THE READERS HUB is thrilled to bring to you another insightful and informative encounter in its Social Convo session as we engage one of our ardent readers to take us through the compendium of his life’s journey thus far, the motivations, the mentors and how he is able to sail through the rough edges of the vicissitudes of his life from a “Shoeshine Boy” to become a Land Economist and a Lecturer at the University for Development Studies-UDS.The encounter was adeptly moderated by regular host, Alima Bawah.
Ladies and gentlemen, sit still as you enjoy this most informative and thrilling encounter.
Alima Bawah: Dr Elias Kuusaana you are most welcome to The Readers Hub-GH (Social Convo) tonight and thanks for accepting our invitation.
Dr. Kuusaana: Thank you Alima for the humbling opportunity tonight to share my story with our audiences. It is a pleasure to be speaking here tonight, and I really cherish this opportunity.
Alima Bawah: Impressive! As tradition demands, tell us briefly about yourself please.
Dr. Kuusaana: I was born 36yrs ago in Wa together with my two (2) sisters. We were probably the first triplets to be born in Wa at that time. My parents worked for the Wa Catholic Diocese for several years, and I have 5 other sisters (Beatrice, Jane, Adelaide, Emma and Eva) and a brother (Frederick). We had a very modest upbringing which reflected in all facets of our lives. God has been good to us; we all survived and are doing well. My dad Mr. Clement Kuusaana, unfortunately is late now, but my mum Mrs. Matilda Kuusaana is alive and blessed.
In a related development, my dad worked at the ADB Bank in late 1980s but was redeployed before my sisters and I could start basic school under structural readjustment. So, he worked for the Catholic Diocesan Secretariat in Wa as a Typist until 2005 when he joined UDS as a Secretary and retired in 2012. I have lived much of my life in Wa, and my life experiences appear to be much around Wa.
Most fascinating to note is the fact that, while growing up, I sold kerosene in the night, and also worked as a shoeshine boy during the day. I did these until I completed my JSS. Funny enough, there are times I wonder why I stopped these businesses. They were very rewarding. I could have been a fuel tycoon today, but I lost it because I had to concentrate on my studies, and keep among the best in my class, as my father always encouraged. While working as a shoeshine boy, I never let go my desire to be a Doctor, and this made me to work so hard in school.
I also had to take care of my father’s cattle from class 4 to JSS 2 during holidays until he sold them in 1998 to start his house project. I do cherish that experience too especially the life in bush, hunting and wrestling other younger kids. So, you see, I had lots of things put together that shaped who I am eventually. I learnt tenacity from the bush, I learnt how to wrestle for food, and I learnt how to hunt for meat and fruits as well. And when in school, I felt that I needed to change things for my family and myself. I worked so hard with anger and sometimes with hunger mostly, and that pushed me to even do better Alima. That aggression has added to my personality: humble, generous and yet outspoken.
Alima Bawah: I do know a lot of children born multiple (twins, triplets….) from our side of the country are taken to streets to beg for some reasons attributed mainly to spirits and culture. Did that happen in your case too?
Dr. Kuusaana: Surely, they still do that. As I mentioned earlier, when we were born in 1984, my dad was with the bank. I cannot remember the degree of his financial muscles. However, he owned a blue Yamaha 100 motorbike. Besides, we used to have tea for breakfast by then until the unfortunately he lost his job.
My mum was a housewife then, and she was busy with us. And at the time I remember there were a lot of food supplies from the state: sorghum, wheat and milk. And because our number and how people looked at us with amazement, we usually received more food than any other household.
Alima Bawah: But I still find it difficult to fathom how you have to hawk and do all kind of menial jobs while your dad was a banker, tell how these variables relate.
Dr. Kuusaana: The time I started hawking my dad was the Secretary to the Bishop of Wa. His salary by then, if any at all, was too meager to take care of the family. So, I had to do the hawking to support myself in some way, and not for the house keep. My parents fully took care of the house and everything we needed. Even though my dad was not in full support of the idea because of the potential impact on my studies. At a point he realised it did not affect my studies greatly. I still occasionally emerged first in my class.
Alima Bawah: Do I assume you were just being a “child entrepreneur” and not in Child labour?
Dr Kuusaana: Exactly! And that is why frankly I struggle to understand the definition of child labour, from my narrow perspective though. In my case, it was purely on my own will, and everything I earned was mine, and I decided what to use it for including fancy pressing pens to write my notes beautifully. So yes, the experts may call it child labour, I saw it as a training which was very rewarding at the time, and the profits I made I used to supplement myself in school.
Alima Bawah: We want to know a bit about your education and how you ended as a land economist and not a banker.
