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Opoku Ware School (OWASS)

By // Twi Schools
Opoku Ware School now
Opoku Ware School now

Opoku Ware School, often referred to as OWASS, is a top ranking senior high school for boys aged 14 to 18;. It was established in 1952, as one of the five Catholic schools in Ghana that year. The school was named after Asante King Opoku Ware I. The alumni are known collectively as Akatakyie, an Asante word meaning "conquering heroes".

It is located in Fankyenebra, near Santasi, along the Kumasi-Obuasi road.

The patron saint of the school is Saint Thomas Aquinas. The motto of the school is "Deus Lux Scientiae", meaning "God is the Light of Knowledge".

Overview

The school is governed by a board, who appoints a Head Master. It contains 9 boys houses, each headed by a housemaster, selected from the more senior members of the teaching staff, who number some 60. Almost all the school's pupils go on to universities, about a two thirds of them to the three premier universities in Ghana, being:University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and University of Cape Coast.

The current headmaster, F. Matthew Oppong Mensah (W4), an alumnus of the school is a member of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Senior Secondary schools (CHASS) in Ghana.

OWASS today is a much larger than its inception. In 1952, the school began with 60 boys. This number has significantly risen to over 1500 boys now.

 History

Opoku Ware School was the first Catholic boys School in the Asante Kingdom. Until its establishment,youth from the Ashanti Kingdom and the Northern part of Ghana who wanted Catholic education had to travel south across thePra River in order to attend secondary schools.

This meant that members of the Catholic Church who wished to have their children educated in accordance with Catholic traditions had to send them to St. Augustine's College or Holly Child College, both in Cape Coast.

The original plan to establish a secondary school in the Kingdom at the initiation of the King, called for one school jointly with the Catholic Church , Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. The Catholic Church opted out of it and asked the King's blessing for the establishment of a separate school for the Catholics.

At a meeting held on January 31, 1951, a decision was taken to build a Roman Catholic Mission secondary school. The government was to provide all the funds for the building of the school. The school was meant for 360 students with a possible expansion to the Sixth Form. It was to be developed according to a ten-year development plan, and the final cost was estimated at £250,000. An expatriate construction firm, Fry, Drew and Company, was awarded the contract to build classrooms, dormitories, laboratories, and administration block and staff bungalows.
Opening

OWASS opened its doors on 28th February 1952 to 60 young boys to the school, originally called Yaa Asantewaa College. Two weeks after the school opened, the name was changed to Opoku Ware School following consultations with and instructions from the Manhyia Palace. This was to honour one of the most illustrous Asante Kings, who in May 1744 approached the Roman Catholic Mission at the Elmina Castle in order to educate Asante youth.

Katakyie Opoku Ware I, ruled Asanteman between 1720 and 1750. A past student of the school is known as Katakyie (conquering hero) the title by which Nana Opoku Ware I was known, principally for the expansionist drive of Asanteman's frontiers, and for which he became famously known.

The late Rev. Fr. P.R Burgess, An Oxford University graduate, was the first headmaster of the school. He was the son of an Irish draper and a former major in the British Army. He was a Polyglot and spoke Italian and French fluently. He also spok Aramaic . The boys spent their first night at St. Paul's house, the only dormitory in what was a desolate clearing. Two small rooms next to that house served as their dining hall, their assembly hall and their classroom.
 Expansion

By 1955, the school had five dormitories (St Paul, St Matthew,St Mark, St Luke and St John), ten classrooms, three science laboratories, an administration block, dining hall, kitchen, library, and 17 staff bungalows. There were 450 students attending the school.

A Sixth Form was established in 1958, to provide courses in both the arts and sciences. A Cadet Corps was formed in 1960.
St Thomas Aquinas Chapel, Opoku Ware School


Presently, the boys are housed in nine houses. There are over 74 classrooms, six science laboratories, two libraries, a science resource center, computer centre, language laboratory, and French and German languages teaching centres.

There are 36 staff bungalows, a block of eight flats and quarters for junior administrative staff, cooks, and pantry boys. There is also a staff canteen, a chapel, a dining hall, and a sick bay.
 Current Projects

ultra-modern ICT centre for the school
 Boys Houses

There are 9 houses named after various in the Catholic faith. The house are named St. John, St Mathew, St Mark, and St Luke. The rest are St Paul, St Peter, St James, St Andrews and St Philip.

The idea of sustainability was incorporated not only in the architecture of the houses but most buildings in the school. Each of the houses as well as most of the staff bungalow has an underground well which provides water for the boys when there is shortage of water.
House Structure

In addition to the housemaster, each house has a House Prefect and an assistant who are chosen from the oldest year. There are house gatherings once a week and usually happens in the morning before classes. The housemaster and boys have an opportunity to make announcements during house meetings; the boys get the opportunity to voice the views and express grievances.

