In Ghana, one’s Senior High School (Alma Mater) is one’s pride. More often than not, people will cite and tout their secondary schools, especially in the face of educational quizzes and competitions.
There are several senior High Schools in the country and each has a history. A history behind its naming, formation, motto, and the likes.
As part of GhanaWeb’s Ghana Month series, we take a look at some secondary schools in Ghana and the history behind their naming and coming into being.
This is the start of many others to follow till a number of Senior High Schools are covered.
In no particular ranking order, we begin with these 5:
Mfantsipim Senior High School is an all-boys boarding secondary school in Cape Coast in the Central Region of Ghana.
It was established by the Methodist Church in 1876 with the founding name, Wesleyan High School. It changed names several times; High School and Training Instruction, Wesleyan Collegiate School, Richmond College and finally became Mfantsipim, a name that was founded by one of the school’s pioneer students, John Mensah-Sarbah.
In 1891, The Wesleyan High School was saddled with challenges with administration and therefore, Mensah Sarbah with a few friends decided to form a rival school; Mfantsipim. Both schools still faced the same challenges and to salvage the situation, they were merged in July 1905 under the management of the Methodist church and the name Mfantsipim was maintained.
The name was derived from the Fante word “Mfantsefo-apem” literally meaning, “thousands of Fantes”. Sarbah and his friends were focused on the future needs of the country as a whole and to them, “Mfantsipim” means the “Soul of the People”. Mensah Sarbah also gave the school its motto, “Dwen Hwe Kan” which translated to mean, “Think and look ahead”.
Later that same year, the Wesleyan High School and the Mfantsipim school were merged under the control of the Methodist Church and the name Mfantsipim was maintained.
Several Headmasters served the School with distinction but in 1907, Rev. W.T. Balmer of the Methodist Church, Principal of Richmond College in Sierra Leone arrived in Cape Coast on an inspection and met only eight (8) dedicated boys in the school teaching themselves because there was neither a teacher nor a Headmaster. He named them the “Faithful Eight” and accepted to stay and take charge of the school as Headmaster.
It was initially deemed a grammar school because Latin and Greek were taught there in the beginning though it also offered other disciplines such as carpentry, art and crafts.
In 1931 the school moved to its present location on Kwabotwe Hill in the northern part of Cape Coast on the Kotokuraba road. The school sometimes has been referred to as Kwabotwe or simply Botwe for the reason for it being on that hill.
The school has 7 houses; Balmer-Acquaah, Pickard-Parker, Lockhart-Schweitzer, Sarbah-Picot, Freeman-Aggrey, Bartels-Sneath and Abruquah-Monney.
Some alumni of the school include Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Secretary-General of the UN; Kofi Abrefa Busia, former prime minister of Ghana; Joseph W. S. de Graft-Johnson, lawyer, academic, engineer and politician; Kobina Sekyi, renowned writer, playwright, and lawyer; and J. E. Casely Hayford, a journalist and politician.
Achimota School was founded in Accra in 1927was called the Prince of Wales College by the government of the Gold Coast. It was established with the aim of providing for the educational needs of the people of the Gold Coast, from kindergarten to university.
This was to solve the problem of limited institutions for people who aspired to attain professional qualifications which necessitated many of them leaving to European countries.
Then-Governor of the Gold Coast, Brigadier-General Frederick Gordon Guggisberg sought to provide this opportunity by establishing a single residential campus for both boys and girls which will also provide sound character training, the basis on which strong and effective leadership.
The Prince of Wales visited the College in 1925 and gave consent to its proposed name The Prince of Wales College.
Rev Alexander Garden Fraser was appointed the first Principal of the College with Dr Emman Kwegyir Aggrey. as his Vice-Principal. Together with Brigadier General Guggisberg, these persons became known as the Founding Fathers of what later became known as Achimota.
