3. A Circle
As we noted earlier on, 360 degrees is also suggestive of a circle. Today Achimota our Mother is faced with many challenges. The report of the Headmistress presented last year lists several of these, including:
- the physical infrastructure
- underwhelming government support
- overwhelming enrollment levels
- pressures from parents and officials seeking admissions for their children outside of the established channels
- theft of school lands
As we face these challenges it is easy to feel discouraged. Take the School lands issue, for instance. We can think of all the many Achimotans we have had as Heads of State and ask: if they could not protect our School lands, what can we do? We have had Akoras in high court and supreme court and they could not rule on our behalf, how can we resist the land-grabbers?
But I am very optimistic about the future of Achimota. Clearly, having a Supreme Court judge among us is not enough. Having an Akora head of state is not enough. As we say in Ewe,“Eha ti deka mete kplo anyigba O, ke bon ne wo so gbo hafi.” A single straw can never be useful as a broom. Many straws must be joined together before we can sweep effectively.
I am optimistic because the coming together of the straws is already happening. Again, referring to the Headmistress’ 2014 Report, we learn that several year groups have recently completed or are initiating projects in support of the School. The report mentioned the following year groups: 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1974, 1975, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1995. Also, that the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) has provided valuable support.
We are forming a circle around Achimota. It is quite clear that we cannot depend on government to come to the rescue of our School. Perhaps we need a fulltime development directorate to coordinate our fundraising efforts. I cannot say at this time whether this directorate should reside in the OAA Secretariat or the School itself. But we can put our heads together and figure this out.
We have firm invaluable allies among the PTA who are already taking it upon themselves to help provide the best possible environment for their children.
I am optimistic about the future of Achimota. There are many among us who long for the days when Achimota was autonomous. As we recalled today, the founding Principal, Fraser, could hire his own teaching staff. In the pioneer days Achimota even had an educational research laboratory where some among the teaching staff probed questions such as how best to connect with a child’s mind. But the irony is that it was under an Akora head of State that the Achimota School constitution was repealed. This was in 1961.
But I still remain optimistic. It is said that people used to think there would not be enough copper to link all of China up with telephones, given its huge population. Then what happened? Land lines, based on copper wires gave way to mobile phones, which are wireless. I feel the same way about the autonomy issue. As our circle around our School grows, arms entwined, this issue may become redundant.
It is easy for those of us who spent 5 years in Achimota to wonder if today’s students can really become Achimotans after just 3 years in the Outlaws Hill. My answer is a resounding “Yes.” Today we have internet-based social networking tools that are bringing us together in ways that were not possible in the past. We now have a Facebook group managed by the OAA Secretariat, assisted by some enthusiastic Akoras. There is also an Achimota presence on LinkedIn. Connecting with the School as an Akora may very well happen sooner for the new generation of students than it did for us.
Sometimes there is a tendency to throw out the baby with the bath water. A few days ago one of my senior Akoras and I were having a conversation, and, you know, he said “Kwadwo, people don’t realize it, but the boarding school system is part of our national defense system—we should view it as part of the Ministry of Defense.” When Gas and Dagbanis and Gonjas and Ewes—Akwapims, Fantes, Ashantis—stay together in a dormitory—they become friends. They cannot become enemies of the nation.
So, I am optimistic. And just as some of you who use computers know, if you look at the label, it says “Intel Inside.” “Intel” is the company which makes some of the gadgets that we put in computers. I want people to look at what is happening in our country—in the hospitals, in the politics, in the police services, every corner—in the universities, in the churches—and say “Achimota Inside.” We are the yeast. We are the salt.
In closing, let me point out the symbolic significance of our year group’s gift of a modern kitchen to the School. We need to feed the whole person: body, mind and spirit. The formal opening of Achimota occurred in front of the Dining Hall. 88 years ago when Governor Guggisberg inserted that gold key into the door he was opening up a future of opportunities for thousands of Ghanaians. Let us then surround our dear School, form a circle around it, and carve out the new gold key for the next generations of Achimotans.
I thank my year group for giving me this opportunity to speak on our behalf. And I want to thank our various 65-year group committees who worked faithfully to make our project come to life. And I want to acknowledge, especially, our year group’s President—George Boi Andoh—whose vision, sacrifice, and numerous sleepless nights were so vital in driving our project forward.
And to all of you here gathered, I say, Medaase, Menɛ ɛne mpkɛ. I thank you for your attention.