Everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes, people get the opportunity to tell these stories themselves, but other times, they get someone to tell their stories for them.
I met Professor. Jonathan Dakubo on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
Flanked by a team of eager young doctors, Prof as he is called walked into my ward to take a look at me.
From just examining my wound and without poking his finger into it like other doctors, he told the students where he believes the beginning of my then-fistula tract was.
I felt safe. Everyone said he was the best and an expert at his job. I must admit I was disappointed that a female doctor was not going to operate on me, but this doctor knew what my issue was and how to solve it… and I actually had no worry.
After the surgery, he was patient with me. He took me through the do’s and don’t’s to ensure a speedy recovery and always had time to share a joke or story whenever I came for review.
It was through these sessions that I got to know that he knew my father. As fate would have it, he operated on him in 2012.
That operation saved my dad’s life. I remember daddy’s admission at Korle Bu although the details remain quite scanty.
As a writer, I made a mental note to tell my story and then his. Fortunately, I have been able to share my Korle Bu experience in an article I titled, “My Korle Bu experience; the good, the bad and the ugly.“
It is now time to shine the spotlight on one of the best surgeons I have met.
I describe him as the best because although other doctors have operated on me because of this same condition and it has reoccurred, my experience with him has been different.
To the glory of God and thanks to Dr. Dakubo’s expertise, I have not been under the knife this year.
So who is Jonathan Dakubo?
He was born in 1962 to a manganese miner and a seamstress in Nsuta, a community in the Western Region of Ghana.
According to him, his parents moved from the Upper West Region to the community in 1949 in search of a job. They went ahead to raise their family there.
He is the fifth of ten children.
“Yes, we are a lot. But you know in those days our parents used to have more children. It is not like these days that people have two or even one,” he said while smiling.
Later in 1968, the family moved to Obuasi after his father showed interest in working with Ashanti Goldfields Company. However, his plans of landing a job in the Company did not materialise as expected.
He resorted to making smocks, while his wife – who was primarily a seamstress – took up a palm wine business as her second revenue stream.
The move from Nsuta to Obuasi interrupted the studies of young Dakubo for about a year as the family settled into its new environment.
“I missed a year because I should have started schooling. I was in nursery when I was at Nsuta but when I moved to Obuasi, I had to stop school for one year. So eventually, I started primary one (1) in 1969.
“Then in 1976, I passed my common entrance for the first time. I wanted to attend a school in southern Ghana but my elder brother – who had already finished Nandom Secondary and Tema Secondary School – said our parents could not afford it so I should go to Nandom Secondary school.”
This decision took him to the northern part of the country for the second time, this time as a teenager.
“I entered secondary school in 1977. But the interesting thing about my going to secondary school was that I was a baby or a child when I went to the North for the first time which was around 1966-67 thereabout.
“I had no idea what the north looked like again. When I passed the common entrance in 1976, my father took me to Kumasi Aboabo and left me with a driver to drop me at a village in the north,” he recounted.
However, Dr Dakubo was unable to enter Nandom Secondary immediately due to his father’s sudden illness.
“I say it was a miracle my father survived because he became bloated, deeply jaundiced and could not pass urine. I can figure out today that he had Hepatorenal Syndrome; mind you, we didn’t know what that was at the time.
“That’s what we thought but, miraculously, he recovered. One of his cousins came and took him to Enchi.
“So when I came back from my interview in 1976, I couldn’t go because my father was not there – there was a financial challenge too.
“In 1977, we had to mobilise every resource and I went. I was about 13 or 14 years thereabout.”
Dr Dakubo describes his years in Nandom Secondary School as fun because secondary education was free during the time.
He was also taught by white Reverend Catholic Brothers (Brother FUC, whose apostolate is education) since local teachers refused to accept postings to the deprived northern parts of Ghana.
According to him, the Reverend Brothers, who were mostly Whites, were much disciplined and very punctual.
“They came from Holland, where their mother Convent is, to build the school; they relied mostly on Peace Corps, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and the Canada University Students’ Association (CUSO) for teaching staff for the students in the school.
Despite the tuition being free, students were required to purchase other essential stuff like clothing, Stationary, toiletries and others, and that was a challenge for many students.
