Kofi Issah – Navasco Academics
Chris Atim, Agongo, Kofi Morna, Kutana and so the list continued giving an indication that these past students were “breaks’ in their school days and had made the school proud at the WAEC O level examinations. It was told to us that perhaps the group which completed form five in 1974 was arguably the best collection of brains the school ever produced. Those in for arguments might want to engage the members of the 1974 O level group in a what do you know competition to settle things once and for all.
As juniors in the school we listened to the 1978 O level results with interest. Ben Yongo, Amuna, Koranteng and the rest gave us hope that come 1981 we would beat their record and carry higher the flag of the school. At the same time we rejoiced that the seniors who bullied us most had nothing but 9’s to harvest to show that it was better to read than spend time bullying noisy kids like me. In 1981 we did well but did not come anywhere near the record of the 1978 group. Apart from Danjumah’s brilliance it was average performance for most of us and to add insult to injury some of the “old bones “ of our batch spiced up the results with a number of acrobatic 6’s (I mean 9’s) in every imaginable subject.
In this chapter I attempt to give a narration on the subject of learning, boastful teachers, empty headed science students, and devilish junior students (who spent the time cursing seniors and wishing them a Free Flight From France, 4 F’s at the A level exams).
Academic work in those days was not for the faint hearted and by the third term of form one some of our mates had been shown the exit. I believe it was same with all from form one to upper sixth prompting students to adopt all sorts of strategies to remain awake in the night to read their notes. Some drank coffee, other ate coffee paste, the poorer students ate cola, and others went for pepol, the ultimate being smoking wee (those who started with wee ended up as “Wajaka men” till date roaming the streets and being counted amongst the psychiatric patients in Ghana).
In Ferguson house the quest to stay awake (TDB that is Till Day Break they called it) in order to read was perfected by some ‘Wajaka men” who after the wee had gotten them into the skies needed to descend and this they did by soaking their legs in a bucket of water whilst reading. This contrasted with the strategy adopted by senior Wahab who read not more than two hours at a time slept as much as possible and at the end of five years in 1979 came out as one of the best in their batch. The bucket of water adherents had a few 4’s and 6’s and grieved with 8’s and 9’s as their companions making them candidates for second world war the following year.
As we inched closer to the O levels we got to know that many put all their efforts in the mock exams , relaxed after that and assumed it was going to be plain sailing during the WAEC exams only to be crowned with tadpoles (9’s). Many of the recipients of these tadpoles at the O level exam were empty in the head and just playing to the gallery when in fact they should have learned harder. They will come to one of the junior classrooms preferably one which had girls (blue or red) and then during prep hours move to the black board to solve mathematical or balance chemical equations.
In less than an hour these so called “mathematicians “ will be dusty from chalk and panting claiming they had solved an equation Adamu Bature could not solve. That attracted some attention from the few girls and our group who always hung around the windows to taunt the seniors but thought distinction was the ultimate for these geniuses. Alas when the O level or A level results were announced our geniuses were not mentioned (they either left school bills unpaid so that their results would not be released or protested they were cheated) prompting all of us to demand a remark of their papers claiming the examiners had cheated them. It was not until lower sixth that we got to know that most of those people who were busy at the blackboards were just shadow boxing. They never attempted to solve the difficult equations but only repeated the examples in the text book on the black boards. They never ventured beyond exercises even a form one boy could complete lest they becoming a laughing stock.
Some science students in form four to sixth form usually carried an array of science books (Abbot, Modern Biology, Holderness and Lambert, Ivan Addae Mensah to mention a few) wherever they went just to prove that offering science was no joke. In truth most of them were wishing that they joined J.K Mensah Dappah’s typing class where their true talent lay but pride blindfolded them.
WAEC A level exams presented a spectacle of its own as there were candidates and there were CANDIDATES. By CANDIDATES one meant the second world warriors (They had come to resit some papers they failed or did not do well in the previous years). So a list was always prepared for those who appeared for “second world war” and of course it was spiced with the names of some of our Masters (who for all their too known were world warriors) prompting a lot of giggling and name calling as well as curses if the master happened to be wicked.
Only God knows how many world wars some Navascans fought. Some were qualified for grand medals since at O level they fought about three before entering sixth form, then capped it with another two or three before making it to Cape Vars.
