Last week, the 1993 year group of the Old Achimotan Association organized a Teacher’s Appreciation Day to mark twenty years of leaving school. Strategically timed by our executives to coincide with ‘World Teacher’s Day’, the event stimulated great memories as legendary teachers resurfaced.
Suddenly, we were students again, celebrating not just Senior House Master Mr. Yirenkyi-Addo’s nicknames “RAYA” and “Addo-Ray” but also his old slow white Fiat. Physics teacher Mr. Thompson again became “Betee Bolus” which if you were in Achimota, you would know was synonymous with ‘soft kenkey.’ Mathematician Mr. Bright Akpetey once again became transmogrified into “Man Akpetey” challenging students “to calculate the locus of a Tsetse fly.” As the legend goes, Man Akpetey slipped one day and at the verge of a mighty fall, stoutly chanted, “No! Akpetey Koku never falls!”
Some recalled profound life changing statements by Mr. Ohene-Kena and Mr. Klaye and we established that Mrs. Acolatse, Mrs. Osei, Mrs. Mensah-Bonsu, Mrs. Quarcoo, Mrs. Asare, Madame Ocloo and Mr. Sebuava were truly ageless. Mr. Ben-Mahmood’s towering influence in Geography was only dwarfed by an unforgettable voice and height. For Mr. Ken A. Kafui, his creative force in choral music was eulogized but not more than his trademark long ‘Texas’ boots with which he conducted the school choir during many a carols service with C.M. Placca, the best pianist ever in the world in accompaniment while my Housemaster Mr. Hanson- Evenononyo-Bright aka “Son Baba” proved to be in his own world with his famous violin. This he played with his head characteristically twisted to one side and his eyes half closed in unforgettable ecstasy!
Fondly remembered but absent teachers were Scripture Union Patron Mr. Aboagye who admonished our very fine ladies not to allow anyone to “squeeze them like oranges” and head master Mr. Robert Winston Asiedu who complemented rich oratory with profound lessons on Achimota’s all-round education; from the 3Rs – “Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic” to the 3Hs – making the best use of your “Head, Heart and Hands”.
Many teachers were nothing short of inspirational. Today I celebrate five of them.
I have mentioned elsewhere that by the Sixth Form, after numerous prizes in the previous years, competing for academic honors was no longer my priority. I was fully distracted and happily so. When my ‘A’ level Chemistry mock results came in however, we realized that the distraction had gone overboard. I had ‘bombed’ without redemption! Mr. Yirenkyi-Addo, had scribbled at the top of the script “Why, why, why ??????.” He called me for a chat and thereafter referred me to Mr. Samuel Atindana, Chemistry teacher and friend. Mr. Atindana smiled his kind smile and diagnosed the root causes of my problems. “You have carried too much on your shoulders – Senior Prefect, President of Scripture Union, Writer’s Club, Pan African Club, Debating Society … You have to make time for the exams.” Between the mock and the actual exams, Mr. Atindana organized countless hours of one-on-one tutorials and additional mock exams at no charge simply because if I failed, I would disgrace him, myself, and the school. I have no doubt that but for the great ‘Atin-D’, I would not have passed and gained admission into medical school.
Of all the things Mrs. Flora Mensah taught me in Biology, what remains unforgettable are “Bony fish… for example, tilapia!” delivered while chewing half the chalk in Achimota and causing great attendant financial loss as she delivered the entire Biology syllabus ‘from her head’! Of course, I have since ensured that my tilapia is always well ‘gingerized, oniorized and pepperized” prior to alacritous consumption! But more than Biology, Mrs. Mensah taught me integrity. This she accomplished by giving the class sealed examination questions to be opened and answered unsupervised when one felt confident he/she had mastered a particular section of the ‘A’ level syllabus. It did not occur to us to cheat although there was ample opportunity and this, for the simple reason that Mrs. Mensah did not expect us to cheat. When students from strange places flocked to Achimota in the run up to the ‘A’ Levels looking for “apo”, they could simply not believe that we had never cheated in exams before in our lives. How can you cheat if you are Mrs. Flora Mensah’s student?
S. N. E. B Asamoah aka Bokassa aka Roboks was phenomenal; he brought Mathematics to life. Fresh from University, he was inseparable from his students. To demonstrate how practical the subject was, he took us to collect data on passing vehicles at the Danquah Circle. We subsequently plotted Cumulative frequency curves and determined quartiles etc. He gave us new perspectives and confidence and in the process ‘forced’ over 80% of the Class to secure either grade one or two with a comparatively high number proceeding to offer the subject at the ‘A’ level. As a life coach, Bokassa also taught me how to seek the face of the Lord in prayer.
A somewhat vertically challenged male teacher waltzing with extremely measured steps and a half- buttoned shirt entered our form 1A class and with the following magical words, established an unforgettable charismatic hold on our lives – forever!
“I am James Ariel ‘Ringo’ Djarbeng, but please call me Ringo! I am here to teach you English for life, not to pass examinations!” I count myself as one of the privileged few to have been taught English language and later Literature by the Great Ringo in four out of the five O’ Level years. I fondly recall the times we spent in Ringo’s house singing – ‘Reflections of my life’ – as he played the guitar and the laughter when ‘Akua Ringo’ was born. Seeing him last Saturday, I recalled the hours I would spend during ‘Prep’ simply day dreaming about ancient warriors and battles fought in days of yore as I read Ullyses:
Though much is taken, much abides
And though we are not that which in times past moved earth and heaven
That which we are, we are
Some work of noble note may yet be done, not unbecoming men that strove with gods
Mr. Kwaku Aboagye never taught me history. He taught me more. He taught me how to have my quiet time reading the bible myself. He taught me that the Holy Spirit was always with us in the Aggrey Chapel and not only when people started screaming during service. He gave me strength to give strength to others who were crushed that they had failed God simply because other pretenders had turned Christianity into a set of rules- “you have to pray three hours every day even if it means absenting yourself from class, giving a card to a friend on Valentine’s day is a sin, if you don’t speak in tongues you are going to hell etc.” He encouraged me to develop a personal relationship with God. Today, I know God’s love for me not because another man tells me I am pleasing or not pleasing God, but because I know Him for myself and feel personally secure that He watches over me.