Remembering St Paul’s R/C Middle (1)

Author: Razak El-Alawa
 The writer (middle) with the current head teacher and staff of St Paul’s JHS
The writer (middle) with the current head teacher and staff of St Paul’s JHS

One of the pertinent features of the education system, probably as far as the Ashanti Region was concerned in the last years of colonial rule, was for pupils in the primary schools to move to middle schools elsewhere after six years of primary education.

Most primary schools did not have middle schools. There were also middle schools without primary departments, which explains why there was always a movement of pupils from one school to the other after six years, especially in Kumasi.

I started my primary education at the Salvation Army Primary School in Ash Town in 1952 and completed in December 1957, the year Ghana attained independence.

It was the practice, when we were at Salvation Army Primary School, for those who would complete primary school to continue at State Boys Middle School, which was also called Division School, located near the Suame Round-about, not far from our primary school.

However, when we completed primary school, some of us, unfortunately, could not gain admission to State Boys Middle School when the academic year began in January 1958. Up to today, I don’t know the criterion used for the selection of those who made it to Division School. They described those who did not get admission as “Pass No Way.”

That was how my good and life-long friend, Johnson Addae, the school prefect, an Allah Bar boy like me, and I could not enter Division School. If the selection was based on merit, we were among the brilliant boys in our class. If they selected top athletes,  Johnson and Kwadwo Baah were our best sprinters and were among the best in Kumasi.

Yet Kwadwo Baah made it to the State Boys even though academically he was nowhere near the top in our class.

Our head teacher, Mr J. K. Boadi, did not know what was happening. He could do anything about the situation. He only told our parents to look for schools for us elsewhere. 

I don’t remember how long I stayed at home before entering Middle School. When I discussed the issue with Johnson Addae, as I was about to write this piece, he told me he stayed at home for a whole term before he got admission to Asokwa Amakom L. A. Middle.

Well, Akwasi (ie Johnson) and I have remained close friends since our primary school days and we are probably the only two of our mates around. We are always in touch with each other, both of us having relocated to Accra.

Changing school

Coming back to how I got a school, I must say it was through my father’s effort. I don’t know the stress he went through to get me a school. However, one evening he came back home in the rain to hand me a letter. I was asked to go to St Paul’s Middle, a Catholic School at Amakom. 

My excitement knew no bounds. Salvation Army Primary was in the northern part of Kumasi, an area I was used to. Now I would be attending St Paul’s, another mission school, in the southern part of Kumasi, an area I hardly visited. 

St Paul’s was the last school I thought I would get. It was one of the popular schools in the Ashanti Regional capital and was a sister school to St Joseph’s, very close to Salvation Army Primary in Ash Town and St Peter’s on Roman Hill.

If I am writing about St Paul’s today, it is because of the nostalgic memories I have always had for the school, long after I left the place. 

Ghana had just gained her independence when our batch entered St Paul’s in January, 1958. I still don’t remember at what point I joined my colleagues but it must probably be two or three weeks later, probably early February.

But I remember I was one of the selected pupils from St Paul’s who were taken to the Residency, the old colonial residence of the British Commissioner, after independence day parade to be hosted by the new occupant, the Ashanti Regional Commissioner, Mr De Graft Dickson, on March 6, 1958.    

It was a dream come true for me since primary school pupils were not part of the parade of March 6, 1957. I was present at the Prince of Wales Park at Kejetia as a spectator to watch the march past of middle school pupils on that first independence day, with De Graft Dickson taking the salute.

Here was I, a year later, only 13 years old, with my bottle of coke and biscuits and shaking hands with the representative of the Prime Minister, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, in Ashanti Region. It more than made up for the disappointment of 1957 and I really relished the occasion. 

Period of significant political activities

So many things happened when I was in St Paul’s between January 1958 and August 1960. It was a period of great political activities. Kwame Nkrumah had just led Ghana into independence in 1957 and the man was all over the place fighting for the total emancipation of Africa from colonial rule. We saw it. We felt it. We lived it. 

I still remember when sometime in 1958 the French wanted to test their atomic bomb in the Sahara. Kwame Nkrumah was everywhere, taking the matter to the United Nations and fighting to stop the French.

Most of the time we were discussing Nkrumah at Civic classes and our teachers made us know that the Prime Minister was fighting for the rest of the continent.

We felt proud when Nkrumah organised the first All-Africa People’s Conference and the First Conference of the Heads of Government in Africa in 1958 and 1959, when we were at St Paul’s.

It was a momentous period in our lives, young as we were.

Death of Pope Pius XII

Outside politics I also remember the time Pope Pius XII died on October 9, 1958. Being a Catholic School, the school was closed down and we were all asked to go home.

I also remember that the Daily Graphic came out twice that day, and in Kumasi there was darkness everywhere as the clouds gathered.   

Then I also remember that it was while we were at St Paul’s that the construction of the Kumasi Sports Stadium started. It was not far from our school and after closing we would go and watch how work was going on. We were still at St Paul’s when the first ever match was played around July 1959 between Ashanti and Southern Ghana, with some of us in attendance. 

I also remember that when we were in Form Two in 1959, we sat for the Common Entrance to go to secondary school. None of us passed because we failed to shade our answers as required. That year I chose three government-assisted schools  from Cape Coast, Adisadel, Mfantsipim and St Augustine’s.

By the time we got to Form Three my interests had changed. I wanted to attend secondary school in the capital, Accra. I chose West Africa Secondary School (WASS) because at that time pupils who got to Form Three were required to choose “encouraged schools.”

When I was asked to come to Accra for an interview I did not believe my father would allow me to travel on my own, being only 15 at the time. I was, therefore, surprised when two days to the interview my father asked me to get ready for the trip to Accra when I returned from school. 

He only took me to the Accra station at Aboabo Station and handed me over to a driver to take care of me. I can say that I went, I saw,  I conquered. I came back safely. On September 14, 1960, when the academic year was changed, I reported at WASS to start my journey into the unknown. 

It is because of all these landmark events that St Paul’s has remained so dear to me. Two years ago, during one of my trips to Kumasi, I tried to find my way to the school. This time there was a street from the stadium straight to the school.

It was a Saturday. I saw good old St Paul’s for the first time in decades but nobody was around. 

Early last month when I went to Kumasi, I asked my brother who came to pick me from Labour Station to drive me to St Paul’s. It was a Thursday and I met the headmaster and staff. A lot had changed. There has been serious encroachment by developers.