Chronicles of Navasco
by Armiyao Harruna – Folio No.48
3rd March, 2016
A few days ago, an old, three-legged Navascan called me and, at the end of the chat, he practically pleaded with me to at least write something short on this Old Navascan page. I pondered, ooooi, as a Dagbandow will exclaim!!! Com on, your ink has not dried up, he kept pushing. He also knew that our memories are drying up, as fast as Bolt crossing the line.
Well, well, well, it’s a mixture of sad story and also fun, going through the Navascan archway. A lot of souls have gone down six feet since the first day we set foot in campus, some in foreign lands, others here in homeland. Of course it’s the same old path for proud Navascans and other less fiery human beings. When I say proud Navascans, I mean the pride of belonging to NAVASCO after your God and nation. Anyway….
I can’t remember the exact date, but I remember it was one rainy evening in September 1960 when I got to Navasco, and met only four students who had come farther than I had. I started off from Tamale, and they came all the way from Kpandai. In effect, Asuo, Atorsa, Chikpa and Jabari were the first to report, and I was second. Or so I thought. Those four became my faithful friends till today. That night we all slept in a vast space called dormitory.
The following morning two well-dressed youth came to us and started giving us instructions, when to follow the bell, the direction to the dining hall, and just to relax until all students would report by following Monday. So we thought they were our masters, and indeed one of us kept saying, yes sir, yes sir. The real story came out the following day. By noon the population had shot up to fourteen, and when we entered the dining hall for our first evening meal, we were seventeen. That was when we saw a real master, Mr. Adjololo. He instructed one of our earlier ‘masters’ to pray over our meal. Then we knew they were like us, they were no ‘sirs’. The father of one of them was a very wealthy contractor in Navrongo, and the aunt of the other ‘sir’ was the matron. He was older than all of us, but, at last we were all classmates, Form One.
Interestingly they tried to dominate us and Atorsa, a well-built boy among us told them, a-a, a-a, this won’t do, get off!! And they went off for good. But the older student, by virtue of his age perhaps, continue to act as senior prefect. When we numbered twenty-three, classes started. Three weeks later, the late entrants came in their numbers and the school population got swollen like a boil, and “Navascan Culture” started to build up.
Enough for today. I don’t normally go through my typed items, so when you come across an error, correct it.
8th March 2016
Once more NABIA. Let’s agree, whenever I am able to write on what I will term “The Chronicles of Navasco”, it will not be in chronological order, nor will the period be known by even me. I may go wrong with dates and accuracy of events, but I expect to be corrected, and this will bring all the old men out to read, laugh and say, no, you are lying F48. Just that I don’t know how many are on Facebook, but we chat, the few of us. And I won’t write long stories even though that’s what we were forced to learn to do. My mind goes back to Richard II, where John de Gaunt said, “For violent fires soon burn out themselves; Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short.” I want to go it slow so that I won’t damage the nib so soon.
Oh, by the way, I want to write ‘small’ on the headmasters I studied under, very brief, collective description of their administration. And before that, I assure you, literature was one of the subjects we started with, science and arts students all learnt it thoroughly before we went our ways to do science or arts. Even I, the anti-maths and science student tampered with test tubes. I for one, I’ve read soooo many books in my life, and I’m still reading. Now let’s advance.
The first headmaster of the school was Mr. Fiagbor, a stout, fatherly disciplinarian you’d not dare tamper with. He was transferred from Ghanasco to Navasco. Many of us wanted Ghanasco, right in Tamale, and when admission closed, Navasco was the next choice. By the time we arrived Mr. Fiagbor was there. You wouldn’t say he was a bad man, he simply appeared fearful and was never smiling, yet a just man. He was a pastor of a kind, for, from day one we all adhered to his principles, like it or not. Mr. Adjorlolo was his sidekick and also BK master. Mr. Armor loll was big and fair in complexion, and he was bald, and mostly mist of sweat could be seen on his ‘runway’. I and other Muslims were obliged to attend church services on Sundays, no big deal at that time, but wait, we’ll soon cross that bridge. Suffice it to mention that we got to know almost half of the hymns in the book that was part of our supplies. Indeed, I cannot confirm if it was Adjorlolo who taught us how to sing Te Deum or Father “Circus Maximum” Akanlu, our then Latin master. But man, we were in a Christian world, and there was discipline in the first year. As I said, Fiagbor was the preacher every Sunday, with Adjorlolo reading some of the lessons. Did I tell you how we dressed on Sunday evenings? No? Okay, next time, and God willing I’ll also let you in on how the whole student body was held out of breakfast because of a line from the Bible. All the same, the first year was our golden year, subsequent years were basaaaa. Allah/God/Jehovah bless you all, if I nave not left any name out.
