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Inquiry: Ghana’s Intellectual Pursuit through a child’s eye –
Posted by admin on 17th February 2015

Source: Ghana|Dr. Ruby Ababio-Fernandez

I have always been known as inquisitive. During my formative years in Accra, elders looked upon my curiosity as no more than a nuisance and most commonly labeled me, in Twi, as “mpanyinsem.” Clearly it was not customary for a child at a tender age to ask questions at the time, especially questions that stirred people deeply that ranged from: why do some people have cultural scars while others don’t? How is that some children go to sleep without food? Why were storybooks only a resource for a privileged few?
Why does the whole country have to be put on curfew? Why did the police invade some homes and why did they have to put M-16 guns on our heads when they came in? Why did protecting us mean they rummaged through things and take from us? Why didn’t as many women as men drive cars? Why did my dad have to travel so far away from us to provide for us?
Some questions I posed to the adults in my circle had long, deep, social and political implications for class, gender, and racial equity. Some of my questions were answered to appease me or in an attempt to temporarily close my questioning floodgate. Many, however, were left unanswered. That never deterred me from asking more. Instead I found myself going in deeper as I reflected on the dismissive reactions that my questions sparked from these adults.
I was told I spoke of and about things that young children should not. With ideas and questions well beyond my tender years, I was shushed each time ‘why’ left my lips. Eventually, with the foresight and courageous support of brilliant people around me, this curiosity and this ability to ask why and what ifs proved a very necessary and important skill for me, all the way into adulthood- both personally and professionally.
One hot afternoon just before Christmas while vacationing back home in Ghana a few weeks ago, I listened to a news segment with the current minister of education, Hon. Prof. Dr. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman speaking to a group of recent graduates. She encouraged them to contribute to the betterment of Ghana.
I tuned in as she emphasized that the purpose of the universities is to ensure a high caliber production of knowledgeable and creative people that would add value to Ghana’s future. The segment was motivating and progressive. The more I reflected on her passionate assertion, the more I found myself ill at ease about a missing key component.
One, in part because I didn’t think her charge was solely the responsibility of academia. Second, although seemingly well intentioned, all I heard from social, business, educational, political leaders, people of influence, and forums were presenting an incomplete picture of what qualities and skills were needed to empower our country on a large scale.
From my internal dialogue, I recognized that what was missing was the very thing that troubled so many of my elders decades ago- inquiry. Inquiry, most noted and utilized in the science disciplines, also happens to be the greatest natural source for innovation and transformation.
By now you’re probably asking yourself what exactly is Inquiry anyway? A helpful way to understand this term and concept is provided by the Galileo Educational Network (2014) that defines inquiry as a “process [that supports] people working and conversing together as they pose and solve problems, make discoveries and rigorously test the conclusions drawn in a public way for others to learn from and build upon.” It is a stance- a way of being, seeing, experiencing, and understanding the world around us so that we develop stronger collective capacity for meaningful change.
What’s inherent in this definition is ensuring all human talent are equipped with the right tools to serve and advance the nation requires a collective, multi-sector approach, not just academia. I just wonder how the concept of insatiable curiosity and inquiry can play a role in our public narrative, setting expectations and norms for how we educate and support sustainable learning practices for future and current talent.
As I grew up and experienced the world and its many inequities, I developed a propensity for mining beyond the surface for underlying root causes. Deep questioning pushes an individual to consider the complexities and interconnection of issues. It also supports the arrival of broader range of potential solutions, and better predicts unintended consequences of both short and long term choices for problem-solving.
Therefore, when I encounter life’s challenges, I spend time inquiring about the why, how, and what ifs, among other questions that enable deep diving and perspective taking. It is through this stance that I have been able to stretch intellectually, maximize productivity, and yes, creativity. It is imperative that this concept gains more traction in the message and daily practices of all leaders: political, business, social, and yes education. Inspiring all to adopt this inquiry perspective is a strong indicator of innovative leadership and a sign that one has her pulse on a country’s intellectual capacity.
I believe that these times of economic hardship and heightened accountability demand all leaders to adopt and participate in a rigorous inquiry in order to improve practice, come to transformative solutions, and to collectively raise the state of Ghana’s intellectual pursuit. Ghana is poised for that kind of continental leadership and I hope that academia can take that on! As one of her daughter’s, I am happy to join in the collective inquiry as we raise Ghana on our shoulders as the gold seal.

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