Those who were defeated in these wars at O level sometimes found themselves at Saint John Bosco’s Training College to horn their pedagogical skills. Alas junior students had a field day and subjected these defeated “warriors” to name calling especially during sporting events between Navasco and Boscos. “Old Bones” the small boys would shout anytime Boscos were top in any event taunting these former Navascans for no crime but for the fact that they have decided to choose a career in teaching. The ultimate was the insult of “disappointed sixth formers” being spewed out from students who at that time did not know they will one day be in public service in Ghana courtesy attending Saint John Boscos training College and being called an old bone.
Of our Masters, Owusu Acheaw was a die heart Nkrumahist (Geography lessons turned to praises for Nkrumah. He would state “If you go to Tema modern amenities, if you go Akosombo salute Nkrumah, without Nkrumah Ghana caput), Ganderton was highly unpredictable when teaching French (topic for another day), Ramsay could teach subject provided there were text books, and Sampia always spent 15 minutes during each lesson to boast about this exploits in Tamasco.
Add the above to Paul Asikisimi, Akowan, Abaley, Abatey, and Anglaawini and one had a potpourri of teachers ready to rumble and put students in their right places. If you could not be settled the Muhammed Ali way, then it was your dance with destiny by being asked to settle it “the Builsa way”. By the time you were “settled the Builsa way” the dispensary will have lots of liniment and hot water to massage your aching muscles because of the severe beating you received from one of the apostles of the builsa way. These apostles included both masters and students but leading them were Mr……. (put in the name of your own preferred apostle), with the art of fighting perfected by one “captain war “ who it is claimed had one of the most stable centres of gravity and so his back never touched the ground at any wrestling match.
Sampia who taught us chemistry cold boast to the high heavens. One day he got up from the laboratory bench and did some shadow boxing on how he was going to “finish” off Bastedo (Eddie Akita) with just a simple upper cut. He however recoiled when we informed him Bastedo was around the corner of the chemistry laboratory which was not far from the Art room where he (Bastedo) taught art.
Sampia started boasting during another class and exclaimed “When we were in Tamasco we wore nylon shirts which needed no ironing”, then hesitated deep in thought. Abundana our classmate with the okro mouth completed Sampia’s sentence with the words “you now wear obroni wawu”.Ten buckets of water to the laboratory tank Sampia thundered and ordered Abundana’s accomplices to his farm for afternoon punishment.
I led the group for the punishment, did little work but plenty of talking and succeeded in drawing Sampia into a conversation. “Master your farm is nice and there are no weeds in it”. I remarked. “Yes of course” came Sampia’s reply and continued “you see this whole area, I weeded it in 20 minutes, if it was Abem he would have taken 2 weeks. In fact last year when we were all harvesting corn, millet, and groundnuts, Abem harvested grass”.
How could we deal with this when Abem was our form master and will be smoked out. We kept this explosive piece of information to ourselves until we completed sixth form and shared this with Mr. Abem who laughed it off knowing that Sampia was as usual boasting.
There are a lot of stories to be told about the masters in Navasco but suffice it to say they really had to deal with some pretty daft students. Take for instance a history class when the topic was on the crusades. One of our female mates was asked about the role of King Richard the lion heart in the crusades?
She quickly retorted that Richard the lion heart married the crusades thinking the word crusade was the name of a woman. This same class mate of ours got excited during a history exam and this was about a question which asked us to write about the travels of Ibn Battuta (the Islamic writer and traveller of medieval times). This is what she wrote “everybody knows Battuta. He is a bad boy and likes insulting people. Batutta is a small black boy from Republic House and if he disturbs you and you say you do not want that he will insult you”.
She had completed misfired in her answer to the question on Ibn Battuta. She rather in her mistaken belief described in graphic detail Ibrahim Akolbire Battuta of Form 2 Red. So much for her understanding of a simple question in history for she bombed proper when the O level results for the year 1981 were announced.
With the results of this girl went our dreams of ever beating the record of the earlier batches of Navasco and did not even have a dog’s chance of getting nearer the feat of the 1974 O level batch. She joined others to spice up the year’s results with its fair share of acrobatic 6’s but come on I am sure all of us including those who stopped at form five came to one conclusion and that Navasco was great.