17 February 2012

Ghana: Bishop Herman College - 60 Years of Holistic Catholic Education in the Volta Region

Sixty years of holistic Catholic Education is no mean achievement for a purely Catholic School like Bishop Herman College (BIHECO) at Kpando in the Ho Diocese of the Volta Region. Bishop Herman College was founded on February 28, 1952 at Kpando by the then Keta Diocese of the Catholic Church as a boy's Secondary Boarding School. On July 28, the Great BIHECO will climax its 60th anniversary in a grand style with a series of activities including launching on February 15, 2012 at the Christ the King Parish hall in Accra, a public lecture, speech and prize giving day, a durbar and homecoming. BIHECO as the School has come to be known, was named after Bishop Augustine Herman, a Frenchman who was Bishop of the Keta Diocese from 1923-1945. Bishop Herman's legendary exemplary Christian life and his love for education saw him setting up Schools in most of the communities he succeeded in planting the Catholic faith. It became no surprise to many at that time when the Keta Diocese wanted to establish monument like a secondary school to train young boys in the pursuit of spiritual and academic discipline, they decided to name it after Bishop Herman to immortalize his memory. In Bishop Augustine Herman's lifetime his personal motto was St. Paul's words - SICUT MILES CHRISTI - which in English mean AS A SOLDIER OF CHRIST. This has remained the motto of the College too. BIHECO became a reality through committed faithful of the Catholic Church in the then Keta Diocese, the people of Kpando-Aloryi [on whose land the school is currently situated] and others from the Netherlands (through the initiative of the first Headmaster). The school started in the premises of the Roman Catholic Mission, Kpando (Gabi) and in 1954 moved to its home on the Aloryi Hills overlooking the Kpando Township and the magnificent Volta Lake. BIHECO was a private mission school when the first batch of BIHECANS completed their School Certificate course, from 1952-1955. It was, however, absorbed into the public school system as a Government Assisted College in the same year, 1955. The School ran the only GCE Ordinary Level programme until 1962 when the Sixth Form Course was introduced allowing for the Advanced Level pre-university programme. Like most of Ghana's secondary schools, BIHECO now runs the Senior Secondary School Certificate programme since the GCE 'O' and 'A' Levels were phased out in 1996. Great Missionaries like Rev. Fr. John Beeckers, Rev. Frs. Velboer, Brockhoff, Manshanden, Weyden, Zijlstra, Giesen, Leo Brouwer, Peter de Vries, Breukel, Myerscough, and Van Dijk were those who actively raised funds throughout the Diocese of Keta and in Europe for the opening of this College. Achievements As the School prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary in July, many successes have been chalked in academic and co-curricula activities in line with the dream of the founding fathers but with many challenges as with many Secondary Schools in Ghana. Since its founding, BIHECO has remained unsurpassed both at the regional and the national level. In fact it also holds a West African academic record through the West African Examination Council (WAEC), the body that conducts examinations for five English-speaking West African countries, namely, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. At the national level, BIHECANS have also won awards such as: The National VAT Essay Competition (1998); The International Year of The Family Essay Competition (1998); The Millennium Essay Competition (2000); UN sponsored Population Competition (2000). Some Tutors of the School have won Best Teacher Awards including Mr. C.K. Dotse - Third National Best Teacher, Secondary School Division (2000); Mr. A.K. Xedzro - First National Best Science Teacher, Secondary School Division (2001). BIHECO has produced several regional and national sportsmen over the years. Such clubs as GUNSA, the French Club, Environmental Management Club, the Red Cross Society, the Readers Club and Anti-Drug Club have won numerous awards. The School itself has won awards at regional and national Famers' Day celebrations. In June 2005, BIHECO emerged winners of that year's Environment Quiz competition for Secondary Schools in the Volta region as part of activities to mark World Environment day, which fell on Sunday, June 6, 2005. BIHECO, winners also of 2004 competition got 68 points to beat Mawuli School which had 49 points to take the second position. Sogakope Secondary School (SOGASCO) came third with 43 points and Keta Secondary School (KETASCO) came fourth with 40 points. The competition, aimed at getting the youth interested in national issues, covered questions on environmental protection, HIV/AIDS, sports and current