Professor Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe - My Childhood Was fun

By Daily Graphic
Listen to article

One of his favourite pastime as a child growing up at Atukpai, near the Salaga Market, was to go to the outskirts of Accra with his friends to pluck mangoes. But, unlike most children of his generation who walked long distances to school, Young Nii Boi could be said to be lucky at some point because he went to school in his father's car.

In appreciation of what his parents did for him, Young Nii Boi decided to study hard. “I saw it as my responsibility to study, and I did that to the best of my ability”, he said.

Having his mind set at an early age, on becoming a doctor it was easy for him to focus on his studies towards achieving that dream.

Although Professor Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe, currently the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, is not an active medical practitioner, his contributions to the University of Ghana Medical School (UGMS), where he taught and held administrative positions, have been enormous.

Do you know that many of the doctors we see today in the country passed through his hands? As a professor in anatomy, he taught and researched in various universities, including the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the College of Medicine at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, and the Tulane University, School of Medicine in the United States.

In the comfort of his office on the University of Ghana campus, where this reporter met him to share his childhood story with children, he disclosed that he was born at Atukpai and spent his early years there at a time when there was no television, computers or Internet facilities.

As a result, children in those days had to find ways of amusing themselves and he did that through group plays, football and watching plays at the Arts Centre and the Baiden Powell Memorial Hall, Accra. One of the famous plays he watched was “The Lost Fisherman”, written by the late Ghanaian playwright and sculptor, Saka Acquaye.

Prof. Tagoe revealed that in the 1950s many parts of Accra were not developed. Areas such as Bubiashie, North Kaneshie, Kaneshie, Agbogbloshie through the railway line in Accra along the Graphic Road were all bushy. The only building along that route was Accra Brewery. Later, Pepsi Cola was also built.

“And would you believe that we beat a path through those bushes at Bubiashie and North Kaneshie just to pluck mangoes?” he asked.

“I also took the pleasure of going to the Accra beach, where I took delight in joining the fishermen to draw the fishing net”, he added.

Growing up at a time when the Accra Race Course was very active, he took a keen interest in horse racing and as he grew older his favourite pastime was to learn how to box. Those were the days Ghana was becoming famous for boxing and we had fine boxers such as Ike Quartey Senior, Roy Ankrah, Joe Tetteh, Oblittey Commey, the fighting fisherman, Floyd Robertson and Sugar Ray Acquaye, whose boxing gym was his favourite place.

In the evenings, he said, kids in the neighbourhood entertained themselves with drumming and dancing. But Prof. Tagoe was quick to add that engaging in all those activities did not mean that they did not attend school or study. In his case, for instance, he explained that he used to study with his siblings and other cousins in the evenings.

“I recall an occasion when my siblings and cousins were preparing for the Standard Seven examination. they had some question and answer books they studied with and usually I played the role of the teacher who questioned them. Therefore, by the time they finished the examinations, I knew most of the answers to their practice questions.” “In a way, I also learnt what they were studying,” he added.

By now one would be wondering which school young Nii Boi attended. Well, he attended the Accra Ghana National School, which is now Richard Akwei Memorial School, at Hansen Road, Accra. He recalled his first day at school and said even before classes began they were given brooms to sweep the compound under the supervision of their seniors who held canes and whipped them when they slowed down.

Apart from the usual classroom work, occasionally they worked on the school farm, which stretched from Agbogbloshie to the railway line at Adabraka.

One thing Prof. Tagoe could remember vividly about his early schooldays at Richard Akwei Mem. School was that boys were not allowed to put on footwear to school, even if their parents could afford to provide them with a pair. For that reason, he went to school without any shoes on. That was not the case, however, with the girls in the school.

After staying at Atukpai all that while with his grandmother, Young Nii Boi left to live with his parents, first at Avenor and then at Kaneshie, following his father's transfer back to Accra. It was during that period that he was driven to school in his father's car each morning. At Kaneshie, for instance, he and his siblings were given money for transport when returning home. “but the truth is that we kept the money and walked home,” he said, beaming with smiles.

And do you know what they did with the money? They played roulette, bought condensed milk, sugar cane and small toys.

After his Common Entrance Examination at Richard Akwei Mem. School, he gained admission to St Augustine's College, Cape Coast, where he studied for his 'O' and 'A' Level examinations.

At St Augustine's College, he was appointed the Entertainment Prefect by his teachers. A model student, as he described himself, he played when he had to and made sure he studied hard as well. So I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that “we sneaked from school occasionally to watch film shows and attend dances in town” — boys, will always be boys eh!.

After St Augustine's College, he gained admission to KNUST, but left after a few weeks for the University of Ghana medical school to study medicine and obtained a degree in Medicine and Surgery (MB ChB).

In 1979, he returned to the Medical School as a demonstrator (teaching assistant), after which he rose through the ranks to his current position.

Sixty-year-old Prof. Tagoe is married with two children: Nii Ayi Tagoe of Joy FM and Naa Dedei, who works with Zenith Bank.