Last Saturday saw Prempeh College, one of Ghana’s elite second-cycle institutions, mark seven decades of existence (the milestone itself was attained in February this year), with the occasion graced by two Ghanaian presidents (the incumbent, and a predecessor we’d talk about a little later) and the current Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.
Unsurprisingly, the event has had Prempeh on the lips of many over the weekend, but there are quite a few facts about the school that aren’t so well-known. Consider seven:
1. DESIGNED BY THE BEST
Four years after World War II ended, on land that hitherto housed hospital, Prempeh sprung. The original design was by British architect Maxwell Fry and his wife Jane Drew, just around the same time they also designed the famous University of Ibadan, Nigeria. The couple takes credit, too, for Adisadel College and several other important structures in Ghana and around the world.
2. MISSIONS ON A MISSION
Mission-run schools are hardly a rare breed in Ghana but, even so, Prempeh stands out for being carried on the shoulders of, not one, but two churches: Presbyterian and Methodist. The government and Asanteman serve as significant pillars, too, but the former pair wield plenty of influence in Prempeh’s day-to-day administration, as seen in the alternation of occupancy of the offices of headmaster and chaplain each time a transition is necessitated.
3. PRIDE OF THE NORTH
Even at the grand old age of 70, Prempeh isn’t the oldest second-cycle institution in Ghana’s northern parts; in Ashanti, they’re still younger than Osei Kyeretwie Senior High School (1937) and Osei Tutu Senior High School (1940). But it was undoubtedly Prempeh — the first government-assisted school in the region — which truly elevated standards, ensuring the ‘North’ finally had a fair chance of bridging the gap with the more endowed southern academic system. All hail the College!
4. SCHOOL OF THE STOOL
The Golden Stool is Ashanti’s very soul and greatest symbol, and few institutions identify with it as much as Prempeh does: a likeness of the stool adorns the school crest, the official magazine is called the ‘The Stool’, and an aerial view of the College reveals structures loosely outlined in the form of a stool. Even more significantly, as a time-honored tradition, a largely wooden replica of the revered Stool is borne at school functions by the senior prefects, as seen above.
5. NSMQ DOMINANCE
During the early years of the National Science and Maths Quiz (NSMQ), in the mid-to-late nineties, no school was quite as successful as Prempeh. The College won the very first edition back in 1994, also triumphing in one of two finals in the three years that followed. And while it took nearly two decades for Prempeh to emerge champions again, they’ve since managed the feat twice, the last in 2017. Those aside, Prempeh also holds records for the most points amassed in a single contest of both old and new formats of the NSMQ.
6. GIRLS, GIRLS
Prempeh, of course, is an all-boys school these days (as was the original concept for its establishment), but that hasn’t always been the case. For a brief period in the 1970s and 1980s, there were slots for some females, mainly from Kumasi Girls SHS (located not too far from the College) and the ‘spousal’ Yaa Asantewaa Girls SHS, although these were all day students. Notable alumni of that short-lived era include Dr (Mrs) Beatrice Heyman (nee Mensah), a senior medical officer with the Ministry of Health in Accra; Ms Millicent Akpo-Teye, a senior officer with the Ghana Revenue Authority (Custom Division) also in Accra; and Mrs Vesta E. Adu-Gyamfi (nee Asuako), Director of the Centre for Cultural and African Studies (CeCAST) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
7. THE UNLIKELY KUFUOR STORY
You’ve heard it all about arguably the most distinguished of Prempeh’s ‘seniors’: John Agyekum Kufuor, a former Ghanaian president. But Kufuor might never have made it to the College, you know: Achimota School, as for some of his siblings, was his preference, while his failure to pass an interview for admission to ‘Motown’ nearly saw his powerful and affluent uncle ship him off to Britain for a supposedly superior secondary education. However, another relative succeeded in convincing Kufuor’s uncle — the Apagyahene — to keep his young nephew in Kumasi, at a 5-year-old Prempeh College. In hindsight, it wasn’t such a bad idea and, with that intervention to thank, we brag different!