Perhaps , not so many people know him by his real name Alhaji Mohammed Haroon-an educationist, a politician and a philanthropist-as his nick name ‘Cambodia’ has overwhelmed his life with profound impact on humanity.
Dramatising his popularity, the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, reportedly said that when one gets to the Northern Regional capital Tamale, and ask any tree about Cambodia, and the wind starts blowing, the flapping of the branches of the tree indicates the direction to his house.
He got the nick name when he was spotted wearing a T-shirt “Fly the Friendly Skies of Cambodia” in Navrongo Secondary School (NAVASCO) now Navrongo Senior High School, where he spent eight years for his ‘O’ levels ‘A’ levels and completed in 1980.
“Those years we were identified and given nick names in school after the inscriptions on the T-shirts that we wore on campus,” he said.
After completing his ‘O’ Levels in 1977, the former Senior Prefect of NAVASCO, said he was compelled by one of NAVASCO’s most celebrated Headmaster, Collins MacDonald, who found him as honest and reliable person to fill in a void created in the school’s administration, by a staff who ran away with some of the school’s funds.
“I chose Tamale Secondary School (TAMASCO) to continue with my sixthform but Mr MacDonald refused to let me go, after the late Alhaji Raheem Gbadamosi, former TAMASCO Headmaster, came to pick up my sixth form card. He compelled me to remain in NAVASCO,worked for one year before I proceeded to the sixthform and completed 1980, ” Cambodia told me in a conversation.
Cambodia is seen by many as friendly, down to earth, skillful in listening to problems and offering solutions, and a disciplinarian par excellent.
Indeed, he was listed among the 100 most influential personalities in Northern Ghana.
Perhaps, his “no-nonsense” postures sometimes make people perceive him as someone with temperament.
After his secondary education in NAVASCO, he enroled at the University of Cape Coast where he was awarded B. Ed(Hons) Degree and a Diploma in Religious Education in 1985 and proceeded to do his national service at the then University of Ghana Institute of Adult Education between 1985-‘87.
He pursued further courses, including post graduation studies in Human Rights and governance, at the International Institute of Social Studies at the Hague, the Netherlands, and a certificate in Non-Violence at the Navdanya Institute of Non-Violence in Dehradun in New Delhi, India.
The Commonwealth Secretariat conferred on him the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship in Education in 2010 and he is a Fellow of the Institute of Civilian Democratic Administrators.
He is a recipient of several awards, both locally and internationally, including Nnamdi Azikiwe Gold Award for Leadership in West Africa in 2017 and Sister Cities International Washington, DC, award for his service to humanity.
In school, he was sportsman as well, playing basket ball and volley ball.
“I taught at the Bagabaga Training College in the Tamale Metropolis from 1987 to 1991, this is how my journey as a teacher started,” Cambodia, who is the National President of the Old NAVASCO Union, posted on the past students platform moments before he graciously bowed out of office last Monday September 9, as Northern Regional Director of Education, having also served in the same capacity in the Volta Region, during his 32 years of service to mother Ghana and mankind.
As National President of the Old NAVASCAN Union, Cambodia spends his leisure time mobilising past students of the school in the country and across the globe, to give back to their alma mater.
According to Aristotle Political Theory, human beings are by nature political animals. And Cambodia is no exception.
His service to humanity endeared the heart of his people who first elected him as Assemblyman for Jisonayili/NORRIP Electoral Area in the Tamale Metropolis and to the Consultative Assembly that drafted the 1992 Constitution.
Again, he was the toast of the people in the then Choggu/Tishegu Constituency in the Tamale metropolis when they decided to give him the nod in the 1992 general election to represent them in the first Parliament of the Fourth Republic(1993-1997).
After one-term in the legislature, he decided to return to the field that is dear to his heart-education, where he has rendered public service to the best of his abilities and leaves with the valedictory statement below.
“My motivation has been how to bring up the Ghanaian child. I have also been motivated by those I worked with throughout my entire career.
“I leave the service a happy man under the current leadership of the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service. May Allah bless and guide them.
“I leave with two motivational letters which I advise the GES leadership to emulate as a simple way of motivating staff. One from Dr Stephen Adu when he was Deputy Director-General and the other from our honourable Dr Yaw Adutwum,MP for Bosomtwe,and Deputy Minister for General Education. These are the words that can spur up some workers like me,” Cambodia who will not like to trumpet his own horn, but to allow the records to speak for themselves posted.
Part of the letter from Dr Adutwum, dated April 3, 2019, said “The Ministry of Education presents its compliment to Ghana Education Service (Northern Region) and wishes to express its profound gratitude for honouring our invitation to partner and support in the organisation of the meeting with non-state actors operating in the three Northern Regions on improving learning outcomes of students in the region.”
“Through your immense support and valuable inputs, the meeting was successful.”
“Again, the meeting offered key recommendations that will go a long way to deepen our collective efforts in establishing Innovative Schools and Systems Accountability that can respond to the needs of the current generation and improve education outcomes in the three Northern Regions.”
The “Letter of Appreciation from Management of GES to Alhaji Mohammed Haroon, Regional Director, Volta Region,” dated March 25, 2015, signed by Dr Adu said “management writes with admiration the bold steps taken by you to monitor and address school fees charged by Heads of High School in your region.”
“The minimal number of Senior High schools found to have charged above the stipulated figure can be attributed to your strict monitoring of which you must be commended.”
What a way to bow out of public service unscathed and with unblemished record!
In fact, as the GES welcomes school children with “My First Day at school” last Tuesday, family members and friends welcomed Cambodia with “My First Day out of school” as he left office a day before.
The happily-married father of three beautiful daughters, must be filed with sense of fulfilment and pride, much so, having been the only regional director of education to have the privilege to host a national Independence Day Celebration in Tamale(outside of Accra) on March 6, 2019-first in the history of Ghana.
As a Dagbomba, he deserves the appellation “Natuma pam,’ to wit, well done!
By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman