Like me, she has spent most of her teaching and literary career in the West; actually, much longer than I have. And just before she retired several years ago, from Rhode Island’s Brown University, one of the lesser known Ivy League academies – where Prof. Chinua Achebe, the even more famous and genius literary artist and thinker, also spent the final years of his long teaching career. Her only adult-child and daughter, Kinna Likimani, schooled at Smith College, one of the exclusive small liberal arts colleges largely attended by the children of the rich and famous, both right here in the United States of America and abroad. I was darn lucky to have had Prof. Achebe as my African Literature teacher at the City College of the City University of New York (CCNY of CUNY), a quite decent open-admission public academy for the children of working-class and lower-middle-class parents and young adults, while I attended.
Then also must be added the equally significant fact that Ms. Aidoo’s Zimbabwean-fathered daughter studied for the Master’s Degree at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, right here in New York City. I had occasion to meet her once at a live-celebration of a famous Afro-Caribbean novelist with Canadian citizenship, whose name I cannot readily recall, at the world-famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Cultures, right here in Harlem, New York City. I also remember briefly chatting with Ms. Likimani and almost quarrelsomely carping her mother’s rather melodramatic and weakly crafted novel of Islamo-African polygamy, “Changes,” at the reception immediately following a spirited reading by the aforesaid novelist. We had met courtesy of a mutual acquaintance, in my case, and in hers perhaps a mutual friend of her mother’s, by the name of Prof. Vivian Windley, a long-retired City College professor of Education.
What I want to highlight here is that Ms. Aidoo and her daughter belong to the same Upper-Middle-Class culture that the former recently castigated in a Facebook post on the subject of the hosting of extra- and vacation classes by some Ghanaian high school teachers. The classes are also designated “Summer Classes” and/or “Summer Camp,” an obvious misnomer, as contemptuously and sneeringly decried by Ms. Aidoo. On the latter count, though, the notable Ghanaian playwright would be better off blaming globalization for such a jarringly embarrassing misnomer than these poor teachers trying to make ends meet, as it were. The last time around, I had staunchly defended her inalienable democratic right to imperiously storm out of the middle of a literary confab that was being held in her honor by a group of women professors on the campus of her alma mater and the country’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana, who had, in retrospect, envisaged her as a role model for both themselves and their female students. But definitely not this second time around.
On the first occasion, she had stormed out of her eponymous ceremony because some “careless” or inexcusably “lazy” program designers had had the chutzpah to blasphemously misspell her very unusual middle name of “Ata” as “Attaa,” which my twin late mother also answered to, a quite uncommon name for a twin Akan-born woman to sport or possess. I had actually started writing an article about the incident in which I had meant to upbraid her for being so undeservedly presumptuous and uncharitably petty-minded, but had ended up conceding her the inalienable democratic right to be snooty and insufferably obnoxious with whomever she felt witheringly affronted by.
Well, the abject hypocrisy here is that even as Education Secretary under the Rawlings-led junta of the so-called Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), Ms. Aidoo had woefully failed to creditably acquit herself. But even more significantly, and one may even add, relevantly, the running of extra-classes during the long mid-year recess for additional fees, apart from those charged during the regular trimesters, back then, was even more popular under her short-lived and lackluster tenure as Education Secretary some 30-and-odd years ago. And the bad news for her here, I am afraid, is that I don’t even faintly remember Secretary Aidoo raising her voice against the practice even once to order a prohibition of the same.
So I really don’t see what her beef is about. To be certain, the practice is inescapably global even here in the West, where Ms. Aidoo and her daughter, Kinna Likimani, have spent most of their adult lives. And if I may humbly ask: Has Ms. Aidoo ever heard of the Kaplan Centers, founded by a graduate or alumnus of City College, my alma mater? Very likely, her daughter Kinna took classes with operatives of one of the Kaplan Centers to better her chances of either getting into Smith College or Columbia University Graduate School of Public Health. So much for cynical blindness to the other woman in the mirror.
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
August 17, 2017
E-mail: [email protected]