Each house participates in weekly morning mass at the school chapel on rotational basis. Many inter-house competitions occur, mostly in the field of sport. For much of the school's history, first year boys have to act as servants, to older boys. Their duties mostly includes cleaning, and running errands.

 Student Identification System

One of the most enduring legacies of Rev. Fr. Burgess was the student identification and numbering system, a proud tradition that continues till today. For easier administrative purposes, he decided to assign a letter of the alphabet to each year group, and then combine it with a sequential number to each student who gained admission.

The pioneering group had the letter K. Thus K1 was the very first pioneer student to gain admission, followed by K2 and on till K60 the last student to be admitted that year. The following year, the letter S was assigned, then P in 1954, M in 1955 and so on.

The choice of the letters did not follow the alphabetical order. When the single letters ran out with the Z batch of 1975, the school simply began a double letter assignment, with the AB group in 1976. After the AZ group entered in 1999, the following year saw the BC group. Current Form One students are the BQ group who entered in 2011.

A student's number is an integral and unique part of his identity and stay at the school, and cannot be assigned to another person even if the original assignee leaves school after a day in the first term. Students are assigned to their dormitories on the basis of the last digit of their number. Thus when a student's number is mentioned, it is easy to figure out his year group and dormitory. So a student with the the number BQ 617 for instance entered in the year 2011 and is in St. James house.
Achievements

The school has won the Science quiz twice and have been runners-up four times. It has also been runners-up in the 1995 Brilliant Science and Mathematics Quiz Competition, and champions in 1997. It placed second nationally the first and about the only time SSSCE results league were published.

Between 1973 and 1990, about 75% of the students entering Harvard, MIT, Yale and Stanford Universities from Ghana were from OWASS. There were numerous others who went to University of Chicago, UC Berkeley, Columbia, and to London, Imperial, Cambridge, Oxford and Aberdeen in Britain. The tradition of training most of the early Akatakyie medical doctors in Germany and Ireland ( via Catholic Church Scholarships)is legendary. A great number of faculty members at the Medical School in Kumasi are Akatakyie.

OWASS has won more trophies than any of its counterparts in the region; the school at one point won the hockey trophy for 11 consecutive years. OWASS has won more trophies than any school in the region when it comes to inter-collegiate events (Superzonals) held annually.The school has 9 out the 13 Superzonals. The school has produced several national athletes and Olympians including Ohene Karikari, Sandy Osei Agyemang, and Christian Nsiah.

Until the 1980s, OWASS was the only authorized test center for the administration of TOEFL and SAT exams in Ghana.


Rev. Father Burges (1952-1961)

In March 1961, Father Burgess was given his marching orders from Ghana, having preposterously been accused of interfering in the nation's politics. In reality, he had refused to admit the son of a government minister who had not made the required grade. His principled stand cost him his job and parted him from his dear school, but his values continue to inspire.

Leo Kalinauckas (1961-1963)

An Englishman of Lithuanian heritage, who ran the school between 1961 and 1963.

Kwame Adu-Amankwaah (1963-1969)

In 1963, the school had its first Ghanaian headmaster in the person of the late Mr. Kwame Adu-Amankwaah, who was headmaster until 1969, when he left to join the new government of Dr. K. A Busia as the Eastern Regional Minister, and subsequently Ghana’s Ambassador to Mexico. During his time, the school's academic performance improved remarkably, and St. Peter House and the Gambrah Library were both constructed in 1966. He had a reputation as very strict disciplinarian and dedicated Catholic.

Stephen Oduro (1971-1978)

During his time, OWASS saw another wave of expansion, with a new dining hall, the Soweto classroom block, new staff bungalows and another dormitory, St. Andrew House. A new assembly hall and a new headmaster's bungalow were also commenced.

Peter Owusu-Donko (1978-1987)

He steered the school through the difficult mid eighties, which saw unprecedented bush fires, drought, fuel shortages and food crisis in the country A strong disciplinarian, he managed to guide the school during these stormy waters with great help from the Catholic Church.

James Dapaah Berko (1987-2003)

As the first alumnus headmaster of the school, Mr. Berko went on to hold the post for a record sixteen years. During his time, the school saw many reforms and academic performance improved remarkably. Other successes chalked included winning the National Brilliant Science and Maths Quiz on two occasions (1997 and 2002) as well as several regional sporting championships. It was during his tenure that the old students initiated the construction of an ultra-modern ICT centre for the school.

Stephen Anokye (2003-2011)

Again, the school continued to grow from strength, winning several academic and sporting laurels. Staff morale was high. During his time, a new house (St. Philip) and new library project were commenced and completed. The PTA also commenced a major classroom block project. A new assembly hall was also commenced under Mr. Anokye’s tenure.

