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11.08.2004 Feature Article

MY Testimony: The Earlier Years At Asanteman

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1. While on my way from Washington DC to Frankfort , Germany on the first leg of my flight home, I was thinking about a suitable topic to address at this grand finale of my alma mater's golden jubilee celebration . However, I managed to pick up among the numerous magazines a in the air plane a magazine which peeked my interest. The story was entitled" Who among your teachers influenced you most in your earlier years" Immediately the bulb in my heads lighted up. I could think about nobody but the late John Owusu Ofori., the founding Headmaster of Asanteman Secondary School.

2. My personal and earlier encounter with him was in form 2 when half of our earlier class mates had transferred to other so-called "better" schools such as Prempeh, Owass, Adisadel an elsewhere. One day during our English class I volunteered to read a passage. I believed, I made such an impression on him that I became his favorite reader during our English classes. The other time when I wrote a class essay on how to repair a bicycle, he liked my essay so much that he posted it on the other side of the black board for others to see and emulate the style. With such impressive backing and motivation, I set up my sights high to be the best English student in class henceforth. Accordingly, during the next three years forms 2 through 5, no one could beat me in any arts subject that used the English language as a medium of instruction. Therefore there could not be a better influence during my formative years than Mr. Ofori.

a. Out of the total eight years I spent at the schools campus , five as a student and three as a tutor, very few of us knew of the biographical sketch of our Headmaster The few snippets we gathered were that he hailed from Juaben Koforidua. That he attended Achimota and did a post -sec and advance studies in education at the University College at Legon. He was not a sharp dresser; looked like he got his clothes from what you now call as folds store. His thick over sized glasses was always reeling on his bridge nose that required him to constantly struggle with his right index figure to adjust thereby giving the appearance that he was swatting a fly from his eyes. His over grown hair needed little greasing and brushing. The story goes that one day when a parent came to the school to inquire on his student the first person he saw was a man cleaning a car in front of the office. The parent abruptly asked him. "Mr. Watchman is the headmaster around?' Mr. Ofori allegedly looked him straight in the eye and blurted. "You're looking at him". He then took the apologetic and embarrassed parent to his office.

3. In spite of the foregoing, one should not be fooled by a veneer of his shabby appearance or uncharismatic demeanor. He was, according to William Shakespeare one of those peoples "made of sterner stuff". He was a strict disciplinarian, no nonsense man but confident, good motivator, effective and competent school administrator.

4. During the l960 turbulent political history of Ghana almost all the founders and members of the founding organization the Asante Youth Association , the board of governors were either detained under Nkrumah's PDA by the CPP government or fled the country. But Mr. Ofori was not going to let their goal and vision for Asanteman die. As a pragmatist he had to keep the dream alive. What did he do?

5. After the long vac, we came back to the school to see the CPP red white and green flag flying in front of the school's quad instead of the usual gold red and green in the place of the Ghana flag. Some of us shook our heads with disbelief. But later, we soon found out that he was following the government orders whereby CPP flag has supplanted the Ghana flag on the orders of the Osagyefo himself. Thereafter, the school became government assisted secondary school and the newly reconstituted board of governors was filled with mostly CPP functionaries and government officials. You talk about playing the survival game to the hilt! He had to save the schools at all costs. Nananom, without his perspicuity or foresight and pragmatism, there would not have been Asanteman Secondary School around for us to celebrate and commemorate its 50th anniversary period.

6. He personified the letter and spirit of the school's motto "Serve one Another: A little background. in the earlier '50s members of the Ashanti Youth Association (AYA) decided that in order to combat the mass exodus of Asante boys and girls with its resulting huge financial out lays, to the costal areas for secondary school education, they had to build a non sectarian co-educational- day school in Kumasi to complement the two church sponsored schools which had been built by Catholic and Methodist in KumasiI am talking about. Prempeh was built in l949 while Opoku Ware was built in l952. Therefore in January 1954, two building blocks whose foundation was laid by Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh 11 were erected adjacent to Odeon Cinema, State Boys School and Kumasi slaughter house respectfully.

7. The designated headmaster was Mr. J.E. Jantuah a London University graduate with Mr. Ofori as his deputy. However, not long after wards, Mr. Janutah was appointed Ghana Ambassador to Israel with Mr. Ofori becoming the acting Headmaster. Two years later when Mr. Janutah returned to Ghana, instead of assuming his duties he was appointed by Pres. Kwame Nkrumah as a Minister of Agriculture. Therefore Mr Ofori, a non graduate but experienced and capable post sec teacher/administrator became the school's first head master. The first Assistant Headmaster was the late Francis Agyeman Kumah of Ghana News Agency.

