On Diversity: What 7 years at Motown Taught Me

cultural competency Cultural imperialism cultural sensitivity Education Education Ghana Religious Freedom Secularism in Ghana Social development societal change

I was 12 years when I went to Achimota school. The New Hope pupil from Korle bu, became an Achimotan. By the time I left the school 7 years later, the ideals of the school formed the superstructure into which a lot of my life would fit. I had been taught how to spell in New Hope, in Achimota I learnt how to punctuate, and formulate. I had learnt Arithmetic in New Hope, in Achimota I learnt logical reasoning. I had learnt how to obey rules in New Hope, in Achimota I learnt how to question. I sang hymns at assembly in New Hope, I was a chorister for 7 years in Achimota School. In New Hope, I would marvel at how the Achimotan cadets marched in unison at the Independence Day parade, I became a cadet in Achimota for 7 years. All my teen years were Achimotan. All my formative years were in the Grey City of the Outlaws’ Hill. In Achimota, I was taught, and I learnt, and assimilated, and I became more of myself. I started dreaming in New Hope. In Achimota I learnt the ingredients of dream fruition. And when at the end of 7 years, I lost my way… and my dream, two Achimotan teachers helped me right back on track, in six months.

Achimota. Say no name. The school was named after a commune where the runaways hid. Anonymity would ensure that there was no chance the slave owner would know where to look. I don’t know much of the history of that village which hosted the final taxi ride into school for every journey from home. I should. In our school song, we do not just say the name Achimota, we shout it. We do not have the masters that our forebears had. In the shadow of the outlaws haven, the Grey City of the Black and the White would vaunt the mantra of a new freedom.

Nestled between the village whose name it bore, and the village whose inhabitants heard its bell (Anumle), this small school has continued to populate the echelons of leadership in Ghana and beyond. There is no major shift in direction of our country’s affairs, that did not involve an Achimotan, from the battle for independence to the formalisation of constitutional rule. From Nkrumah, to Rawlings, the ideals of the black and white, have shone through. In Achimota, we were taught to drink deep of what Achimota offered so we would launch out as living waters to a thirsty land. Sometimes the land has not been so thirsty, or the waters so alive, but the great school has continued to thrive. It was a dream the Founders had, to impact a country of promise with individuals from varied backgrounds who had been nurtured to value excellence enough to strive for it, no matter what circumstances prevailed. The dream has not died.

A Video Tour of Achimota School

Many of my dreams from Achimota have come true. And more. I practise the trade of my dreams. I went to some of the countries of my dreams. In one of them, I even walked into a White House and shook the hand of a sitting president. I have friends all over the world. I have seen the black and white keys of Achimota, at play in very important aspects of my life. Diversity is strength. The true richness of our humanity, lies in our ability to appreciate each person. The point of Achimota’s locus, is what her ideals are: to impact the heart, hand and head, of anybody qualified for admission into its walls.

I was happy when the Rastafarian students were finally admitted. In the back and forth, I thought about my own life. I thought about all the opportunities I have had since I left the Grey City. I want same for them. I want them to gorge full on the wealth of humanity nestling behind the black and white walls. Gorge so full that when they are done, living waters gush from them to a thirsty land.

When the school that proclaims UT OMNES UNUM SINT (that all may be one) hesitated to let these boys in, I was sad. The ideals that I had imbibed in 7 years, seemed suddenly hollow. I am happy they have found their way at last. The Founders must have been smiling when the prefect went to meet the new Achimotans. They will add to the strands of diversity that have woven Achimotan greatness. Maybe they will be inspired to join the long line of changemakers. that Achimota has birthed. Kwame Nkrumah, Ephraim Amu, Prof Badoe, J Rawlings and more. May they enrich the story of the Black and White keys. May their lights shine even brighter than those who have gone before them.

For a better Ghana.

Dr. Teddy Totimeh is a Pediatric Neurosurgeon who practices at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital in Ghana


A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan