Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Netherlands – Land Of Learners

Oh Netherlands!
You Are The Land Of Learners
From The Land Of Africa I Hail
To The Land Of Asia I Sail
For The Land Of America,
I Am Yet To Unveil
One Land Of Europe –
Belle France, I Know
But You, Netherlands
You Are The Land Of Learners!

Oh Netherlands!
You Are The Land Of Learners
The Land Of Global Homage
 The Land Of Global Justice
 The Land Of Global Peace
The Land Of Global Freedom
The Land Of Global Wisdom!

Oh Netherlands!
You Are The Land Of Learners
 Global Destiny Of Humanity
Lies In Your Global Hands
For Global Prosperity
God Bless Your Land!

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath
MA Student  2013-2014 (AES)

  • Dedicated To The Netherlands 
(Inspired By The Greenery Beauty Of
The Armsterdam Airport
Composed In Airborn  
 Before Landing
On   17 October, 2013
The Hague

ISS Holds Global Cultural   Night of Beauty Explosion
By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath   

The Amazing Audience that witnessed the memorable event
And the five continents dropped like a single football at ISS arena   and exploded!  But the explosion was that of love, peace and harmony!  Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and others were all there. It was the annual international day 2013. This is an occasion during which the international students and staff of this global academic center of excellence temporarily abandoned their pens, books, laptops and all intellectual gadgets to let out their hearts. The community was not left out of the fun galore. 
The evening of culture, cuisine, music, dance and poetry was simply electrifying! Mr. Martin Brok the Institute’s Welfare Officer was the commander-in-chief of affairs.  As a matter of fact, for all my over half a century plus on this planet of social events, I have never come across any one person who could metamorphose himself into any guru and execute a million roles at ago. Supported by his able lieutenants, Martin could change colors like chameleon and play any role at will. For this particular evening he was the official camera-man, the DJ and virtually the Arts Director etc. It was amazing!
For those of us witnessing or participating in the ISS International Day for the first time, the event was spectacular. Initially, nobody knew or was sure how things might turn out to be. So, there was sort of a mixture of fear, doubt, apprehension and anxiety. Then Indonesia was called to demonstrate why they were the first country to be chosen. Their performance set the tone of the evening into motion.  By the time Japan, South Africa and Uganda had mounted the stage, the arena had changed into something words could not describe.
The atmosphere was transformed into something like the day the Holy Ghost descendent on the apostles in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago.  Everybody was fired up. People started speaking in tongues!  Others were conspiring to re- strategize. An unannounced spirit of competition had emerged. Some countries that hitherto were feeling shy or timid or apprehensive or in doubt of their own cultural capabilities   had been injected with syrup of confidence. Every country wanted to out-do one another. If it had been announced that there was some prize at stake, the stage would have turned into something else.
Wow!  It seems to me that most countries from Asia were aware and well-informed about how ISS international days are celebrated. They came better prepared. Their traditional dresses were more colorful and every one of them seems to know exactly what to wear for the occasion. Their ladies were shining in multicolored apparels like butterflies. Their men seemed not only to have well-rehearsed their dances but have choreographed every move of their hands and feet. When their ladies danced, their fingers moved like the head of friendly snakes. Their dance movements were soul moving and inspiring indeed!
But African dancers were masters in their own right. As if African ladies were designed by the Creator himself to portray his generosity to humankind. Their fronts and backs are well-endowed. And when they danced, the vibrations of their bumps cannot fail to awaken any sleeping or dormant walking stick   to stand up and get going.  What a romantic fashion of demonstrating one’s cultural heritage! It was fantastic! As for African men dancers, their “machoistic” movements coupled with their physical energy could not spare any rodent that dare trespass their footsteps. Some of their waist movements sometimes could lead others into temptations.
I have observed that the European and American dancers have their own unique way of expressing their sentiment. Their romantic movement tends to be a bit more diplomatic or rather a sophiscated way of doing things. Industrialization and science and technology seem to be dictating the way Europeans and American exhibit their dance movement. Advanced technologies have virtually transformed them into an automated society.
So much so that if you cannot read and write, you might not even be able to know at what degree your buttocks should move when dancing; or what should be the diameter of your elbow to the body of your partner when dancing. If care is not taken, one day, affection, love, peace, harmony, beauty and romance will all be automated in Europe and America. But it was this diversity of beauty in various cultures that made the night of Saturday, 23 November 2013 an ISS Global Night of Cultural Explosion.
What a night it was! The constant echoes of numeracy diagnostic tests;  academic writing skills, remedial classes, exam preparations, RP jargons; the phobia of three to four-thousand-word- essay assignments, techniques of paraphrasing and sentence constructions with all their plagiarism penalty fevers have temporally  been put to rest. The Day gave MA students some breathing space!  And they sighed for relief!   I overheard some students requesting for encore!
Earlier in the day the institute organized what was dubbed MA in Development Open Day with the presentations of school’s majors. This include Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFEFS), Governance, Policy and Political Economy (GPPE), Economics of Development (ED), Human Rights, Gender and Conflicts Studies: Social Justice Perspective (HRGCS/SJP) and Social Policy for Development (SPD).  And as part of this programme, various participating countries mounted exhibitions of arts and cultural heritage of their respective home countries. This activity was followed by food bazaar   where the gastronomical dexterity of every country was exhibited under one roof for “tongue -sampling.”
When  the Master Jesus the Christ  fed over 5000 men and women without counting children with only five loath of bread and two fishes, he was reported to have ordered that  the left overs must not be wasted. And 12 baskets out of what could be thrown into the garbage bins while some people were dying of hunger.
 I hereby suggest that   the ISS must initiate an additional specialization in Food Production, Preservation and Management (FPPM) within the framework of AFES to help in reduction of global food wastage for the benefit of starving fellow human beings in any part of our global village
Exhibition of Ghana's Cultural Heritage