Dr Aggrey sadly died a few months after the opening of the College, but not before he had made a substantial input into its ideals and philosophies, with his ideas on the education of girls, and the harmony of black and white people working together. This formed the basis of the Crest of Achimota, a depiction of black and white piano keys that signify the harmonious result of African and European people working together.
In 1938 the College Inspectors recommended that the School and the College be separated. This could not be immediately implemented until 1948 when separate laws were passed to establish the University College and the Teacher Training College and Achimota School.
Following the restructuring of the education system into Primary, Junior and Senior Secondary Schools, the Secondary School campus was converted into a Senior Secondary School.
With the exception of a small number of Day Students who live at home, all Students stay in one of the seventeen boarding houses; Aggrey House, Guggisberg, Gyamfi, Cadbury, Lugard, Livingstone, Fraser, Kwapong, Kingsley, McCarthy, Slessor, Clark, S.O.A, Baeta, Stopford, Atta Mills and the Aryee Houses.
Some notable Alumni include; Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, First President of Ghana, Edward Akufo-Addo, former President, Second Republic of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills, former President, Republic of Ghana, Robert Mugabe, second President, Republic of Zimbabwe, Jerry John Rawlings, former Head of State, Ghana, K.B Asante, former teacher and former Ghanaian High Commissioner to the UK among others
Opoku Ware School, often referred to as OWASS, is an all-boys Senior High School in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
It was one of 5 Catholic Schools in Ghana established in 1952. The school was named after Asante King Opoku Ware I.
The students are known collectively as Akatakyie, an Asante word meaning, “conquering heroes”.
It was the first Catholic Boys School in the Asante Kingdom. Until its establishment, youth from the Ashanti Kingdom and the Northern part of Ghana who wanted Catholic education had to travel south across the Pra River to attend secondary school.
The original plan to establish a secondary school in the Kingdom at the initiation of the King called for one school jointly with the Catholic Church, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches.
The Catholic Church opted out of this and asked for the King’s blessing for the establishment of a separate school for the Catholics. In 1951, January 31, a decision was taken to build a Roman Catholic Mission secondary school.
The government was to provide all the funds for the building of the school.
OWASS which was originally called Yaa Asantewaa College, opened its doors on 28th February 1952, to 60 young boys.
Two weeks after the school opened, the name was changed to Opoku Ware School, following consultations with and instructions from the Manhyia Palace. This was in honour of Katakyie Opoku Ware I who ruled the Asanteman between 1720 and 1750. The title Katakyie which Nana Opoku Ware I was known by has stayed as the title for every old student of the school.
“Katakyie” means (conquering Hero).
Rev. Fr. P.R.Burgess, an Oxford University Graduate was the first headmaster of the school.
The motto of the school is “Deus Lux Scientiae”, meaning “God is the Light of Knowledge”. The School has 10 houses named after various persons in the Catholic faith; St. John, St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James, St. Andrews, St. Philip and St. Thomas.
Some Alumni include; Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi, former NDC Minister of State, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister for Food and Agriculture, George Boakye, former Chief of Air Staff, Jacob Osei Yeboah, Politician and others.
Wesley Girls’ Senior High School (WGHS), popularly known as Wey Gey Hey is an educational institution for girls in Cape Coast, Ghana.
It was founded in 1836 by Harriet Wrigley, the wife of the second Methodist Missionary to the Gold Coast. The school is named after the founder of Methodism, John Wesley.
It started with 25 girls under the leadership of Wrigley whose aim was to give the girls basic training in housekeeping and catechism. Classes were held at the Manse in the Standfast Hall near the Victoria Park in Cape Coast; and subjects taught included writing, reading, sewing and religious education. This lasted about five months until Mrs. Wrigley passed away.
She was replaced in 1837 by Mrs. Elizabeth Waldron who took over the administration of the School for forty-three (43) years. Mrs. Waldron laid a solid foundation for what was to become the Wesleyan Girls’ School and Training Home.
Because of their high academic achievements, the Methodist church agreed to the provision of higher education for girls.
