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Opinion | Nov 1, 2013

Mfantsipim As A Brandy? (1)

Daily Guide
Kwame Gyasi
Kwame Gyasi

__Rev. R.A. Lockhart, former Headmaster of Mfantsipim

'I want to raise a generation of men in the Mfantsipim School who will be brave enough to face the problems of their own continent particularly and unselfishly'

__Rev. W.T. Balmer, former Headmaster of Mfantsipim 

The article in DAILY GUIDE of Thursday, October 17, 2013 on Mfantsipim by junior Old Boy, Mr. Magnus Rex Danquah, caught my interest. From time immemorial, old students of proudly refer to Mfantsipim Senior High School as the only School in the country and thus call their school simply Mfantsipim without the 'school' or simply Kwabotwe.

Kwabotwe is the hill on which the School is situated. I am told Kwabotwe is a corrupted form of another word. I am still doing my research on it to find the original true word. Mfantsipim is the oldest senior high school in the country, founded in 1876. The sister institution, Wesley Girls Senior High School, Cape Coast, would always want to claim credit for this longevity. However, Wesley Girls Senior High School was established out of an existing elementary school while Mfantsipim started from scratch. So any claim by Wesley Girls to claim seniority is not justified and amounts to contempt of tradition of inheritance.

Mfantsipim old students have a global association called Mfantsipim Old Boys Association, famously known all over the world as MOBA. MOBA is grouped into year groups.

Thus MOBA '65, my own year group, consists of students who either finished form five or entered sixth form in 1965 and so on.

A MOBA is either a junior or senior depending upon the relationship between two Old Boys. Mr. Magnus Rex Danquah is a junior Old Boy as far as I am concerned because I am his senior at the School.

Like University of Ghana, Legon Hall was the first hall to be constructed on the Legon campus of which I am not only a proud alumnus but also one of the longest-serving Vice-Masters of the Hall (incidentally Mr. Kwaku Menash Bonsu also an alumnus of the Hall and former Chairman of the University of Ghana Alumni Association always humorously referred to the position as Master of Vices).

Inmates of the hall are always referred to as 'Gentlemen' and it started as all male hostel.

Today Legon Hall boasts of its own bountiful array of ladies as inmates.

However the term Hall of Gentlemen still reign supreme. Mfantsipim has traditionally been seen as an all-male institution. Mfantsipim, at a point in time, admitted ladies from Wesley Girls Senior High School as students into sixth from before a sixth form unit was established at Wesley Girls Senior High School. Among the students from Wesley Girls Senior High School who had their sixth from education at Mfantsipim were Prof. Mrs. Florence Dolphine, former Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Dr. Mrs. Sylvia Boye, former Registrar of the West African Examination Council and my own cousin, the late Mrs. Comfort Agama, who for a very long time, was the serving librarian of the University of Ghana Business School. All these ladies are members of MOBA.

Kwabotwe has many well established traditions, a famous one being the Annual Speech, Prize-Giving and Founders' Day.

The event is held religiously during the second week of November each year with the climax on the second Saturday of November on the School campus.

The climax is often preceded by many social activities.

This year, it will be held on Saturday, November 9, 2013 on the Kwabotwe Hill.

I will miss this year's ceremony. As the chairperson of Ghana Integrity Initiative, the local chapter of Transparency International, the global anti-corruption non-governmental organization, I will be in Berlin, Germany attending the Annual Membership Meeting of the Association.

The Annual Speech, Prize-Giving and Founders' Day of Mfantsipim has been established as a very important tradition in the history of the School. This highly regarded ceremony had its humble beginnings in 1908. It was initiated by Rev. W.T. Balmer, former Headmaster after thirty-two years of the founding of the School. This annual ceremony has since become the single-most important event in the life of the School. The ceremony provides opportunity for both the School and Old Boys of the School to give an objective account of the performance of the School and the contribution of Old Boys to the School through speeches delivered by the Chairman, Guest of Honour and the Guest Speaker, who by tradition belong to the 40 years, 50 years and 30 years Old Boys Groups respectively and the Headmaster, the Head Prefect and at times the Special Guest of Honour.

The Special Guest of Honour position occurs on special occasions. For example, during the centenary celebration in 1976, Gen. I.K. Acheampong, the then Head of State was the Special Guest of Honour while during the 125 th anniversary in 2001, President J.K. Kufuor was the Special Guest of Honour.

Following tradition, this year's Speech and Prize-Giving Day will be jointly organized by the following year groups: MOBA '63 (Special Guest) MOBA '73 (Chairman), MOBA '83 (principal host - the Guest Speaker), MOBA '93 (principal organizers-in-waiting), and MOBA '03 (supporting artists). These days, the occasion, apart from providing a momentous homecoming for old boys and members of their families and love ones to congregate to reminiscence about the past, pronounce their thoughts about the School, share experiences, make promises for the future, redeem pledges made in the past and enjoy a healthy reunion, provides opportunity for prizes to be awarded to deserving students for excellent academic work, and to members of staff for hard work, exemplary and dedicated service to the School. Two other important events have been also been added: a fund-raising activity which allows Old Boys to freely and openly express themselves by making generous contributions in form of cash and kind towards the academic, physical and moral wellbeing of the School and the holding of a dinner dance in Accra to kick start the entire ceremony.

This year for example, Mr. Anis Haffer of MOBA '66 will donate GH¢25,000 to the School. The money was realized from the sale of his book: MFANTSIPIM THE MAKERS OF A GREAT SCHOOL, which was successfully launched this year.

The inauguration of projects financed by Old Boys has become a necessary and inseparable part of the ceremony. While the actual ceremony takes place on the School campus on the second Saturday of November, a dinner dance is held about a month before the occasion in Accra to bring few Old Boys and their Companion Members (the MOBA constitution recognizes the spouses of members as companion members), and friends of members and the School together to raise funds to support a worthy cause while making merry in the spirit of paying a little back to society.

On Sunday following the Saturday event, a Founders' Day and Thanksgiving Service is held at the Wesley Methodist Cathedral, Cape Coast and Mfantsipim simultaneously to round of the ceremony.

The planning and implementation of the Annual Speech, Prize-giving and Founders' Day has become an expensive institution with financial backing borne almost entirely by Old Boys who continue to make generous contributions for its sustenance.

Five year groups, the ten, twenty, thirty, forty and fifty year groups now come together to pull resources in form of brains, brawn, finance and time to ensure its success.

To quote Mr. B.K. Dontwi, a former Headmaster: 'In this sense, it should be right to accept the fact that a school grows through the activities of its old students. Indeed, Mfantsipim has grown to become a very big institution not by reason of the present large student population, not even by reason of its excellent examination results, but by the high level of attainments achieved through self-giving, honest and unselfish service they rendered and continue to render to humanity.'

There is one common distinctive symbol which binds MOBA together; the display of the ubiquitous red Mfantsipim car sticker which happens to attract both the envy and the admiration in equal proportions from rival old students from other schools. The problem with the display of the sticker is that there have been many occasions when one is unable to determine whether it was the car which went to Mfantsipim or the driver of the car when considering the sex and age of a driver of a car with Mfantsipim sticker boldly displayed on the windscreen. I once fell into that quagmire when a lady driving an Mfantsipim sticker branded car parked beside me. I walked to the lady and politely asked her whether it was the car that went to Mfantsipim or her good self. She smiled at me and mentioned the fact that the car belonged to her husband. I asked for the husband's name and I realize that he belonged to my year group MOBA '65, albeit the husband having entered sixth form in 1965.

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 By Kwame Gyasi

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