Due to this, Dr Dakubo had to engage in petty businesses to earn some money for his upkeep.
His father’s ailing health – even after recovery – forced him and his siblings to learn to adapt quickly to their village and learn how to farm with the hoe in order to provide for themselves and the rest of the family.
“He [my father] came home still very ill. He couldn’t farm. He was so weak so quickly we had to learn how to farm. You will be surprised that we knew nothing about farming,” he admitted.
At a point, one of his younger brothers had to exit school to take care of their father so he could also continue his education with the little funds they made.
“The chief of our village – who was also a teacher – said he was responsible for everybody. So, he asked since I was already in secondary school my immediate younger brother, who was old enough to farm should stop schooling and farm to take care of my parents. Fortunately, he had registered for the common entrance before they stopped him – he wrote the common entrance from home and passed.”
This resulted in his admission to Nandom Secondary School. The same school Jonathan was attending.
However, due to the financial state of the family, he could not afford everything required on the prospectus.
Dr Dakubo and his brother hatched a plan.
“I told him to come because I was in the system and I knew how it worked. It was only on inspection days that he needed to show some things. I told him we could share everything.”
“One time, we had a function in a town near our village, Jirapa. From there, I dashed home to pick him up. He joined us on our school bus and I sent him to school. I gave him all my things when we got to the dormitory. I was in my third year, two years ahead of him – I was in form three and he was in form one”.
“During inspections, we would first check which dormitory they would start from. If they start the inspection from his place, we would swiftly go to dress his bed. As soon as they finish, we then dress my bed – that is how we managed!” he narrated.
Giving more details on how he survived life on campus with his brother, Dr. Dakubo said they did what they had learnt to do back home – earning money from farming.
The two brothers travelled to the south during vacations to work on farms to gather money before school reopens. They worked in communities like Kintampo, Apesika, Droman Kuma, Droman Kese, Nkoranza and Kwame Danso, which is the farthest community we ever went to.
“When we finish farming, we board a car to Kumasi and back to the village. That was the usual routine from the time I was in form three till I finished – that’s how my brother and I supported each other until we finished school.”
When it came to his A-level education, Dr. Dakubo said he almost missed out. According to him, he was home farming while his mates were in school. This was because he had no idea he had gained admission.
“One day, I saw the headmaster (the very dynamic Br. Lambertus Josephus Ketelaars) passing to Wa so I went to see him. He asked me, ‘what are you doing here? Your friends are all in school. You have admission.’
“So I asked, ‘is that true?’ ‘Yes, get prepared, when I’m coming from Wa, I will take you to school’, he said.
“That was how I had my ‘A’ level studies at Nandom Secondary School. I never knew I was admitted,” Dr Dakubo stressed.
Unfortunately, the school had no Chemistry teacher during the first term. The only black teacher had refused to teach, our class.
The students started helping each another through peer tutoring.
“We had to become our own teachers. We shared the topics among ourselves. There was John Tampuori, who is currently the Chief Executive Officer at Ho Teaching Hospital, then Dr Francis Oduro of Effiankwanta Hospital, Dr Ali Samba, the Medical Director of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, and others. We had to share the topics among ourselves”.
“We taught and studied Chemistry on our own from second term lower till we wrote the exams without any teacher and out of the eight of us, five of us went to medical school. The remaining three read Agric Engineering and some other disciplines.”
After his A level, Dr Dakubo was posted to Nandom Secondary School for his national service.
However, his posting to Nandom Secondary School was interrupted by the headmistress of St. Francis Secondary School, Mrs Prudence Gyader, who pleaded with him to come and teach “their wives” science.
“We got about six girls that we started pure science course with, and they all did well. One of them was the acting Director of GRIDCo at Tema. One is an environmental engineer in Canada now, one a Catholic nun and a senior nurse and the others are doing very well,” he told me.
He said his dedication and hard work won him the admiration of the School’s headmistress, who opted to sponsor his university education.
She went ahead and bought his only university form for him to go to KNUST.
In 1985, he gained admission to read medicine at the School of Medical Sciences (SMS) at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
To be continued…