Most Rev. Peter Akwasi Sarpong, Emeritus Archbishop of Kumasi has stated that the Ghana Education Service, the Ministry of Education and the Government should collaborate with the Catholic Church, “if they are really interested in the delivery of quality excellent education”. He said this during the 60th anniversary celebration of St. Louis Senior High School in Kumasi. He was speaking on the theme: Living the Dreams of the Founders.
The Archbishop Emeritus recounted the history of the school and paid tribute to the founders.
In 1952, the colonial government of the then Gold Coast built a boys’ secondary school in Kumasi and asked the Catholic Church to own and run it. This was Opoku Ware Senior High School. But in line with the perennial policy of the Catholic Church to give equal educational opportunities to boys and girls, the Diocese of Kumasi decided to open a girls’ secondary school in the same year in Kumasi.
St. Louis Sisters
The Sisters of St. Louis had earned a name for themselves as exceptional educationists in Ireland and France. At the invitation of my predecessor of blessed memory, Bishop Hubert Paulisen, four of these Sisters came to Kumasi in 1947 and started teaching at St. Bernadette’s Girl’s Elementary School. One year later, a few Irish Bishops in Nigeria too invited them to their dioceses.
When the Sisters were asked to open St. Louis Senior High School in 1952, there were no permanent buildings or, indeed, location for it. While the Diocese levied the Catholics in the Diocese for the purpose, the Sisters lived so frugal a life that they were able to save on the meagre salaries they were receiving, and contribute the surplus towards the building of St. Louis Senior High School.
The school was housed in the present accommodation of St. Louis College of Education at Mbrom until 1960 when the first three buildings, sponsored entirely by the Diocese of Kumasi and the St. Louis Sisters, were ready for occupation.
The Diocese saw the Asantehene, Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyemang Prempeh II for a piece of land for the permanent site. The Asantehene, who had been very generous and enthusiastic in offering land for the Presbyterian and the Methodist Churches to start Prempeh College in 1949 and providing the land for the Catholic Church to start Opoku Ware School in 1952, was equally thrilled to hear of a girls’ secondary school for Kumasi and quickly offered the land on which we are holding this function now.
Enthusiasm of Sisters
The Sisters enthusiastically threw themselves into the work and soon convinced all and sundry that, indeed, they were experts in education. The students were religiously oriented, psychologically balanced, physically fit, morally upright, pastorally attuned and, above all, academically outstanding. They abided by the educational philosophy of the Catholic Church and right from the beginning established a school of excellence in all areas.
The celibate Sisters became true mothers to the girls and handled them as any biological mother would handle her daughter. This was the case especially with leader Mother Johannes Hayes.
Right from the word go, they gave the school an ecumenical tone. From that time up to now, the percentage of Catholic students has been far lower than the percentage of non-Catholics. At the moment the comparison stands at about 25% Catholics to 75% non-Catholics. Their avowed concern was the formation of women of quality, to be assets to themselves and to the nation, irrespective of tribe, religious affiliation and social class.
The motto of the school which is inspired by the charism or principle of the Sisters of St. Louis is “Dieu Le Veut” (God wills it). In accordance with this motto the dream of the founders has been in all things to please God and not man. Hence, the school’s stress on four key elements in Catholic Education.
Good education aims at the integral formation of the whole person and concerns itself with the development of the physical, moral, intellectual, and educational endowments of the student. Catholic education tries to be developmental, conscious of the changes and growth which children and young people experience. Catholic education puts the premium on the social side of the student. It aims at the common good of society and insists on a refined sense of duty for the active participation in the life of the human community.
Catholic education, finally, is personal; it strives for the formation of the human person, in such a way that he or she uses his or her God-given free will to attain his or her final destiny – eternal life with God.
Obviously these are the ideals and it is impossible for any school to achieve them all. However, St. Louis Senior High School has tried, right from its inception to realize them. This object of the school caught the attention of Ghanaians who have over the past 60 years, sought admission for their children to the school.
The significant fact is that the vast majority of parents, whose choice of school for their children has always been St. Louis, are not Catholics and will never want their children to be Catholics or to be Catholic themselves. What they want is the Catholic education.
Examples of Appreciation.
There are two very interesting examples of this. There was this Muslim who, during the head ship of Miss Lydia Osei, wanted his child to go to St. Louis by all means. She did well but she had not attained the cut-off point St. Louis required and there were many students who had done better than her but just could not be admitted because there were no places for them.
Whether jovially or seriously, the headmistress told this Muslim that if he wanted Catholic education for his child by all means, then he should give the school money to build a classroom; it would cost ¢500,000. At once the Muslim went home and brought ¢500,000 to the headmistress to build four classrooms, to take in 120 students, one of whom would be his child. The next thing instead of praising this Muslim for this magnanimous gesture some misguided people who had made it their habit never to see anything good in other people were accusing the headmistress of taking a bribe from this man in order to take his child.
