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SWESCO, Ghana’s first GET school is 60 years

BY: Gilbert Mawuli Agbey & Bernard Joe Appeah
 An aerial view of SWESCO's entrance
An aerial view of SWESCO's entrance

The Swedru Senior High School, popularly called SWESCO, is a co-educational boarding second cycle institution in Agona-Asafo near Agona-Swedru in the Agona- East District in the Central Region. The school is 60 years old.

SWESCO is the first Ghana Education Trust (GET) Secondary School to be established by the first President of the Republic of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah in 1958. As part of national policy to provide more second cycle institutions to absorb the large numbers of school pupils who have benefited from Nkrumah’s free Universal Primary Education programme launched in 1951, the Nkrumah administration set up the GET secondary schools with the same architectural designs across the country.

Nana Ayirebi Acquah, the then Chief of Winneba and the Effutu Traditional Area was the first Chairman of the trust.

Most of the beneficiaries of the free Universal Primary Education launched by the Nkrumah government were unable to secure admission into the existing 38 government-assisted secondary schools in the country, most of which were missionary schools.

The GET programme was, thus part of an Accelerated Development Plan to empower the young generation through the provision of good and quality education. The GET scheme was also meant to encourage the youth from the rural districts and children of cocoa farmers to enjoy secondary education within their own localities.

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The foundation stone for SWESCO was laid on June 28, 1958 by Mr Kojo Botsio of blessed memory, then the Trade and Industry Minister.

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 Mr Frank Danso Denkyi, President of the Old Students Association 

Land release

A total of 124 acres of land was released by Nana Yamfo Asuako VII, the Chief of Agona- Asafo through Opanyin Kweku Antwi and Mr D N Dorherty, a successful Sierra Leonean businessman, then living at Agona Kwansakrom, which paved the way for the construction of the school.

The school was constructed under the government’s intensive and vigorous programme and the whole edifice was completed in 1958. The 187 pioneer students made up of 118 Form One students and 69 students picked from other schools to start Form Two were comfortably accommodated.

Official opening

SWESCO was officially opened on January 30, 1959 by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah himself and at an impressive inaugural ceremony which was also held on August 15, 1959, Dr Nkrumah handed over the school to the chiefs and people within the two traditional areas; the Agona-Nyakrom and Agona-Nsaba traditional areas.

Past heads of school

During the past six decades, the following have served as heads of the school; Rev J.W. De-Graft Johnson, first headmaster (1959-60); Rev Dr A W E Appiah (1960-65), Mr A D Addo Yobo (1965-74), Rev S A Ofosuhene ( 1974-1979), Mr P V Akoto (1979), Mr E Ansah- Otu (1979-1986), Mr W E Otchere an old boy (1986-87), Mr Tim Ben Gaisie (1987-1997), Mr F G Amissah ( 1997-2002), Mr E K T Osam ( 2002-2011), Mrs Agnes Letitia Hawkson, first woman Headmistress (2011-2015 ) and currently Mrs Alberta Obiriwa Rigg-Stewart ( 2015- to the present).

Mr Bernard Joe Appeah, the Board Chairman of SWESCO 

Past students

Known as PIESIES, SWESCO has produced old students who have distinguished themselves in their respective professional areas within and outside Ghana in diverse fields. To mention but a few.

In the area of education there are past ‘Swesconians’ such as Rev Prof. Emmanuel Adow Obeng, the former Vice Chancellor of UCC and now President of the Presbyterian University College and Chairman of the Board of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation; Prof. Kwasi Obiri Danso, Vice Chancellor, KNUST; Prof. F K E Nunoo and Dr Evans Aggrey Darko, both senior lecturers at Legon and Acting Chief Director and Chief Director respectively of the Ministries of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and Parliamentary Affairs; Prof. Ato Bart-Plange and Dr Kweku Bedu- Addo ( KNUST) and Prof. Tano- Debrah (University of Ghana).

Distinguished ‘Swesconians’ who have worked in the public service include Dr Alex Glover Quartey, former Head of Civil Service of Ghana; Mr K. Ofosu Adarkwa, a former Chief Director, Ministry of Communications; Mr George Scott, former Chief Director, Ministry of Science and Environment and currently, the Secretary-General of the African Association of Public Administration and Management (AAPAM), Nairobi, Kenya; Mr S P Kyei, a retired Director of the Bank of Ghana (BOG) and former Director of Budget, Ministry of Finance, among others.
Additionally, the school has produced individuals in the security services in the persons of Messrs John Kudalor the immediate past IGP, Ghana Police Service, Major General (Rtd) Mankatta, Colonel Ewudzie, Major General (Rtd) Amamoo, Major General (Rtd) Mahama Yahaya and Commodore Addison.

