Samuel Ndoo: “Travelling from the village to Accra is not a lazy man’s job”

Map including Tamale

In May, Mutala met Samuel Ndoo, a 30-year old from Yendi, Tamle, in the Northern Region.

What are you doing in Accra? 

Am doing a lot.

Please break it down.

Am in school and also an assistant manager to a popular beach resort in Accra.

Why that combination [of school and work]?

In this part of the world, if you don’t really work hard for what you want you are going to be failure in life.

If you know what you want, how to get it, work hard towards it and your hard work will surely pay one day.

Since my childhood I have been praying for the best of living for myself and family and also to be better of my parent. So I never left my education behind and my dreams have always been to become an accountant.

Yendi, Tamale, Northern Region

You know it is not easy growing up without a dad to support [you… nor] a disabled mother to raise their children. It takes God, hard work and determination to come this far.

My dad abandoned [my] disabled mother with two kids in the village and left without a trace [until] I was 10 years old.  I don’t really know the actual reason because he left without telling anybody anything.

My mum was knock[ed] down by a moving vehicle which paralyzed her ’til now and the driver managed to escape. They only took the registration number of the car but up to date he is still on the run with no trace. Some huge amount of money was needed to run my mum through a surgical operation to make her walk but my dad couldn’t raise the money so she couldn’t walk.

One day my dad packed few of his clothes and said he was going to the stream to wash. It was later in the day that someone came to tell us that she saw our dad travelling with the bag at the lorry station.

Since then life has not been easy for us at all.  My mum hardly raised [us on] two square meals [a day] so we also had to go sell food stuffs and water just to earn a living.  So at a point in time my sister had to drop from school for me to be able to continue ’til now.

What was your mum’s reaction when she heard your dad had travelled?

She didn’t believe it so she sent us round in search for him, but he was nowhere to be found. She also cried. It took time for her to be used to life without him.

Did you ever hear from your dad?

No, but a neighbor once came from the city and said he once met him on the streets of Accra.

How did your dad’s absence affect you?

His absence turned the whole family upside down economically and morally because he was the backbone of the family. My sister wouldn’t have drop[ped] out of school if he was around. We wouldn’t have gone selling if he was around, I wouldn’t have even travel to Accra to hustle. Because my dad love the family and always wants to sacrifice for us. So up ’til date I technically don’t understand why he abandoned us when we needed him the most.

How did you go to school?

Yeah, like I said, we sold food stuffs and water to earn a living ’til I finish J.H.S. (junior high school) so I started to help one of my dad’s friends sell tea and provisions (food, toiletries, sundries) at the market square and I earn money to take care of myself and my family.

How much did you earn?

Oh it wasn’t that much. But I [did] save enough to buy food stuffs for my family and finally [a] man took me back to school.  He funded me throughout S.H.S (senior high school) ’til I finish[ed] in 2005.

Why did the man decide to take you back to school?

When my B.E.C.E. (basic education certification examination that is taken for application to senior high schools) result came I had good grades and looking at the situation my mum was in, she won’t be able to afford my fees, so he decide to fund me back to school.

After school what did you do?

The job the man was doing at the market had problems and went bankrupt so the man closed down. So when I came back from school I had nothing to do than to help my sister sell kerosene at the market square.

Selling kerosene

So what about your mum?

[An] NGO came to the village to recruits the physically challenged who were capable of selling, to sell mobile airtime in town and in the market square. So my mum went to apply and was picked.

How much did she earn?

There was commission on every airtime she sold so she was paid base on what she sold.

As at then, it was 5 Ghana pesewas (100 pesewas in 1 Ghana cedi) per 1 cedi worth of units sold. It wasn’t fixed, it varied from day to day, but at least she made a daily meal out of it.

Coming to Accra

Like I said after secondary school I joined my sister to sell kerosene for almost a year and I save money to travel to Accra.  If we bought 10 cedis worth of kerosene we could sell all for 13 cedis and it could take two or three days to finish [the profits].

Why did you decide to travel to Accra?

I travelled to Accra because I wanted to climb the education ladder to the higher height, so I can secure a job at the government sector.  Since our earning in the village was not enough to finance me in the tertiary level, so I thought of coming to Accra to do some hustling.

Why did you think Accra was better?

Accra is the capital and will automatically have more jobs opportunities than anywhere else in the country and I thought coming to Accra will one day give me the opportunity to meet my father.

Did you ever meet him?

No

What were your family’s reactions when they heard that you wanted to travel to Accra?

They didn’t like the idea at all — especially my sister.  It took me a whole year to get them convinced. Whenever I raise that topic my mum starts to cry, she thought it was going to be like… my dad.

How did they finally agree to it?

It took the intervention of my dad’s friend to get them to allow me travel outside the village.  He spoke to them about the importance of me travelling Accra and then how it will benefit the family.