affairs. Old Boys of the School known as BHOBU are in all spheres of life. BIHECO known for its discipline and academic excellence boasts of BIHECANS who have made the marks. They included the first African/Ghanaian Bishop of the then Keta-Ho Diocese, Bishop Francis Anani Kofi Lodonu; the first University of Ghana, Legon, Faculty of Law Graduate, Retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Francis Y. Kpegah; the first Ghanaian plastic surgeon, Mr. Fabian Mork, Hon. Clement Kofi Humado, Minister for Youth and Sports, Mr. Anthony Fofie, Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board and many others. Bishop Lodonu, a pioneer student of BIHECO The School has also produced many Ghanaians in all spheres of the Ghanaian and international economy in the areas of Education, Health, communication, politics and Religion. Challenges As a human institution, it has been faced with many challenges, as stated by the Headmaster, Rev. Fr. Walter Agbetor at a recent BHOBU meeting in Accra that lack of accommodation for staff and students, access roads, library furniture and assembly hall complex were some of the challenges facing the School. He appealed to the Ghana Education Service to provide additional boarding block for the School and praised stakeholders for their continued assistance to the school. It is a generally accepted belief that the 60th anniversary of BIHECO offers every Ghanaian who passed through the portals of Bishop Herman, a golden opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to the cherished principles that inspired the founding fathers and indeed informed the ways I which our training and character formation was undertaken. Undoubtedly, it was the inculcation of such principles that has made us what we have become and how we as individuals and as collectivity have carried out our private and public duties and accepted our responsibilities. The celebration of the 60th anniversary also implies that we must leave a legacy for those who will come after us. Clearly, it maybe somewhat enervating for all Bihecans to hear that the infrastructure that was created to provide a congenial atmosphere for our growth, need to be renovated. As a matter of fact, we cannot and should not expect government alone to undertake this task, but it is indeed the duty of all who had passed through the school to do so and this must be done before the celebration of the anniversary next year. We must do it now to show our gratitude for what we got by passing this great institution. Headmasters The School has been administered in its 60 years by four substantive headmasters. The first was Monsignor Cornelius Leonidas Priems (1952-1975): The first and founding headmaster of BIHECO affectionately called, 'KODZO' saw the school from its birth to maturity from 1952-1975. Kodzo through his handiwork nurtured BIHECO from DREAM, to REALITY and the ENVY of all. Monsignor Cornelius Priems (1952-1975) After seeing his baby, BIHECO, mature to a fully-grown 23 year-old, Kodzo satisfied that BIHECO could be handled by a "surrogate' mother, handed over to Monsignor J. B. Eleeza, who had been his assistant Headmaster. Monsignor Joachim Boama Eleeza (1975-1991),the second headmaster, fondly named, "Amakpa" for being the one to introduce Kontomire to the school menu when he was the master in charge of the dining hall in the 1960s, replaced Msgr. Priems. Monsignor Joachim Boama Eleeza (1975-1991) Having understudied, Kodzo, first as a teaching member of staff in the 60s and later in the 70s as assistant Headmaster, the transition from Kodzo to Amakpa was smooth. After 16 years in charge, Amakpa was promoted as Manager of Catholic Schools in Ghana in 1991. On the transfer of Monsignor Eleeza to Accra as Manager of Catholic Schools, Rev. Fr. Justin Danso (1991-1996), then Vice-Principal of St. Francis Training College, Hohoe, and a former member of staff of BIHECO in the 70s was appointed Headmaster. Rev. Fr. Justin Danso (1991-1996) For the very first time, the long serving headship of the school was broken as Fr. Danso famously known as Risky lasted only five years. From 1996 to 1998, Mr. Pius Serracouh, then Assistant Headmaster of the School, acted as Headmaster. For the first time in the history of the school, an old boy (Class of 1968), Mr. Theodore K. Dzavor (1998??2008) was appointed the substantive headmaster of the school. Mr. T.K. Dzavor (1998?August, 2008) Recent past Headmaster Mr. Dzavor taught in the school in 1980s and prior to heading BIHECO was headmaster of Peki Secondary School. When Mr. Dzavor retired in 2008, Rev. Fr. Walter Agbetoh, an 'Old Boy' and former Chaplain of the college and very active BHOBU member took over in August 2008. Fr. Agbetoh 2008 to date The student population, from its humble beginning in 1952 with 25 students, now has over 1,300 