Again, during the headship of the same Miss Lydia Osei, there was the example of a staunch Presbyterian, who would never become a Catholic under any circumstances, but insisted on his daughters being educated at St. Louis Senior High School. He was so impressed by, and grateful for, the education that his three daughters had received from St. Louis Senior High School, that unsolicited, he undertook to put up an Art Studio at the cost of ¢250,000 for the school. The building is there for all to see. (C1 at that time was equal to the current GHC 1).
This shows how much people have appreciated the educational efforts of St. Louis Senior High School over the years.
Unfortunately, this admiration has also generated hatred for the school. There was this parent whose child had been admitted as a day student. She insisted that the child became a boarder. The headmistress explained to her that there was not even a single place for a boarder. The villagers and people who were not resident in Kumasi had been given the priority in the allocation of beds. This child’s parents were living near St. Louis. She therefore did not qualify for a boarding place even if there had been a vacancy. In any case she would try to fix her up as a boarder in the next academic year. The woman was so infuriated. She went to the then PDC (Peoples Defence Committee) to report that this “wicked” headmistress had refused to take her child as a boarder because she was not a Catholic.
The poor headmistress had to appear before the PDC. Questioned as to why this discrimination against non-Catholic students, the headmistress showed the committee the list of students in the class of this girl. The members looked at it and were speechless. They asked the headmistress, “are you saying this is a mission school?” She said, “yes”. They continued, “and yet the number of Catholics admitted this year is far lower than the number of non-Catholics”. They told the woman to get away with her false accusation. She insisted that the headmistress was telling lies. The committee members told her to go and do the counting herself and bring the correct figures to them. She never stepped there again.
The question I asked myself and asked the headmistress to ask the lady was why she chose to send her child to a school whose headmistress was mendacious, discriminatory and bigoted.
There is another sad case.
During the headship of Miss Joana Johnson, there was this teacher who was a good teacher but inexplicably tried his best to destroy the good image of the school because the headmistress had disciplined him by depriving him of his headship of the Science Department. This man, during the day, would go to town for political meetings somewhere. He would come back late and the following morning, at the ungodly hour of between 4.00a.m. and 5.00a.m., he would call his students to teach them. Obviously the headmistress of St. Louis Senior High School would not tolerate such a ridiculous behaviour.
This man came to see me to discipline the headmistress for a trumped up charge of discriminating against non-Catholic students. What was happening was that some of the students at the dead of the night would meet somewhere for prayers and vigil observances. Some students were seriously mentally affected by this nocturnal exercise. The headmistress committed the crime of stopping the students and teachers from continuing this harmful exercise.This teacher cashed in on this to accuse the headmistress the way she did. I explained to him that there was nothing wrong with what the headmistress had done, that no headmistress of any school, having the good of the students at heart would responsibly condone such a thing. He was a Catholic. He should help the Catholic head to form the students.
He did not take kindly to my advice, but rather, circulated a nasty letter about the headmistress and the Board of Governors. I asked the board to ask him to withdraw it. He did, but, went in for a scathing anonymous letter against the headmistress. The allegations in the letter were false; the incidents were fabricated. The names mentioned in it were fictitious; but the letter seemed so genuine that the GES decided to sanction the headmistress. A staff advised them they couldn’t do that without first investigating the matter. The GES appointed two investigators. Their report was only one page long but exposed the sinister intentions of the writer they protected. First the letter was not anonymous. It was written by this teacher under an anonymous name. All the incidents cited were false. The names given were ghosts names. His treatment of the students was harmful. If the GES was not going to sanction him with the appropriate punishment, the GES should at least transfer him.
The GES did not transfer him but after sometime, the Kumasi Metro Directorate saw the need to transfer. He then wrote one letter after another to the Minister of Education labelling atrocious charges against the poor headmistress. He tried to get some girl’s to go and strike, but he could never get students from St. Louis to do such a foolish thing.
I mention some of these incidents to show how ironically St. Louis Senior High School has suffered for its own discipline and excellence performance. It has paid heavily for its efficiency. It has indeed accepted the will of God.
My own personal involvement with the school has been varied, profound and long-standing. When the school was opened in 1952, I was a great friend of Sr. Johannes, the headmistress even though I was in form 4 of the Minor Seminary.
I was ordained a priest in 1959 and became a Chaplain and a teacher in the school till 1961. When I went for studies abroad I taught Bible Knowledge and Mathematics. I also wrote a play to be staged successfully by the students who had already acquired a great reputation for drama. Their biggest hit was The Bohemian Queen.
