I still remember it vividly like it was just yesterday, but it’s been a decade and 3 good years ago. Yeah, a very long time ago.
Way back in my Senior Secondary School days (now known as Senior High School) in 2008, I was privileged to be appointed my school’s head Compound Overseer with eight deputies. O yes, eight assistants because of the size of our school compound – very large.
I attended Anlo Secondary School at Anloga in the Volta Region of Ghana. Yeah, and I’m a proud ANSECAN! Typical of the Volta Region, a coastal area, there’s so much sand so that walking or sweeping sometimes seemed like punishment. As a result, most students usually didn’t like to perform their morning duties. Obviously, students will always choose the path of least resistance if they have the chance.
Anyway, plodding through the thick sand was real labour sometimes; and to get a small portion of the compound tidied up, you’d have to sweep the same spot repeatedly for God knows how many times to get it clean. By the time you’re done, you’d be tired, you’d be drenched in sweat in your neat white shirt over your quasi army green khaki short for boys or your resplendent white pinafore uniform with the slim shinny black belt on the waist if you were a girl.
You know how important mentorship is. Before we started work officially, I met with our then outgoing Assistant School Prefect for General Duties, also a very good friend, who offered me some very wise and useful pieces of advice, directions and strategies as to how to go about my new role in order to be successful.
One of his strategies to me was that I demarcate the entire compound into four parts and assign two deputies each to a part while I, the head, took oversight responsibility or supervision. In hindsight, that worked out really well; and I’m grateful to Snr. Michael Elikem Aflakpui (ASP 2) for that. I’m also glad that I listened and implemented his advice.
Another of his advice was to look out for hardworking students who were faithful to their duties in each class, no matter how few they might be and build rapport with them because they’d help me succeed. Senior Michael asked me to encourage them, appreciate them, commend them for their hard work and be there for them. I obeyed that as well.
Now, naturally, most students if not all, would invariably shirk or dodge their duties, how much more when they have to sweep a rather sandy coastal school? You can imagine. I bet they won’t miss an opportunity to miss plot duties.
Fast forward into my administration. As I went about my supervisory duties, I would often find the same few faces, same students who would always show up to tidy up their plots with or without supervision and whether or not teachers on duty went round to punish those who failed to perform their duties – often times by lashing them.
These loyal students who performed their morning duties regularly were there for me and my team; because it was us Compound Prefects who would be in hot waters if any part of the school compound was unclean.
So just like Senior Michael taught me, I, from time to time, would visit my loyal workers on their plots to encourage and let them know how appreciative I was of them; and sometimes even grab a broom or rubbish collector and join in the work with them. Other times too I’d join in when morning assembly was upon us and work was still not done yet because just a few students had come to clean a large plot.
One day, I thought to myself, “enough is enough!” I had only one thing on my mind at this point – I wanted the lazy students punished. I thought they were over-burdening and being unfair to their few loyal colleagues. You know, it is always better and less exhausting for 10 people to do the work of 10 than to have 1 person do the work of 10 people.
So, during class hours one day, I went round with one of the teachers on duty for the week to lash students who didn’t show up to perform their morning duties.
At our first stop, I still remember vividly, Business 1A, I pulled out my list of names of students who came to work that morning and called them forward. Now, those who were left seated, were the “culprits” and among them were some of my faithful, hardworking students who wouldn’t miss coming to perform their duties unless for a genuine reason.
Now, it was time for me to be there for them too as they had always done for me to make my job pretty easy so that I didn’t have problems with the school authority like my predecessors did. (Administration was almost always in conflict with them.) I looked at their faces; and distraught was visibly written all over. Teacher was ready to start whipping but I stopped him and then called out a few more names offhandedly which I didn’t have on my list to join their colleagues in front. Then I asked the teacher to go ahead and lash the rest.
But they started to murmur and protest to the teacher that the last batch of names I called out didn’t work that morning – accusing me of being bias.
The consternated Mr. Oscar Kurankyi turned to me and asked whether the allegations were true. I boldly answered yes. They were true. But I had a reason. I explained to Mr. Kurankyi how that the students I called out later to join their colleagues in front but whose names I didn’t have on my list have been faithful and hardworking ALL THE TIME; and that I supposed if they couldn’t come to perform their duties like they’d usually do, they must have had genuine reasons for their absence, therefore I couldn’t have them punished.
I said to Mr. Kurankyi, “Sir, these students have been there for me when I needed them; now I have to be there for them because they need me, too. Please don’t whip them.”
Mr. Kurankyi was awestricken by what I told him; he smiled, then he nodded his head in agreement. And then, like we commonly say, went ahead and gave it to the rest of them well well. Lol
Later, these faithful students of mine came to me thanking me in the most sincere voices. They were really grateful. And that’s the end of my little story.
Now what’s my point? My message is simple. Always be there for people who are always there for you. And don’t ever disappoint them. Don’t take their commitment, loyalty and sacrifices for you (in the past) lightly or for granted. Show up for them when you can, stand up for them when you have to, defend them wherever and whenever it matters and if it is in your power to do so. By all means, be there for the people who are always there for you.