Demonstration of Enskinment of Norther Ghana King

Story by Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath with Photographs by Martin Brok (Welfare Officer)
MA Student AES

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ghana Has Bright Future 

In Robotics Science –Dr Trebi-Ollennu

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu (right) in a chat with MK Abissath
An ancient adage says: “If sweet potato did not trace its roots, it would not have discovered that its best part is hidden in the ground.”
Ghana is such a blessed land that is endowed with unimaginable natural resources such as gold, diamond, bauxite, manganese, timber, arable lands, rivers, oil and gas etc. Ghana equally abounds in super-human resources that are taken for granted. Just take a look at people like the Former UN General Secretary, Busumburu Kofi Annan and Prof. Francis Allotey for example.
On Tuesday, October 8, 2013, this writer had an honour to briefly chat with another unassuming but extraordinary Ghanaian-born scientist who is employing his brain power to deploy the almighty America into space through robotics engineering.
For three consecutive years since 2011, Dr. Trebi-Ollennu who is a US-based NASA Senior Robotics Engineer through the instrumentality of the US Embassy in Ghana, rhas made it possible for thousands of Ghanaian children to participate in hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics  (STEM),  motivational experience in their lives.
Records show that in 2012 for instance, thanks to Dr. Trebi-Ollennu’s tutelage, some Ghanaian students were identified through a program dubbed Robotics Inspired Science Education (RISE2) competition. And for the first time in robotics history of Ghana, a team from our country participated in World Robotics Olympiad in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
I can bet my last one Ghana Cedi that if that program had been a beauty contest, those young Ghanaian scientists who took part the global scientific event would have been met at the airport on arrival with brass band music, kpalogo and agbadza with local and foreign media falling on one another to capture the actors’ noses.
In fact, if Dr. Trebi-Ollunnu himself has brought a trophy or a title-belt in any sporting event to Ghana, he would have been carried shoulder-high on an articulator trailer with azonto rhythm and melody to be paraded in the principal streets in the capital.
That triumphant entry into Jerusalem-fashion would have taken off right on the tarmac to the seat of Government where his medal would have been presented to the President of the Republic. Then he would have been recognized and decorated as a national hero. But because he a scientist nobody smells his scent when in Ghana.
Oh dwellers of beautiful Ghana, when shall our national consciousness be elevated to that degree of ecstasy where we may appreciate science, technology, engineering and mathematics as the only  discipline in the 21st century  that can  hasten our development journey into the economic kingdom! Look at countries like Singapore - natural resources they possess none; but science and technology – their cup of tea. What is their per capita income as compare to Ghana?
According to Dr. Trebi-Ollennu, science, technology, engineering and math are   the future for   human advancement. The need to introduce children to these subjects matter at tender age and encourage them to pursue careers in STEM, he recommends strongly.
“All over the world,” Dr. Trebi-Ollennu points out, “people are trying to get more kids to study STEM so we look at Europe, America and other South-Eastern Asian countries  and we realized that  the surest way to get students hooked into science, technology, engineering and math is by giving  them the chance to  experiencing science.”
Dr. Trebi-Ollennu has observed that in our parts of the world in terms of educational curriculum, practicals are usually relegated to the background. “So our objective is to try to connect science theory to practice. This we do by taking basic science as taught in a classroom theory and get them to implement those solutions that can  solve real world challenges,” the Senior NASA Robotics Engineer has disclosed.
Dr. Trebi-Ollennu advises that children must be told that they have hidden talents. That science is not for Einstein alone but everybody can do science. “This is one way to demystify science education.” According him, Ghanaian kids not only in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, but across the country including Bawku, Abor, Gomoa Brofoyedu and in the remotest hamlets anywhere there are endowed with science ingenuity.
Dr. Trebi-Ollennu disclosed that the strategy adopted to concretize the STEM concept into reality in the country is the establishment of an NGO known as Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation (GRAF). That it is through the GRAF with the support of the US Embassy in Ghana and other stakeholders both individuals and organizations that thousands of students drawn from over 100 Senior High Schools have benefited from the Robotics Inspired Science Education program since 2011.