Dr. Kuusaana: I started school at Wa Catholic Primary and JSS and completed in 1999 with distinction. I then sat for the entrance exams of the St Francis Xavier Jnr seminary and was admitted in September 1999 after a successful interview. I studied General Arts and completed in 2002, and subsequently gained admission to KNUST to study Land Economy in 2003. Prior to entering KNUST, I taught as a non-professional teacher at the Wa Presbyterian JSS, and I still fond memories teaching Social Studies and English Language.
Let me also add that I gained a late admission to study Economics, Geography and resource development and another course that I cannot quite remember: Philosophy or Psychology at the University of Ghana. I could not take the admission because I had already paid the deposit for KNUST, and I could not afford another deposit at the University of Ghana. Hence, Land Economy was my only choice then. So that was how I entered KNUST to study Land Economy and I was blessed to graduate as the Best Student in 2007 with a First Class Honours. It was in KNUST I met my wife Joyce Eledi, and we got married after school. You can understand that KNUST was a blessing to me.
Alima Bawah: This is amazing! So, what have you been doing with your certificates since then? Did you try going back to continue your entrepreneurial journey or you went to queue for job? And would you say your current position has indeed changed the social status of your family and community; if yes, to what extend?
Dr. Kuusaana: Hahaha, I am still doing “something small” in business and I rear different kinds of animals for pleasure. Rearing is one of the legacies my dad thought me. I keep poultry, local or foreign. I have rabbits, ducks and pigs. I am working on going commercial with the poultry. For now, I have just 200 birds.
I also run a small cement business; I run two (2) “Camboos” and a mobile money outlet business. Besides, I farm rice, yam, groundnuts, beans and little cashew among others.
The above notwithstanding, my main job now is with the University as a Lecturer. My current position is yet to bring money, plenty money. However, I think that things have become better now Alima. I am not rich, but God has been so good with me. I am able to solve my own problems, my family’s problems and those of others close to me.
In the same related development, my mum is proud and appreciates what I have become over the years. She used to call me Patapaa, sometimes she called me Copper. These names were bad boys’ nametags. I was not really bad as a young boy, but I definitely got things done my way, and I got lots of beatings for most of them. Now she says I am her life. I feel blessed indeed for how far God has brought me.
Alima Bawah: Awesome! So, given that you went to study Land Economy because you had no choice, what would you want to do differently if you have the opportunity now?
Dr. Kuusaana: I now feed from Land Economy. I will study it again, and again. Land is everything. Actually, Land Economy was my second choice. I applied for BSc Planning. However, I could not make it to the Planning list because I was told I needed to have studied Elective Mathematics, unfortunately I studied History as my 3rd Elective besides Economics and Geography. .
Truth be told, I thank God I did not make it to read BSc Planning. I can do Planning from Land Economy at the Masters level, but it is not easy the other way around. To this extend ; I have no regrets at all.
Alima Bawah: From your experience of practice, what inefficiencies do you see in how we manage land in Ghana; particularly in the northern enclave?
Dr. Kuusaana: That is a whole discussion Alima. My comment is that we have so many people dealing with land in Ghana. Chiefs, families, individuals, just so many people at a time. Also, many land administration systems have improved, but there are still issues with cost and turnaround time. We may need to push further and give people value for money. Indeed, with land marketization, many poor people suffer exclusion including women and the youth.
Alima Bawah: But at what point did you decide to further education to do Masters and subsequently PHD?
Dr. Kuusaana: After secondary school I worked as a pupil teacher for 1yr as I indicated earlier. I remember the Headmistress told me to go to the Teacher Training College because she thought I was a natural teacher. I declined the idea and ran to the University. However, as fate will have it, I got my first job as a Teaching Assistant at KNUST; and then at University for Development Studies (UDS) as a Senior Research Assistant
At UDS it was a requirement that we all obtained a Master’s degree to qualify as Assistant Lecturers. In 2009, I won a DAAD scholarship to study Land Management and Land Tenure at the Technical University of Munich, in Germany. I completed the program in April 2011, and was lucky to emerge as the Best Student of my graduating class then. Same year, in August 2011, I won the KAAD scholarship to study for my PhD in Agricultural science but working on Agricultural Land Markets in Ghana at the University of Bonn, Germany.
So frankly, my further studies happened because I started to work at the University for Development Studies. Probably, if it were not a requirement or if I had secured a different job elsewhere, things would have been different, perhaps.
QUESTIONS TIME WITH OUR READERS FROM (THE READERS HUB)
Abass: What has been your greatest challenge in your educational career so far?