23th March 2016
I’m back, and hope it’s not too early, fellow NABIA. I have noticed that in commenting on the previous chronicles, older NABIA made mention of names of some exceptional students, and I hope not to forget to touch briefly on them as we move along. Right now, we are still on the Fiagbor year, and after that, I hope to do a bit on when ‘Eve’ burst into ‘paradise’.
So I was on how the first term of the first year started, and how the year ended. Well, it ended stiffly religious, instilling discipline in the rowdy students.
I don’t know whether white khaki material is still found in the market, but….is it still around? In 1960 we had ordinary khaki and American khaki, in brown, black, and white. On receiving the admission letter, each student had, attached to the letter a list of requirements, of which a white suite was a MUST requirement. I had never worn a suit before, until the day I collected mine from the tailor….not Dan Morton of course. I tried it in the small shop of the ordinary tailor in Tamale, and he was happy when I told him I was comfortable in it, because he had to place a jacket on his table and study the geography of what we called coat. The following day it was part of my very valuable items packed prayerfully in the TRUNK, no, not the chop box. My mind gave me that we were going to attend classes in suit, like what we saw in pictures depicting white kids going to classes.
But it was not going to be so. We were given the rules of suit by Mr. Adjorlolo. The white suit was to be worn on Sunday and Sunday only. We would hasten to the bell that summoned us to dinner (dinner it was on Sunday, not supper) in white suit, eat our dinner å la British nobles, with the knife and the fork being properly handled, and how to place and replace them after dinner. My, my!!! I sure believe we could have beaten our young brother Prince Charles when dealing with table manners. (I still don’t eat with my hand). After dinner we had some fifteen minutes break before the evening service with godly Fiagbor and Adjorlolo in charge.
NABIA, imagine a dining hall with hot temperature, with fans blowing hot air, and a sea of black heads atop white suits seated, you wouldn’t even recognize your mother. Then there would be two clicks of the hand bell followed by all students up on their feet. “Let us pray,” and the moment Adjorlolo finished with the short prayer, all sat down for dinner. Dinner meant, very hot tea served into small English tea cup from a jug; on a separate saucer were two slices of corned beef, (Exeter Corned Beef it was, there was none other on the market) and separate from the slices of bread. You knew when to finish eating.
Meanwhile, five minutes into dinner you could feel sweat running down your back and face, and by the time you were through with dinner, the back of your khaki jacket would be found to be wet. Haaba, hot atmosphere, hot, very hot tea, and a khaki suit. We would all rush out after dinner for fresh air before evening service. That was Sunday evening for you. The few Muslims never prayed together, each found his small corner to quickly pray after Sunday service so you could have time to do other things, such as….play, sing, do storytelling, etc. Lest I forget, we were so free and innocent and some would even roam in the tall grass NAKED from the dormitory to the classroom block, and nobody cared. The whole school was covered by tall, green grass. Of course the masters lived some distance away from the field of student actions.
Then one Monday morning, we were all blocked from going for breakfast by the headmaster himself. Any trouble? Yeah, you’ve all got to individually recite a biblical quotation, a theme of the head master’s morning sermon. Whosoever succeeded in reciting could walk straight to the dining hall. Just imagine that, no gari and other supplies in the ‘chopbox’, and going to miss breakfast!! Some smart guys were able to go through in round one, and the rest of us were told to go to class and come back to the administration block in an hour. I still in my present age can’t understand why we were so frantic about a simple “DO UNTO OTHERS EVEN AS YOU WOULD WISH OTHERS TO DO UNTO YOU”. Maybe the headmaster wanted us to quote it word for word, and from which part of the bible. Anyway, I was part of the last group of six students who made it to breakfast at 11.30. It was not a laughing matter at all.
Let’s see what I can next do about the intrusion of Eve in the paradise. By then Mr. Fiagbor had long gone, to the US the story went, to learn to be a pastor. Dr. Agyemang Dickson came to replace Mr. Fiagbor. NABIA, I still insist, if I have missed anything, or given any misinformation, please correct and let all enjoy history the chronicles of Navasco.
3rd April 2016
WHEN KWAME NKRUMAH CAME VISITING
It was during the administration of Fiagbor, and trust me, many good things happened. We were pushed hard to study, and from day one you could separate gari from sand; those born to be scientists automatically surfaced, and us others, a farrago of education seeking young boys grabbing anything from a potpourri of subjects, also scratched our head for what to do at all. Yours truly decided on anything but maths and science, some truly compulsory subjects! There was everything to make us study: books, enough sleeping place and time, enough food, whereby a fat cow was slaughtered every other day, and of course beautiful Saturday night entertainment that featured either dancing limbo to the tune of Chubby Chucker or some cool with Sam Cooke. Study time was study time, and hey, we did study. When it was ‘ready, get set, go!!’ Brimah Tampuri and a few individuals were already nearing the finishing line in mathematics and science.
