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Traditional initiatives in education(1-2)pdf print preview print preview
21/11/2007Page 1 of 1
Traditional initiatives in education (1 & 2)


MUCH has been written about the pioneering roles of Western Missionary bodies in introducing modern education in Ghana, and the subsequent involvement of government in this area.

What has not been documented is the critical role played by traditional authorities in all stages of the development of modern education in this country, and the challenges posed by the interaction between traditional and western ideas.

It would be appropriate for us to remember that we had our system of traditional education before the inception of western education. You are aware that history was taught by oral tradition transmitted by court historians or other experts in culture. The exposition of custom, law and general values was provided at the palace by the linguist or other learned elders. Children clustered around the fire or in the court-yard for appropriate instructions by elders or repositories of knowledge.

The various crafts were learned through the system of apprenticeship. Various communities freely borrowed from each other. What is less well known is that in Asante, colonies of skilled craftsmen were established in villages close to the capital, such as Bonwire and Ntonso. I have just learned that Malians were invited to teach mining technology to Asantes, (Akyeampong). The incidence of traditional mining is well documented.

According to T.E. Anin: “A number of gold mines were operated by the Asantehene’s Exchequer for and on behalf of the Asantehene”. Near Kumasi – in the Owabi Valley – the Asante State established open-cast mining operations on a large scale with banking and benching to a depth of about 200 feet. Another important state-owned mine was the “King Prempeh Nkoron – which had reefs with a depth of 300 feet and timbered galleries. This particular mine subsequently became part of the Nkwanta Concession which was granted by the Colonial Government to an English group – after the arrest and deportation of Nana Prempreh to Seychelles”.

Agonising over Western Education

Our early traditional leaders received western education with varying degrees of enthusiasm. There were skeptics, as in Anloga, where traditionalists ascribed every ecological disaster to the deleterious effect of western proselytisation. There were religious objections from those who associated western education with Christian evangelization. They were those who feared the effect of admitting alien ideas.

There were still others who pointed to the disintegration of traditional societies in areas which had been exposed to education. Others agonized – desiring modernization but fearing westernization. Finally there were those leaders who appreciated the virtues of education and warmly embraced it.

Types of Traditional initiative in education

Traditional initiatives in education over the years fall into the following broad categories: The reception of the concept of western education as part of the process of modernisation and development:

The promotion and advocacy of education in the various communities; the provision of land and other facilities for educational establishments; the construction of schools, colleges, universities and accommodation for the staff of these institutions out of their own resources; the assumption of personal responsibility for the education of children and royal family members; the establishment of scholarship schemes to facilitate the education of deserving youngsters in various communities at secondary and tertiary levels; contribution to the formulation and implementation of educational policies and programmes at the national level and educating communities generally about the prevention of diseases and good environmental practices.

A few examples of these initiatives

While preparing for this address, I thought it would be prudent to consult Okuapehene, my senior brother, Nana Addo Dankwa III, about the history of reception of western education in Akwapim. As you all know, Akropong Training College, formerly known as Akropong Theological Seminary, achieved prominence as the first second cycle institution to be established in Ghana. Nana’s response was a fascinating account of the collaboration between his predecessor Okuapehene Addo Dankwa I and a Danish missionary called Andrew Riss from the Basel mission.

Nana Addo Dankwa I had been advised by a court historian about the beneficial impact of the activities of a Danish explorer, Dr. Essert, who visited Akwapim during the reign of Okuapehene Obuobi Atiemo as early as 1780. The King and the explorer established a warm relationship. Dr. Essert was a botanist and an environmentalist. He established the first botanical garden in the country, introduced improved farming methods and educated the people on the importance of conserving nature through good environmental practices.

This legacy of Atiemo Obuobi was recited by the Court Historian (Okonyasuafohene) to Nana Addo Dankwa I as worth emulating. Not long after this, Nana Addo Dankwa learned that a Basel missionary of Danish nationality was interested in setting in Akwapim because he had read from Dr. Essert that the Akwapims had a reputation for hospitality and hygienic practices, and, in any case, the Akwapim hills were less prone to infestation by mosquitoes from the coast. The Okuapehene therefore warmly received Riss in 1828, provided him with generous facilities to build a school as part of his missionary work. This led to the introduction of the Basel Mission in Akwapim, the establishment of numerous schools and ultimately, the founding of the Akropong Seminary in July 1848, long before Mfantsipim or Wesley Girls High School. This Seminary subsequently became Akropong Training College whose curriculum contained the beginnings of a tertiary institution.

