The Inter Tertiary Excellence Awards is an award scheme to acknowledge the achievements of exceptional students of higher education in Ghana, who have made a significant impact in the country.
Labik earned the award for his academic achievement, but also for his extra contributions to the community. When Labik finished his Bachelor’s programme in June 2017 he had the highest GPA (grade point average) at the Department of Social Political and Historical Studies. He had also formed a development volunteer group for teaching social studies in the rural communities of upper west Ghana that was so successful some of the team members were invited to Washington University in the US to present the project.
But the road to his success has not been a smooth one.
– I have been on the bottom. That’s a big part of me. No matter how you fall- if you just have life you can always achieve your dream. I really feel there’s nothing I can’t do, says Labik. I tell people back home: sometimes when you fall it makes you much stronger. I wouldn’t have learned how to be determined if I had not struggled.
Labik has worked hard to achieve his good grades and almost gave up several times.
Tell me about your background.
– I grew up in a broken home, with a single parent, my Mum. Dad left when I was 4. Mum was always interested in academics. She wanted to go to school herself, but her Dad didn’t agree. She still managed to finish high school, but had to escape from home in order to go to school. So she always wanted me to go to school.
Thomas Duke Labik Amanquandor started school very early, at the age of 4, so the other children where several years older. He was 13 when he graduated from junior high, three years younger than most, and graduated several years in advance from Senior High School [the equivalent of Swedish gymnasiet].
But it was not as smooth as the young age might make it sound. Out of the eight courses that Labik took in “general science”, mostly natural science subjects, he failed four, and barely managed the other four. He had been top of his class, but had fallen into bad company and had at times barely been in school.
– I was younger than the others in my class and afraid of getting bullied, so I became friends with the bad guys.
To finish Senior High School on that note was not good enough for his Mum. She wanted him to try again. So the year after he took all eight of the exams again. And failed.
– I was still not so serious. But Mum said: You can write it until you’re 30. So the next year I tried again. By this time I’d had enough. I was 19 and wasn’t youngest anymore. My friends were moving on and going to university. But it was still hard for me to find the motivation. But then I realised something when a cousin was visiting.
The cousin was studying at university and one day when he was back home visiting he started a discussion about some of the social issues he was studying. And Labik was able to make a difference to the discussion.
– This made me realise that I could contribute. I don’t belong just staying at home.
Late in 2011 Thomas Duke Labik Amanquandor passed all eight subjects and early in 2012 he applied for the University for Development Studies at the Wa Campus.
– I have had struggles, and the tears that my mum has shed on me trying to get me to go to school, and I carry those feeling and emotions with me and have learnt a lot.
Labik says he is grateful that his struggles came in high school where he was able to redo his exams, instead of later at university. And now he has recently won the award for best overall student of 2018 and is successfully studying Sociology of Law in Lund. It went well at university especially after he switched from natural science to social science. In December 2017 he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Integrated Development Studies and majored in Social and Development Administration with a First Class Honours.
How did you end up studying Sociology of Law in Lund and Sweden?
– Well after I got into social sciences I was looking on the web at International Admissions and found the subject sociology of law. I was interested in sociology and in law separately and had been thinking about choosing one or the other. I had no idea that there was a programme that combined the two! Sociology of law! What’s that?
Labik was going to study criminology in Cambridge, but didn’t have a full scholarship. After receiving a 90% Lund Global Scholarship he found himself choosing between England and Sweden.
– So I chose the Vikings. I don’t know why but I’ve always loved Vikings and the Swedish flag. And the strange thing is- my first home in Lund was on Vikingavägen [meaning Viking Road]! It was meant to be!
What do you find most interesting about the subject "Sociology of Law"?
– The fact that it provides a critical study of law and the legal system, which is very different from legal studies.
– Also that sociology of law is a relatively young discipline and so scholars are quite rare compared to other disciplines. In Ghana we don’t have a programme and only very few scholars and also in Europe there are not as many, so your contribution can be much felt. You are bringing on board knowledge that few people have. At home we have big plans for making sociology of law part of the Sociology Department. Before I came to Lund I was a research assistant and the professor I worked for said when I left: don’t come back without a PhD!
What do you tell your family about Lund?
– Lund is a wonderful, beautiful place. Old, but still modern. It is clean and environmentally friendly with lots of bikes. I think Lund is a model that developing countries could copy. You don’t need mega infrastructure, like high rise buildings, to make a modern city, but should invest in little things. Like recycling. Proper roads. Effective busses.
What plans do you have for the future? Where will you work?
– Before I came to Lund I established the Africa Centre for Justice and Human Rights. It is a nongovernmental organization aimed at promoting human rights and equality in Africa. It is already fully established in Ghana, with 7-10 people on the team and is being established in other countries: Sudan, Nigeria, Egypt, Namibia. So that is a long term project. But I want to be an academic. Do a PhD. Work at a university. I see a possibility of combining the two. Students of social sciences need avenues to practice and the Centre will always need volunteers.