- Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am from the Royal Family of Dimbié Welembele in the Upper West Region. I come from a very large family and hold a Post-Diploma (the equivalent of a Masters’ Degree in French) in Translation and Bilingual Secretarial professions. I am married with three children.
I used to teach, but now work as a Researcher and Teaching Consultant. I have founded English schools in Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Burkina Faso, Congo-Brazzaville, Chad and in Gabon. I have my ‘products’ (i.e. people I have trained) spread across the world. I love to teach and when I do so, I become virtually possessed. I am also the Honorary Consul of Gabon in Ghana. I was voted the Pan African Personality of the Year in 2018.
Since its inception in 1993, my School (the Centre of Languages and Professional Studies – CELPS), has received five (5) International Awards; namely, the first from Business Initiative Directions (BID) in the USA, where the Award Ceremony took place; the second from Tam-Tam d’Afrique Awards from the Republic of Benin, the third from African Development Magazine of the Century from Abuja-Nigeria, the fourth one “ PANAFRICAN CORPORATES AWARDS OF INTEGRATION” from Panafrican Corporates Magazine in 2016 Lomé Togo, and the fifth one from Pan African Personality of the Year 2018 Award in Casablanca-Morocco from Nouvelle Afrique
- What motivated you to study the French language?
My late Brother and Former President of Ghana- Dr. Hilla Liman, a French Scholar and product of the Paris I University of La Sorbonne – France actually motivated me to learn French. When I was in the Middle School in the year 1966, he came on a visit; I felt challenged by the way he was justifiably touted as a Scholar and as a Doctor, and asked myself: “Is it because he studied French that he has become such a renowned scholar? If that is the case, then I shall also study the French language”.
It happened that I had the flair for French. I loved French so much so that, when I was a student I loved the language more than I loved my girlfriend (laughs). I studied French at the University and taught it after my graduation. Fortunately, I have written a lot of bilingual books. My books are being used here in Ghana, and at the St. Valerie University of Montpellier (France), at the National University of Ndjamena (Chad) and at Abdul Mumuni University (Niger). My books are hot cake all over the World and any French/ English professor who finds them buys them. I also love teaching and when I am doing so, I am in my elements and my students love it and recommend me to others.
- As a founder, what is the story behind the establishment of CELPS?
I never for once thought of establishing an English school here in Ghana. The first School I taught in was the Ghana Institute of Languages (Part Time), then at Agence d’Or– Kokomlemle-Accra, and at Manifold Tutorial College – Accra. Having taught at the Institute of Languages, I saw lots of pitfalls and loopholes in their programs. They had been teaching English in the conventional way, when students came on holidays and stayed for a month or so; but the way Francophones needed the English language is now no more like as before. They need it every day. It was then that I decided to ‘do my own thing’. The way I teach English is different from what others do. In fact, my technique it is not known to even the Ghana Education Service. I remember once being called and asked by the Ghana Immigration Service officials, wishing to know why any time people came from the Francophone countries, they said they were coming to learn English from my school. It is simply because of my teaching method.
Many mushrooming Language schools are being established by my ex-students. CELPS is on the ascendancy, because we have developed a unique flagship teaching methodology, which is different from what one would find anywhere else. Even indigenous English-speaking students come to CELPS to learn the correct ‘Queen’s English’. They come to discover a lot more than they knew, simply because they had learnt English the wrong way. They have benefited immensely from my books.
In fact, the beginning was rather very difficult, with the major problem being the lack of money. You know when one comes to Accra it isn’t easy going through the numerous challenges. In 1990, a friend of mine offered me a small room in a Nursery, which could seat only nine students. It happened that, because I had no money I saw another friend who was teaching in a Secondary School. He had some rickety chairs and benches and a typewriter, which was all I took. We went into partnership. This man was teaching in his school and all I did was to devote myself to the work. I would go and sit there the whole day, and would get no money at the end of the day. I subsequently engaged the collaboration of a friend called Mr. Ben Gegnon and we would go and sit there all day with nothing forthcoming.
In 1993, the ‘miracle’ started. I could now take 12 people in the Nursery classroom. We had the nursery class on one side and my class on the other. You could see some CD number-plated cars parked at the place (one from Guinea, from the FAO etc.). My friend thought I was using magic. When the room was full, I went to hire a video Centre, and thence moved to St Michael School, which had open rooms and hosted numerous reptiles. I only had a table as my office. Two Guinean girls came and paid up their fees but when they came the following day, they looked around and never came back again after seeing the dilapidated nature of the room.
I have had a lot of betrayals from people I have helped. Some went to set up rival schools and went on to malign me in many quarters. At Kotobabi Down, I started with a wooden structure to contain my students. (It was there I had the Award from Business Initiative Directions from Manhattan, USA). Many great persons have passed through this school. I owe all these to my students.
- How did you assume the position of Consul of Gabon to Ghana and what puts you ahead of other potential candidates for the post?
I was recommended by one of my students. I was very good to my students and I still am. So when the need came, he told the Ambassador that he had a father who could handle the position, encouraged me to apply for the position. And I did. I learnt that, at the Cabinet Meeting when my name was mentioned, one of the decision-makers said he was once my student and that I was capable of doing the work.
- The world is grappling with COVID 19 and CELPS wasn’t spared the effects of the pandemic. What lessons have you learnt as an educationist, going forward?
It has affected all sectors. I teach foreigners. Sorry, they are not foreigners. I am a Pan Africanist so I don’t see them as foreigners. I am now unemployed as a result of COVID19. We need to learn to diversify business. COVID19 has taught us to solve problems in another way.
- What are the future plans of CELPS?
CELPS should have been a University by now. But when you are shooting up in society, your enemies come from your own family. I have faced many challenges, but God has always raised and shielded me. My hitherto ailing condition has hindered the growth of CELPS; had it not been so, CELPS would have been a University by now; you would have seen higher buildings here. It is, however, better late than never.
- What advice do you have for Ghanaians on the study of languages, and also for the Francophone community in Ghana?
I want to meet the President (Nana Akufo Addo) and discuss with him the need for Ghanaians to learn French much more. After Kwame Nkrumah I am yet to see another visionary President. Nkrumah had a vision. He set up the Ghana Institute of Languages and introduced “Parlons Francais” on GBC Radio, so visionary was Nkrumah. Since Ghana’s Independence, we have had only two Presidents who spoke French: Hilla Liman and Nana Akufo Addo. Ghana is surrounded by French-speaking countries. I have students coming all the way from the Antilles. A time will come when you will not have any Ghanaian getting any international job because of the inability to speak French. The late Kofi Annan (past Secretary-General of the UN) was a shining example of a Ghanaian who rose to the top because he spoke French. Indeed he even spoke English with a French accent. President Kufuor started to integrate the learning of French into our curriculum but did it upside down. You start from the beginning instead of from the top. We need to learn French as children. Ministers, Professors, Top-level Civil Servants, etc., from francophone countries come here to learn English. Ghanaians are sleeping and will pay dearly for it someday. All the juicy contracts would be going to others.
7. What is your philosophy in life?
My encouragement in life is my Allah. When I want to do something, I go fasting and I succeed. Work hard and leave the results to Allah.
I want to do motivational speaking to help the youth rise up above the old men. Our time is past so we need to encourage the younger ones.