On Thursday 9 March 2017, CofA lost its mentor, friend and role model, professor Nana Araba Apt. She was one of the three ‘Founding Mothers’ of College for Ama (CofA).
Professor Nana Araba Apt's initial passion was underpriviliged girls living in rural areas and street chldren in urban centres. in 1991 she wrote a report "Street Children in Accra: a survey report). She believed that women and girls held the key to progress and change and a good education system would serve as a launching pad for improving their chances in their lives and prepare them to contribute to society.
Nana Apt was also a renowned gerontologist, researcher, author, advocate, and a pioneer in social work education in Ghana.
Her friend and colleague, professor Richard Douglass reminded us that Nana's personal mission extended far beyond a sequence of targets on different classes of vulnerable people. Her books Learning How to Play to Win (2007) and Positioning Ghana: Challenges and Innovations (2015) taught reluctant policy makers that thoughtful answers to Africa's problems are available if only the courageous would accept the challenge. Chapter 7 of Learning How to Play to Win included the following: "Ghana needs to grow up. The excuses of being post-colonial or weak and dependent are old and tired. The discussions on what went wrong, archaic. Frankly such verbiage is boring and we deserve better." Nana didn't mince her words. She expected accountability and excellence from those in power, as she did also of herself.
'Lioness of Ghana'
"For many years Nana's voice was a familiar one on radio programming in Accra, often chiding policy makers and those in power to do a better job regarding everything from sanitation to trade policy and providing decent education and housing for the masses. She was known on the air as "The Lioness of Ghana" and her views underscored her firm belief that government and commerce should serve the people. Her social critique would often be punctuated with the word "ridiculous" when specifically referring to a particularly vexing policy or program."
The incredible road we travelled together
Patrick Awuah Jr, President and Founder of Ashesi University in Ghana remembered Nana – former member of Ashesi's Advisory Board and later its Dean of Academic Studies – at her funeral in March 2017: "What an incredible road we travelled together. How fortunate to have had her by my side.
"While many of her peers shared strong doubts about Ashesi’s viability, especially in our early years, Nana remained optimistic and steadfast. Nothing fazed her. After her retirement from full-time duty at Ashesi in 2013, she served as Emerita Professor. She remained actively engaged with the university community, reading email and news with keen interest, visiting campus, and serving on faculty promotions panels. She remained a most trusted source of counsel for me.
"More than anyone, Nana directly influenced the teaching and learning of all 900 of our current alumni; and she mentored and helped develop many members of our faculty. When news of her passing broke, many in our community were overwhelmed, as they reflected on how much Nana had touched their lives.
"Her reach extended well beyond Ashesi University. College for Ama, which she founded over ten years ago, continues to prepare adolescent girls for college through annual summer training camps. Countless alumni of the University of Ghana benefited from her passionate engagement as a scholar and teacher. She was a fierce campaigner for the rights of the aged in our society. Her work – in her lifetime – quite literally, spanned generations of Ghanaian citizens."
Ensuring her legacy lives on
Andrea Opoku-Dwamenah, chair of the College for Ama board spoke on behalf of the CofA community: “Nana will be sorely missed by those of us who had the pleasure of knowing and working with her through the CoFA Foundation. There may be no greater tribute to Nana's success than the fact that hundreds of girls in Ghana are living their true potential and breaking barriers because of CoFA.”
She concluded: “Nana's spirit will forever be the CofA Foundation; we will work tirelessly to ensure her legacy lives on.”
May she live on in the many people whose heart and mind she touched.
Fare thee well
A tribute from Ernestina Marfo, a former CofA girl
Oh, the tree - under whose shade we gathered for wisdom - has fallen. Oh, the source of inspiration, strength and hope, has been taken from us. Life, they say, is well lived when its pieces are found behind. Your calm, but firm advice suited every situation brought before you. Your lifestyle and support, together with that of the CofA Board and Executive Team finds me now as a student at UPSA reading BSc in Accounting.
As we turn the pages of your exemplary life, we see you imparting the ever-lasting tool of life: education. You were a staunch supporter of educating the girl-child, as evidenced in the establishment of CofA, of which I am a beneficiary. CofA stood for all that you had to offer and where we could go for comfort and refuge in times of distress.
Though you can't be reached now, we find consolation in the many lives you have touched with your knowledge. I ask for the peaceful rest of your gentle soul. Until we meet again, fare thee well, Prof.
Ernestina Marfo took part in the 2012 Summer Camp. She graduated in 2020 from the University of professional Studies with a BSc in Accounting. Ernestina is now working at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
College for Ama (or CofA, as we call it) started in 2006 helping girls to continue their education at secondary level. This was done through its annual summer camps, a mentoring program and financial assistance.
COVID-19 meant that we had to stop our program. CofA is using this pause to reflect on past achievements and ways to improve its program when it can safely relaunch its activities.
Here is what we achieved at our 10th aniversary in 2016.