It was in the midst of a harsh summer in 1980 that in-between neuro-surgical procedures, I had taken a seat in the theater annex, to take a bite of what the Germans call “Broetchen”, a delicious and famous roll when a call arrived from the boss’s secretary, announcing there was a visitor from my country at her office. Changing the tempo of chewing, it wasn’t long, and I had finished with the snack, joined the fast elevator, and I was at the ante-room of my boss without sweating. There sat unabashedly, an European of ordinary body-build, not an African, contrary to my expectation, based on the secretary’s announcement of “a visitor from Ghana.” He had truly arrived from Ghana, but he was German, born and bred. I guessed his age at around sixty. He introduced himself as Father Joseph Glatzler, and that he was the Headmaster of the “famous St. Peter’s College” at Nkwatia, Kwahu, Ghana. Father Glatzler had taken over from a Father Clement Hotze, an American of Germanic origin, who had been Headmaster of the St. Peter’s Secondary School, or “St. Peper’s College”, from the onset. Father Clement had been retired out of old age, and Father Glatzler, a Physicist, had taken over as Headmaster, teaching Physics as well. By chance, my elder brother of blessed memory who had run a dental clinic at the Post Office Square in Accra was “Father Glatzler’s Dentist. It was his sensitivity to the priest’s strong German accent, that brought the two men to talk about Germany, and hence, about me. Father Glatzler took it upon himself to pay me a visit when next he visited his home country. He did not keep it just a one-time visit. He paid me several visits, and did run for my brother and me, many very graceful useful errands. Father C.Hotze and Glatzler are both of blessed memory. St. Peter’s College, Nkwatia, Kwahu, did not exist, until 1957. Hitherto, all children born and bred in the Kwahu District of the Eastern Region had to travel to other places, e.g., Fanti-land, Accra, Ashanti, the Volta Region, or Akim to attend schools of higher grades. In 1956, the Presbyterian Church had deliberated and set up the “Abetifi Presbyterian Secondary School.” But, the new St. Peter’s College at Nkwatia was something else. An illiterate trader in Accra, a citizen of Nkwatia Kwahu, had been successful in dealing in motor cars, not driving them, but apparently dealing in them in whatever form you could imagine. He had been very, very successful. Events leading to his having been unable to attend school himself whilst a child in Kwahu is said to have been the driving force in his aiming at a college, and not another Primary School. There is a version that narrates that he had initially approached a friend in Accra with his brain-child of a “College in his hometown in Kwahu.” The friend’s “counter-idea” was that they better set up a “dance-band” instead. There was an example of a successful “dance-band” of Kwahu-nucleus that needed no introduction in the country. The “drive” pushing the 50-year old Mr. Onwona Faakye must have been burning hotter than any fire imaginable. He had been to see the tribal chief of his town (Nana Asante Yiadom II) of Nkwatia, and the Nana had bought into the idea apparently, after some reluctance. The same “Nana” had advised that they see the Paramount Chief of Kwahu, who has been resident at Abene, the capital town of Kwahu. Nana Akuamoah Acheampong (his stool-name) and the idea coming from his subjects, caught on like fuel and fire. The Catholic Church and the “Faakye-hatched idea” crossed each other accidentally. The Church took an almost instant decision to be part of it. Come January 10th 1957, therefore, nine boys, inhabitants of the Kwahu District, together with eight others from many parts of the country, Ewe and Ashanti included, were brought together as pioneers of the school, founded by an illiterate. I do not any longer have a full recollection of how it all came to be for me, for I had wished to attend school in Cape Coast, where from my father’s house, two boys and a girl had been to secondary school. As the new seventeen students gathered in front of the sprawling edifice that was built by Mr. Onwona Faakye, we were also informed there were six equally new houses in Nkwatia, all waiting to be occupied by students. In addition, word had gone round that truck-loads of students were on their way, apparently, from other parts of the country to join us. It was further said that the new students to arrive were girls. I am not sure if the jubilation was big. Even if it might have been, it was short-lived. I walked fearlessly to Father Clement’s office to inquire about this “rumour”, and he categorically denied it. Father Clement added, “He had just one teacher joining him, who had just finished Advanced Level (Sixth Form) in Science”. So, we were given copious accommodation, copious in the sense that we had a double bed or two in each room. Double in that, one slept down, with the other on top. Toilet facilities were typically the type every village had at the time, namely outside the main building. All were new though. Catering was to be done by ladies in the town, through personal arrangements. This way, I was to be with a boy whom everybody came to say, he and I looked alike, except that he was slightly lighter in skin colour than me. I doubt if you would mind him being introduced as “JOB”. Under the same circumstances, you would call me “KDB”. From this moment onwards, JOB, and KDB would be inseparable, or let’s say for a year at least. JOB was born and raised, until St. Peter’s, at Nkwatia. So, we were in town, right? Land was immediately allotted to the school by the traditional Chief of Nkwatia. The Church had contacts in America, and construction had started, using the labour force that 17 able-bodied young men could provide, chipping in on Saturdays, from six till ten in the morning. Mostly, we hauled up, from near Nkawkaw, the bottom of the “Kwahu Scarp”, up the tortuous tarred road, through Obomen and Mpraeso to Nkwatia, a specimen of sand, which was as white as snow. This was Father Clement’s discovery. This became a weekly exercise. From this kind of sand, building blocks believed to have been among the best in the entire world were made. Our physical contribution thus! At times, we enjoyed how the Bedford truck “struggled” with sand on board, and students in addition, scaled the tortuous incline. We equally enjoyed doing our own laundry. We met in the process, the most interesting spectrum of the townspeople. Science was taught by an American elderly man, who was a Catholic Priest, a Carpenter, a Mason, an Electrician, a Teacher, and anything else imaginable. His name was Father Schenker, and “a no-nonsense man.” He would give you a “befitting slap” at the appropriate time. We, JOB and I, were bent on learning to be “scientists”. Many months however, no science laboratory was in sight. We however, were taught Science subjects by a young man from Abetifi, Kwahu, who had got his “Inter-Bsc., as mentioned by Father Clement earlier on”, and he was so turgid with knowledge. He taught ancient history in addition to Science, which he shared with Father Schenker. His name was “Mr. K.J. Agyare. He lives in distant Australia today (a Professor in his field), and he still lectures at the University of Canberra. The people of Nkwatia had given their fellow citizen, Mr. Onwona Faakye, the support he did not that readily expect, but could rejoice over. Mansions had been put up by the citizens who daily lived and worked in Accra, and only came home at Easter, or for funerals. There were more than half a dozen such edifices, and they housed a good number of students, all for free! Out of the seventeen boys forming the nucleus, two went to become medical doctors, again, two went into law, one became an accountant, and another two went into Engineering. The Onwona Faakye/St. Peter’s saga is just beginning to unfold for the interest of posterity. Stay tuned for the continuation.
Kofi Dankyi Beeko, MD e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org