Dr. Kuusaana: Paying fees at my Undergraduate level. It was bad for me. My dad could not fully afford my studies at KNUST, so he sold his pigs every time. I remember once we sold about 8 at a go for fees and accommodation. I then applied for a SNITT student loan to take care of my feeding. You see why I love to keep animals. We sold lots of chicken to Upland Hotel and sometimes to Friend’s spot both in Wa.
Many times, I wrote letters to solicit for funds. Mainly I went to La France and Foka Enterprise those days, and they helped me. I used to go with my results to convince them, I had very impressive grades at the time. I went to Ghanem as well. He helped me the first time but on subsequent occasions, he declined because he mentioned I was not a Priest. He was only helping Priests at the time. My auntie Veronica Agyare and her husband, and my older sisters helped a lot as well. Everyone had to sacrifice for my education to flourish. God always managed to get me the money. I never owed in school until I completed.
Ali Eliasu: I am a graduate student who is very enthused about being in the academia. What advice would you give me towards this journey?
Dr. Kuusaana: Self-control and handwork bro. Academia is a rough environment and very challenging. There is a lot of competition and you need to keep working. In our kind of academia in Ghana, you need to teach, research, perform administrative roles and still bring in grants. So, you are always working, and the load keeps increasing. And then you have the temptation with the daughters of Eve (young ladies). Self-control will help a lot.
Nassam: If you have the opportunity to render consultancy to government on land Economy/land use policy which aspect would you emphasize?
Dr Kuusaana: I think my emphasis will be to sanitize the land market. Ensure that land holding, land delivery and land registration are properly documented. That information gathering and its transfer is properly done. That we streamline the processes of land registration. As a country we implemented the Land Development (Protection of Purchasers) Act, 1960.This was meant to protect bona fide developers in Accra.
It worked only in Accra, and I think the law has been repealed. Local governments have failed us largely because both planning laws and practice are not in sync. The local government has the planning powers, yet the local people own and hold the land. So, the law is made by the state to plan land it does not own. So, the people end up leading planning and dictating its content across the country. Until we succeed in planning the whole of Ghana, this situation may never change soon.
Anthony Guoltiri: Please I want to know how one could get a roadside land to build a store or put up a container for a business.
Dr. Kuusaana: You will need to identify the spot, and subsequently apply to the town and country planning for a temporal permit. All such developments are temporal developments. You may be charged for the permit but not necessarily for the land. As you may know, there is already a system in Wa where some officials at the Assembly are popular with roadside allocations for container. From my professional point of view, apply and keep track of the application. The permit may be a tool for compensation in future, and to protect you from undesirable evictions.
Alima Bawah: Any possibility of going into politics and representing your constituents
Dr. Kuusaana: I have not thought of it yet Alima. At the moment I prefer a rather quiet life and concentrate on my family and work as a teacher and researcher. My wife will not support me in politics as well. So, for now, I want to be a University Professor within the next 5years. I want to be an accomplished author of many papers. I currently have 36 publications. Politics exposes you to additional stress and may bring you into conflict with many people. My family and I will love to keep to our simple lives for now.
Alima Bawah: Most land economist also read law, any plans of adding law to your rich academic records?
Dr. Kuusaana: Sure, I will study law. I want my wife to complete her PhD by next year, and then I can apply to read Law. I love Law, and my lawyer friends are my biggest motivation.
- Do you anticipate any land reform specifically on land tenure system as regards the role of chiefs etc.?
- Do you think that the 99yr land ownership will be scrapped as the practice was basically lifted from the European land system.
Dr. Kuusaana: Ghana’s land will remain customary land, and the state may never be able to nationalize it. I see the 99yrs lease being emboldened even more following the ongoing discussions with the Land Bill. Indeed, from the draft I have seen, the Act will outlaw freeholds on both stool/skin and family lands alike. The only land reform we are now waiting for is the Land Act; beyond it all other changes will be procedural.
Alima Bawah: Kindly give us your final comments please.
Dr. Kuusaana: I think that God has been good with many of us. We have been blessed differently and severally. We need to give others an opportunity to be blessed through us. Wherever we find ourselves, let us apply our energies to the fullest. Let us take advantage to let our lights shine wherever we are. We can all do a lot of greater things for Ghana and for ourselves. Thank you very much for the opportunity tonight and God richly bless us all. I am humbled for the latitude granted me.
Alima Bawah: Social Convo never disappoints. Indeed, it has been a thrilling encounter with you Dr Elias Kuusaana. Thank you so much for the thought provoking and exciting conversation.
Until we meet same time next week, have a good night.
NB: Please don’t forget to share after reading for others to also benefit.
Hub Editor: Bassing .A.M.A.Kamal.