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Presbyterian College of Education located in Akropong Akuapem, formerly known as Presbyterian Training College was established on 3th July 1848 by the Basel Missionaries who had then established the Presbyterian Church in 1828. It is the first and oldest higher institution of learning in Ghana and second to Foura Bay College in Sierra Leone, in West Africa. It is therefore known as the “Mother of our Schools”. For about fifty years it remained the only higher institution of learning in Ghana (Gold Coast)
PHASES GONE THROUGH
The Presbyterian College of Education began mainly as a Seminary (Akropong Seminary) with the core mandate to equip teachers with sound basic education and sound attitudes necessary for living exemplary lives. Strict discipline was key to their training and this reflected in their lifestyles.
The name Akropong Seminary was similar to the Seminary Institute in Basel, Switzerland which was also started in July 1816. Both institutions were founded by the Basel Evangelical Society, for the training of men to become teachers and preachers of the Gospel among heathens in different lands.
The Basel Evangelical Society (Evanglisches Missions Gesellschaft, Basel) which was set up in 1815 had certain unique characteristic features embodied in its constitution:
The achievement of the Basel Mission Society was made possible by the efforts of the missionaries in two directions at the beginning of the period 1843-50. The first was the careful selection of the Africans whom Widmann and his colleagues admitted into the seminary at Akropong on July 3, 1848 and at Osu where another one was opened in 1850 which, in 1855 was transferred to, and merged with the one at Akropong (KristofoSenkekafo, August 1915). The second was the mastery of the Twi and Ga languages which the missionaries, in time, reduced into writing and used as the medium for the spread of the Word of God and of formal education.
In 1850, at a meeting of the European missionaries at Akropong, a decision was taken which laid down the following rules for selecting candidates for admission into the Teachers’ Seminary: Firstly, no one should be admitted if he has not been baptized. Secondly, those who have received baptism on the pillow (or who want to be trained teachers but did not want to be trained to preach), this College is not for such. They only give trouble to the Church afterwards as they have no interest in the Church.
Later, the Seminary became a separate entity and the Training College main mandate to train teachers continued. In 2006, all Training Colleges in the country were promoted to tertiary status to run Diploma in Basic Education Programmes.
Reference to training to preach as one of the courses pursued by the men taken into the Teachers’ Seminary lead us to take a look at the curriculum in the early years of the institution. Since the lower levels of education were not adequately developed and also fewer years were spent in the acquisition of the basic knowledge of reading, writing and working with numbers, the students of the first decade and half (1848 to c 1863) had to spend the first three years in the Seminary in further work in:
Then they proceeded to learn Exercises and World and Church History. In 1863 when courses in theology were started, other subjects such as Greek, Hebrew, Dogmatics, Homiletics (the art of preaching), etc were taught. As part of the training in the last-named subjects, the students accompanied the European missionaries on their preaching tour in the town around Akropong, and occasionally did the preaching too. But most of the time they were translators of the sermons from the English language into Twi. Later, gardening, blacksmithing and woodwork (carpentry and joinery) were added.
In the early years and well up to 1863, the duration of the course was not clearly defined. The first batch of five which entered the Seminary on July 3, 1848 completed their course on April 27, 1853 (KristofoSenkekafo, Sept. 1815). Meanwhile, on May 14, 1852, admission was offered to four young men of these, three were West Indian descendants – Isaac Osterlag, Robert Miller, and Andrew Hall, an elder brother of the first Moderator, Peter Hall (1918-23) of the Mission Church. Unfortunately, Andrew died in 1859. The fourth was Philip Kwabi, a lad from Akropong.
These were followed on September 19, 1853 by a third batch of five – John Asare, George Hanson, Adolf Burkhardt, Christian Asante, and Joseph Ofei. These two batches were sent out together at the end of August 1858. Among them was a very remarkable man, Edward Samson, from Aburi. He was a practically a self-made evangelist, for he had little opportunity to receive the kind of regular, formal education that his colleagues had, both at school and at the college level. Admission offered to a new set of students on the same day (August 31, 1858) that the second and third batches were sent to the Lords vineyard may be mentioned for some interesting reasons.
Firstly, it was the largest class so far- in all twenty-two men. Secondly, it took cognisance of the two ethnic communities – Akan (Twi) and Ga-Adangme – amongst whom the Mission had been operating since 1843. There were eleven each of Twi and Ga-speaking students. Thirdly, we are told of Theophilus Opoku, (Kristofo Senkekafo, May 1916), one of the entrants, that the course lasted four years. The experiment must have been successful because after 1863 the four-year course became normal.
The College started with five male students in 1848. Until 1958, the College remained a male Institution. In 1958 the last white Principal of the College Rev. Noel Smith admitted 17 women into the College. Some other interesting historical facts concerning the College are as follows:
Currently, the College offers General programme, Science and Mathematics and Technical Programmes. The College now has a tertiary status and is fully accredited with Accreditation Certificate number NAB/ 1Ac/No.0000639. The college is affiliated to the University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast. The Affiliation is for five (5) years.
The first products of the college were responsible for the expansion of basic schools. The products of these basic schools also became products of the secondary schools established. The College also provide staff college of the Gold Coast when it was established in 1948.
Presbyterian College of Education has also contributed to the development of Ghanaian Languages, Religion, Sports etc, hence earning the accolade “The Mother of our Schools”.
The college was the first to start the training of visually impaired students in 1945 by the then Principal Mr. Doughlas Benzies. Currently the College also trains hearing impaired students. It is therefore the only College of Education which trains both visually and hearing impaired students. The missionaries who establish the college were the first to introduce the cocoa crop into the country far before Tetteh Ouarshie brought some from Fernando Po. However it was on a small plantation. This still exist on the campus. Tette Ouarshie commercialized cocoa in the country.