Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Fante Lesson: A Tribute to Thomas Baidoo

Ko! He snaps at the children

Gawking through the open classroom door.


Then turns back to us, adults in years

Though infants linguistically

And continues the day’s lesson

In his characteristically quiet Ghanaian voice

Midzi banku. - I eat banku.

Idzi banku. - You eat banku.

Odzi banku. - She eats banku.

Yedzi banku. - All of us eat banku.

Gettah way! Go home!

School is over for today!

The voice is loud, the body language sharp,

The movement toward the door quick

And the children scatter.

Yet, like so many birds on a busy street,

Only just out of reach and barely out of sight.

Though there is bite lurking behind that bark

The children all know that love lives there as well.

We hear them laughing

(Is there a sound more delightful than the laughter of children?)

Just on the other side of the room’s concrete block walls.

We see smiling faces peeking through openings

We hear voices mimicking ours as we

Try to pronounce so many unfamiliar words.

His Mr. Hyde no longer required,

The quiet, elegant grandfather returns and resumes the lesson.

His demeanor is calm, his smile infectious,

His comments encouraging as we struggle

To wrap immobile American mouths around strange sounds

And tune clumsy ears to delicate tonal distinctions.

Language scholar and village historian

Long since retired from teaching in the public schools of Ghana

He continues daily at his younger brother’s school

Doing that which he knows best:

Challenging children to learn,

Demanding that they do well,

Loving his students.

(Don Clerico, June 2011)

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