It was supposed to be another typical Chemistry class then in SS2, where Mr Laryea, our dark, bow-legged, Polo T-shirt & Chinos trouser-donning, highly-cerebral Ghanian Teacher would spend part of our next 80 minutes class drawing a periodic table on the blackboard (from his memory, by the way), to help us figure out how many molecules of carbon bond was in 2,4-dimethylpentanoic… However, on this fateful day, as we settled into the long stools in the Chemistry laboratory which has this strong smell of what I could best describe as Iodine, laying down our higher-education notebooks, ready to scribble down the chemical equations for the day, the first question he ask was ‘What is the greatest investment in the world?’.
To our averagely 14-year old selves back then, this sort of question was of course a no-brainer and like unfettered taps that will not stop leaking, our responses poured in. The first response was something along the lines of an exotic car-unsure what brand was mentioned. Seun, another classmate who had this lovely cursive writing that I so admire and unsuccessfully tried to copy protested from the seat closest to the Bunsen burners arranged by the slab-‘A Mansion sir! ’… After all of our chorused, self-aggrandizing responses were met by Mr Laryea’s with a head shake which seemed to say ‘I pity you all’ more than a simple ‘no’, we all kept quiet. Then, he exclaimed- THE GREATEST INVESTMENT YOU CAN EVER MAKE IN LIFE IS YOUR BRAIN’. To which we all went like ‘WHAAAAAAAAAT?’
Some decades since graduating from the four walls of this high school that taught me self-reliance, independence and most of all, the phenomenon of humanism, I am convinced that the words of my Chemistry Teacher in Mayflower School, Ikenne could not have been truer. As an adult, I have not only realized the immense value of investing in this globe-shaped, computer-like organ made up of 85% water- through reading, engaging games, stimulating conversations and other ways you can probably Google up, the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequent restrictions (Not forgetting a looming third wave at the sound of the new Delta variant) brought it to the fore for me. I have become more intentional about seeking out activities that put my brain in a better frame to remain maximally productive. Years ago, I found that amongst others, reading, gardening, drinking a lot of water, exercising (in my context, Yoga), Chocolates (I stick with bite sizes) and most of all resting this exceptional organ work excellent wonders.
My background in Biochemistry and Public health did even more to reinforce Mr Laryea’s assertion. It showed me how divestment in the human brain could have negative and sometimes grave consequences, not only on the individual carrying this beautiful organ around in their skulls, but even on the generations after the generations after them. Our very own Amb. Sunny Irakpor, the Founder of Silec Initiative for instance, will have more to share in this regard, considering all his amazing work in advocacy for drug abuse reduction.
So I recently returned from celebrating my beloved Mayflower School’s 65th anniversary and taking a picture in front of that great laboratory brought back beautiful memories of the numerous life lessons this Tai Solarin-founded secondary school taught me. So much so that I thought to share one of such life lessons with my dearest USG Alumni this beautiful summer month of August. Thank you for permitting me to be your Mr Laryea (without that his long brown cane that has its strands shredding off on one end, having seen better days lashing on the backs of the class’ notorious noise makers) to remind us of this greatest investment we will ever make, and to continually put our brains in a state where it will not only be maximally productive now, but will also outlive us. After all, an investment is something that we do today to generate greater returns in the morrow.
Stay brainy Family.