Us? Please no mention of names from me because many of my contemporaries are alive with huge families, including grandchildren. But I can mention names I’m sure of, names of those who won’t chase me everywhere for defamation. I dare include Jabari because his children can’t hurt me, after all I was part of discussion to marry their mother. And Chikpa also, and Ambassador Anane whose wife Husseina is my true sister, so are many others. I shan’t attach anybody name to a scandal.
So when the Tampuris and Soro-Imas and Osman Ali’s were running scientifically where were we others? We didn’t have to struggle because there were many subjects to choose from. I personally went in for reading, reading, and reading. In those days there were many American authors like Spillane, Cheyney, etc on the market, and you could finish one book in a day if you chose to skip dining hall. Jabari and myself enjoyed Lemmy Caution and made sure we had Peter Cheyney series from the bookshops in Tamale. I remember well, I finished Moonraker, Casino Royale and other James Bond books on weekends, from morning to evening, skipping lunch and sometimes supper. Those were indeed the GOOD days soldiers didn’t go to war on empty stomach. In other words, we didn’t want, everything was intact.
One other thing, we took our studies of the classics very seriously. Petersen taught us Greek and Latin, but I can remember if he took us through French. At one time you were made to believe that it was a school destined to receive arts students, what with Adamu Rhaman, and Songsore and S. K. Bruce with their geography. And Abagye Charles and his memorization of Shakespeare. The students interested in science were few, and they behaved like belonging to a club, because whenever my friends Osman Ali and Baba Abudu went into the lab with us, we became observers. S. K. Bruce from Dunkwa was the dinning hall prefect. Fiagbor did everything in a meticulous way. No wonder the name of the school went out very quickly.
No wonder the great Osagyefo himself decided to visit Navasco. The late Mr. Asumda, the most handsome Kusasi man that I, not you the reader, have come across so far, was the regional minister. Even to select the reader to read the speech to Nkrumah went through Fiagbor’s personal, thorough handling and finally Songsore was selected. On the day Nkrumah came, Songsore was presented as ‘senior prefect’, and that post ended immediately after his speech and Orooo (Bawa Atikpo) was back at post. The following year Songsore left Navasco, and studied elsewhere to become a renowned professor in Geography.
Anyway, Nkrumah was on campus and Fiagbor gave a well composed address which came in with words we did not understand. Many of us were confused. And when Nkrumah suddenly stood before us, hey, that was something. A singing group arrived before Nkrumah and bombarded us with “Nkrumaeee Nkrumasoboy, I wantosheeyou Kwamenkrumasoboy’. Well, maybe now, but back then, nobody could challenge my auricular proof that, that was not the song they sang, and how they sang it. The great Kwame Nkrumah talked gently and encouraged us to study hard, and told us Navrongo Secondary School was a temporary name, when the school would have been finally completed, he was thinking in line of making it the President’s College. That’s my paraphrase fellow Navascans, and my thrust is ‘The President’s College’.
Returning to the dormitory after the function, we started wondering whether certain words pronounced by the headmaster during his speech were Latin or Greek words, and tried to fit them in conjugation or declension: Janania, Nogsinia, and about four other -nia-nia names. I remember Ndaw Majeed was present, and also Baba Seidu from Bawku. Only to be told by Awantio Adda, I think, that they were names of suburbs surrounding Navasco!! So Fiagbor was telling the Civitatis Ghaneansis Conditor that the school was surrounded by hospitable settlements and good people. Aargh!!!
When Asumda was finally addressing Nkrumah and thanking him for visiting Navasco, he talked of how the a few Young Pioneers on campus were soon to be given uniforms, and said, “you’re all Young Pioneers, isn’t it?” We were all silent. Then he made it a joke and said the Osagyefo had presented the school with a cow. A cow, what difference did it make, we ate about four cows in a week, so what difference was the Presidential cow going to make? For me, and some others, the catch was in the Young Pioneer thing. I despised them like I despised the latter terror group, the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution, CDR. I was warned about the Young Pioneers, and our father Harruna Attah used to tell me each term I was going to school, “Don’t play, don’t look for shinny boots and uniform, pay attention to your books, don’t team up with anybody or group that will make you report people to anybody, for Allah forbids it, kaji ko?” And I always answered, “ehee”.
And I knew he meant Young Pioneers. Reporting people to political authorities was their hallmark. Haha, haha, if only Nkrumah knew what was burning inside a majority of us. And when Crawford came and introduced the cadet corps, oh what fresh wind on campus, blowing from the north to flush out southwards the hold of Young Pioneers on the feeble juniors coming to the school.