When I returned from my overseas studies in 1965, I once again took up my position as Chaplain to the school. In addition I taught Bible knowledge, African Studies, Mathematics and Statistics for the sixth form General Paper programme. This lasted until 1967 when I went to St. Peter’s Seminary, Cape Coast as the Rector.
On my appointment in 1970 as Bishop of Kumasi, I resumed my teaching activities with St. Louis secondary School until 1976, becoming in the process, one of the longest serving teachers on the staff. I taught the Old Testament and Traditional African Religion, which formed 66 % of the Christian Religion Syllabus of sixth form. I also taught 55% of the General Paper, namely, African Studies, Logic and Statistics.
In 1970 when I became Bishop of Kumasi I automatically became the Proprietor of the school. This position I relinquished only in 2008 after 38 years when I retired as the Bishop of Kumasi.
You can understand how happy, therefore, I am grateful for being asked to be the Chairman of this occasion. I am aware that I am playing on this occasion a second hand spare part role. This is because the substantive Chairman should have been Archbishop Thomas Mensah, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kumasi. Unfortunately, he has had to go to Holland to bury a very cherished mutual friend of ours.
I accept the honour gladly for one thing, I do not have much to do. I am faced with an audience whose co-operation is taken for granted. Thank you for the honour.
Nananom, dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for giving me such a wonderful co-operation. We have learnt a lot from what various speakers have told us. We thank the Senior Prefect for her account of the activities of the school. The Headmistress has supported the Prefect in a brief report and laid bare before us the problems of the school but naturally also the triumphs and achievements of the institution. The Parent-Teacher Association too has given us the benefit of their experience so has the Deputy Minister of Education. We thank her for her assurance of continued support for the school.
Nana Adusei Poku, so ably representing Otumfuo the Asantehene, has assured us of the good wishes of His Majesty and undertaken, on behalf of Otumfuo, to supply one of the many items the school needs. We thank him.
Let me congratulate the awardees, both students and staff. We wish you well and continued success.
Jubilees are principally meant to provide us the opportunity to examine ourselves and take stock of things. If we realise that we have done the best we can in some things, we resolve to do even better on the next landmark occasion. If, on the other hand, we realise that there have been lapses here and there in our operations, we resolve to put them right.
I am of the opinion that these ceremonies, on the 25th, 50th, 60th, 75th, 100th, etc anniversaries, must have a message for Ghana. These are not occasions just to praise ourselves and bask in the sunshine of self adulation. They are occasions, I think, that we should use to give some serious message to the nation.
Let me begin by explaining honestly, sincerely and truthfully that what I am going to say, in what anthropologists call the ethnographic present, is not meant for or against any particular government. The target of my remarks is the past governments, the present government and future governments, as the case may be.
My message to the GES and the Ministry of Education and even the Government is that they should partner the Catholic Church in education, if they are really interested in the delivery of quality excellent education. At the end of the day, the partnership benefits Ghanaians, the vast majority of whom are not Catholics.
The Catholic Church all over the world has what we call Associations and Societies which specialise in different areas of life. Some Societies specialise in education and health care, to restrict ourselves to only these two areas.
The societies that specialised in education here in Ghana have been responsible for Holy Child School in Cape Coast, St. Francis Xavier Seminary in Wa, O.L.A. Senior High School in Ho, O.L.A. Senior High School in Kenyasi, O.L.A. College of Education in Cape Coast. The Sisters of the Holy Spirit are responsible for St. Mary’s Senior High School in Accra. One of such Societies is St. Louis which has St. Louis Senior High School here in Kumasi, Archbishop Porter Senior High School in Takoradi, and the St. Louis College of Education, Kumasi. The St. Louis Sisters were originally only educationists. Since they came to Ghana, they are into health as well and responsible for St. Patrick’s Hospital, Offinso-Maase, Asankrangwa Hospital, and Oku Clinic and others.
The point I want to make, brothers and sisters, is that the Catholic Church has these facilities that Ghana can utilise. Many of these Associations are in Ghana. You may not know but one of the best Basic School in Ghana now is run by the Marist Brothers at Sabin Akrofuom, near Trede. Martyrs of Uganda Preparatory School is manned by Immaculate Heart Sisters. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny are responsible for the Good Shepherd School.
God through the Church has made available to us the long standing expertise of these selfless men and women, missionaries, who come here not for purposes of trading but solely to help improve the quality of life of our people.
For decades we have been talking about partnership between the Church and the State. When we do that, we are not talking only about ownership and management of schools. What we are saying is that we have people with wonderful intellectual and human resources which Ghanaians can tap for nothing.
The interesting thing is that these Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters are not the bulk of the teachers in our schools. In fact, in a situation where there may be 40 teachers, only one or two Brothers may be on the staff. In most cases, like Opoku Ware, St. Louis School, St. Augustine’s College, the heads are Ghanaian laymen and women. The expatriate Brothers and Sisters start the school and leave a legacy of incomparable educational excellence to be enjoyed by the nation.
