Guiding star for quality education in Ghana • Florence Adjepong of Alpha Beta Education Centre
By any standards, it should never be ignored that it has taken some remarkable women to elevate the quality of early childhood, primary, secondary and international education in Ghana.
On that note, I am eternally grateful to the late Mrs Comfort Engmann – founder of North Ridge Lyceum, Accra – for introducing me to many top-notch women educators.
About 1996/7, Mrs Engmann got me to start a series of Saturday workshops for continuous professional development (CPD) for proprietors of private schools.
Dubbed “Critical Thinking”, the workshop followed the tenets of a course in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programme I had earlier coordinated in a school within the Los Angeles Unified School District, California.
Those weekend courses blessed me with the chance to meet some leading women proprietors, including Mrs Florence Adjepong (Alpha Beta Education Centre); Mrs Florence Laast (St Martin De Porres); Mrs Alberta Quartey (Alsyd Academy); Mrs Agnes Kwakye (Jack and Jill); Mrs Theresa Lomotey (Rect Academy); Mrs Abena Kwakyi (Morning Star); Mrs Emma Amoo-Gottfried (Faith Montessori), and others.
The lingering central question has never been why women tend to be at the forefront of raising children into responsible adulthood.
The key question is: “Who else could have better carried out that sacred responsibility?!”
The pond from which such gritty caring women emerge is a sacred one.
With Mrs Adjepong, for instance, her proper manners, speech, natural grace and stern calmness elicited positive responses from both staff and students.
Around 2004, when Alpha Beta Christian College was founded, I found myself teaching the earliest batches of students in the Cambridge course, “Literature in English”.
Those were quite enlightening and memorable years.
I appreciated the collegial support working with her as the principal.
I recall that whenever I stumbled on a word whose enunciation was shaky, I’d ask a student to go to her office for assistance.
And when they returned to the class with the right enunciation, it was a relief and smiles all around.
For an enduring legacy, Mrs Adjepong helped found the “Foundation for Educational Research and Development” (FERD) for private schools.
It was chaired initially by Mr K.B. Asante of blessed memory.
The Alpha Beta story must be told to serve as an encouragement to others.
The legacy is the story of the determination and steadfastness of Sammy and Florence Adjepong.
In 1986, the couple arrived in Ghana with their two-year-old daughter, Naomi, and a couple of suitcases.
The dream was to start a Montessori preschool, with the mindset that no matter what happened thereafter, returning to the UK was not an option.
The couple were experienced professionals in their own right, with good track records in the UK.
Sammy had come ahead to put things in place before Florence’s final arrival to set up a preschool in the compound of a house owned by his mother.
Their initial home was the “boys’ quarters” of the main house that had never been built.
That vacant space would now accommodate the preschool.
The plan was to build a summer hut to house 50 children to start.
Two years, three roofs, and many thousand cedis later, they finally got the hut to stand erect without collapsing from the weight of the wet clay tiles.
Before the hut was completed though, a relative, one Kofi Ofori-Addo, insisted that they start the school under the carport adjacent to the house where they lived.
And before Florence had time to think about it, he had fetched a piece of plywood and scribbled on it – in charcoal – ADMISSION IN PROGRESS.
The sign was pitched outside the gate.
And so it was: In 1988, the Alpha Beta Montessori Learning Centre began, with six children around a circular table under the carport with one measly member of staff, a lone Florence. The limit of the couple’s vision at the time was 50 children.
They soon learnt, however, that providence does not release whole visions at one go, but in manageable portions to avoid recipient flight.
What was achieved within that span of 35 years is truly incredible.
Once taking my ailing mother to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, I couldn’t believe that one of the attending medical doctors was once a teenage student I had taught at Alpha Beta.
And there was nothing he wouldn’t do to help out.
Today, the 600-plus students, in a purpose-built facility at the school compound, are a miracle.
The Adinkrahene Leadership programme, for instance, produces students to enter entrepreneurship competitions and win.
The students are critical thinkers, confident public speakers and problem-solvers who excel in tertiary institutions at home and abroad.
As Sammy and Florence Adjepong retire in 2023 and hand over to their daughter, Dr Naomi Adjepong, they leave with a strong sense of fulfilment and anticipation of greater things to come.
The Alpha Beta Education Centre recently launched a $350,000 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) project to provide programmes for students and teachers.
According to Dr Adjepong, the two-year project would allow the school to add to the existing facilities, including information technology, science and innovation labs.
The project was launched at the school’s 35th anniversary and Founders’ Day celebration with the theme “Celebrating 35 Years of Impact”.
Dr Adjepong noted that 35 years is a significant milestone in the school’s mission of providing academic excellence and the STEM project would ensure that more students obtained industry-related skills to enhance development in Ghana. Ayekoo!
The writer is a trainer of teachers, leadership coach, motivational speaker and quality education advocate.
Sammy and Florence Adjepong