Dr Elias K. Sory - He Defied All Odds To Attend School

By Daily Graphic
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He used to walk five kilometres to and from school daily, without shoes, through bushy paths and during rainy seasons. In fact, sometimes he risked being swept away by the rivers he had to cross before getting to school.

His determination to be in school, coupled with his readiness to work hard under trying circumstances, played a very important role in his forward march to success.

He used to walk five kilometres to and from school daily, without shoes, through bushy paths and during rainy seasons. In fact, sometimes he risked being swept away by the rivers he had to cross before getting to school.

Would you believe that there were times that he had to use a walking stick to help him walk to school when he was infected by the guinea worm disease?

That determined little boy is today one of the finest medical doctors in the country and currently the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service. He is Dr Elias K. Sory.

Dr Sory hails from Nadowli in the Upper West Region and he is the last but one of the seven surviving children of his parents.

He says he has keen interest in child and maternal health issues because he lost six of his siblings while they were infants.

Dr Sory started school at the Dafiama St Thomas Moore Primary and the St Augustine's Middle schools.

Taking the Junior Graphic down memory lane, the director-general recalled how the absence of a basic school in Nadowli negatively affected most children in that village, depriving them of the opportunity to attend school.

He vividly remembered how he was turned away from school at age six because his right hand could not touch his left ear across his head, the criterion used in those days to determine whether a child was ready to start school or not.

Finally, he got enrolled in Class One at age eight, when his right hand reached his left ear, an indication that he was mature enough to be in school.

When he started school, he never looked back. That was why he was not prepared to absent himself from school, even when he was sick.

“That explained why I even had to use a walking stick to help me to walk to school when I was down with guinea worm,” he recalled with a smile.

Asked about how he was able to pay his school fees, Dr Sory said the payment of school fees was not a problem because schoolchildren in that part of the country did not pay fees.

When it was time to start secondary school, he faced a difficult problem because after he had passed the common entrance examination twice but denied the opportunity to attend secondary school, he unfortunately failed the third attempt when he was in Form Three.


“So I sat for the examination again in Form Four. That same year, I wrote the training college and technical school exams and I passed in all of them,” he added.

He, however, opted to attend secondary school and was admitted to the Navrongo Secondary School in the 1969/70 academic year.

He performed well in the General Certificate of Education (GCE) and continued at the T.I. Ahmaddiyya Secondary School in Kumasi for his Sixth Form course.

Asked when he decided to become a medical doctor, he said it was after his Sixth Form, explaining that throughout his secondary school life he wanted to be a civil engineer.

“I even bought a form at the then University of Science and Technology to read Civil Engineering and also bought another form for Legon and I applied for Medicine. Fortunately, I was offered both courses. I was, however, invited first by the Medical School for an interview,” he explained further.

During the interview, he said, one of the panel members asked him why he did not want to do Agricultural Engineering, since his father was a farmer.

“I told him that even though my father was a farmer, he (the father) could fall sick and would then need the attention of a medical doctor. That answer impressed all of them and I was offered admission,” he said.

He completed his course of study and did his housemanship at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital for one year and requested for a transfer to Bolgatanga, to the utmost surprise of his mates.

According to him, he had benefited a lot from his rural community and, therefore, advised professionals living in cities and towns to remember their roots and go back there to serve the people “who made you who you are now”.

He recalled how he used to help his parents on the farm during vacations and sometimes relieved his younger brother who was taking care of their father's cattle, adding, “I did not really care what my mates and friends were saying. For me, being in secondary school did not mean that I was better than those who farmed or took care of cattle.”

Dr Sory advised children to be attentive, hardworking, humble and assertive, reminding them that those were important for any child who wanted to live a meaningful life in future.

He said children must also be careful in choosing their friends and recounted how one of his classmates who was very clever ended up mad because he was in the company of people who smoked wee and indulged in hard drugs.

“In addition, children must be content with whatever their parents give them. Do you know that I wore shoes only when I entered Sixth Form when it was compulsory to wear shoes? Throughout secondary school most of my classmates wore shoes but I did not pressurise my parents to buy me any because I knew it was not a priority,” he said.