Awudome Senior High School
Awudome Senior High School

A first-class head makes a first-class school

I confess that I am partial to headmasters and headmistresses.


My father, after all, was a headmaster. The subject of heads of secondary schools has been very much on my mind recently as I attended the funeral of a once famous headmistress in Accra and followed it the next day with the 60th-anniversary celebrations of a school in the Volta Region.

The funeral was held at Christ the King church in Accra on Friday, April 26, 2024. Mrs Elizabeth Joyce Sowah, nee Essilfie, known to me and her friends as Ewuradwoa, died on February 20, 2024, a few weeks short of her 80th birthday.

Ewuradwoa herself had gone to Holy Child School, and her mates, HOPSA 62, organised a special mass on March 25, 2024, on what would have been her 80th birthday. But the funeral at Christ the King was totally dominated by the old students, old teachers, year groups and even current students of St Mary’s Senior High School, where Ewuradwoa had been headmistress from 1980 till 2000.    

Today, it would be almost impossible to imagine that anyone would be able to head a school, at any level, for 20 years. Of course, people of my generation would not find anything strange in such a phenomenon, as we grew up with schools being run by and identified with legendary figures for years.

Who had ever asked how long Miss Anderson had been a head at Aburi Girls, or Bartels at Mfantsipim and W.P. Trost and Banini at Mawuli School? But things changed and headmasters did not last for very long at a school.  

But for 20 years, from 1980 to 2000, Mrs Elizabeth Sowah was headmistress of St Mary’s Senior High School and she not only stamped her authority on the school, she transformed what was a small, quiet, under-the-radar school into one of the most sought-after secondary schools in the Accra area.

Up until she became headmistress in 1980, St Mary’s had been run by the expatriate Roman Catholic nuns who established the school and Mrs Sowah was the first Ghanaian headmistress.

The 1980s and 1990s were not particularly easy years in Ghana. The late 1970s and the 1980s were the years of the great exodus of teachers from Ghana and many of the top boarding schools struggled. 

We have the testimony of a generation of St Mary’s old girls and the word of the teachers who taught in St Mary’s that Mrs Sowah managed to make students and teachers alike feel that they all had a stake in the school.

Ewuradwoa and I met and became friends in K Block, Volta Hall when we both entered the University of Ghana in 1964 and pursued courses towards degrees in BA(Hons) English in 1967.

I can testify that she wouldn’t have been tempted to find any “low-hanging fruits” to offer students and teachers to make them happy about their new headmistress when she took over the school in 1980.

Mercifully, she had time to bring her ideas to fruition and win over the most sceptical of her methods.


By the time I reconnected with her when I went to the Ministry of Education in 2003 as a Minister of State, Ewuradwoa had become one of those legendary headmistresses who keeps dinner tables interesting.

St Mary’s had become a much fancied and sought-after school, with a reputation for excellent academic results and turning out “well-behaved young ladies”. I asked her why she had left the school to sit in an office at GES when she was obviously doing such a great job there.

“You never get promoted unless you come to an office job. But more importantly, I have finished with my task and younger people will continue from where I left off” was her answer.

More than 20 years after Ewuradwoa left St Mary’s, her former students and former colleagues who taught with her at the school thronged her funeral to pay homage and honour her memory.

As one of the old girls said to me at the grounds: “There is no one who went to St Mary’s when Mrs Sowah was headmistress who did not have a personal encounter with her. And she made ladies out of all of us”.

I am not contesting that assertion. I just wondered how many positions could be so satisfying.


The day after the funeral, I went off to Awudome Secondary School, AWUSCO, to be part of the school’s 60th-anniversary celebrations. It is not exactly one of the fancy schools in the Volta Region, but the school is in Tsito, the town is in my constituency and has geographical boundaries with Abutia. I had to attend the ceremony.


St Mary’s was still very much on my mind and the exploits of Mrs Sowah in transforming the school. I had to acknowledge that St Mary’s was in Accra and had an army of influential people to put in a word at the appropriate time and place.

I kept wondering what chance a school like AWUSCO had.  A surprise awaited me. AWUSCO has an active network of old students that is very involved in the school. The first sign of the old students showed in the legacy project they had delivered to the school in the form of a full-fledged health centre, big enough to meet the needs of the school and maybe extend to the community if need be.

The Awudome community, and Tsito in particular, were very involved in the school, they had never forgotten this was a school the community had set up to meet the education needs of the people.

The school was doing quite well, thank you, even though they did have a long list of “urgent needs” that was read out by the School Prefect and acknowledged by the Volta Regional Minister, Dr Archibald Letsa, who represented the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, at the ceremony.


The general atmosphere gave an impression of a school that was at peace and happy with itself. Headmaster Meteku has been in charge at the school for the past six years and his sure hands could be felt.

The WASSCE results were improving every year and an impressive number of students had achieved 7As and 6As and were in top universities. The headmaster does not only take a keen interest in the preparation of the students taking exams, he follows up to find out what happens to his students after they have left the school.

He is very much aware that many of his students come from deprived backgrounds and getting 7As and an offer from a top university does not necessarily mean that the student would indeed end up at the KNUST doing Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

So, he would call up and go to find such a student and between him and the leadership of the old students, the child does not fall through the net. AWUSCO might not yet be on the national list of sought-after schools, but something tells me this is only a matter of time.


With a first-class headmaster, you will get a first-class school.     

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