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Assisi – 60 years of empowering the girl-child in Northern Ghana

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In the late 1950s, a group of farsighted individuals led by Bishop Gabriel Champagne through the instrumentality of the Late Cardinal Peter Porekuu Dery visualized an institution meant to educate the girl-child in the northern part of Ghana to be well equipped in order to contribute to the socio-economic development of a country that had attained independence two years earlier (1957).

In collaboration with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, (FMM), an International Religious Congregation, Saint Francis of Assisi Girls’ Senior High School (Assisi) was born in January 1959 as the Bishop Champagne led visionary team turn their dream into reality.

Madam Blandina Batiir (smiling)in a pose with the old students including Hajia Alima Mahama next her in a blue head gear

The Motto of the school is “Ad Veritatem Per Caritatem” meaning “To Truth Through Charity”

Vision and Mission of Assisi

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) Sisters were directed to run the school with a three-pronged objective.

The first objective was to give girls particularly those in this deprived area [Northern Ghana] the opportunity to have a formal education.

Secondly to cultivate and nurture girls academically and spiritually for them be conscious of their social and spiritual rights and responsibilities.

The last objective was to train and equip girls to become productive citizens in life.

For 60 years [1959-2019], a second cycle institution affectionately referred to as “Assisi” has been firing on all cylinders by blessing humanity with brilliant women who are contributing their quota to national development in all spheres of life.

Sixty years of transforming lives from the academic refinery of Assisi in Jirapa is really a big deal and worth celebrating.

The intellectual and professional influence of “Assisi Old Bones” permeates every stratum of society and in military fashion they deserve a salute and some push-ups for that.

Climax of anniversary

Saint Francis of Assisi Girls’ Senior High School on November 16, 2019, climaxed its 60th Anniversary amid pomp and glitter with a number of old students coming back to their roots at Jirapa in the Upper West Region to be part of the unique event.

The Minister Local Government & Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama addressing the gathering.

An old student and the Minister for local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama was among the dignitaries that graced the occasion.

She played a dual role by representing herself as well as standing-in for President Akufo-Addo.

Hajia Alima Mahama said: “For a country to stand the challenges of what she described as knowledge based century, it must transform itself into a modern productive player in the global market with an educated workforce.”

She indicated that a knowledge based economy can only materialized through the implementation of right education policies and programs.

In this piece, GBC’s Emmanuel Mensah-Abludo observes that the school which was established in 1959 with 12 girls and two staff now has 1,215 students on its roll.

It has 127 employees comprising 80 teaching and 47 non-teaching staff.

The Headmistress of the School, Rev. Sr. Martha Kello

The Headmistress of the school, Rev. Sr. Martha Kello who is also an old girl of Assisi said the school had been able “to authenticate its objectives” by producing prominent and dynamic women in responsible positions in and outside the country.

Prominent –“Assisi Old Bones”

Some of the past students making the waves in various fields include: a Member of the Council of State, Dr. Margaret Amoakohene who is also a lecturer at the University of Ghana, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama, the Upper East Regional Minister, Paulina Abayage and a Justice of the Appeal Court, Mrs. Angelina Mornah Domakyaareh.

Requests of the Headmistress

Rev. Sr. Martha Kello outlined some of the challenges of the school and called for support.

She stated: “When human beings begin to grow old many challenges set in so, the sixty years of St. Francis of Assisi Girls’ is grappling with old infrastructure that are falling apart some of which are life threatening.

Notable among them is the Home Economics block that has not seen renovation for over twenty years and is now in a very bad state.

“We are using this opportunity to call on the government and other public spirited bodies to come to our aid to refurbish the building where over hundreds of students take their program of choice,” Rev. Sr. Martha Kello pleaded.

An administration block, a pick-up, renovation of the first classroom block and completion of a ten-seater capacity water closet were some other requests made by the school authorities.

Best practices-Free SHS

Hajia Alima Mahama cited the examples of the US, Singapore and other countries in their quest to churn out educated workforce hence the free Senior High School policy in Ghana.

The United States of America institutionalized a free public secondary school education about 100 years ago.

Other countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Korea with whom we gained independence passed through the same path.

“Today Singapore is one of leading world economies and can boost of the most advanced and leading educational system,” she affirmed. Hajia Alima Mahama said “it is very important that we invest in our people”.

It is based on the same conviction that our President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has made education his government’s top priority to drive the economic transformation of Ghana.

Presidential bus to Assisi

Hajia Alima Mahama responded to the requests made and delivered a message from the President to the School saying: “Headmistress, I have some good news for you, His Excellency, the President of the Republic asked me to inform you that he will be giving the school a bus.”

Breaking the cycle of bondage

The Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Wa, Very Rev. Cornelius Naah Bayirinoba paid tribute to the founding fathers of the School for their foresight which helped to break the cycle of bondage of the girl-child.

The Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Wa,Very Rev. Cornelius Naah Bayirinoba

He stated: “Founding fathers literally had to knock from door to door in order to persuade very reluctant parents and guardians to release their wards for the first batch. Their great efforts met with modest results [only 12 students], despite this setback, they were not deterred by carrying out the vision for the empowerment of the girl-child who in those days was very vulnerable in the Dagaaba, the Wala, the Sissala and Birifoh communities.

“In these male dominated societies, girls were expected to remain at home and later given in marriage to bear children and give comfort to their male partners,” the Vicar General emphasized.

FOGA supporting Alma Mater

The National President of St. Francis of Assisi Old Girls’ Association (FOGA), Mrs. Fati Bodua Seidu described the theme: for anniversary “Sixty Years of Holistic Girl-Child Education: A Springboard to Nation Building as an apt one because the school has had a positive influence on several Ghanaian women. She entreated all past students to extend a hand of support to their alma mater in other for the school to regain its past glory.

FOGA will continue to explore ways of strengthening the existing cordial relationship between the school and the old girls.

Teacher support and student development will be the next phase of our Association’s involvement in the school to improve the school’s performance, Mrs. Seidu pledged.

International partnership

An eight-member delegation from a sister-school in the US, St. Francis Catholic High School in California was part of the celebration.

A delegation from US, St. Francis Catholic High School in California

 

The delegation was made up of the President of the school, Theresa Rodgers, a campus minister – Stephanie Villanueva – and six students.

The Senior Prefect’s trajectory

The Senior Prefect of the School,  Marijanata Tampuori equally paid homage to the team of visionaries under the local authority of Bishop Gabriel Champagne for establishing the third but the first Girls’ second cycle school in the Northern part of the Ghana.

The Senior Prefect, Miss Marijanata Tampuori

Ms. Tampuori was emphatic that Assisi’s 60 years existence of has enriched the Ghanaian society with brilliant women.

In respect of academic performance, Assisi has over years recorded very good results in the region and nationwide but in the recent years, it has found it hard to perform up to expectation.

Although the administration, members of staff, management and students have been on their toes to change the situation, as the pinnacle of academic excellence, it is our ultimate goal and we are not settling for less.

To improve academic work, the school library has been stock with modern books with the help of benefactors.

The administration too has greatly helped by subscribing to various newspapers.

Students are equally putting in a lot of efforts.

Ms. Tampouri was very grateful to FOGA for a number of supports it has given to the school to surmount some of its challenges.

“One of the key challenges of the school is inadequate teachers to impart the needed knowledge to for academic excellence. The school has no chapel and this compels the students to use the same building for both non-religious and Eucharistic celebrations.”

“It is the prayer and hope of the students that the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, a cheerful giver will touch individuals and organizations to reach out to Saint Francis of Assisi Girls’ Senior High School in respect of its needs,” Miss Tampuori observed.

Book launch

Dr. Maria Marciana Kuusaana of KNUST launching the book st the anniversary

A past student and lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Dr. Maria Marciana Kuusaana who has compiled the history of the school into a book used the occasion to launch it. The book is titled “ST. Francis of Assisi Girls’ Senior High School at Sixty: A Cradle of Female Senior High School Education in Northern Ghana.”

Recognition of hard work

Awards were presented to some deserving students and staff of the School. Miss Haifaawu Damba, was the overall best student in the 2019, West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), Ms. Dery Lydia Maale took the overall best student award in SHS‘3’ with Ms. Abudul-Rahman Ajara Asogla-ara being  adjudged the overall best student in SHS ‘2’.

Some of the staff honored for being the most hardworking in their departments were: Ms. Lydia Azaawuur Dakorah, Languages; Joseph Kenee, Mathematics; Ibrahim Manaam, Science; and Charles Baniyeni, Social Studies.

A Retired English Language Tutor of the School, Blandina Batiir who was recognized by the old girls and presented with a token gift was beside herself with joy. This was how Baatiir expressed her sentiment: “… I am the proudest, the proudest mother. I have produced every type of lady in Ghana and am so proud of it. And am so proud of your achievements and the services you are rendering to mother Ghana. God bless you all, God bless your families and God continue to bless the work you are doing for mother Ghana. Thank you very much.”

A Justice of the Appeal Court, Mrs. Angelina Mornah Domakyaareh, (an old girl) presented an award to the overall best student of the School in the 2019 WASSCE,  Haifaawu Damba as well as some other prize recipients.

Cultural displays

The event was interspersed with interesting cultural displays by students.

Wrap-up

In spite of the stormy weather, Saint Francis of Assisi Girls’ Senior High School has stayed its course as an institution and carved a niche for itself in the education delivery sector of Ghana over the past six decades. Indeed, its products have impacted and are still impacting society positively in academia, law, politics, journalism and what have you. We salute Assisi at 60 and we wish them an enduring and exciting future as they embark on another 60-year journey. Assisi…..Shine !!!!!

Madam Blandina Batiir in a pose with the old students including Hajia Alima Mahama with microphone

 

Story filed by Emmanuel Mensah-Abludo

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