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135 Years Of Mfantsipim Education

Fri, 11 Nov 2011 Source: Yankey, Stephen Duasua

- Living The Dream Of R.A. Lockhart

Classroom education in Ghana traces its roots as far back as the advent of Europeans to the coast of Ghana, then the Gold Coast. Modern history intimates that various reasons may have compelled these Europeans to turn their attention toward the then virgin coast. Besides to spread the wind of Christianity which was by then blowing all over Europe, these explorers also sought to acquire raw materials to support the industrial revolution and procure cheap labour in the form of able-bodied Black males and females. Under their sleeves, these European traders and explorers had something to give back to the land they ‘raped’ and it could not have been any better than the Western form of education, mentioned at the outset of this paper. They therefore wielded the proverbial ‘two-edged sword,’ with one side wrecking havoc while the other imparted something positive.

The introduction of Western education to the then oral-cultured people of the Gold Coast began as a pilot project in the Cape Coast Castle, with the castle school. However, a few brave men including John Mensah Sarbah took it upon themselves to take this education unto a much larger platform- to educate the entire Fanti nation. This dream at first seemed even unachievable. With determination, this dream was realized on a day when the sea was as usual hitting the rocks along the coastline and when the sun was as usual at a high altitude. As the cool coastal wind blew the small coastal town of Cape Coast on that 3 April, 1876, all knew that the dream of educating the masses had been realized. That day saw the founding of the Wesleyan High School, now Mfantsipim School, the pride of the Gold Coast, now Ghana.

The Wesleyan High School, founded on the ideals of John Wesley, in turn fathered a number of high schools notable among them Fijai Secondary School, Ghana National College and Prempeh College. Historical accounts foretell that one of the main principles of the school as proposed by Sarbah was “to train up God-fearing, respectable and intelligent lads.” This became the guiding principle for young Mfantsipim and still is even in its super-centenarian age. Mfantsipim was thus in a class of its own when it became fully operational.

135 years on, it still is in a class of its own and continues to live up to the dream of Rev. R.A. Lockhart, headmaster from 1925 through 1936. In recognition of his exceptional duty towards Mfantsipim, he is co-named after Mfantsipim School’s most beautiful dormitory, Lockhart-Schweitzer House. Lockhart is credited with moving the school to its present site on the Kwabotwe Hills, over looking Antem, Aboom Wells, Siwdu, Kotokuraba and Bakaano. It was during his tenure of office as headmaster that he made a powerful statement that has seen its fulfilment many times over. He prophesied: “Very soon, the nation shall be amazed at the number of people who owe allegiance to this school.”

Many generations after Rev. R.A. Lockhart made that projection, his words have proved true- every letter of the word. In almost every generation since then, old boys of Mfantsipim School have been steering the affairs of the nation, inspiring awe among onlookers as to how so many men all owe allegiance to the Kwabotwe Hills. In all facets of the pre-independent Ghanaian society, Mfantsipim old boys were at one point or another leading their generation. National figures like Kobina Sekyi who wrote the highly acclaimed play, The Blinkards, J.E. Casely Hayford who championed the course of independence, being a founding member of the Aborigine’s Right Protection Society and the National Congress of British West Africa all hailed from Mfantsipim. In the field of academia, numerous lecturers of the then newly founded University of Ghana turned out to be products of Mfantsipim. Mention can be made of the De Graft-Johnsons, Kofi Abrefa Busia who later became a Prime Minister of Ghana. In the arena of politics and in the struggle for independence, William Ofori Atta, a close ally of Kwame Nkrumah and a member of the Big Six, was an old boy of Mfantsipim School together with another freedom fighter, Komla Ageli Gbedemah.

After independence had been won, the need arose for capable men to take up the mantle of leadership, proving to the inventors of classroom education that the black man could run his own affairs. Mfantsipim Old Boys again rose up to the challenge, with Alex Quaison-Sackey becoming the first African president of the United Nations General Assembly as well the then UN staffer who rose through the ranks to become the UN Secretary General and now Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Kofi Annan. At this point it is worthy of note that the nation of Ghana was then far advanced in the area of politics and Mfantsipim old boys helped create that system. The 1980s saw the rise of new crop of politicians who sought to challenge the status quo: one of such men was Prof. Adu Boahen, the renowned historian who as an opposition leader sought to challenge the then ruling government but failed the win the 1992 general elections. While one Mfantsipim old boy failed to make it in a presidential attempt, another, Kow Nkensen Arkaah redeemed the image of Mfantsipim by becoming the Vice President to the then Flt. Lt. Rawlings in his first term of office as constitutionally elected president. What a relief that was and what fulfilment R.A. Lockhart’s words had seen!

To this end, it is safe to say that the first and second generations after Lockhart’s prophecy really proved his words true. The entire nation was held spell bound by the number of men who owed allegiance to Mfantsipim School. 135 years after these pronouncements, the list of such men who are still aiding in the development of Ghana and the world who trace their roots to Mfantsipim is by no means exhaustive. In the field of politics, countless men in the current and immediate past Ghanaian governments all fall within this bracket. Mention can be made of John Henry Martey-Newman, Chief of Staff, Office of the President, Hon. Barton Oduro, Deputy Attorney General and MP for Cape Coast, Hon. Joe Ghartey, Former Attorney General and MP for Essikado, Hon. Papa Owusu Ankomah, MP for Sekondi, the CEO of VRA, Kweku Awortwi, Joseph Ayittey of the National Labour Commission and Kwabena Agyepong, former Minister of Information: all these distinguished men of our day cannot write their histories without alluding to the role of Mfantsipim in shaping their lives. The list is also endless in the field of commerce. The man whose signature appears on all new banknotes since 2009, the current governor of the Bank of Ghana, Kwesi Amissah Arthur, the current and first Ghanaian CEO of STANCHART, Kweku Bedu-Addo, CEO of Combert Impressions and internationally acclaimed public speaker, Albert Ocran all trace their roots to Mfantsipim. Some old boys have also been household names in academia. Our days have seen the likes of legal luminary and senior lecturer at the Ghana Law School, Ace Ankomah, former Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Prof. Adarkwa and former Dean of the University of Cape Coast School of Business, Prof. P.E. Bondzie-Simpson.

The words of Lockhart have also proved through in the field on showbiz as numerous Mfantsipim old boys have become households because of their exceptional works. Lovers of gospel music will be amazed to learn that Nii Okai, and hiplife sensation and current MUSIGA President, Bice Osei Kuffour were trained at Mfantsipim. The Ghanaian movie industry has also seen the acts of Majid Michel, Van Vicker and George Quaye (Aboagye of Taxi Driver TV series fame) who trace their roots to the school started some 135 years ago. Footballers Derek Boateng, Black Stars central defender, and Razak Pimpong, former Black Stars striker, in addition to national sprinter, Aziz Zakari have all had a taste of the Mfantsipim experience which continues to manifest in their various endeavours.

Truly, as Rev. R.A. Lockhart rightly postulated, the nation has been amazed at the number of people who owe allegiance to Mfantsipim. Like he also added, Mfantsipim has inculcated in these men “the spirit of service, courage, standing up for one’s convictions, loyalty, integrity and dedicated patriotism.” As Mfantsipim School celebrates its 135th anniversary Speech and Prize-giving day, I salute the vision and foresight of Rev. R.A. Lockhart, the Dwin Hwe Kan spirit.

May My generation and those to come also live up to his dream.

Dwin Hwe Kan, Anuanom.

STEPHEN DUASUA YANKEY

MOBA 2008.

duasuak@gmail.com

Columnist: Yankey, Stephen Duasua