Prof. Kofi Agyekum, popularly called Opanyin Agyekum, was born on March 21, 1954 to Op. Kwasi Agyekum and Madam Afia Ataa Boakyewaa. Both were farmers who did not have any formal western education. He started his formal education in 1960 at Kokofu-Edwinase Local Authority (L/A) Primary School and completed Middle School in 1969. When he completed the MSLC exams at the age of 15 years, he got an appointment as a Pupil Teacher at the Asisiriwa L/A Primary School in the Bosumtwi District. He was so short that he always stood on a chair to write on the upper part of the blackboard and was nicknamed, ‘Tikya Ketewa’, ‘Small Teacher’.
In 1970, he was posted to Akomfori, near Nyinahin in the Atwima Mponua District. There were only three teachers in the school and he was assigned to teach classes Three and Four for two years. He saved some money to further his education at the Nkoranza Training College from 1972 – 1976. In his final year, in 1976, he registered for GCE ‘O’ Level, November-December exams, in order to be upgraded to a Post-Sec (Post-Secondary school) Teacher. He taught at the Sawua L/A Primary from 1976 – 1979 and was adjudged one of the best teachers. He contributed so much to the Methodist Church, and helped to establish a choir at the Sawua Methodist Church.
He pursued a 3-year Teachers’ Diploma at the School of Ghanaian Languages, Ajumako from 1979 – 1982 and had a first class. Due to his excellent performance, he was asked to teach there from 1982 – 1985. While teaching at Ajumako, he sat for the A-Level exams and gained admission to the University of Ghana to study Linguistics, Russian and Political Science from 1985 – 1989. He was in Moscow in the 1987 – 1988 academic year, for the Russian Language programme. He graduated from Legon in 1989 with a first class in Linguistics and Russian, and was appointed a Teaching Assistant (TA) at the Department of Linguistics in the same year. in 1991, he gained admission to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, to pursue M.Phil in Linguistics. His thesis ‘Akan Verbal Taboos in the Context of the Ethnography of Communication’ was one of the best in his department.
He returned to Ghana in July 1996, and started his career as a Lecturer at the Linguistics Department of the University of Ghana on December 1, 1996. In 1997, he was appointed the Co-ordinator of the Akan Dictionary Project, a collaboration between University of Ghana and Zurich University, Switzerland. The project was completed and launched in 2006. He helped to broaden and strengthen the Akan sector within the Linguistics Department. In August 1998, he started his 5-year part-time PhD programme and by dint of hard work, completed it in November 2002. He successfully combined teaching and research with supervision of essays and theses. He was on sabbatical at the University of Education Winneba from 2007 – 2009. Six years after his appointment as a Lecturer, he was promoted to the rank of a Senior Lecturer in August 2002, Associate Professor in April 2005 and Full Professor in June 2010. He has been the Head of Department for Linguistics since 1st August 2010.
His areas of research are Ethnography of Communication, Language and Culture, Anthropology, Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis, Conversational Analysls, Sociolinguistics, Stylistics, Terminology, Semantics, Translation, Lexicology, Lexicography, Oral and Written Literature. He has published in various international/local journals such as Pragmatics, Pragmatics and Cognition, Discourse studies, Language and Dialogue, Journal of Language and Politics, Anthropological Research, Journal of African Roots, Language and Society, Research Review, Legon Journal of Humanities, New Directions in Ghanaian Linguistics. Prof Agyekum has 39 journal articles, 11 books (5 are sole-authored), some chapters in books and also reviewed 5 books. His most recent publications are “The Ethno-Pragmatics of Amannebo in Akan, in Language and Dialogue (2011) and “The Ethno-Pragmatics of Akan Palace Language”, in Journal of Anthropological Review (2011), Akan Terminology for Linguistics and the Media (2011), Akan Metalanguage and Terminology (2011), Akan Kasadwini (2011), Akan Verbal Taboos (2010) and Akan Kasa Nhyeheεeε (Grammer 2010).
He taught Akan at the School of Ghanaian Languages, Ajumako form 1982 – 1991 as a tutor and part-time tutor. He also taught Akan on part-time basis at the University of Cape Coast from 1998 – 2004. He has been teaching Akan-Twi to American students in Ghana since 1997, and was invited to teach Akan at the University of Athens, Ohio, USA during the Summer of 2004. He is an internationally recognised Akan scholar and has been quoted by several scholars at local and international levels. He has served the West African Examination Council since 1985. Prof Agyekum has been consulted at various levels that relate to the Akan language. He has worked on a lot of translations and reviews for NHIS, NALAP and QUIPS (USAID), DOVVSU D.V. Law, GPRSII, APRM, GMMS Woman’s Mortality, Attorney General’s Department, Radio stations, UNESCO Charter on Culture, Ghana Statistical Service, Panos Institute of West Africa Dakar Senegal, CDD, Unimax Publishers Limited, among others.
In 2007, he received the University of Ghana’s Best Teacher Award for the Humanities. He also received a National Award, the Order of the Volta (Companion) in 2008, for his contribution to Public Education and the Media. Prof Kofi Agyekum has an Educational Foundation in Asisiriwa in the Bosumtwi District.
Prof Kofi Agyekum has been serving on Boards and Committees at the University: Faculty of Arts Board, Faculty of Arts Appointment Committee, Executive and Business Committee, University Appointment Board, School of Graduate Studies Board, Admissions Board, Academic Board, Radio Univers Board (Chairman), Presbyterian University Appointments Board, College Examination Officer, Course Advisor.
He was a Member of the National Peace Council and Ashaiman Shooting Investigatory Committee. He is a member of the following Professional Bodies: International Pragmatics Association, Linguistics Association of Ghana (LAG), University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) and Association of Teachers of Ghanaian Languages (ATGL). He is the Co-ordinator of Akan Science Dictionary Project – Legon and the Co-ordinator of TALIF Legon Project on the Developing Akan Terminology for the Teaching and Learning of Akan. He has participated in about hundred local and international conferences and workshops, and presented papers in most of them.
His contributions to the Akan language through radio are well known by many Ghanaians. Prof Kofi Agyekum pioneered interactive newspaper review in the Ghanaian language back in April 1997 with an Akan programme, Afisεm on Radio Univers Legon, which was later replicated by most radio stations. He is famous for his insights on Peace FM’s Kokrokoo programme. His bi-partisan stand on political issues has earned him admiration across the various political divides.
Professor Agyekum is married to Mrs. Abenaa Akyaa Agyekum, who has been very supportive, understanding and instrumental in his movement up the teaching ladder. The marriage is blessed with four children – Kwadwo Adubofour Agyekum, Akwasi Akomea Agyekum, Afia Ataa Boakyewaa Agyekum, and Maa Afia Akomea Bonsu Agyekum.