It was second only to Fourah Bay College of Sierra Leone in academic standing in the whole of West Africa at that time. One of Nana Addo Dankwah’s successors, Nana Owusu Akyem I, was so enthusiastic about education that he allowed the missionaries to tutor his son, David Asante (1830-92), who became an eminent scholar and authority on linguistics and social and cultural change.

From the hills of Akwapim to the Coast.

The Fantes, like the Gas, enthusiastically embraced western education in the early 19th Century after the establishment of numerous schools by European settlements on the land. Adu Boahen pointed our that one of the less publicized objectives of the Fante Confederacy launched in 1868 by the Fante, Denkyira and Wassa people was “erecting schools, houses and establishing schools for the education of all children within the confederation and to obtain the service of efficient school masters”.

Although the Fante Confederacy was suppressed, the quest for education for Ghanaians persisted, and found eloquent expression in the editorial of the Gold Coast Times in the issue of (May, 1874), which provided the philosophical basis of introducing modern education into Africa in the following terms : “Of the various important questions which relate to the rise and progress of the Gold coast and which must engage the consideration of those in authority, that of education should have the first attention… Appealing to the current history of its society, it is hardly too much for the Gold Coast to boast of its quota of talent but genuine intellects and geniuses – minds which divested of native cover, can give life to the country and become joint workers with foreign philanthropists in the great work of carrying forward their race. But where are they?

They are in the bosom of the various tribes comprising the Ahanta, Fanti, Akan and Ga people; they are the sons and daughters of the land. Let them have the advantages which even their brethren, the natives of Sierra Leone have been enjoying at the hands of the government and the Church Missionary Society – the advantages of early genuine development and special training, let alone other numerous local benefits all calculated to advance a people; just a fair chance, and then you will have the means of ascertaining without partially and narrow bias the relative capabilities of the ill-known yet heartily Negro of the Gold Coast”.

The clamour for higher education among the local people was one of the contributory factors that led to the establishment of Mfantsipim School.

In the Volta Region, the influence of the Bremen Mission became pronounced in Keta from the 1880s after initial local resistance to foreign ideas. The process of modernization and ways of life were propelled by the influx of European merchants, particularly, Germans, and literate Sierra Leone traders which exposed the indigenous people to new social and intellectual horizons. (Akyeampong)

The resistance to change however persisted in Anloga until the accession of Togbui Sri I as Awoamefia of Anlo in 1906. Togbui Sri II was an imaginative and progressive leader who opened Anloga to Western education and commerce. He allowed the Bremen Mission to set up a mission station in Anloga in 1906. He himself was a Christian and educated in Bremen Mission Schools.

In the 1930s AME Zion also opened 15 schools. Three secondary and business schools were established in Anlo in the same period. As Akyeampong puts it, the new emphasis on the importance of education and artisanship was reflected in the careers of Togbui Sri II (1907-1956) and Togbui Adeladza III (1956-1998). Both were educated. “The huge carpentry industry at “Anloga”, a suburb of Kumasi is a product of the dual Anlo strategy of artisanship and emigration”.

Traditional initiatives in education in Asante did not begin on any significant scale until the early part of the 20th Century. Asante was fascinated by European economic and military power and the technology that underpinned and sustained it. However, despite the exposure of two princes, Owusu Ansa and Owusu Kwantabisa to western education in Cape Coast and the UK, pursuant to the Maclean Treaty of 1831, Asantehene Kwaku Dua I was ambivalent about opening his Kingdom to western education.

Thus although he received Wesleyan and Basel Missions in 1830s and 1840s, and ultimately permitted the establishment of a Wesleyan Mission in Kumasi in the 1840s, he did not extend this accommodation to the establishment of schools. He rejected western education. Disparaging remarks were made about the “breakdown” of the political and social order in Fanteland as a result of the adoption of western ways – making people “proud and disrespectful” (Akyeampong)

Even before his deportation by the British to the Seychelles in 1896, King Agyeman Prempeh I agonized over modernization. He wanted to develop Asante through the acquisition of European capital and technology, but he preferred modernization without westernization. Prempeh’s exile to the Seychelles had a profound impact on him.

He converted to Christianity, submitted himself to formal education and actively promoted education among his people both in Seychelles and Asante. He pointed out that the future of Asante lay not in military adventures but in education for development and progress. He became sufficiently literate to embark on the writing of the history of Asante Kings and nation. Basel and Wesleyan Mission Schools were firmly established by the time of his return to Asante in 1924.

