23rd September 1960
50 years ago today, on 23rd of September 1960 I entered Achimota School for the first time as a student. The only other time I had been to the school was as a pupil of Accra Newtown Experimental School for my interviews.
Accra New Town Experimental School had been a lot of hard work. This was an experimental school like no other. The concept of accelerated education had been introduced in the early 1950s and I was fortunate to have been in the third batch of students who benefited. This was a school that Nkrumah built to ensure that secondary school was possible for Ghanaians after 6 years of primary education, in my case 5 years because I had been ’jumped a year’ at Accra United the previous school that I attended at Adedenkpo. This school that Nkrumah built has been killed off by successive administrations and even beneficiaries of this school who sit in government are not prepared to do anything about it. I will have to go after them and shame them,
The curriculum had been streamlined to subjects required for the Common Entrance examination; English, Mathematics and Civics which was essentially Current Affairs. There was however a stipulation that no vernacular languages were taught or spoken on the compound and that led us into our own brand of convoluted and corrupted English.
The emphasis was on testing; every Friday we had a test in English and maths marked over 50 and I can tell you that master Ofosu Appiah and Mr Commey who took over from him in my last year, made sure that the cane worked. Miss Danquah, Mr Owusu and Mr Jackson our teachers did a good job on us as did dedicated and committed teachers such as Miss Monney, Mr Sotti, Mr Armah, Miss Quarcoopone, Miss Dotse and others too numerous for me to remember their names after 50 years.
But for most of us at experimental school the break period was the most exciting, our Cops and Indians role plays, our ‘illegal trips’ to Opera Cinema to watch 12.15 films under the ‘misguided’ influence of seniors, the trips to Alajo sea and the ‘shitti’ that stuck to our bodies, the general camaraderie amongst all of us friends in primary school. The stories we were regaled with by our classmates about life at home.
The school had provided me with some experience at independent travel from an early age, I remember catching the Bus 1 from the General Bus Stop at Opera Square having walked from Bruce Road in James Town through Afiena, the alley way, Russell ‘flomi’ and then Bukom through the Gbese mantse Palace and then through the back streets of Salaga Market, Orgle street and Menso commercial college to post office and then the bus stop. Sometimes we walked in a group and at other got lifts. So the guys and girls who came from James Town then included Ladi Nylander, Sheila Vanderpuije, Issabella Barnor and Cyril Barnor, Ashitey Ollenu, Gilbertson. I had also travelled from Teshie to get to school when I went to live with my uncle and mentor Ataa Nii. How did I do that as an 8 year old boy?
But the whole of 1960 was an exciting year for us, we had been informed that the school year had changed from January to September and the Common Entrance examination was going to be taken much earlier and that we had two terms for that year rather than the three terms. I also had a bit of a bother in choosing the schools that I preferred. I do not think that Achimota registered in my first choice and it was left to my father to look through the choices and put Achimota firmly as my first choice, Adisadel as my second and Mfanstipim as my third.
We all had to prepare for the common entrance, my classmates then – I am going down memory lane now. Adjei Sowah, Allotey Brown, Augustine Kyereme, Amuzu, Mama Musah, Percy Ahinakwa, Dan Morton, Herman Plange, Eric Okyere, Kpani Addy, Agyeman, Eric Goka, Appiah, Edith Addy, Marian Ashong, Genevieve Nasser, Makadju and YK Shadow, Ashietu and Abiba Shardow, Awuku Djan, Acheampong, Lucy Addy, Susan Ankrah, Coleman, Ben Asong, Diana Odjidja, Hilda Addy, Victoria Arthur, Prince Aidoo, Raymond, Delia and Sackey Quarcoopome, etc etc
I had a good common entrance examination because I had gone to a good school and benefitted from some extra coaching from My Victor Amaning, now Reverend Amaning who was a teacher in English at Odorgonno, he had set me essay questions in English and help with my comprehension outside the special classes organised by the school.
I had a good interview because I had been coached by Mr Crabbe, whose son Victor, had entered Achimota the previous year and who had worked at the Achimota Post Office for several years and knew a lot about the school. The interview itself was a bit of a breeze, ‘mentals’ on fractions and the like that I knew backwards and forwards and what I knew about Achimota School. My favourite uncle, Mr Tommy Mould had taken the day off and driven me to the school for the brief interview.
So we were not too surprised when the letter of acceptance arrived and the preparation for my life as a student in an excellent institution.
The tensions in the Sawyerr household had been building up for a while since my older sisters had also been accepted into secondary school and the pressure for my father to adjust to the payment of fees for three additions to the two who were already in secondary school. What with buying chopboxes and trunks for three and the regulation uniforms and cloths that they needed.
Almost 50 years ago, I was one of a few students that entered Achimota School, actually this happened on the 23rd September 1960. How can I forget that date? I was leaving home with some confidence to join a group of other academically achieving students on a journey of acquiring knowledge. I was no longer a pupil, I was now a student. I was lucky because I had family there and was sure going to be protected and guided and directed – I had four cousins – T, and Majorla and conveniently in Guggisberg House were Ate and King Ghartey. I also knew some students who had come from my former school, Isabella Barnor and Sheila Vanderpuije and conveniently again in Guggisberg House were Teddy Konu and Ekow Awoonor.
It is 50 years but I am trying to remember the names of some of those young ones who joined me in Guggisberg House. Anayem Wechuga,Harold Nii Kpakpo Oti Ankrah, William Dwamena Osei, Odame, Paul Attah, Awuku Asamoah, Cyril Tay, Adomako-Mensah, Stanley crankson. Otuei Annancy, Mbeah Coleman, the late Lowry Lee, Agyarko Wiredu, Marcus Deku, Geroge Matthey and yours truly Jacob Williamson Adeyemi Sawyerr.
My mates from the school that Nkrumah built, Accra New Town Experimental school were Diana Odjidah; Allotey Brown and the late Dan Morton joined us later.
So here I am 50 years on trying to remember my first day as a student.