This year for instance, between the last week of September and the first week of October, RISE3 was organized for both senior and junior high school students throughout the country and the participation was overwhelming.
According to the first Ghanaian Robotics Engineering Wizard, the country was categorized into four zones where the northern zone was made up of Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions. In all 13 high school clubs participated in the RISE competition at Ghana Library Board in Tamale. Here Bawku Senior High School topped them all as champions.
The middle-belt was made up of Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions with 15 school clubs locking horns in the scientific intellectual duel. The two –day competition took place at the Opoku Ware SHS, Kumasi.
The South- Eastern zone comprised Greater Accra, Eastern and Volta Regions. The competition was held at the Christ the King Hall in Accra with 13 schools contesting for glory, he said.
The Central zone was made up of the Central and Western regions. Here too, the competition took place at the Aggrey Memorial SHS for high school clubs as well. Dr. Trebi-Ollennu stated that winners of the competitions from various zones would represent Ghana at the 2013 World Robot Olympiad (WRO) in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Dr. Trebi-Ollennu who is also the Founder of the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation disclosed that the GRAF had been applying what he termed as a “motivational effects of robotics” to draw kids in whatever they do to apply scientific theory .
The training is structured in such a way to develop science, engineering and technology skills, while building well-rounded leadership skills, self-confidence, emotional intelligence, communication and stewardship.
Because the vision of the GRAF is to transform the learning experience of young Ghanaians by connecting science to theory with practice and hands-on learning experience to draw students to pursue education and career opportunities in science and technology, two robotics kits and laptops  are provided to about 50 schools which were trained about three years ago. Students in these schools are give specific programs to perform and the end competitions are organized among such schools and prizes in the form of medals are awarded to winners.
One area of focus for the RISE3 program was the introduction of robotics engineering to Ghanaian kids where they can use robots to perform a kind of rescue operation in the mines. Ghana being a mining country where galamsey is the order of the day and the way stubborn galamsey operators have been dying in the belly of the earth by heart, it will be very, very progressive if future Ghanaian robotics engineers can use the technology to save lives in the extractive industry.
So far, a survey conducted among some beneficiaries of the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation programs indicates that, interest in career involving math, science and technology has increased as a result of RISE.
Other ordinary students from very deprived and inaccessible rural communities, whose parents have never seen the corners of a classroom in their lives but had been given the opportunity to participate in the Robotics Inspired Science Education programs, are enthusiastic of becoming scientist, or engineers, or technologists or mathematicians in the future.
Dr Trebi-Ollennu commended various stakeholders in the success story of the GRAF, especially the US mission in Accra “on whose shoulder the major sponsorship had fallen so far.” Other partners include board of directors of GRAF, the Ghanaian media, schools, teachers, volunteers and students who have been participating in the innovative RISE.
He expressed appreciation to Government officials from various ministries such as Education, Environment Science, Technology and Innovations for their moral support for the RISE programme thus far.
The Ghanaian-born Senior NASA Robotics Engineering Wizard is of the view that if Government could create the conducive environment for effective investment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education, Ghana will reach the economic kingdom in no time. According to him Ghana abounds in robotics engineering talents, some as young as seven to eight kids engaging in mind boggling programming,” Dr Trebi-Ollennu stressed.
The writer works with the Information Services Department in Accra.
(This interview was facilitated by Ms. Jeanne L. Clark Information Officer at the US Embassy, Accra)

Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu US-based Ghanaian-born Senior NASA Robotics Engineer and Founder of Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation (GRAF) an Accra-based NGO  (right) in an interview with Mr. Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath Deputy Director at Information Services Department (ISD) Accra, October 8, 2013


