Accra High School: 90 Years and still going

BY: Arku Jasmine

The rallying call says “Accra High School (Great Ahisco) is forever going on” and the response is that “it is already gone! What could be more positive than this? What more inspiring! What faith! What drive!”
The spirit in which Great Ahisco was formed by the single-purpose determination of a Sierra Leonean still provides the springs of nourishment impelling the school to continuous success, and accomplishments achieved through its products.

The school began like a miraclous birth. The founder, Rev. James Thomas Roberts, having arrived from Sierra Leone on the vessel, Wahehe, missed the surf boat as he was lowered into it. He actually dropped into the sea. Providence saved him because he was a man of destiny. He arrived from Freetown on August 2, 1923, and within two weeks, he had founded Accra High School, precisely on Saturday, August 17, 1923! Could anyone tell me of any other Ghanaian school that has experienced such miraculous birth?

Rev. Roberts was a complete stranger in Ghana, yet his purpose was already defined and, again providence came to his aid, and the school found a home. D.S Quarcoopome gave him the use of his residence at Beach Road, Accra, and eight students enrolled. Today, Accra High School has over 1500 students!

With increase in intakes, the school moved from Beach Road to what we call the old site, at Aayalolo in Accra Central, in a building designed by John Buckman. In 1952, it became a public secondary school.

From its genesis, Accra High School has stood tall and prominent as a leader and trailblazer. It was the first secondary school in the then Eastern Province of the Gold Coast. It was the first to have a school magazine; it was the first to have a school motto, “Redimentes Opportunitatem (Make hay while the sun shines, or Strike while the iron is hot)”.

He also designed the school crest and chose the school colours, black and white. The school was co-educational, thus heightening the status of Rev. Roberts as an enlightened educationist.

Accra High School brought into vogue the sitting of the Cambridge Examinations in the Eastern Province. In 1924 the school entered its first candidates for the College of Preceptors and Cambridge University examinations, the Royal Society of Arts and the Pitman’s Shorthand Examinations.

Its candidates excelled. The school’s liberal education comprised the classics, music, drama, vernacular, mathematics, art, and literature. Today, Accra High School has technical, vocational, business and science departments. Rev. Roberts’ Christian training and vocation imbued the school with the virtues of hard work, humility and discipline, and this shows in its products.

One of the impressive sights at the independence parades is that of seeing students of Great Ahisco marching. The black and white combination makes them so sharp and cute. They won the first position at the 45th and 49th Independence Day march past competitions.

Beyond that, the school has excelled in other areas too. They were adjudged the best debating team in the Amnesty International Debating competition; Project Citizen World: best school; National Drama Competition, 1st position; Students Entertainment Award: Hiplife Artist of the Year.

On account of the school’s pedigree and excellence, it caught the attention and won the admiration of Kwame Nkrumah when they sang with such virtuosity at a state function that he rewarded the school by giving them a land at Ridge, the present location of the school!

Among the stalwarts whose genius and hard work produced some of the early scholars and public servants in the Gold Coast and, later, Ghana, were

L. R. Roberts, R. H. Roberts, Elsie Roberts (children of Rev. Roberts), R. A. Akrong, W. T. Attram,  M. A. Ribeiro,

Dr Amegatcher, Mrs Edna Macfey and

F. W. Ocansey (Ooo Cee).

By way of perpetuating the memory of the Accra nationalists who stood firmly behind the school, the students were divided among four houses: Glover-Addo, Buckman, Nanka-Bruce and Roberts.

At the ripe age of 81, Rev. Roberts retired as Principal of the school. W F Conton, another Sierra Leonean, took over from 1952 to 1956; P. O. Sanful Snr 1956 to 1966; and A. N. B. Andrews 1966 to 1976. Accra High School moved to Ridge under Andrews. Mr Essah acted as head from 1976-77, then P. O. Sanful Jnr from 1977 to 1978; E. B. Dogbe 1987 to 1996; Ben Kotey 1996 to 1999; Mrs Sylvia Asempa 1999 to 2001; E Kissiedu 2001 to 2006; Isaac Ohimeng Gyebi 2006 to 2011 and Mrs Betty Aduhene-Chinbuah from 2011 to date.

By Ahumah Ocansey/Daily Graphic/Ghana