What does a 4.0 GPA mean to you? Not a 4.0 out of a 5.0 or 6.0 but a 4.0 out of a possible 4.0. While you wrap your head around that, you should know that the best graduating student at the most recent University of Ghana Convocation ceremony was Dennis Danso Kumi, a medical student who graduated with a 4.0 GPA. I am well aware of the reputation that the University of Ghana has among mainstream Ghanaians. It is seen as the ultimate playground, an unserious university or a “fashion school” as a friend aptly put it. I don’t intend to make a case for the defense of the University – recent African and world rankings do that much better than I can – but all you need to know about how difficult it is to even make a first class, let alone graduate with a 4.0 GPA, can be found in the reactions among students about Dr Dennis Kumi’s feat.
Reactions have varied among students. A few are doubting Thomases, refusing to believe anyone could graduate with a 4.0 and may need video evidence to actually come to accept that such excellence was attained. A small number of people also believe the GPA was bought, though the holes in that argument are quickly picked apart when you consider the number of people who could pay for a 4.0 GPA and the relative rarity of that occurrence.
Which brings us to the more generally accepted school of thought: that Dr Kumi did get a 4.0 but he must have had no social life, spent all day at his books and must have been really obsessed with reading, all these in fairly accusatory tones. Of course, subscribers to this school of thought recognize the excellence of a 4.0 GPA but they can not comprehend how anybody could achieve that.
This almost innate need to justify, with derogatory means, an achievement of excellence by a colleague is in stark contrast to what Dr Kumi’s achievement actually means.
A 4.0 GPA, a Best Graduating Student Award, or a First Class Honors, have become an almost utopian aspiration and so when a few people do manage it, they are outliers, weird, antisocial people who had to resort to desperate and often negative means to achieve extraordinary feats.
But maybe we need to reflect and realize that Dr Kumi’s feat is one of excellence; a young person striving to be the best at what he does and finally getting his due reward after all his hard work. This should be cause not only for celebration but also worth inculcating in our everyday lives because striving for excellence not only improves us personally but helps us to improve our environment, our nation and humanity at large. Excellence also has that wonderful ability to come hand in hand with success.
The reality is that not everyone will make a 4.0, be a world class footballer or found a million-dollar business venture but when one doesn’t, it shouldn’t be because of one not absolutely doing their very best because when you don’t do your very best in your academics or in any other venture, you’re shortchanging yourself, your community, your country and humanity.
More importantly, we need to appreciate and praise acts of excellence in our community because recognizing such achievements serves to inspire others to do even better.
Finally, the very next time someone does something extraordinary, we could instead use words like “genius”, “hardworking”, “studious”, “excellent”. Soon enough, maybe those words would be said at us too.
“Strive for excellence and success will come chasing you pants down” ~ Ranchodan Shamaldas Chanchad (3 idiots)