Life, some say is a journey, not a competition, and this journey may not be easy as we grow older but it offers us the opportunity to understand and appreciate life better.
It is either we are embarking on a new adventure at every level or we are exploring different paths in our personal lives.
Like any young individual, the life journey of a precious jewel, Janet Doku-Kwarteng, as she grew up had its unique set of challenges.
For many years, Janet had laboured as a head porter or what is popularly known as ‘Kayayoo’ but for her determination, she saved every penny towards a bright future as early as a primary five pupil.
She hails from Chiana in the Upper East Region but was raised in Kumasi and lives there.
Janet, born Ama Kezia, lost her father at age two and could not enrol into school until a good Samaritan—Mr Anthony Doku- Kwarteng—a neighbour sent her to school and gave her a ‘formal’ identity shown in his last name— Doku-Kwarteng.
Mr Doku- Kwarteng, Janet said, paid for her tuition throughout her basic education but unfortunately couldn't continue paying her fees after she completed junior high school (JHS) in 2007 because he didn't have the financial muscles to do so.
But he did help once in a while when she was in senior high school.
After completing SHS in 2011, she continued with her 'Kayayo' business with the intention to save towards her university education. Her dream, she said, had always been to work in the banking sector.
Every sweat she wiped when she carried those ‘monstrous’ loads reminded her that she had a ‘banking sector’ dream to fulfil.
Four years after SHS, she began to harbour fears of failure. She began to take a dim view of her life.
"After many years of not being able to save enough money to enrol into the university, I began to accept that it was my fate and not everyone will get the opportunity to further his or her education.
I virtually gave up and I only carried those loads just to make ends meet and not think of anything outside the market anymore," she recalled.
Sometimes, one desperately wished there was a manual to follow to make things easier. Janet wished same but life, they say, is not an ally.
"I had a lot of maltreatment as a ‘Kayayo’. The market women disrespect us and took us for granted. We all went through a lot just that we didn't have anybody to turn to," she said.
The life-changing moment
Janet said one fateful day in 2015, she was in the market going about her normal business when an official of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), facilitators of the Chief Justice’s Mentoring Programme, came to introduce the programme to the head porters at the Bantama Market in Kumasi.
‘I had the opportunity to also attend the Chief Justice Mentoring Programme after which I told myself, "I will also be somebody,’ she recalled.
The Chief Justice’s Mentoring Programme was instituted by Mrs Justice Wood in 2007.
It exposes students to the structure of the court system, as well as whip up their interest in the legal profession.
In 2015, the programme was extended to head porters across various markets in the country.
Janet's hope reignited and she started working towards becoming "somebody," as she puts it.
She said she was assisted to rewrite her examination, after which she was also trained in some livelihood skills which included modern bead-making.
Keen on improving her life, she leveraged the livelihood skills to save enough money to add up to what she had already saved.
"After I had acquired the livelihood skills, I worked in the market a few times and bought materials to start making beads, slippers and other things to sell and saved towards my education," she said.
In March 2017, she got admission to the University of Education, Winneba, and is currently offering a Diploma in Basic Education and in her final year.
Janet couldn’t hide her joy when she talked about getting a university education, particularly about her rise from the hassles of the market to the fine walls of a university.
"I enjoy what I do now. The teaching is fun," she added. She is a part-time tutor at a private school in Kumasi.
"Some people see me in the market and ask, ‘Are you no more in the market?’ and I tell them no! I'm no more a 'Kayayo.' I'm now a teacher!" she said with a striking smile.
Janet tells me this is just the beginning of the great life she had envisioned and certainly would keep moving higher. She hinted she might even veer into the banking and financial industry sometime in the future, though she is having a great time in the classroom.
The broad smiles on Janet's face as she narrated her miraculous story would thrill any ear.
When I first met Janet, she had a saying which is “It's not easy but it will be easy.”
It is often said that all men cannot be equal because some lack the desire for self-improvement.
For those with the desire to improve their lives, it is never too late to change what the ‘supposed’ future holds. Never say never!
Janet was only a diamond miles underground waiting to be mined. I look at her and she emanates nothing but glory, essence and self-belief!