Opoku Ware School Strikes Diamond
4/13/2012 2:00:18 AM -
The year 1952 marked a significant milestone in the calendar of the Catholic Church of the then Gold Coast. Within the month of February that year alone, four Catholic secondary schools- Opoku Ware School in Kumasi, St. Thomas Aquinas School in Accra, Bishop Herman College in Kpando and St. John's School in Sekondi- were established. St. Louis Secondary School in Kumasi joined the family in October that year.
Opoku Ware School (OWASS), located at Fankyenebra, near Santasi, along the Kumasi-Obuasi road, opened its doors on 28th February 1952 to sixty young boys. Their headmaster was the late Rev. Fr. P.R Burgess. An Oxford University graduate, he was the son of an Irish draper and a former major in the British Army. He was a polyglot and spoke Italian and French fluently. He also spoke Aramaic. The boys spent their first night at St. Paul's house, the only dormitory in what was a desolate clearing. Two small rooms next to that house served as their dining hall, their assembly hall and their classroom.
At its opening, the school was originally known as Yaa Asantewaa College. But the young students demanded a change in name, insisting that it was inappropriate that the boys' school be named after a woman, illustrious though she was. Within two weeks, the school's name had been changed to Opoku Ware School, after the second Asantehene, Nana Opoku Ware I, who ruled Asanteman between 1720 and 1750. A past student of the school is known as Katakyie (conquering hero) the title by which Nana Opoku Ware I was known, principally for the expansionist drive of Asanteman's frontiers, and for which he became famously known.
One of the most enduring legacies of Fr. Burgess was the student numbering system, a proud tradition that continues till today. For easier administrative purposes, he decided to assign a letter of the alphabet to each year group, and then combine it with a sequential number to each student who gained admission. The pioneering group had the letter K. Thus K1 was the very first pioneer student to gain admission, followed by K2 and on till K60 the last student to be admitted that year. The following year, the letter S was assigned, then P in 1954, M in 1955 and so on. The choice of the letters did not follow the alphabetical order. When the single letters ran out with the Z batch of 1975, the school simply began a double letter assignment, with the AB group in 1976. After the AZ group entered in 1999, the following year saw the BC group. Current Form One students are the BQ group. A student's number is an integral and unique part of his identity, and cannot be assigned to another person even if the original assignee leaves school after only one term. Students are assigned to their dormitories on the basis of the last digit of their number. Thus when a student's number is mentioned, it is easy to figure out his year group and dormitory.
The next few years saw massive expansion to include five new dormitories (St. James, St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St .John), together with an administration block, a dining hall ( now Burgess Hall) and classroom blocks. Some of the products of the school from this era include the late Air-Vice Marshall G.Y Boakye (S59), former Air Force Commander under the SMC government in the 1970s, Mr. J. Bentum-Williams (S50), former Ghana High Commissioner to Malaysia under the NPP government, Prof. Boakye-Yiadom (S), former Pro-Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Naval Capt. Butah (Rtd) (P61), former NDC Minister of State, Prof. Kwame Sarpong (Y11), first Provost of the College of Health Sciences at KNUST, Mr. Justice Stephen A. Brobbey (Y76) Supreme Court Judge and former Chief Justice of The Gambia and Mr. Francis Poku (A4) , National Security Minister under the NPP administration. In 1958, a sixth form facility was established in the school, with the Agogohene, Nana Akuoko Sarpong (Q125) as one of the pioneering students. He arrived at the school from Accra Academy. In that same year, Major Boakye-Gyan (Rtd) (Q4) of AFRC fame entered Form One at OWASS. Another entrant that year was Prof. Francis Boakye (Q5), a distinguished professor of physics at the KNUST, Kumasi.
