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05.12.2007 Feature Article

A Half-Century of A-Class Education – Part 4

I had originally intended this personal narrative of the historical culture of St. Peter's Secondary School, Kwahu-Nkwatia, to also amply encompass at least the basic temporal contours of its foundation and brief annotations on some of the key players who made PERSCO the great and nonesuch junior academy that it has become, even today. Unfortunately, however, I have met with insuperable ill-luck, for I have not been able to lay hands on any document that either briefly or comprehensively details the history of Kwahu University, or the University of the Kwahu Ridge, as some alumni of PERSCO prefer to affectionately dub their alma mater. I had even expected to locate a synopsis of the history of the school from its website (perscoba.com) but here, too, luck callously eluded me and I only ended up throwing my hands up. About the only relevant, or worthwhile, document that I found was Dr. Kenneth A. Attafuah's quite formidable keynote presentation to the school's convocation on its golden jubilee anniversary. This gaping lack does not tell an edifying story about a school of PERSCO's stature and profile.

Still, as Americans are aptly wont to say, the game must go on; and the band must play on, as is the salient characteristic of Nature. Significantly, however, in his presentation titled “Fifty Years of Secondary Education in Ghana: Reflections from Criminological and Human Rights Perspectives,” Dr, Attafuah deals more broadly with the generally dismal situation of Ghanaian secondary education over the past two-and-half decades, or so. Fortunately, it also contains barely enough grist for me to studiously appropriate in teasing out the fundamental historical contours of the school. And still fortunately, this series is about one PERSCOVITE's five-year's experience with his alma mater, one that he fervently hopes both alumni who attended PERSCO well ahead of the author, as well as well after him, would find, nevertheless, strikingly relevant and reflective of some of their own personal and collective experiences. For even as Dr. Attafuah, who spent only two years of his remarkable academic life at St. Peter's poignantly attests, the purposeful culture of meticulous and systematic knowledge acquisition has not changed dramatically in a half-century. And regarding the latter, this is what the Asante-Akyem Juaso native proudly has to report:

“At St. Peter's, it was [simply too] embarrassing to sleep soundly at night all night; from Form One to Uppers [sic] Six, students virtually maintained a vigil on their books, living up to the Latin injunction, Carpe diem – seize the day, seize the opportunity. At St. Peter's I learned all [that] I missed at Jachie-Pramso, and I shared all [that] I brought with me – perseverance, patience, endurance, long-suffering, tolerance, and appreciation and gratitude for all the blessings and little mercies that came my way.”

The preceding, coupled with the school's motto of Dignitati Hominem, or towards the dignity of humankind, ensured that none of us, PERSCOBAS, would be found wanting. And, indeed, while I attended the school from 1976 to 1981, PERSCO consistently ranked among the top-5 of the best secondary schools in the country. And every year, for some curiously unspoken reasons, only one student received a marginal pass – or G.C.E. PASS – at the Ordinary-Level examinations administered by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) headquartered in Accra.

Indeed, between 1976 and 1981, absolutely not a single St. Peter's student totally failed the GCE “O”-Level examinations. Still, regarding the jinx of having a lone student receive the marginal grade of GCE PASS, the mystery remained. We were also to learn from Mr. Gyimah, our assistant headmaster, during one of his routine litany of PERSCO's sterling achievements, often during the annual Speech and Prize-Giving Day festivity, that the curious record of having a lone student earn a GCE PASS annually was, more or less, a permanent feature of PERSCO'S academic landscape or track record.

Much of such sterling academic record has, almost indisputably, been attributed to the founding headmaster of St. Peter's Secondary School, Father Clement Hodze, a German-born Roman-Catholic priest of the priestly order known as SVD, or the Society for the Divine Word. Father Clement founded the school in 1957, in two small rooms that he rented in Nkwatia-township proper. Later, as student enrollment ballooned, the chief of the town, upon petition, released a remarkable parcel of land on the outskirts of the town, to the east, which is presently the location of PERSCO.

Indeed, while a student, I had the opportunity to visit the house that had partially served as the original site of St. Peter's. It was in no way a remarkable building. Still, in retrospect, I wish that, back then, the building had been purchased by the Government and earmarked as a historic landmark or site, a veritable tourist attraction. For it cannot be gainsaid that sound education is also about the preservation of the collective societal memory, with the edifying and constructive view to emulating that which is exemplary and morally and materially uplifting.

Another headmaster to whose undying and enviable credit much of the phenomenal ascent and development of St. Peter's has been attributed is Father Josef Glatzel, the administrative pilot and uncanny navigator of PERSCO while I was in attendance. Instructively, during a recent glance at the website of the Roman Catholic Church of Ghana, primarily in search of relevant material for this work, I was elated to learn that the third headmaster of St. Peter's, Father Josef Glatzel, had also served as science tutor at Koforidua's Pope John's Secondary School for then-student and now-substantive Archbishop of Accra, The Most Reverend Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle.

Indeed, while I attended St. Peter's, nearly half of the campus' buildings, including one housing the dormitories named Kizito and Foucault, the new Sixth-Form block and an expanded Form-Four block, were built by Father Glatzel; the man, a physicist with a Master's degree from an elite academy in Germany, had personally supervised the erection of the afore-referenced buildings and even personally scoped out their dimensions. Many of us students witnessed the preceding firsthand. And the latter largely explains our lightning-quickness to dismiss any unflattering talk about “Owudo,” as we affectionately called Father Glatzel, regarding his purported arrogance and general lack of respect for Ghanaians and Africans, in general. And to be certain, on more than several occasions, some of our Ghanaian teachers attempted to instigate us students against the unimpeachably diligent and highly sacrificial “Owudo.”

We had nicknamed Father Glatzel “Owudo” because his heavy Germanic accent ensured that he would eternally mispronounce the conjunction “although” as “Owudo.” And Jesus, was Father Glatzel fond of the conjunction “although.”

As was to be expected, Father Glatzel was not the only Catholic priest on campus who was known to routinely violate the “delicate” phonetic sounds of the English language. Our language. For in spite of our bona fide Ghanaian and African identity, the very fact of the English language being the official tongue of our country, curiously, made us feel far more intimate and at home with it than the European Father Glatzel. We even felt an inviolable sense of entitlement to the English language.

Another German campus resident whom we, all of us students, unanimously agreed flagrantly abused the English language was Father Bernard, the school's chaplain. We nicknamed Father Bernard “Vaz Me,” after that portion of the Biblical scripture that went something like this: “Wash me, and I would be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51: 6-7). Needless to say, about the only thing on Father Bernard that was either as white as, or even whiter than, snow was the chaplain's fast-thinning shock of hair. Father Bernard left for Germany while I was in Form-Two, word had it.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Obaasima: Ideal Woman” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2007

This author has authored 4752 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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