1931. At a time in Ghanaian history when the colonialists controlled almost everything from running the country to making laws and establishing schools, young men stood up in a part of the country to build a school for the brilliant but needy students in some of the major towns in the country that would be able to rub shoulders with any other institution in any part of the country. Today, 89 years on, there are many young men, and some young women, in Ghana who pay glowing tribute to this sacrifice on the anniversary of the institution.
When in 1931 four young men, Dr. Kofi George Konuah, Samuel Neils Awuletey, Gottfried Narku Alema and James Akwei Halm-Addo, all under the age of 30, set out to found a school, it was born out of the share desire to give an opportunity for under privileged people to receive quality secondary education.
Not satisfied with the fact that most secondary schools at the time were set up either by the government or the missionary churches to offer education to some privileged people in society, these four young men set out to offer education to young men who hitherto would not have had an opportunity to become prominent citizens in society.
On July 20th 1931, Accra Academy was founded in a building called Ellen House at Mantse Agbonaa a suburb of James Town in Accra. The building named after the leaser, Mrs. Ellen Buckle, opened to welcome the first batch of 19 students for the beginning of the academic year.
There has been no turning back since. From the humble beginnings at Ellen House, young men from the coastal towns of Osu, La, James Town, Ga Mashie and other major towns came to Ellen House to be taught by six teachers who had dedicated their lives to make sure this dream becomes a success.
From the humble beginning at Ellen House in James Town, the school was relocated to its present thirty-seven-acre site at Bubuashie, a suburb of Kaneshie. The relocation has afforded many more people the fortunate opportunity of experiencing the excellence of an Academy education.
The academy acquired the nickname “Little Legon” shortly after the new school site was commissioned, when some students from the Western Region who had gained admission into the University of Ghana, reported at the academy instead of the University of Ghana, apparently confused by the close similarity between the infrastructure of both educational institutions.
The story of Accra Academy cannot be told without acknowledging the tenets upon which the school was founded. The founders of the school adopted the Latin saying, “Esse Quam Videri” meaning “to be, rather than to seem” to show from the beginning that it was not for the optics that the school had been founded, but it was going to train young men to become prominent citizens to handle the affairs of a future independent Ghana.
As the first private secondary school to be established in the country, there would have some eyebrows raised about the success and sustainability of such an institution. But the zeal and determination of the founders and founding teachers were soon transferred to the pioneering students when in 1932 seven out of ten of the first batch of students presented for the Junior Cambridge School Certificate Examination passed the exams.
The most popular slogan of any school in Ghana was created in 1950 when the slogan “Blɛoo” became associated with the school. The story is told of how the phrase was created when the sports team en route to participate in the then coveted annual Aggrey Shield athletic competition billed for Wesley College, Kumasi that year.
Accra Academy and Achimota were in the same coach, and were continuously trolled in the train by the Achimotans who were too sure of themselves and taunted AccraAca as ‘underdogs.’ The response of Accra Academy was “Blɛoo”. The story concludes that Accra Academy was the outstanding school at the year’s competition, winning more than half of the trophies at stake and the coveted Aggrey Shield.
AccraAca had the last laugh on the return journey with chants of “AccraAca-Blɛoo” and by the time the train got to Accra, there was virtually no Achimotan on the coach. The slogan has since remained, becoming a fundamental part of the school’s make up, and becoming a pioneer phrase in the subsequent ‘sloganeering’ of secondary schools across the country.
It is also worth mentioning that one of the members of that memorable feat, Mr N. A. Adjin-Tettey also celebrates his 90th birthday today.
The school has since its inception become an important source for the provision of top human resource for the country. One of the earliest prominent Alumni of the school was Dr Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, a member of the “Big Six”, and the one who was pivotal in bringing back the Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah back to fight for the independence of the country. Ako Adjei was part of the country’s first Ministers, and a prominent person in the independence struggle and emancipation of Africa from colonial domination.
The contribution of Accra Academy alumni to the fourth republic can also not be emphasised enough. The school has produced three of the speakers of Parliament in the fourth republic, namely Justice D. F. Annan (longest serving Speaker in the fourth republic), Rt. Hon. Peter Ala Adjetey and Rt. Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho.
Accra Academy has over the years that not only equipped young people academically, but the total development of young people in other areas such as sports and entertainment. It will always be the delight of many Bleoobii, and especially a long time P.E master Coach Sarpong, that Africa’s record goal scorer in the World Cup, Asamoah Gyan was groomed at Accra Academy.
In 2003, Accra Academy was ranked the 8th best high school in Africa by Africa Almanac, based upon quality of education, student engagement, strength and activities of the alumni, among others.
Fundamentally, the story of Accra Academy is based on giving an opportunity to people who might never have had an education to have an excellent education. At a point in our history when black people were looked down on, and education was seen as a privilege that only a few could get, four young men stood up to create a difference in the society and establish a formidable institution worth its salt. It was a testament of what the black man can do, of the zeal to see other young people to succeed, through humility, dogged tenacity and purposefulness.
The story of Accra Academy is one which shows not just the potential of the young Ghanaian, but the enormous benefit that our small actions can do to our society. No limitations stopped the founders of the school from looking back or flattering and there is hardly any field of human endeavour in which Old Boys have not made their mark.
During the school’s 60th anniversary celebration in 1991, then Head of State, Chairman Rawlings in paying glowing tribute to the school, stated that, “What we are is hidden in our minds, our hearts and spirits and is revealed only by our daily actions and the constituency of our principles.”
Furthermore, the zeal of the school to be continuously be a thriving institution is exemplary. The sacrifice of most of the founding teachers, and many more teachers in the almost nine decades of the school is must be commended. As a school with no backing from any missionary group or religious organization like most schools established around the time, the school has been managed by very competent and dedicated people.
In the almost ninety-year history of the school, it has had seven headmasters, with just four people heading the school in the first sixty years of the school’s existence. This dedication and consistency have helped transfer the principles and tenets of the school from generation to generation.
Accra Academy has also encouraged representation since its inception. As a school built for needy but brilliant students, there was an opportunity afforded to people who will not have been able to attend the then prestigious, colonial or missionary schools. Accra Academy also became the first boys’ school in the whole of Africa to be headed by a woman in 1996 when the late Mrs Beatrice Lokko took over as the fifth headteacher of the school. the school also has a disability friendly campus, and students with special needs have attended and thrived in the institution.
In conclusion, it is the firm belief and hope of everyone associated with Accra Academy that some of the best moments in the school’s history are yet to come. The current and future generation of the school stand tall because they stand on the shoulders of many great and prosperous past students and associates of the schools. As a line in the school anthem says, “grab the substance, leave the shadow and onward to the truth,” we will continue to play our roles as students, past students and associates to raise high the flag and good name of our beloved school.
Congratulations on yet another anniversary. You have built nations of men; you will make great men of them; and generations of scholars will salute you. In you our little minds were shaped to serve our nation great.
Long live Accra Academy.
Long live Bleoobii.
Long live our homeland Ghana.
Accra Aca! BLEOOOOOO!!!!!!!
Accra Academy School Hymn Book
Accra Academy 80th Anniversary Brochure
Accra Academy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accra_Academy
Bleoobi A. Nii Ayitey Komey is a graduate student at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.
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