In March 1961, Father Burgess was given his marching orders from Ghana, having preposterously been accused of interfering in the nation's politics. In reality, he had refused to admit the son of a government minister who had not made the required grade. His principled stand cost him his job and parted him from his dear school, but his values continue to inspire. Aside the former students named above, others such as the Omanhene of Juaben Nana Otuo Serebour (E36),known in private life as Peter Amponsah, Commander P.M.G Griffiths (Rtd) (R8), former PNDC and NDC Deputy Minister of State and Mr. P.V. Obeng (N28), former Member of the PNDC and Chairman of the Committee of Secretaries all came under Father's tutelage. Father Burgess was succeeded by the late Mr. Leo Kalinauckas, an Englishman of Lithuanian heritage, who ran the school between 1961 and 1963. Dr. Kofi Amoah (J16) of Citizen Kofi fame was one of his students, as was Prof. Kwabena Oppong-Boachie (L19) the Director of the Center for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine (CSRMM). He is also Obrempong Boachie Amoah Kromansah II, Paramount Chief of Nsoatre Traditional Area. Another of his students was Prof. Owusu Sarpong (L), former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at KNUST and also a former Ambassador to France.
In 1963, the school had its first Ghanaian headmaster in the person of the late Mr. Kwame Adu-Amankwaah, who was headmaster until 1969, when he left to join the new government of Dr. K. A Busia as the Eastern Regional Minister, and subsequently Ghana's Ambassador to Mexico. During his time, the school's academic performance improved remarkably, and St. Peter House and the Gambrah Library were both constructed in 1966. He had a reputation as very strict disciplinarian and dedicated Catholic. Among his students were Mr. Martin Esson Benjamin (B35) Chief Executive of the Millenium Development Authority, Mr. Kofi Nsiah (C60) former Secretary of the GFA, the late Mr. Ato Austin (B24) of the PNDC government, the late Dr. Gobind Nankani (D252), Economic Advisor to President Mills and Vice-President of the World Bank's Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, as well as Mr. Ohene Karikari (U17), former national athlete and Africa's number one sprinter during his time. Dr. Ohene Boachie Adjei (G) who recently led a team of medical doctors to perform a spinal surgery on former President John Agyekum Kufour, also studied at OWASS in the Sixties, as did the world acclaimed percussionist Okyerema Asante (D).
After two years during which the position of headmaster was filled by acting headmasters in the persons of Mr. T. Bediako Amoa and the late Rev. Fr. W.H.A Habits, the late Mr. Stephen Oduro took over and held the fort until 1978 when he retired. During his time, OWASS saw another wave of expansion, with a new dining hall, the Soweto classroom block, new staff bungalows and another dormitory, St. Andrew House. A new assembly hall and a new headmaster's bungalow were also commenced. During this period, men like Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi (W215) of GIMPA and former NDC Minister of State, Dr. J. Oduro-Boateng(W128) CEO of Emmanuel Eye Centre, Accra, Dr. Felix Anyah (F209), CEO of Holy Trinity Spa in Sogakope, Mr. Ernest Abankroh (X40), former Secretary to AGC and currently of the West Africa Gas Pipeline project, Kwasi Appiah (O123), former Black Stars captain and current National Football Coach, and Kofi Nsiah Poku(O) CEO of Kinapharma Ltd all studied at OWASS. The Chief of Amanokrom and Gyasehene of Akuapem Traditional Area, Nana Osim Kwatia II (a.k.a Fred Croffie-T135) was also a student at OWASS during this period. Another student during this time was Dr. Kwame Barwuah Edusei (O239) of the EO Group and formerly Ghana's Ambassador to Switzerland and the US.
Mr. Peter Owusu-Donkor ran OWASS from 1978 until 1987 and steered the school through the difficult mid eighties, which saw unprecedented bush fires, drought, fuel shortages and food crisis in the country A strong disciplinarian, he managed to guide the school during these stormy waters with great help from the Catholic Church. He left in 1987, and among his students were Mr. Martin Brobbey (AH7), CEO of Lexta Ltd, suppliers of YAZZ products,Mr. Jacob Osei-Yeboah (AH 125) Independent Presidential Candidate in the 2012 elections, Mr. Ken Kuranchie (AK63) Editor of the Daily Searchlight newspaper, Dr. Kwame Baah Nuakoh,(AL3) International Relations Officer of Asante Kotoko Football Club and Prof. Christian Nsiah (AM11) former national athlete was also one of his students. In 1986, the study of Latin, which had been a fundamental part of the school curriculum since its inception, was sadly discontinued upon the demise of the Latin tutor, the late Mr. Acheampong.