It would be of benefit because travelling from the village to Accra is not a lazy man’s job and of cause I’m not a lazy type. My father’s friend knew of my capabilities and believed me hustling in the city would be better of than [in] the village.  At least here, if I was able to secure a job, I would be able to take care of myself and the family — [more] than in the village. He believed me staying in the village is going to kill my dreams.

What were your dreams by then?

My dream has always been one and has never changed, and that is to become an accountant.

When you finally got to Accra what happened?

It was very tough when I came, I couldn’t speak Twi nor Ga, it was only Dagdani and English. A boy of 22 in a new environment, no mum, no dad, no siblings around, or friends, no place of accommodation.  It was just me against the world.

On my day of arrival it was 3:00 am midnight so I slept in the lorry station at Circle (Kwame Nkrumah Circle, downtown Accra) ’til day broke. In the morning, I went around town looking for a job.

I got to a place where I saw it writing on a notice board that cleaners wanted… They offered me the job. I started working the following day.

I worked there for a month and I got another job at U.T.C as a shop attendant where we sold cosmetics, so I left the cleaning job.  It was that woman who gave me a place to stay ’til I finally rented a room.

Where did you stay until that woman gave you a place to stay?

I slept in front of a shop inside the Circle tro fro station because I had no alternatives and I wasn’t the only one who slept there. There were about ten people who also slept there and it kept increasing on daily basis.

The guy I spoke to about the safeties before I started sleeping there told me that me that all those who sleeps there are all hustlers.  [People] who came to hustle without knowing anybody in Accra; some had people in [Accra] but they don’t know of their whereabouts.

Why did the woman gave you a place to stay?

It was mainly because she needed someone to be weeding the grass around the house and in the house too for free… so she give that offer and I couldn’t reject it.

I worked with her from January 2007 to April 2012 and she paid me 80 cedis [per month] from the beginning and it kept increasing to 450 cedis [per month]. Four hundred fifty cedis was the last pay I took from her before I stopped working with her.  It was there I worked to save money to open a provision shop for my mum and sister in 2010, and also saved enough to rent a room and then also start schooling.

Why did you stop working for her?

I stopped working for her because I got a job at [the beach resort] as an assistance manager and the salary was far better than what she was paying me, but before I stopped working with her I had moved to my new accommodation already.

Initially, it was 650 cedis [per month] but it has now increase to 750 cedis [per month].

How did the woman feel when she heard you were leaving for a new job?

No, I didn’t tell her that, I only told her that I was travelling to my home town and will be back, and after sometime I called her and told her to replace me with someone because I wasn’t sure of coming back and she got annoyed and hanged up.

Why didn’t you tell her the truth before leaving?

Of course I would have but I thought of it and change my mind because of the kind of relationship I had with her.  It would be as if I betrayed her and she wouldn’t have been happy letting me go. So I decide not to tell her the truth.

We had mother and son kind of relationship because she always advised me on how to live my life and she most times gives me extra money so my family can have enough. She always ask me to talk to her about my problems because she don’t want me to go to the extent of stealing.

She once told me that she never had a hard working and disciplined employee like me before. She said my presence at her shop pleased her heart so she always wanted me to feel at home. She also said that most people she worked with stole from her but she realized it was different with me. I think that is why she gave me that kind of relationship.

Nearly There…

Accra Polytechnic

Accra Polytechnic

Right now am in school at the same time working with [the beach resort]. I’m offering accounting and am in level 300 Accra Poly.

How is the combination [of working and schooling] like?

The combination is not easy at all.  I have been working with [the beach resort] for about two years now and is not easy at all combining it with school, because working with [the beach resort] is very stressful especially from Friday to Monday. We also have programs from Friday to Sunday and we have to balance the account and also take new stocks on Monday and because of that I don’t make it to lectures on Fridays and Mondays, sometimes except [if] I have paper.

It affect[s] my sleep because when I don’t make it up to school I always have to read extra miles before going the next day.  I just ask of the topics that they taught and make my own research and read to make understand before I go to bed, sometimes I end up not sleeping at all. But because you know what I want so it is not a problem at all.

Does your job management know you are schooling?

Yes, they all know including my boss and it is because of the school that I got the job.

A typical provision shop

A typical provisions shop

So far, what has been the impartation[sic] (impact) of your coming to Accra on your family?

My coming to Accra had a lot of positive impact on my family. Since I came to Accra in November 2006 I have been doing my best to let my mum and sister have a three square meal[s] a day, and also provided clothes for them. Then I finally decided to gather money to open a provision shop for them so at least they won’t have to always depend on me because I wanted to go back to school. You know what, it’s a lot but this is what I can talk about for now.

A Role Model:

Samuel’s experience seems quite amazing.   Starting as a boy who completed senior high school with the help of a stranger, Samuel came to Accra with nothing. Through hard work and bit of luck works his way up to an Assistant Manager’s position at a beach resort.  His hard work has provided him with an education and enough money for his mother to open a provisions store back home.  More importantly, his story is not even finished yet.  If everyone in Ghana worked as hard as Samuel, I think the country would be in a much better place.

Interview by Mutala Abubakar and edited by Obolobo

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