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath
Traditional wisdom in African proverb reminds us: “When broom sticks come together not only do they sweep well, but they cannot also be broken by anybody.”  To wit:  In unity and diversity lies strength and progress.
The theme for this year’s Interfaith-Conference – “Celebrating Diversity for Peace,” should serve as a war cry for humanity at the threshold of the 21st century.  And the essay topic for the occasion- “How can we, by celebrating diversity, achieve sustainable peace?” is even more profound.
The 64-million-Euro question is: “How can mankind achieve sustainable peace on this planet of diversity?”  Whose responsibility it is to initiate the sustainable peace movement?  Where should the sustainable peace start?  These queries began to kick out each other out of the womb of my thought as I reflected on the essay topic. Then the first hunch I received from my master- within was that the person or group of persons who proposed the essay topic might be enlightened souls themselves. Otherwise, such an inspirational drop of wisdom would not have geminated in their minds in the first place.   The organizers of the event merit felicitations.
To answer my own question, I dare say that peace is not a commercial article to pick up on supermarket shelves anywhere in the world.  Peace, in my view, is a sentiment that must be experienced and expressed.  It is like love. It is abstract but tangible. It cannot be seen but can be felt. It cannot be touched but can be hugged. Peace is sweet and loving. It is harmonious and infectious. It is peace that gives fragrance to the bouquet of flowers of diversity. Sustainable peace must originate from the individual’s heart. And it is only profound peace that can be sustainable.
To achieve sustainable peace, man must be at peace with himself (herself).  Man must be at peace with nature and his environment.  Man must be at peace with his neighbor.  And if we reflect on the biblical anecdote of the Good Samaritan, as advocated by the Master Jesus the Christ, we must ask ourselves: “Who is my neighbor?” All human beings living on this planet of self-interest   must see one another as their neighbors. So, therefore, if we build our concept of sustainable peace on this foundation of good “Samaritanian” spirit, the following must be considered to achieve sustainable peace in the 21st century:
·         The seed of racial discrimination must not be planted in the consciousness of our new generations regardless of their geographical origins.
·         Conscious efforts must be made to eliminate all forms of discriminations, especially gender related ones where men see themselves as being superior to women.
·         Human pigments whether white or black, or yellow, must be seen as beauty in diversity rather than a barrier to fellow-feeling.
·         The suppression and oppression of the poor by the rich must be kicked out of human civilization.
·         The deliberate economic policy whereby the first world perpetually keeps the third world in socio-cultural bondage must be abolished like the slave trade of the 15th and 18th centuries.
·         The manufacture of chemical weapons and other weapons  of mass destruction for whatever reason must be condemned by all peace loving people  no matter against whom  it was used or being used or  will be used  in the future.  Conversely, the benefit of science and technology must be distributed globally in the name of globalization.

·         Sustainable peace can be achieved when wasteful resources, especially food stuffs in one part of the world can be preserved and delivered to starving and dying neighbors living in other remote corners of the world as our neighbors.  
Undoubtedly, when fair play is observed in accordance with the rules of the game   at any local or  global arena in any  sporting events whatever,   at all times, sustainable peace will triumph. As we celebrate the 100 years of the Peace Palace here in The Hague, tribute must be paid to the pioneers who dreamed of such a reality as far back as in 1913. The flame of their vision must not be snuffed. Fair play must always be the watch word.  
Unfortunately, however, sometimes, some citizens somewhere in the world feel left   in the   sea of suspicion that the scale of the international peace and justice is not being balanced equitably.  A typical illustration is what happened recently when the African Union (AU) protested that two Kenyan leaders who were elected by their own people through peaceful and fair democratic elections ought to be given the chance to serve their term of office first. It seems to me that the AU has made some observations which must be subjected to further interrogation. Are there some equal or worse offenders somewhere who have not been given invitation cards for a tea party in the jail in The Hague?
As an ordinary African citizen who just arrived in Europe for studies, I am speaking from personal experience.  From an African perspective as far as sustainable peace is concerned, I can express my opinion as well.  The socio-political, economic and cultural behaviors of some African leaders leave much to be desired. Corruption has been a bane of development and sustainable peace in Africa.
The cases of former Presidents Mobutu Seseseko of Zair, now Democratic Republic of Congo and Sani Abacha of Nigeria are there for verification.  These were African leaders who were reported to have stuck away millions of dollars in some foreign banks in Europe and elsewhere while their   poor citizens died of hunger and starvation. But where lies the moral justification of those European countries that also accept corrupt and ill-gotten wealth into their secret banks?  Can sustainable peace be achieved in the atmosphere of mistrust and self-interest? 
 It is my contention that if we can all embrace and celebrate unity of diversity which is the beauty of creation, humanity will experience sustainable peace on earth as in heaven. 
 Essay written and presented by MK Abissath MA Student  for the first Inter-Faith Assay Contest held on 16 November 2023, ISS, the Hague, the Netherlands (Did not win the only prize at stake)