In 1987, OWASS had its first Katakyie headmaster in the person of Mr. James Dapaah Berko(A67). All his three predecessors- Messrs Kwame Adu-Amankwaah, Stephen Oduro and Peter Owusu Donkor were products of St. Augustine's College, Cape Coast. Mr. Berko went on to hold the post for a record sixteen years, until his retirement in 2003, and during his time, the school saw many reforms and academic performance improved remarkably. Other successes chalked included winning the National Brilliant Science and Maths Quiz on two occasions (1997 and 2002) as well as several regional sporting championships. It was during his tenure that the old students decided to construct an ultra-modern ICT centre for the school.
Mr. Berko was succeeded in 2003 by another Katakyie, Mr. Stephen Anokye (D70). Again, the school continued to grow from strength, winning several academic and sporting laurels. Staff morale was high. During his time, a new house (St. Philip) and new library project were commenced and completed. The PTA also commenced a major classroom block project. A new assembly hall was also commenced under Mr. Anokye's tenure.
By 2010, the old students' association which had undergone a period of difficulties, had been given a new lease of life, and the AF group, which was celebrating its silver jubilee of completing Form Five in 1985, led the homecoming event of that year. Later that year, Mr. Anokye retired and passed the baton on to another Katakyie, the current headmaster Mr. F. Matthew Oppong Mensah (W4), who is determined to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors. A tenth dormitory is currently under construction.
Subsequently, a new national executive body of the old students was elected and inducted into office on 2 July 2011. This committee is led by Mr. Augustine Kessie (B14), the first black Chief Accountant of Ashanti Goldfields and formerly Acting CEO of Goldfields Football Club. The AH group, celebrating its Silver Jubilee of leaving OWASS, is leading the old boys on several fronts during the anniversary celebrations.
The school's diamond jubilee, which has as its theme 'Sixty Years of Catholic Education: Building A School of Academic Excellence Through Moral Discipline', climaxed on 31st March 2012, with a colourful grand durbar at the school. Otumfuo Osei Tutu II was the Special Guest of Honour. The grand durbar was preceded by the unveiling by the Asantehene of a statue of the late Asantehene Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, which was dedicated to the memory of the late Asantehene Katakyie Nana Opoku Ware I. A weeklong set of activities commencing on 24th March 2012 included a float through the principal streets of Kumasi, a photo exhibition, Maths and Science quiz, an inter-school choral concert, a health fair, church services, a cocktail event, and an inter-school football gala. A book on the history of the school is to be launched later in the year, and a dinner/dance is planned in the last quarter of the year. The jubilee celebrations will be rounded off with a grand thanksgiving service in Kumasi.
Opoku Ware School continues to push for higher standards of academic, moral and sporting excellence. We remember our dedicated and excellent tutors such as Messrs Abankroh and Amoabeng, both of blessed memory, who held the fort in those early days, as well as the late Mr. A. K. Yeboah (Owura), who taught at the school for thirty-one years, Mr. A.E.H. Hooper, the late Mr. J. C Flynt, Mr. Kwabena Asumadu, Mrs. Gladys Kwapong, and others too numerous to cite here.
As we sparkle with diamonds on our sixtieth birthday, we can look back on our stellar achievements for such a relatively young school. With a student population now standing at 2,590, the school has a number of challenges. But we hold our heads high in appreciation to the Almighty, whilst casting our eyes on our school motto: 'Deus Lux Scientiae'- God is the Light of Knowledge. May He continue to inspire and drive us along shining paths to greater heights of knowledge and excellence in the years to come.