Broken mould walls and old blackened asbestos roofing sheets tell stories held over two-and-a-half centuries.
Nearly 10 generations of Ghanaians and counting have been taught within the walls of this school . Its strength lies in its age. It has been there for 250 years and now its pillars seem to be losing the fight against the sea breeze and time.
The Philip Quaque Boys School in Cape Coast carries the history of the nation’s education on its deteriorating pillars.
Being the first in everything comes with some form of esteem. For instance, Mfantsipim School prides itself on the fact that it is the first secondary school to be established in the country. All first schools are known and acknowledged as such by all due to their history.
The Philip Quaque Boys School in Cape Coast beats them all in age. It is the first formal school in Ghana.
Cape Coast holds the monuments of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade and the Cape Coast castle, where European merchants pitched camp. From the many curses of the trade came the blessing of education and the oldest basic school in Ghana established in Cape Coast.
It is not surprising that Cape Coast is popularly called the educational capital of Ghana.
Though the history behind the establishment of the facility cannot be erased from the country’s educational archives, little is known about this historic school.
The school has produced renowned men, including the former Speaker of Parliament, Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes, former Chief of Staff under ex-President Jerry John Rawlings’ administration, Nana Ato Dadzie, and Oguaa Omanhen, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II. They all had their basic school education in this historic edifice.
People who have passed through the annals of the school cannot be counted. The school has its motto in Fanti, “Nyansa ahyese nye nyamesuro,” meaning the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Some few metres away from the Cape Coast Castle stands the ancient educational facility. The Philip Quaque Boys School has a student population of 450 and a teaching staff of 25.
Philip Quaque, the first black Anglican priest, started the school at the Cape Coast Castle in the Central Region to inculcate in chidren Christian doctrines he had received after he returned from overseas.
The Government Boys’ School
At its embryonic stage, it was known as the Government Boys’ School until it was relocated to its present site and named after the founder in recognition of his work. It has been 250 years since it was renamed in 1765.
According to school authorities, the present school campus was initially used as a military barracks by the British soldiers (West African Frontier) after World War II.
Due to the purpose for its construction, its architectural design was not meant for schooling. Had it not been for the closure of some of its doors, one could see the end of the building from one end through the corridor.
The building is situated just a stone’s throw away from the Gulf of Guinea but the voice of the sea is hushed by the school’s ancient fence wall. The atmosphere was conducive for learning.
After introducing myself, the man laughed his heart out because of a question I posed; “I hear you have some challenges here?” “Not just some challenges. We have problems,” he answered.
He first led me to a sewage reservoir. It had been divided into three chambers and only one was covered, with the remaining two containing waste materials.
On the right of the sewage reservoir stood a cubical building.
According to the Assistant Head Teacher, Mr Emmanuel Narh Huago, who conducted us round the school, residents around the school have converted the sewage reservoir into a refuse pit. He added that the school’s authority had done their best to restrict the town’s folk from using the reservoir as a refuse dump but their efforts had yielded no positive results.
He revealed that the school’s kitchen used to be a Science laboratory until the introduction of the School Feeding Programme. He said when the school benefited from the government’s feeding initiative, there was no place to be used as a kitchen and, thus, the few science apparatus in the room were removed to make way for the kitchen.
Right behind the kitchen, amazingly, was a heap of rubbish with human excreta and all kinds of scavengers. It explained the offensive odour on that part of the campus.
“The place used to be a security post until it got damaged during a downpour. The neighbours took advantage of the damaged building and converted it into a place of convenience and also a dumping site,” Mr Huago explained. He said they hired a mason to block the place with some blocks but the people pulled it down in order to gain access to the place.
We continued the tour to the school’s toilet. Half of its roof had been ripped off. It happened last year, I learnt.
Fortunately, enough for the Philip Quaque Boys School, there was a six-seater water closet toilet facility but it was an eyesore. There was a broom and a small barrel containing water in the toilet which, I was later told by the School Prefect, George Sagoe-Brown, served as the drinking water for the students.
The toilet seats were messy. “Some of the students do not like the water closet and instead of sitting on it, they squat on it,” he said. He said water supply to the place was another challenge. He indicated that sometimes the students fetched water from the sea to flush after using the facility.
He disclosed that although the school had a tap, because of the pressure on it from the residents, the bills always went up and it had no other option than to lock it up.
Having toured the junior high school section, we decided to visit the crèche and the primary schools. Few metres to the crèche building, I was hit by an unfriendly odour. I stood there for some time. There was a question on my mind but I kept it to myself.
The crèche has an ancient stony fence wall. The pupils could even climb over the wall. At the back were faeces and rubbish. The stench at the place was more hostile. Both the KG one and two rooms were empty. I later saw them on their veranda learning. The windows were also damaged.
The sea too is closer to the crèche building than to all the places we visited. When I looked at the beach, I saw a group of aged and young men climbing up and down the coastal reef. According to Mr Huago, those who were descending were going to defecate, while those climbing up had already finished.
It was a sad spectacle. We also toured classes one, two, three, four, five and six. They all had different stories to tell.
Mr Huago led me into the school’s computer laboratory. One side of the room of the computer lab has been turned into a library. The library has few benches. There were books there and most of them, according to Mr Huago, had been donated by philanthropists. He added that the chairs and tables had also been donated by some benevolent individuals, most of whom were foreigners.
The school has four government-donated laptops and one Dell laptop donated by a German visitor. At the time of the visit, a computer lesson was ongoing and there were five pupils to a laptop. According to the ICT teacher, Mr Manfred Poku-Kusi, the situation was making the teaching and learning of ICT in school cumbersome. He noted that due to the fact that the computers were inadequate, they could not utilise their ICT periods well. The school does not have science, technical and vocational laboratories.
The doors and cupboards in the class one and three classrooms had been broken into on several occasions. Apart from the insecurity of the books of the pupils, the classrooms were also used as “hotels” and place of convenience by some unscrupulous people.
Madam Nana Adwoa Walker, a teacher at the school, said every morning, they always saw excrement in plastic bags in their classrooms. According to Madam Walker, they scrubbed the place with the help of the students when that happened, adding that “sometimes students hang around for the place to dry before we come in.”
She noted that the situation often got worse when the school broke at weekends. She said her classroom also leaked profusely when it rained. Madam Charlotte Eva Amos said she had been using her own money to buy books for the pupil when their books were stolen. She said the parents suffered to get them the books and was, thus, afraid to tell the parents about the theft.
According to Madam Deborah Sam and Madam Ernestina Assan, both kindergarten teachers at the school, they always see used condoms in the classrooms. Touching on the stench, they said they could not stay in the classrooms from 9 a.m. and had to move out to occupy the veranda.
Madam Sam added that their situation often compounded when it rained. The crèche and primary did not have urinal and toilet facilities and so most of the pupils defecated on the shores, thus increasing the stench.
But the scary thing is what if the crèche pupils who go to the
sea side to defecate attempt to swim.
Parts of the school was painted recently by the Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly, which is quite commendable.
But that is too little for a school that holds the educational history of this nation.