F. Matthew Oppong Mensah (2011- Present)

Determined to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors. A tenth dormitory is currently under construction.

(**Rev. Fr. Habits and Mr. T. Bediakoh served as Acting Headmasters for short periods)
Notable Alumni

    Air-Vice Marshall G.Y Boakye (S59), former Air Force Commander under the SMC government in the 1970s,

    Mr. J. Bentum-Williams (S50), former Ghana High Commissioner to Malaysia under the NPP government,

    Prof. Boakye-Yiadom (S), former Pro-Vice Chancellor of KNUST,

    Naval Capt. Butah (Rtd) (P61), former NDC Minister of State,

    Prof. Kwame Sarpong (Y11), first Provost of the College of Health Sciences at KNUST,

    Mr. Justice Stephen A. Brobbey (Y76) Supreme Court Judge and former Chief Justice of The Gambia and

    Mr. Francis Poku (A4) , National Security Minister under the NPP administration.

    Nana Akuoko Sarpong (Q125) Agogo Manhene

    Major Boakye-Gyan (Rtd) (Q4) of AFRC fame

    Nana Otuo Serebour (E36),Omanhene of Juaben, known in private life as Peter Amponsah,

    Commander P.M.G Griffiths (Rtd) (R8), former PNDC and NDC Deputy Minister of State

    Mr. P.V. Obeng (N28), former Member of the PNDC and Chairman of the Committee of Secretaries

    Dr Kofi Amoah (J16), CEO Progeny Ventures (Citizen Kofi), chairman CAN 2008 LOC

    Prof. Kwabena Oppong-Boachie (L19) Director of CSRMM. Also Obrempong Boachie Amoah Kromansah II, Manhene of Nsoatre Trad. Area.

    Prof. Owusu Sarpong (L), former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at KNUST and also a former Ambassador to France.

    Mr. Martin Esson Benjamin (B35) Chief Executive of the Millenium Development Authority,

    Mr. Kofi Nsiah (C60) former Secretary of the GFA,

    Mr. Ato Austin (B24) of the PNDC government,

    Prof kasim Kasanga fmr Min of Lands

    Dr. Gobind Nankani (D252), Former Economic Advisor to President Mills and Vice-President of the World Bank’s PREMN,

    Mr. Ohene Karikari (U17), former national athlete and Africa’s number one sprinter during his time

    Dr. Ohene Boachie Adjei (G) who recently performed a spinal surgery on former President John Agyekum Kufour

    Okyerema Asante, world acclaimed percussionist,

    Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi (W215) of GIMPA and former NDC Minister of State,

    Dr. J. Oduro-Boateng(W128) CEO of Emmanuel Eye Centre, Accra,

    Dr. Felix Anyah (F209), CEO of Holy Trinity Spa in Sogakope,

    Peter Osei Duah, fmr MD SIC

    Mr. Ernest Abankroh (X40), former Secretary to AGC and currently CEO West Africa Gas Pipeline project,

    Kwasi Appiah (O123), former Black Stars captain and current Acting National Football Coach,

    Kofi Nsiah Poku(O) CEO of Kinapharma Ltd

    Nana Osim Kwatia II (a.k.a Fred Croffie-T135) Chief of Amanokrom and Gyasehene of Akuapem Traditional Area,

    Dr. Kwame Barwuah Edusei (O239) of the EO Group and formerly Ghana’s Ambassador to Switzerland and the US.

    Mr. Martin Brobbey (AH7), CEO of Lexta Ltd, suppliers of YAZZ products

    Philippe Ayivor (C6) President, American Chamber of Commerce – Ghana [1]

    Dr. Kwame Baah Nuakoh,(AL3) International Relations Officer of Asante Kotoko Football Club

    Mr. Jacob Osei-Yeboah (AH 125) Independent Presidential Candidate in the 2012 elections

    Prof Cristian Nsiah (AM11) national athlete, Olympian and Bus Econs professor at Black Hills State Uni

    Ken Kuranchie Managing Editor, Daily Searchlight

    Sarfo Abebrese, Lawyer and founder of Coalition of Supporters Unions of Africa - A Pan African Initiative

    Mr. Joe Mensah, Country General Manager, IBM Ghana

    Kwasi Adu Amankwah, Gen Sec. Int. Trade Union Conf. Africa & fmr Gh TUC boss

    Ernest Owusu-Poku fmr Inspector General of Police, Ghana

    Lieutenant Colonel Richard Amponsem-Boateng (AF 1), fmr Commanding Officer 4BN

    Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, Former Finance Minister and current MP for Old Tafo


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