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Fond memories of Presec, Legon (2)

BY: Razak El-Alawa
Presec, Legon
Presec, Legon

As I mentioned last week, only a few teachers were accommodated on campus at Presec. They included the headmaster, the assistant, some heads of department, the chaplain and the sports master.

The rest of us were housed in private buildings at Peace Villas, some two kilometres from the school, off the main Legon – Aburi Highway. It was a walking distance from the road.

Peace Villas was indeed a haven of peace with its serene environment. There were many mango trees which offered some shade. There was enough space between the buildings. I used to wonder whether the buildings belonged to one person. But it was not so, only they were so close together.

Those of us at Peace Villas were like a family. We used to do things in common and anybody going to town would inform the rest. Only Mr Kofi Tetteh was married but the wife was not permanent at Peace Villas as she used to shuttle between their hometown, Nkonya in the Volta Region, and the school.

The rest of us were bachelors. We used to get food from the school three times a day which we paid for, including weekends. I never liked the idea of eating from the school during weekends.I preferred going to town to eat outside or spend the weekend in town with my brother at Ridge.

The meal of fufu and light soup

One Saturday morning when I did not feel like going to town, I called my other colleagues and told them to ‘’make contributions’’ so that we would prepare fufu with  light soup to go with.

I think I almost caused a stir as my fellow teachers bombarded me with questions as to who would go and buy the ingredients and who would prepare the soup and pound the fufu.

I told them to take it easy and that once the money was ready, I would go with one or two of them to the Madina Market and buy all the ingredients.

They all looked at me with surprise and wondered whether it was a Muslim boy from Zongo who was going to prepare fufu for them. I convinced them to part with some cedis and told them they would not regret it. They did so unwillingly.

The following Saturday, I went with two of my colleagues to the Madina market. We did not use the main road but rather went on foot in between buildings till we got to the market. It was not all that far away.

We bought cassava and plantain, some dry fish and smoked fish. I also got some crab and dry sails in addition to other ingredients.

My colleagues watched me as I prepared the cassava and plantain for fire. I also took my time to prepare a very delicious light soup. What my friends didn’t know was that I had learnt the art of cookery at KOSS from a day student who was living with me. It was through Adu Boahen that I got to know how to cook as I used to watch him. So when food was ready that Saturday at Peace Villas, my colleagues could not believe it. We left some of the soup for the following day and repeated the dose.

After passing the test, my friends heaped a lot of praise on me. Every Saturday they would collet contributions from one another and come and meet me in my bungalow for us to go to the market. It was such a wonderful time for us at Peace Villas.

The episode

At this juncture, I would like to make a confession. There was an interesting episode during my first year at Presec which I would like to share with my readers. My mother came to visit me in Accra but stayed at Adabraka. She came to Peace Villas once but I used to go and meet her in town.

On the day she was returning to Kumasi, I went to pick her from Adabraka. We went to the railway terminal in Accra since she wanted to travel by train. After buying a ticket for her, we boarded the train together. I sat beside her as the train moved out of the terminal. The first stop was at the Circle station. When the bell rang for the train to continue its journey, I bade farewell to my mother and got down to go and join ‘trotro’ back to Madina.

As I stepped on the platform at the Circle station, I realised there was nobody around. I looked behind me and I saw a beautiful lady following from a distance. We were the only two on the platform. She was a real black beauty.

She walked briskly past me. As she moved away, I held her and asked why she was so much in a hurry and if anybody was chasing her. She stopped, looked at me and slowed down. I tried to find out what she was doing at the station that morning. It was then she told me she also came to see her mother off.   

I engaged her in a conversation as we approached the busy Circle main road. I told her how beautiful she was and how I would like to have her as my partner. I thought she was carried away by my raps. I was then a youngman of only 27, full of youthful exuberance and an eligible bachelor. Before one could say “jack”, she had landed with me at Peace Villas.

After two days, I wanted her to go and change her dress and bring additional ones. She refused to go. It was then she told me her parents wanted her to marry somebody she did not love and her mother came to Accra because of that.

I realised she felt comfortable at Peace Villas since it was such a good hideout. Meanwhile, all my colleagues liked her and were very friendly to her. The Saturday that followed, she was the one who prepared the fufu for all of us. It was different from what I used to prepare, since it had some feminine touch.

Then came Sunday evening. I was listening to the six o’clock news when after the main bulletin there was a special announcement. The lady I was “camping” had been declared missing. I called her to come and listen. But Akos, as I used to call her, would not budge.

I went round to tell my colleagues about the development. We all appealed to her to go home. It was not until the following evening that she agreed to leave. However, that was the last time I saw Akos. Whether she went home or not I couldn’t tell. May be if we had handsets in those days, we could have established some link. As it turned out, it was only a flash in a pan.

The other interesting episode during my first year at Presec happened during the Ramadan. One evening I felt like taking some Hausa porridge (kooko), I was told there was a Zongo Community across the main road. I had to pass through some bush, mainly grassland.

As I left Peace Villas, I took my torch light with me. I crossed the Legon – Aburi road and tried to go through the bush. Madina Zongo was some distance away. I had hardly gone a hundred metres when I flashed my torch light and before me was a python. I plucked courage and quickly turned back and ran away. I did not need the kooko again.

Today that bush has disappeared with buildings all over the place.

Very soon, the academic year had ended.Before then, I had received my letter of admission for the post-graduate diploma programme in Communications and Journalism.

In October 1973, the School of Communications opened its doors to the first batch of students. I was one of 12 students admitted for the course. 

It was a dream come true for me to have that wonderful opportunity to study journalism at the highest level. Now that I was back at Legon, what happens to my teaching job at Presec? My initial reaction was to stop the teaching and concentrate on my studies. Moreover, I had been given a post-graduate accommodation in Commonwealth Hall, all for free in those days.

Once again my friend Abu Abarry, who was about to leave for the United States, encouraged me to combine the teaching with my studies. After all Legon was not far away from Presec and there was trotro always available. Moreover, I thought it would not be proper to leave the Sixth Formers midstream.

So when the academic year 1973/74 began, I found myself teaching for the fourth year running, while pursuing my studies. There was very little incident as I stayed mainly on campus, making sure I did not disappoint my students.

Nothing dramatic happened during the year. I was able to successfully complete my programme at Legon while I saw the first batch of sixth formers produced by Presec go through their course.

Starting as a journalist

National Service was introduced in September 1974. I wanted to go to Ghana News Agency but I was posted to Graphic to start life as a journalist. Since it was national service, I decided to teach for the last time. It was not easy for me as I had to shuttle between Presec and Graphic.

I had to arrange to have my periods either the first four in the morning or the last four in the afternoon. It was a trying moment for me, especially as my services were usually needed when I was not around at Graphic. To atone for some of the classes I missed with the  sixth formers, I arranged to go and teach them on Saturdays and even Sundays.

The Headmaster, Rev. Mate Kodjo, always saw me on weekends teaching. He did not ask questions and I did not say anything. I was only there to help my students. The first and the second batch of students did very well and I am proud to have been part of their success story.

It is not easy to remember all the students who passed through my hands at Presec. However, anytime somebody called me without adding “Mr”, I knew he was my student at Presec.

I am proud to have had Ernest Aryeetey as one of my students. It was not until he became V.C. at Legon that i realised he was among the pioneer sixth formers from Presec. Later, we got closer and he became a good friend of mine.

 

I am also proud of Bright Blewu and Samuel Kissiedu who also became journalists. I dedicate this piece to all my former students at Presec. It was really an honour to have taught at Presec for three memorable years.