Education and moral development at St. Augustine’s College
St. Augustine's College in Cape Coast, established first as a teachers' training college, and the first Catholic institution in Ghana, is 78 years old. It is a school that we always remember with great nostalgia and a sense of gratitude for making most of us who we are, and for creating excellent human resources for the development of Ghana.
When old students meet with appreciable attendance, one discovers that Old boyism is stronger than both politics and tribalism, two things that have always threatened the fabric of Ghana as a nation of one people.
When we entered form one in the 1970/71 school year, we met several students who are now among our national leaders. Kofi Totobi Quakye was an ace lead guitarist who led the Flames Band to win many a pop chain organised among schools in the Central and Western regions. He was in form four.
So also did Paa Kwesi Nduom return from AFS to lower sixth form to popularise basketball. At the time we called him Senior Kwesi Yorke. Ben Brako, Senior Brako, was a gentle senior in form five or so. Alex Mingle was a rarity because as a form four student, his picture used to appear in the sports pages of leading newspapers labelled as Ghana's international full back.
One day, there was this match against Mfantsipim, and Augusco needed a goal desperately in the dying minutes. Then miraculously, we won a penalty! Of course, Mr Otwey elected the famous Black Star to convert the kick into a goal. What happened to Asamoah Gyan actually happened here too. Mingle shot the ball so far from the goal that there was a universal groan at the Adisadel Park.
St Augustine's has produced Dr Paul Acquah, Dr Kwesi Botchwey, the Bucknors, ace actor Dadson, Kwesi Osei Ameyaw at the Tourism Ministry and an uncountable number in Ghana's Parliament. Of course, the Black Stars is full of AUGUSCO products, not only Michael Essien, Baffuor Gyan, Junior Agogo and Haminu Dramani are from this Great School.
St Augustine's is a Roman Catholic institution with a great moral fibre. So among the old boys are a considerable number of Roman Catholic Priests and Bishops. Besides the moral education and counselling that was always available to students as the carrot side of our upbringing, there was also the stick in the form of school rules and discipline.
The most famous disciplinary code that was introduced into St Augustine's was the one of 1970/71 that became the envy of every other headmaster in Cape Coast and the source of great modesty for the students. Now in retrospect, we are thankful for the disciplinary code that we simply called Categories.
Category C offences included failure to do your housework, wearing a shirt with missing buttons, failure to dress your bed in the morning, or wearing a shoe without socks. If you cut your trousers into shorts and wore it without hemming the cut end, or you went about without a belt for your shorts, or without tucking in the shirt, you were liable to be punished under Category one. Usually, Category one offences were punished by prefects and other senior students. Punishments ranged from extra compound work, or a warning.
What students were mostly afraid of were not being caught for the highest offences but for the middle offences classified with subsections as Category B. It was very easy to be caught for Category B offences, whose first-time offender punishment could be six strokes of the cane and one day internal suspension.
The most central Category B offence was B2: Absence from school activities. I was caught once in this trap. Absence from school activities was aimed at promoting all-round citizens for Ghana. It covered Bl, missing mass and church service without good reason. Bl also covered the offence of 'dodging' lessons. If you missed a sport activity, you went in for category B punishment.
Students who refused to 'honour' a light punishment like weeding or cutting down an unwanted tree were also liable under Category B, as was also dressing in non-school uniform generally called. 'coloured clothes'. We all believed that a student would dress in unprescribed clothes for the sole purpose of running from school 'incognito' and without permission or "exeat".
As I said earlier, B offences went for six strokes of the cane and one day internal suspension. The internal suspension was managed by the Senior Housemaster whose post was perhaps the most unenviable, especially when he doubled as the Music Master.
When some of us in form four were given this kind of internal suspension, we reported to the Senior Housemaster's office and after the six hot shots on our buttocks while standing, we were surprised with the issue of machetes, shovels and pickaxes, and wheelbarrows. He took us to the base of St Patrick's House and showed us what one day's internal suspension really meant.
We were, in effect, to repair some one kilometre of school road from St Patrick's House to the home of our Reverend Father Van Velzen; the Chaplain. After that, the six of us made sure we never missed school activities, at least not the mass ever again. We needed three days to recover from our muscle and joint pains. The work involved clearing bush from both sides of the road, digging into the pot holes and filling and stamping red earth into them. It was a great exercise, and not amusing at all, especially as you did such work within full glare of junior students and passing teachers.
Category B also included insolence to seniors, making unreasonably excessive noise, minor damage to school property, or taking food out of the dining hall to eat it in the dormitory against admonition. St Augustine's was determined to produce morally disciplined Ghanaians.
Before I proceed to the mother of all categories for the mother of all offences, I need to say that there was something we called promotion in the administration of the category justice in AUGUSCO, Simply put, a second Category C offence attracted a slightly higher punishment and a final warning.
A third Category C offence was therefore a promotion to Category B, with commensurate Category B punishments; consequently, a third Category B offence is estimated as first Category A offence.
Mathematically three Cs make a B, and three B's make an A.
Nobody wanted to be caught in Category A offences, and those caught were mostly bigger boys and recalcitrant juniors. Some students came to came to the school already spoiled and hardened, but such students were just a handful. Like these two form two students who went to the University of Cape Coast and drove a lecturer's car away just for fun!
Category A offences ranging from section one upwards included assault on another student, violent fighting, insubordination and verbal assault of a teacher or a school officer, and stealing. Other Category A offences were running to town without permission, or traveling to Cape Coast without special exeat. Exeat is a signed paper permitting a student to go out of the school for a purpose.
Just across the road was the Atlantic Ocean. Crossing the road to the beach was equivalent to going out without exeat. It made perfect sense. More serious A class offences were 'homo and hetero-sexual activity'. The Nurses Training College was uncomfortably close to the Kelly House that housed only sixth form students.
Punishment for Category A offences was 12 strokes of the cane at school assembly, and one week internal suspension. Everybody made an effort to avoid this kind of offence and its attendant punishment.
Nonetheless some students got caught in it.
So what happened if a student was caught for the second time in an A class offences? Here too, there was something interesting called Declaration. The framers of the law, with student input thought of everything. If a student was caught in a second Category A offence, and the school also determined that the student must complete his education, he was made to sign a declaration, not sacked from school.
This declaration signing was not just like signing a cheque or a letter. The student was given a special exeat to travel home and return with the form signed by both parents and a witness. That makes four signatures including the student's. Then back with the school authorities, the Headmaster, the Senior Housemaster, and the Housemaster also append their signatures.
This famous Declaration with seven signatures simply stated that: 'I Koofori, having been caught for various serious offences at school, including so and so offences, and having been accordingly punished for them, do humbly sign this declaration that if I am caught again in a similar offence, I may be expelled without any person coming to plead for me.' That was the general tone, and this document had the miraculous effect of turning 'wild' boys into overnight angels.
As I said earlier, bullying of junior students was a serious offence high up in Category B. But which junior student in form one for example would be brave enough to report his being bullied knowing that would attract Category B punishment.
The best thing was to avoid getting into situations for being bullied, such as accepting leftover food from a senior student or roaming the campus without purpose. But honestly, speaking, the bullyboys were generally known and avoided, and students sometimes had the honour of their being bullied discovered by an anti-bullying senior.
In some cases the bully was made to kneel down and apologise to the molested student. School authorities also encouraged an anti-bullying campaign by enjoining junior students to say 'No Fear' to senior bullies and quoting the relevant Section B clause on bullying.
Education plus beauty without God is useless. In the case of St Augustine's, education plus moral education was what made a man.