26.03.2003 Feature Article

Ghana's Ontario Connection: A History Remembered

Ghana's Ontario Connection: A History Remembered
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This year Ghana celebrated her 46th year of nationhood on March 6, 2003 with a number of festivities held in major cities and towns around the country. Far away in Toronto, Canada, Ghanaian-Canadians resident in the city made sure they were not left out of the celebrations by organizing their own Independence day celebrations on March 15 at the popular Ghanaian joint; the Luna Ballroom located in the heart of the city of North York.

There is every reason for Ghanaian-Canadians in Toronto to celebrate this day with pride. And there is even a historical significance for celebrating the day in Ontario because of province’s strong connection to Ghana’s development as a nation. While this connection is colonial in nature, and may dismissed as part of the dark history of the country, it is still dear to many Ghanaians because of the impact it continues to have today on Ghana’s development.

Infrastructure borne out of the Ontario connection remain powerful drivers of the country’s economy. The connection which occurred in the early parts of the 20th Century was directly responsible for expanding Ghana’s limited railway sector by linking lines from New Tafo and Kumasi to other parts of the Eastern Region and Asante and the Central Province Railway from Huni-Valley on the Sekondi-Kumasi line to Kade. It was also responsible for the construction of projects such as the Takoradi deep water harbour, the Korle-Bu Hospital Teaching in Accra, and the Achimota College also in Accra. Today, these projects continue to contribute in various significant ways to the development of the Ghanaian economy.

It all started on 20th July 1869 in the middle of the hot Canadian summer season in the farming town of Galt, Ontario, now an industrial city renamed Cambridge and home to the North America’s Toyota Assembly plant. A second-generation descendant of an immigrant from Berne, Switzerland was born and christened Frederick Gordon Guggisberg. He would later become a governor of the Gold Coast colony (now Ghana) and also one the most popular colonial governors of the country.

The eldest son of Frederick Guggisberg, a retail- goods merchant, of Galt, and his wife, Dora Louisa Wilson. Frederick junior was taken to England at age ten by his mother who remarried an English Admiral after the death of his father. He was educated at Burney's School, near Portsmouth and then entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1887 and was commissioned in 1889. After serving Imperial Britain in various capacities in Singapore, Southern Nigeria and the Gold Coast colony, he became governor of the Gold Coast Colony in 1919.

Upon assuming office, Governor Guggisberg demonstrated his progressive vision for the colony by outlining and attempting to implement what became known as the Guggisberg's Fifteen Principles of Education which included the reduction of the size of classes, the introduction of co-education, the expansion of facilities for training adequate number of teachers, more emphasis in the school system on the teaching of local history and culture and of character training. In addition to Achimota College, Guggisberg opened four trade schools to provide technical and vocational training; one at Asuansi, near Cape Coast, one at Kyebi in the Eastern Province, a third at Mampong in Asante, and the fourth in the North, first in Yendi and later transferred to Tamale, the provincial capital.

Guggisberg also had a strong belief in the role of the traditional rulers in the colonial system, unlike his predecessors, he accepted the plea of the Asante and other personalities in the south, including Nana Sir Ofori Atta I of Akyem Abuakwa, and secured the approval of the British government which made it possible for Prempeh I and his followers, who had been in exile since 1896, to return to Kumasi in 1924.

Governor Guggisberg's eight years administration from 1919 to 1927 were perhaps the most progressive years in the development of the country in the colonial days. He introduced some measures that left a greater mark on the economic, social and political developments of the country than any other period of Ghana's colonial history. As an expression of gratitude, the people of the Gold Coast colony erected two memorials in their appreciation of the contribution of Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg to the colony. One of the memorials is an assembly hall at Dodowa, near Accra, which was used to house the Joint-Provincial Council of Chiefs and the other, a headstone in marble on the Governor's grave at Bexhill in England.

In 1973 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the construction of Korle-Bu Hospital in Accra, the Ghanaian government gave Guggisberg a more befitting honour with the erection of a large statue, a rare tribute paid by a post-colonial government to one of it's colonial governors.

Ghana’s Ontario connection remains a strong one today, though not colonial, as thousands of Ghanaians are choosing to make the province their home and contributing millions of dollars in remittances to the Ghana.

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