Educating the Child the 360 Degree Way
Presentation by Akora Kwadwo Osseo-Asare, OAA’65; Achimota School’s 88th Founders’ Day Celebration; Saturday, 7th March, 2015
Members of the Board of Governors, Nananom, Kings and Queens, President and Members of the OAA Secretariat, Madam Headmistress and Staff, Directors and Officials of the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service, The PTA Chairperson and PTA Executives, The OAA Executive Members, Akoras of the 1965 and 1990 year groups, Akoras of all walks of life, Parents, Friends of the School, Friends in the Media, Students, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
As many of you know, we Achimotans are a playful bunch. We love to poke fun at each other, tease each other . . .
A few days ago our year group was meeting to work some more on details of our Founders’ Day celebrations. Someone suggested, “Let’s now discuss the table of conTENTS”(sounds like “conTENT” = happy/pleased).” This was in reference to our brochure—many of you are holding copies of this in your hands today. By the way, if you don’t have one yet, please make sure you purchase a copy before you leave for home today. And so our Akora announced, “Let’s now discuss the Table of ConTENTS.” Immediately, another said, it’s not “conTENT”, it’s “CONtent (as in what is inside a box, for example)”; the previous Akora shot back, “ah you too, why? conTENT.” No, “CONtent,” the other Akora complained again—and we went back and forth, with lots of laughter.
But I assure you that it was no laughing matter when the real reason why my mates volunteered me to represent them today as the Speaker for this function dawned on me. In our days there was an exam—one of the required courses for the school certificate (the O level)—this was Oral English. I almost failed this exam. I think my mates conspired, “let’s give him another chance to redeem himself.”
One of my earliest memories of our first few days in Achimota was when Alan Rudwick, then Asst. Headmaster, came to welcome the new students, “ninoes.” It was in the Dining Hall. As I remember it, I did not understand a single word of what he said.
Another outlet for our playfulness was in the invention of nicknames—for our fellow students, as well as our teachers.Many of us still remember FOAMS—he taught us Applied Mathematics. And those among us who were more sophisticated world-wise had early on come to the conclusion that FOAMS frequently communed with the spirit, with lowercase s, before coming to class. We loved him and he was brilliant. I think the connection between the sound of his initials F. O. M. S. and the foams in a glass of beer or a calabash of nsafu did much to inspire us to greater exertions in our mathematical thinking.
Another great nickname in our days was Akyakya—this was for one of our female teachers—she taught English. This special name, Akyakya—meaning mattress—was, I think, in recognition of her generous endowment of posterior anatomical cushion.
One of our mates acquired the nickname “Atremendous.” He never stopped astonishing us with the words that came out of his mouth. Among the more famous was when he announced to us that, quote, “A tremendous conflagration has consumed the edifice,” end of quote. A fierce fire had destroyed a building! There was an important students’ handbook by the name Student’s Companion. A chapter in this book had the heading Big Words for Small Words. Our mate “Atremendous” must have spent hours studying this section of the book.But we are not here to play with words. We are gathered here to celebrate. To give thanks for our Founders—for their bold visions and sacrifices. And to reflect on the challenges and opportunities before us, Achimotans, as we move towards our centenary—our 100th Founders Day celebration (only 12 years away!).
As our Dagaarti elders say, “A person of modest height does not estimate the depth of a river by stepping into it.” (“Ning mw aba manna kuo.”) But here we are. I’m in the water. I’m a bit nervous, but fortunately, I know several of my Akora brothers and sisters are great swimmers. And they are behind me. So, here we go. As we say in Ga, “wɔyɛ mi.”
Our theme for this celebration is “Educating the Child the 360 degrees way.” This theme can be approached from several different angles. We will consider three today.
First, 360 degrees conjures the notion of going full circle. Going back to zero. Sankɔfa. So we’ll go back to the beginnings of Achimota School. We will reflect on what motivated the Founders. What were some of the major challenges they faced? And what can we learn from their experiences?
Second, 360 degrees connotes “all-round”—all angles are included, holistic education. So we will ask ourselves, what was the Founders’ understanding of holistic education? How has this evolved over the years? What have we lost? What is worth keeping? What must we throw away? What must we revive?
And third, 360 degrees suggests a circle. Is Achimota School under threat? What is the nature of this threat? How can we link hands and form a circle around our dear school, our Mother, Achimota, to protect her, to preserve her, nourish her, to advance her, so she continues her role as a river of life.