About a month ago, when I was speaking at an identical occasion at Opoku Ware Senior High School as the Guest Speaker, I made a point that Professors J.S. Djangmah and Ivan Addae-Mensah, in 2010, in a report, singled out St. Francis Xavier Seminary, Wa and St. James Seminary-Senior High School in Sunyani for mention as two schools whose performance called for a study by the Ministry of Education and the GES as lessons for adoption nationwide.
What better partnership can there be than this? The learned men were saying that the schools must have a certain secret which underlies their success.
My point is that the government of Ghana, the GES or the Ministry should realise that Catholic schools are doing well (and who in Ghana does not know this?). If in one year, at the SSSCE, eight Catholic schools can be among the first ten best schools in the country, what prevents the Ministry from approaching or inviting the Church and asking the Church to help in establishing and implementing educational policies in the country? Why can’t the government encourage the Catholic missionaries to look after schools in the rural areas where some of their best schools are; St. Peter’s in Akwatia, St. Martins in Adoagyiri, OLA in Kenyase, St. Roses in Akwatia, etc.
Since people like Catholic education, why can’t the government work with the Church so that the Church would help in producing the type of education that these societies are so famous for, Societies that have produced Bishop Herman, Ho, O.L.A., Ho, O.L.A., Kenyasi, Holy Child, Cape Coast and so on?
At the pre-secondary School level, we have the Jubilee school, Cape Coast, Christ the King, Accra, St. Theresa’s Accra, Bishop Bowers, Accra, Martyrs of Uganda, Kumasi, Good Shepherd, Kumasi, Champagnat, Buokrom and the rest. The advice of the great educationists who want us to study the secret of the success of the two schools should be extended to the secrets of the success of Catholic schools in general? Why don’t we follow them, instead of thwarting the attempts of these well-meaning people? What is the point in always placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of the Church in using its members for the good of Ghana? What is the point in opposing the Church just for opposing it? Listen to any speech by a Ministry man or women in a Catholic school and the first thing he or she says is that the Catholic Church is well-known for its schools, hospitals, relief services, why can’t Ghana translate this appreciation of the Church’s immense contribution to the progress of our nation into action by making it easy for the church to continue to help us.
My appeal to Ghana is that, at least in the areas of health and education the Government should enter into a loving marriage between the Church and itself. I have mentioned a few schools bequeathed to the country which can be the pride of the educational system of Ghana. These schools were all started by missionaries and handed over to Ghanaians.
In the area of health these specialized Societies in the Catholic Church command at least 35% of the health provisions of the country. Medical Mission Sisters have, for a long time been the pin-point of medical attention in the Brong Ahafo (B/A). St. Louis Sisters have given us St. Patrick Hospital and Asankrangwa Hospital. St. John of God Brothers has given us one of the best Orthopaedic Centres in Ghana, at Koforidua. The Dominican Sisters have given us Akwatia hospital, The Holy Family hospital, Nkawkaw and Battor hospital easily the best gynaecological health institute in the country.
When we turn our attention to social welfare we can mention that in Ashanti alone we have the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity who are looking after orphans, abandoned children, helpless dying adults and other physically needy Ghanaians. Their aim is to look after people who have no means whatsoever of rewarding them or sometimes even of noticing or acknowledging their help.
Of late, I have got the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul to come into the country to involve themselves in street children, AIDS patients, prostitutes and so on.
If you go to Nsawam, you will find there children who need orthopaedic attention badly, cripples and other children who are being looked after by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) practically without reward. Recently the St. Louis Sisters have opened a school at Offinso Namong, the main aim of which is to cater for physically challenged babies and infants.
Thank God we have people who have specialised in these areas. They are not going to replace the government in authority. Why can’t we acknowledge, enlist and recruit, their expertise to help in producing the desired Ghanaian, knowing very well that they will not try to use their positions to proselytise.
We thank the Lord that under the headships of Sr. Mary Johannes, from 1952 to 1966, Sr. Mary Aideen, from 1966 to 1971, Sr. Marie Du Rosaire, from 1971 to 1981, Miss Lydia Osei, from 1981 to 1995, Miss Johanna C. Johnson, from 1995 to 2008 and Mrs. Theresa Addae Commeh, from 2008 to date, He has endowed Ghana with a Senior Girls’ High School that the nation can be proud of, an educational institution that for the past 60 years has sought to establish the much needed gender balance between boys and the girls in the matter of education.
Yes, St. Louis Senior High School is an institution which relying on the will, has done its best to make the dream of the Catholic Church with regard to Girl Child Education.
Long live St. Louis Senior High.
Long live St. Louis congregation.
Long live Ghana.
Long live the Catholic Church.