Consequently, in 1884, Rev. W. M. Cannell, the Headmaster of Mfantsipim School at the time, started the Secondary section with twenty (20) girls.
The primary and secondary sections were sometimes closed down due to acute shortage of funding. It even suffered a temporary loss of identity when it had to team up with Mfantsipim as a co-educational secondary school under a new name, The Collegiate School.
By 1900, the School was regained its identity and was on its own with Mrs. H. J. Ellis as the Headmistress.
During the reign of Sister Evelyn Bellamy, a deaconess who headed the School from 1914 to 1943, Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey visited the School and penned these words in the logbook; “to educate a boy is to educate an individual but to educate a girl is to educate a family”.
In 1951, the secondary section of the School was separated definitely from the primary section when Ms. Olive Compton moved it to its present site at Kakumdo.
The School’s motto: “Live Pure, Speak True, Right Wrong, and Follow King” has had a profound impact on the lives of students and Old Girls who exhibit excellence and turn out to be change-makers wherever they find themselves.
Some Alumni include Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, MP for Klottey Korle Constituency, Abena Osei Asare, MP for Atiwa East, Sophia Akuffo, 13th Chief Justice of Ghana, Becca, Musician, and others.
Presbyterian Boys Senior High School:
Often referred to as PRESEC, the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School was established out of a cry of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. They wanted to establish a secondary school and with Synod Clerk Rev. N. T. Clerk heading this appeal.
It was rejected by the Scottish Mission who insisted education was the task of government whereas the church was in charge of evangelizing.
Engmann Augustus Wilkens Engmann took up the task at this point to realise the dream of the Presbyterian Boys’ Secondary School. He was appointed the first principal of the school which was going to be established at Odumase in February 1938. He obtained the premises of the Old Basel Mission residence at Odumase which became the birthplace of PRESEC.
The school was formally opened on February 1, 1938, with 10 students and 3 teachers in the presence of Moderator Rec. V.C.E Martinson. He preached for more people to enroll their wards and self-educated to teach the students at the start.
With time, the school expanded. Its previous location in Odumase-Krobo was changed in 1968 when it was rehoused at its new permanent location at Legon near the University of Ghana.
At the new campus, it continued as a boys’ boarding secondary school until the mid-1970s when the sixth form was upgraded to the National Science College. Female students were admitted into the sixth form in small numbers from September 1975. They continued to be part of the student body until June 1996 when the last batch left.
The school’s crest has a shield with the Presbyterian symbol (the St Andrew Cross-Scottish flag with the Swiss Flag embedded and a burning torch in the middle) with the motto of the school, “In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen”, meaning “In Thy Light, We Shall See Light”, (Psalm 36:9) scrolled beneath the shield.
One of the traditions of the school is the ɔdadeɛ (baobab tree) located on the Krobo-Odumase campus. An alumnus of the school is referred to as Ɔdadeɛ. The baobab tree is a Ghanaian symbol of knowledge, resourcefulness and strength. New students were traditionally initiated at the feet of this tree clad in bedsheets and powdered faces.
Once initiated, a student gets the title of “PRESECAN” or “Oaklander”, the official mascot of the school and nick-named “Blue Magician”, his remaining days on campus. He however would be officially initiated into the Old Boys’ Fraternity, 10 years after completing school.
The school has 10 main houses with others developing. The main houses are Kwansa, Clerk, Engmann, Akro, Riis, Labone, Ako-Adjei, Owusu Parry, House 9 and P.T.A. House.
Notable Alumni include; Lt. Gen. F. W. K. Akuffo, Head of State of Ghana, Mark Assibey-Yeboah, MP for New Juaben South, Mike Oquaye Jnr, Diplomat, Aaron Mike Oquaye, Speaker of the 7th Parliament of the 4th Republic, Michael Paul Ansah, Minister of State in the Third Republic, Bernard Avle, Broadcast journalist, Lucy Quist, Business and Technology Executive, Matilda Asante-Asiedu, Communications Specialist and PR Executive.