On his return to Asante, Prempeh’s commitment to education remained firm. He sponsored the establishment of St. Monica’s Training College, an Anglican institution for Women of Mampong. This college subsequently acquired a secondary department. He initiated the tradition of educating princes and royals, although the royals were less receptive to modern education in view of the prospect of corporal punishment.

OTUMFUO Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, who reigned from 1931 to 1970, presided over the phenomenal expansion of education in the kingdom. An astute statement who skillfully negotiated the restoration of Asante Confederacy, he was an ardent champion of modernization. In addition to patronizing the proliferation of elementary schools in Asante, he launched three major initiatives.

First, he led the Asante Confederacy in the establishment of an ambitious scholarship scheme that provided access to secondary schools in Ghana and tertiary institutions in the United Kingdom to capable young men and women throughout Asante. Scores of distinguished professionals and prominent personalities like Victor Owusu, R.R. Amponsah, K.A.T. Amankwa (Administrator), C.J. Amoo-Gotfried and J.H. Frimpong-Ansah (former Governor of the Bank of Ghana) all benefited from this scheme. This contributed to the growth of an educated class and the dissemination of knowledge throughout Asante.

Second, he successful campaigned for the establishment of a university in Kumasi and collaborated with the Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian missions in introducing secondary schools in Kumasi for the benefit of the entire Northern Sector of the country (1947-1950).

Third, he facilitated the growth of secondary and tertiary education by allocating large tracts of land for the establishment of Kumasi College of Technology, now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Prempeh College and Opoku Ware Secondary School. An interesting aspect of this allocation was that Otumfuo instructed his nephew and a future Asantehene, the late Opoku Ware II, to survey the land allocated to these institutions. Nana Opoku, as be was then known, was an official of the Asante Lands Department (1948-1950).

Prempeh II followed the example of his predecessor by educating his own children up to tertiary levels overseas. The scholarship system continued in the reign of Opoku Ware II (1970-1999) on a modest scale. Opoku Ware educated the world on Ghanaian culture to unprecedented lengths during his international travels. A British educated Barrister-at-Law, Opoku Ware also served the entire nation well as a great conciliator.

The scholarship programme in Asante has been revived on a grand scale by Otumfuo Osei Tutu II through the establishment of the internationally acclaimed Otumfuo Education Fund. Some 3,000 students from all parts of the country have benefited form this Fund. Otumfuo Osei Tutu has also contributed funds to numerous educational projects outside Asante, including the Bishop Akrofi Foundation and the Ghana School of Law.

The World Bank Project, involving the collaboration of traditional leaders headed by Otumfuo, has funded the rehabilitation of numerous schools. Otumfuo also played a major role in the establishment of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) University in Kumasi. As Chancellor of KNUST, he initiated meaningful co-operation between KNUST and a number of foreign universities. Otumfuo and his wife, Lady Julia, have set up a foundation which performs a critical educational function with respect to HIV/AIDS.

While we are in Asante, it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge the contribution of my predecessor, Nana Yaw Gyimah I, Omanhene of Asokore, to education. Although he was unlettered, he had the foresight to allocate the handsome amount of £3,000 steering for the construction of the Asokore Methodist School (mpensa dan), where Prof. Adu Boahen and I were nurtured. This institution which was founded in 1929 was a major centre of education in Asante for years.

Nana Yaw Gyimah I was also responsible for the award of a state bursary in the princely amount of £5 steering a year to supplement my Achimota School Scholarship (1946-1950). I have tried to repay my indebtedness to Asokore through the establishment of an education fund, a technical and vocational institution and other initiatives.

With respect to the allocation of land for education purposes, we must realize that virtually all chiefs and other traditional leaders in the country have been helpful. But in my submission, the whole nation should acknowledge its indebtedness to the La Mantse for making available land for the University of Ghana, and the Presbyterian Boys Secondary School, both at Legon. The site for the premier university of the country provided the training ground for the numerous professional who have made such a spectacular contribution to nation-building.

The writer is known in private life as Dr. S.K.B. Asante,
Omanhene of Asante Asokore Traditional Area and
Chairman of the Ghana Arbitration Centre.
This is the second part of the keynote address
he delivered at the 70th anniversary celebrations
of Abuakwa State College.
The topic was: “Traditional Initiatives in Education”.

              Daily Graphic    -      Wednesday, November 21, 2007                 Page: 11 &
                                                   Monday, November 26, 2007                       Page: 17
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