Also, in the medicine and pharmaceutical sector, there are individuals such as Prof. Augustus Kweku Eduafo (USA), Dr Kojo Gyarteng (USA), Dr Anang-Essuman, Dr Debrah and Dr Obed –Bekoe (UK), Dr Ekow Kaitoo, the owner of Good Shepherd Hospital, Weija Accra; Dr William Ankobea, Dr Kenneth Baidoo, Head of Ear and Throat Centre, Korle-Bu; Prof. Joseph Rochester Ofosu, Pharmacist (USA), Dr Elijah Painstil (USA) and Dr Gabriel Kwofie (Ejisu).

In banking and finance, mention can be made of Mr Charles Amoah, the General Manager, CAL Bank; Mr Owusu-Tweneboah, former Deputy Managing Director, NIB; Mr Thomas Thompson Essel, BOG and Mr Asare Akuffo, immediate past CEO of HFC Bank, now Republic Bank.

Furthermore, other renowned past students are doing so well in the private sector in the persons of Mr Tony Oteng Gyasi, Chairman and Managing Director of Tropical Cables and Conductor Limited; Mr George Owusu, past Chief Executive of Kosmos Energy, Ghana; Mr Bernard Joe Appeah, current Board Chairman and Chief Executive, PENTAX Management Consultancy Services Ltd; Madam Esther Hanson, Businesswoman; Mr Peter Gyarteng, Managing Director, Kingdom Books and Stationery Ltd; Mr Emmanuel Yeboah, former owner of KADE Hotspurs and PAM Pharmaceuticals; Mr Danso Dankyi, President, SWESCO Old Students Association and Businessman, Mr Kweku Addo, Fanteakwa Enterprise; Mr Samuel Attah Mensah, Managing Director, Citi Fm; Mr Ebo Sey, Financial Consultant and Mr Kofi Selby, Marketing Consultant.

The current Board of Governors with Mr Bernard Joe Appeah as the Chairman and the management of the school with Mrs Alberta Obiriwa Rigg-Stewart as the headmistress have undertaken very significant tasks and laid a solid foundation to enable the school to attain a Grade A status in GES’ classification.

These include the legal registration of 80 acres of the original 124 acres currently not encroached, the development of a land use plan to guide the balanced development of infrastructure in the school and the development and distribution to key stakeholders, a five-year development plan (2017-2021).

They have also walled nearly 80 per cent of the 80-acre boundary through internally generated funds and support from philanthropists; improved sanitation and discipline, academic performance and also improved corporate governance of the school working as a team.

The vision of the school is “to be a Senior High School of Excellence in the provision and promotion of quality education” and the mission is “to provide quality education through learning in a conducive social and physical environment and inculcate in the students, values that engender good moral character, integrity and empowers them to be responsible citizens after school working in partnership with all stakeholders”.
Semper cum optimis, a Latin phrase translated “Always with the Best” has been and is the motto of the school.

Commendation

In an interview, Mr Appeah commended Mr Dankyi, president of the old students association and the entire ‘Swesconians’ both home and abroad for their financial contributions towards the 60th anniversary celebrations and also instituting the founder’s day celebration every September 21 that would enable the old students to visit the school to take collective and bold steps to tackle some of its challenges.

He indicated that the government alone could not shoulder the challenges facing the school and called on all stakeholders, including the Parent- Teacher Association (PTA) to continue helping the school.

He added that most of the members of the current board would have served their two year term come June 2019 and would subsequently retire and therefore reminded the various institutions to nominate committed, competent and hardworking people to the board to continue with the good work.

For her part, Mrs Rigg-Stewart stated that the 60th anniversary was worth celebrating to showcase the school, particularly when most of the past students had played and continue to play critical roles towards the socio-economic development of the country.

The theme for the 60th anniversary is “Ensuring Quality Secondary Education through Free SHS; Our Collective Responsibility” and will be climaxed on Saturday, February 16, 2019 at the school’s park.