? ? ? ? ? In 1983 or ’84, I forget exactly when, the extant headmaster of Prempeh College, Kumasi, prevented me from enrolling and sitting for the GCE A-Level examinations. I had led a quiet, albeit vigorous, protest against the corruptly unjust attitude of some of the Prempeh College teachers against us knowledge-hungry students. Aside from the regularly stipulated tuition fees established by the Ghana Education Service, these teachers, led by Headmaster Atiemo, insisted on charging us a separate and extra-tution fees before performing the very pedagogical duties for which they had been hired.
The man who collected the extra-tuition fees and ahmelessly served as a shadow bursar, of sorts, ironically, also taught us Religious Studies, that is, if you could get him to set foot into the classroom. Mr. Akurang-Boamah clearly preferred to traipse other high school campuses selling his commentary notes on the scriptures; and to be frank with the dear reader, his books offered more by way of adequate examination preparation than the man himself.
I was not actually against the extra-tuition fees, though I was quite annoyed by our gratuitous scapegoating for the economic problems of the country at large. Still, what was inescapably galling was the fact of the recipients of such patently unjust payments resorting to business as usual. What this means is that it clearly did not make much of a difference whether one paid these illegal extra-tuition charges or not. We were simply not being given our money’s worth. The teachers were neither showing up for their regularly salaried classes nor for those for which we, students, had been additionally charged.
In the end, some of us had to fork up a second tranche of extra-tution fees to a bevy of far more diligent teachers from the Ahmadiyya Secondary School (AMASS). Our Prempeh College teachers had either flatly refused to refund our extra-tuition fees, or we had been too afraid to demand the same, for palpable fear of retribution down the pike, as it were. For me, though, it appears that the proverbial die had already been cast. For not too long afterwards, in an apparently direct response to my “gross exhibition of impertinence,” to speak much less about abject insubordination, Master Atiemo decided to punitively teach me a lesson in humility by preventing me from enrolling and sitting for my A-Level examinations.
Anyway, to his eternal credit, the man was far too smart to make his vindictive intentions that transparent. Instead, he would choose to invoke a GES regulation which afforded him the peremptory discretion of deciding which students, in his political estimation, qualified to sit for the GCE examinations, in particular students whose year-round attendance left much to be desired. Having come down with encephalities – or West-Nile Virus – and having been absent from school for nearly six months, made me a prime target for retributive justice. Mr. Atiemo would promptly cite a 180-day GES absentee student rule to literally count me out.
It was this most painful and harrowing and spine-chilling incident which ran riotously through my mind, as I read about the recent flouting of a GES directive not to saddle the parents of newly admitted students with an unbearable combination of unauthorized tuition and boarding fees by the heads of some five Kumasi schools. Predictably at the very top of the list of the offending schools were Prempeh College and Opoku Ware School. The others were Yaa Asantewaa Girls’, Aduman and SIMS College.
In those hellish days, the two most notoriously bribe-prone headmasters in Ghana were Messrs. Atiemo and Owusu-Donkor, of Prempeh and Opoku Ware, respectively. They were also known to be two fast friends who drove Mercedes Benz salon cars. No Vice-Chancellor of any Ghanaian university was known to be either bigger or richer than these two gentlemen of payola deposits.
Anyway, in the afore-referenced story (See “Prempeh College, Others Cited for Charging Unapproved Fees” MyJoyOnline.com/ Ghanaweb.com 11/7/13), the heads of the five schools are reported to be charging up to GHC 1,500 instead of the contractually agreed fee of GHC 700 for boarding students, and GHC 500 for day or commuter students. I am quite certain that the prohibitive cost of living under the kleptocratic government of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) may very well have compelled these metropolitan school chiefs to set their own rules.
The problem here, however, is that theirs are publicly run and assisted institutions that take their marching orders from the Director-General of the Ghana Education Service; which means that setting their own rules clearly implies that these high school principals may well have outgrown their breeches, and ought to be promptly bucked off their high horses.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York