8. By dint of hard work, perseverance and personal sacrifice Mr. Ofori added more blocks to the school, built a soccer field and improved other infrastructure, purchased science and other equipment for the science lab. I understand the science lab is the regional science lab for the secondary schools of the area. Further he increased and broadened the teaching staff with both university graduates and non graduates. Asanteman was among the first schools in Ghana to receive the American Peace Corp Volunteers.

9. In 1957 out for the five seniors presented to the Cambridge University Secondary School Examination two brothers Adjin from Asante Effiduase scored grade one. My class was the third graduating class of the school in l959. In 1961, I was among the first former students hired by Mr. Ofori teach courses in the lower classes. I taught English in form one through 3. In 1962 brought the world wide deep of rock and roll music and dancing to Ghana. The music and dance swept through Ghana like a wild fire and especially among the youths of Accra and Kumasi. American rock musicians such as like Little Richard, Fats Domino, Billy Haley and the Comets music blared from beer bars and Kejetia's market. Thus the boys and girls whom I call the rock and roll generation, entered their freshman class in '62-' 63 were no docile and passive as compared to the students of yester year

10. These boys were boisterous, rowdy but bright and sharp. My self and colleagues enjoyed teaching them. Hopefully, some of those former students are among us here today as captain of industries and high government officials, professionals and top educators. Let me also add that most of the teaching staff was former sixth formers who were in transition to Tech, Legon or overseas universities. All of us were passionately dedicated to giving our best to such bright young girls and boys. Mr. Ofori motivated us and assisted us immensely in achieving our goals. For he did not tolerate any slackness in pedagogy There are quite a few prominent Ghanaians in education , law and other professions who passed through Asanteman as six formers tutors. I can name some of them.

11. Now let me come back to the earlier observation as which teacher had positively impacted your life during your formative years? I have pointed out mine. One day as a teacher at the school, I over reacted to a female student who was being rude and disrespectful. The Headmaster called me to his office and fatherly advised me to be very careful of my temper. I was just as young as some of my students and, therefore, little brash and harsh at that times let me confess. However the meeting allowed me to take an introspective look at my self. This advice stayed with me and later under girded and molded my attitude or relationship towards others during my study and stay in the United States. I needed that. America is a land of immense opportunity but you have to literary earned every accolade that you achieve. Thus, you run into all kinds of people and situations which provide daunting challenges to wit, racial, police personal relationship and job environment and might pose danger to your life. Therefore you need discipline, self control, dedication and hard work to be able to meet each of these challenges

12. In conclusion, let me point out to our young listeners , among us, our future Nananom , that one of you may be speaking from the same podium at the school's centennial celebration fifty years hence. Please, remember, the following five principles of life that may help you in future , if you don't remember anything else I have said today:

13. i. Have a dream not talking about dream that comes to you in your sleep

ii. Watch whom you befriend. Build a healthy relationship and develop positive attitude about life and yourself. Your character and reputation are essential

iii. Stay focus and don't get side tracked from your goals by laziness, food, sex and drugs. Follow the concept of delayed self gratification.

Iv. Remember that you are a spiritual being and therefore God should be included in every thing you door He be the center of your life

v. Finally give something back to your community, schools and to the hands that fed you... Stand on the shoulders of each other like the New York City sky scrapers. Remember "Servez Un L'Autre. This has personal and spiritual rewards.'

15. Finally let me thank you all profusely and those who have allocated their precious time and have materially contributed resources for the overwhelming success of the celebration of our alma mater's golden jubilee. Namely the Board of Governors, Headmaster and especially the alumni-Nananom and invited guests. Our schools motto enjoins us to "serve one another" You have lived up to commandment You truly have played your part in preparing our school for greatness in its on ward march towards greatness and excellence its first fifty years and towards it first century or next 100 years of existence. To this end, the future Nananom or alumni of the school shall be eternally grateful. Dr. Agyenim Boateng, an old boy and former tutor Assistant Attorney General; Kentucky , USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Agyenim Dr. Boateng
Agyenim Dr. Boateng, © 2004

The author has 8 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: AgyenimBoateng

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