There are some people that make places cool. There are some places that make people cool. Ashesi, apparently, is/has both. Is that even fair?
In my head, there’s like, this group of the ‘cool Ghanaians’ and as my (former?) roommate, Owiredua will tell you, they al know each other. And we both want to be part of them. Should I start calling out names? Deborah Frempong, Paapa, Michael Annor, Jessica Boifio, Lauretta (the coolest ballet teacher in the world), Kobla (the creator of Oware 3D) etc… The list goes on. But what most – though certainly not all – of the names I have in mind have in common is Ashesi.
First theory: when you get accepted into Ashesi, they perform numerous strange juju rituals over your documents and then let you join the cult, making you automatically cool.
Second theory: the GMI (I just made that up. It stands for Ghana Military Intelligence) comes to Ashesi to ‘talk’ to all the new recruits, and deliver the top secrets of the keys to success as a Ghanaian and swear them to secrecy.
Third theory: The teachers and the way they teach the students are cool. Of course, this is the least exciting of all the theories, but whatever. Apparently, people like to be ‘realistic’ or something weird like that. Erm…
Well, seriously, look at the quality of the staff and faculty. They’re all cool adults. Kobby Graham, Ruth Kwakwa, Dr. Ayorkor Korsah…no, like, seriously. These are people I want to grow up to be. And I just realised I’ve talked saa and not told you the explanation for the title statement of this post.
I had been attending AIX (Ashesi Innovation Experience) for barely a week when I realised I was very deeply in love with almost all of the faculty and mentors. Let me explain: For basically my whole life, I’ve been instructed to follow the rules, pay attention to the system, chew, swallow, regurgitate (also known as Chew, Pour, Pass and Forget), and other dreadfully uncreative things, from the only two schools I have ever attended: Faith and HGIC. Faith was straight-out suffocating. HGIC tries to kill my mind a little more surreptitiously. (But only SOME aspects of it. Despite my constant complaining I love being at HGIC…most of the time.) But you know what I found at AIX? Mental freedom.
According to my nature, I try very hard to be different, especially since most environments turn people into personality-dead clones…I wouldn’t have thought that being different would be something that needed to be taught. There are a lot of Apple cultists or Steve Jobs fans, but how many of them actively know and live by the Think Different passage from the ad?
I won’t mention anyone’s name before someone comes to slaughter me, but the talks and activities I was exposed to in the first week of AIX would be some of my teachers’ (both present and former) worst nightmares. We were taught how to innovate from other people’s ideas – great artists are thieves, you see – and how to think critically, how to think ‘laterally’ (coolest lesson ever) and even how to break the rules! As I said, if some of the teachers I know had been present, they’d have gotten heart palpitations. Which is awesome.
So, apparently, the kind of things they teach you at Ashesi go way beyond just academics, or even these things that people refer to as extra-curriculars. I mean, even when you think about it, most people – adults – will tell you that you need the extra-curriculars to get into college… *Insert frustrated rant about the academic revolution here* But Dela Kumahor, who was one of the faculty members, said something I actually adored: “What you learn in school – in lectures – in the classroom – is not your education.”
Education is what you learn from living that helps you live better, now that you regurgitate onto exam papers without even understanding it. So, as we can conclude, I love Ashesi’s vision because it seeks not only to create the best kind of student, but also the best kind of person.
I haven’t met a single Ashesi student/graduate who is not cool or is not doing wonderful things with life. But what do you expect from people who have been bred to think critically, think laterally, be independent yet able to work in teams, be different, be constantly curious, be leaders, be honest, and believe they can change the world?
Anyway, I’m still not debunking the juju rituals theory or the Ghana Military Intelligence theory either.
Ashesi might just change my mind about not wanting to go to college at all. Patrick Awuah, you’re near the top of my list of personal heroes.