these kids became judges, others became engineers, teachers and all the important jobs you can think of. And together they made sure more and more good schools were established. As a result the development of the country was hauled to another level. More people got jobs with steady income and poverty decreased.
Of course, this development didn’t always go smoothly. For instance, on occasion people had to prevent an arrogant general to seize power. And in 2015 the entire harvest was lost due to an extensive drought. But by then we had our own agricultural experts and they built and installed a new innovative irrigation system for our crops.
In 2020 the city of Cape Coast and other towns along the coast were washed away by a tsunami. Luckily, uncle Kwaku invented a tsunami detection and warning system, preventing any tsunami victims in the future. This almost won him the Nobel-Prize for science.
Despite any mishap the country continued to prosper. In the end we reached a level that made it possible for us – together with Ivory Coast – to host the 2036 Olympic Games!
After that we were on top of the world: all developed countries wanted to do business and trade with Ghana and Ivory Coast.
In short this is how Ghana changed from a poor developing country into a strong and leading country. Now we are an excellent example for most other African countries. They all try to follow in our footsteps.’
Konka couldn’t contain himself any longer as tears welled up in his eyes. ‘You were that boy grandfather!. You became the director of the hospital!. And uncle Thomas became president of Ghana, and auntie Mary was a minister and together you ensured that everywhere in Africa schools were erected. and that there’s no more hardships and poverty. Everybody is proud to be Ghanaian and proud with themselves.’
‘Hurray, hurray, hurray!’ Konka jumped up and down on the couch for joy and his sister Sarah joined in.
Grandpa grinned and said “Yes children, it looks very much like an fairy tale, but it’s a true story!
Idea: Kees Hoogendjk
Story writing in Dutch: Marijke Mosterman
Translation from Dutch to English: André Klomp
Editing: Penelope Onuman
Drama script: Penelope Onuman
Drama director: Penelope Onuman
Actors: Smart Kids