The approaches to the school were quite breathtaking. As one entered the main gate, the visitor was met with an impeccably white-washed sentry box. The latter was never devoid of a neatly uniformed watchman, any day of the week and time. There was also a side entrance, to the left of the wrought-iron double-gate, through which pedestrians passed in and out of our well-manicured campus.
The main double-gate belonged to vehicular traffic, largely visitors with children and/or wards in the school as well as, of course, our cream-colored PERSCO bus. We also had two wood-bodied trucks, a 7-tonner and a regular three-and-half-ton truck. The latter was also fairly regularly used to ferry students to off-campus activities, such as soccer gala matches, intercollegiate meets like debates and Scripture-Union conferences. Even the Oshogolo Drama Troupe was permitted the use of our green-painted and yellow-lettered school truck.
Those of us entering class of '76 never saw much of the school bus; it was constantly reported to be undergoing maintenance. Later, it seemed to have found a permanent resting place under the capacious shed adjacent to the Dining Hall that also doubled as the carpenter's workshop. The latter was a very busy place, if one recollects accurately. Most of our classroom and dining-hall furniture was made here.
Opposite the carpenter's workshop, or shed, was the emergency latrine. It was used mainly when the campus had run out of water and thus our dormitory water closets were out of order. The trip to the emergency latrine was quite tedious, being that it was located on the west-side of campus while our two giant dormitory buildings were situated to the east. The distance between the two locations was roughly 200 meters, from the old dormitory block, and a further 100 meters from the new block. Still, needless to say, in dire emergency situations, such as a moment when one was either on a purgative or simply afflicted with diarrhea dysentery, covering even a Lilliputian distance of 20 meters, say, could seem like eternity; and one cannot adequately begin to narrate the excruciating stories of those who had the misfortune of having to release a rambunctious payload in the middle of the night or during a peak traffic hour or season.
Indeed, it must have been the inordinate rampancy of the preceding predicament that caused Father Glatzel (or “Owudo”), our headmaster, to have another latrine constructed beside the new dormitory block over a septic tank. All the lavatories in the school, of course, discharged their human payload into septic tanks at disparate locations. Once every few months, a waste tanker would arrive on campus to empty these septic tanks. This was the surgical-mask-wearing season.
As one entered the main gate of PERSCO from the west, one was met on one's left-hand side by the hockey field; this was the athletic-proving grounds that had nurtured such Eastern-Regional hockey giants as Morpheus (Senior Asiamah, our husky goalie), Seniors Sahara (Acheampong) and Amoafo, our School Prefect and Assistant School Prefect, respectively, and Senior Samuel Owusu-Ababio.
Still, as almost every PERSCOBA, or PERSCOVITE, would readily own, St. Peter's was not in any way, shape, form or manner a Sports School or Enterprise. This strictly-enforced “Owudo's Golden Rule” was firmly established prior to the celebrated entrance of PERSCO's Class of '76. One engaged oneself in sports purely as an extracurricular activity; there were no “sporting scholarships,” whatsoever, awarded to talented athletes at St. Peter's, unlike many of the other government-assisted secondary schools. At St. Peter's, one came to keep vigil on one's books, and at the end of one's five-year stay, one was graciously rewarded with a Grade-One Distinction or any of the other respectable categories of academic achievement. And if one was lucky, one got the chance to return for another two years to almost automatically guarantee that lucky one a rare and prestigious berth at one of the nation's three main academies.
The lucky ones were few and far between. I was not one of them; and I am not in the least ashamed to publicly acknowledge the same. And in case, dear reader, you are wondering exactly what kind of student I had been at good, old PERSCO, suffice it to observe that while in Form-Four, I had clinched two enviable academic awards in the form of book prizes during the 1979-80 academic year's Speech and Prize-Giving Day. My two awards were for sterling achievements in English and History; and I am also cocksure that I would have clinched the Literature award, had not an illness caused me to miss several significant quizzes in the latter subject.
I was not among the lucky few to attend Sixth-Form at PERSCO because, in 1981, there was a massive cancellation of our examination results by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). This major blight in the path of my academic career nearly brought me to the brink of suicide. I had overheard a younger cousin sneer to her friend and playmate (one of Dr. Atotonu's daughters), who thought I looked studious and scholarly, that I was a good-for-nothing twerp. And by 1983, my life would almost come to an end. I would be forced to quit school for a year. My problem would be diagnosed by the legendary neurosurgeon of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr. Mustapha, as the effect of having contracted Cerebral Malaria (otherwise known as the “West-Nile Virus”).
PERSCO also contained a Minor Seminary which was operated by members of the SVD – the Society of the Divine Word – a German-based Roman Catholic priestly order some of whose membership also founded St. Peter's. The Seminary was located on the right-hand side as one entered the main gate of the school. It was a two-story building; it was almost majestic. But I guess the most apt descriptive would be “dignified.” Behind this white-washed and gated mini-mansion was an orchard which generously supplied us students with marmalade and jam for breakfast. These were made by the SVD priests. Naturally, we also tended their orchard; but this arrangement was not purely out of gratitude or the kindliness of our hearts. We simply had absolutely no choice in this matter. And to be certain, on a dewy Saturday morning, we fain would have been granted an hour or two more of sleep. For having kept vigil around the clock all week, we PERSCOVITES spent most of our weekends recuperating. Our late mornings were spent washing and cleaning and expecting “loaded” visits from our relatives and girlfriends. The evening was for entertainment, mostly tug-dancing, stand-up jokes or simply hopping from dormitory to dormitory chatting with friends and classmates and sharing food – provisions, we called it.
Some of the bad nuts among us, like Senior Dogbe, for instance, who came to Sixth-Form at St. Peter's from one of the elite schools in the Volta Region, would be holed up in the lavatory smoking. On the latter score, the sage counsel to us subordinate students who chanced on the likes of Seniors Dogbe and Banahene, an old PERSCOVITE, was: “See no evil; do no evil; hear no evil.” Juniors like Osei Wiredu, however, would pay no heed; and so like this Nkwatia-native, some of our weak-kneed classmates would fall through the cracks.
*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 twelve books, including “Lorgorligi Ponkorhythms” (iUniverse.com, 2005), a collection of poetry.
E-mail: [email protected]
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