students. Bishop Augustine Herman On the 14th of March 1923, the Vicariate of the Lower Volta was created and was put under the Dutch Province of the SMA fathers. His Lordship, Bishop Augustine Herman, SMA was appointed to head the Vicariate and he arrived at Keta on the 23rd of October 1923. Bishop Herman, who arrived in Keta in 1923, worked personally as an evangelizer moving out, first, on foot then, on a bicycle and later on, in a Pickup. He covered the whole territory of the Lower Vicariate from Keta to Bawku in North. His concentration in what we now refer to as the Northern Region was the Yendi Diocese. He helped build schools in Bimbila and Yendi. Bishop Herman spent himself opening new Churches and building many primary schools in all the towns and villages he visited without counting the cost. One of the significant events that issued in the era of Bishop Herman was the division of Togo as a nation. After the World War I, France and Britain agreed on the 17th of July 1920 to divide Togo into two. These two European nations drew a line from north to south dividing Togoland into two. The French took the eastern half and the British took the western half. At this time, from 1920 to 1923, there was a struggle between the ecclesiastical authorities in Rome and in the Gold Coast whether to create the Keta Mission as a Vicariate or Kumasi or Ashanti as a Vicariate. On August 23, 1922 the Superior General, Pere Chabert wrote to Msgr. Hummel of Cape Coast: "We propose to Rome to erect a Dutch Province, convinced that in doing so, we shall provide our missions with a numerous Staff and our houses of Keer and Blitterswyck with the local resources they need for living and developing." Although we will continue to send the Dutch subjects everywhere, the Holy See surely will insist to trust a Mission territory to them. We do not think of offering to them one of the existing Vacariates. Considering the propositions your Lordship made to me, I am of the opinion - and all the members of the Council are in agreement with me, that the territory of British Togoland on the left bank of the Volta, excluding therefore all the territory on the right bank, or else of the Ashantis, would offer a field of labour for their zeal. (SMA Presence in Volta Region since 1923 page 15) After a protracted discussion, On March 15 1923, the Apostolic Vicariate of the Lower Volta was created. On January 15, 1923, the Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith signed the document, agreeing to the erection of the Dutch Province. Bishop Auguste Herman who was a military chaplain in World War I was consecrated at Strasbourg on June 13, 1923 as Titular Bishop of Bubastis. Bishop Herman took as his Motto on his Coat of Arms - "Sicut Miles Christi" - which means As a Soldier of Christ. As I mentioned earlier, he transformed the whole of the Vicariate of the Lower Volta. Today, we can say that the single most numerous Christian denominations in the Volta Region is Catholic. This is undoubtedly due to Bishop Auguste Herman 1923 - 1945. John van Brakel, SMA writes in "The Missionary Presence in the Volta Region since 1923: "Three days after his official reception (October 21, 1923) the Bishop is off on trek on bush bike for 16 days, in order to acquaint himself with his mission territory. He went through the Keta-Lagoon, then on dry ground, to Anyako, Abor, Ahunda, Ho Kpandu, Peki and all the way to Kete Krachi on a tour through his jurisdiction. This became his routine, as it later turned out. Little time was spent at his residence; for far the greater part of the years, Msgr. Herman was on the move, so much so that comparing him with his neighbour, Msgr. Cessou of Lome, it was said: "Bishop Cessou writes circulars, Bishop Herman circulates". The Death of Bishop Augustine Herman. On the 2nd of April 1945 there was a large gathering of the Priests, Religious, traditional rulers and people to celebrate with the Bishop whose health was failing before being carried home by boat through Lome. On the 7th of April 1945, he was carried to Lome Hospital. On Sunday, 8th April 1945 at 7.15 p.m. Bishop Herman died. On Tuesday morning April 10, 1945, a Pontifical Requiem Mass was celebrated. Present were Msgr. Porter of Cape Coast, Prefect Arnold Noser of Accra, Msgr. Parisot from Quidah (Dahomey/Benin). After 22 years of hard work, a holy life, with a lot of suffering and misunderstanding between him and his priests and some lay faithful, Bishop Herman was laid to rest in the side chapel of St. Michael's Pro-Cathedral Church up to this day. One observer describes him as "an extremely hardworking Bishop, walking, cycling or otherwise carrying the Gospel and education to the doorsteps of the people". (Ibid)

The Writer is a member of 1997 Year Group

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