Mfantsipim is a high school in Cape Coast, Ghana, established by the Methodist Church in 1876 as an all-boys secondary school
dedicated to fostering intellectual, moral and spiritual growth, in the then Gold Coast. Its founding name was Wesleyan High School and the first Headmaster was James Picot, a French scholar, who was only 18 years old on his appointment.
Mfantsipim is nicknamed “The School” by its old boys for the fact that several other schools in Ghana, including Prempeh College and Achimota School were born out of it, as these schools were started with students from Mfantsipim.
The founding name of Mfantsipim was Wesleyan High School and it was established on 3 April 1876. In 1905 a graduate of the school, John Mensah Sarbah, founded a rival school named Mfantsipim; the name derives from “Mfantsefo-apem”, literally meaning “thousands of Fantes” but actually meaning “the gathering of hosts of scholars for change” originally by the Fantes. In July of the same year, the two schools were merged under the control of the Methodist Church, keeping the name Mfantsipim. John Mensah- Sarbah, who came up with the name “Mfantsipim” stated at the opening of the school that its aim was “to train up God-fearing, respectable and intelligent lads.”
I want to raise a generation of men from Mfantsipim School who will be bold enough to face the problems of their own continent practically and un-selfishly.
— Reverend W.T Balmer
Mfantsipim is a school whose entire existence owes massive allegiance to the hardwork and submissions of some great, powerful, God-sent headmasters, who served the school with prowess, love and dedication. The Reverend W. T. Balmer arrived at Mfantsipim in 1907 on a mission to inspect the states of colleges and collegiates around West Africa at the time. On his arrival at Mfantsipim it seemed, for some reason, he had to stay. To his surprise he only met eight boys in the entire school, with neither a teacher nor a headmaster, the then headmaster having left for the United kingdom to supposedly pursue his studies. Balmer abruptly named them the “Faithful Eight”. One of those boys was Kobina Sekyi, who went on to become a renowned lawyer, statesman, and writer. A monument has been erected in-between the Administration Block and the Assembly Hall to perpetuate their memory.
Reverend R. A. Lockhart arrived in 1925 and laid a solid foundation for the progress of the school. He built classrooms and dormitories on the Kwabotwe Hill and finally brought the school to the present site in 1931. He was also the main architect in bringing the Cambridge School Leaving Certificate Examination into the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Lockhart is viewed by Mfantsipim’s history, as the machinery behind the school’s golden years, in the past, and the future to come. He was a robust, stronghearted and principled Irishman and was very critical of Gordon Guggisberg’s administration and ideas about secondary education in the Gold Coast. To say of his struggles and contributions, it can be said that Reverend Lockhart is the reason behind why Mfantsipim is where it is today, especially with the prowess he exercised when Guggisberg had proposed to reduce the school to a basic institution, such as convincing the local people to enroll more of their wards so as to strengthen and widen the girth of the school. He is popular in history for his prophecy-engulfed quotes, and selflessness.
In few years the people of this country will be amazed at the number of its influential citizens who owe allegiance to this school.
— Reverend R.A Lockhart
He is the achiever of all the relic buildings we see in the school today, and was a brilliant man. He detected and cultured some of the bright students of the school to become teachers, on their graduation—another great move that has sustained the school, as old boys have an undying history of giving their all to the school, after graduation. For example, he mentored F.L Bartels in this direction, and through this effort, Mfantsipim finally got its first ever black headmaster. His speech day reports resonated with pride, with the excellence of students’ Cambridge examinations results, year in, year out. He gave remarkable speeches on these days, and it appeared his struggles for the school, paid off in all these times. It is said that the Reverend Lockhart was a firm believer in the spirit of the black man and his abilities thereof. Asked of Bartels in France in his later years which three headmasters besides himself, were Mfantsipim’s greatest, he responded: ” I will give you only two – Balmer and Lockhart; you add the third.”
Dr. Francis Lodwic Bartels, the first black headmaster of the school and also the school’s very own product, later assumed in 1949, building on the foundation of the former heads. He went from acting headmaster from 1942 to 1945, to becoming main headmaster, and serving for another 11 years, ending his service in 1961. He thought the boys the values of one’s identity and how close and accessible the world was to them. One notable thing about Dr. Bartels was the close relationship he kept with the boys, encouraging them to face the world, but only with discipline. Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary general, also an alumnus of the school, recalled: “I was one of a group of boys who sat on the floor of his office for our weekly lesson in spoken English.”
There have been many influential products of the school who have served, not only the country and the continent of Africa, but also continents outside Africa and many international bodies. Mfantsipim School has trained a large number of notable alumni in the field of medicine, science, engineering, education, architecture, and many other disciplines.
The idea of establishing a collegiate school to raise educational standards in the Gold Coast was first mooted in 1865 but was not realized until 1876 when the Wesleyan High School was established in Cape Coast with donations from local businessmen and the support of the Methodist Missionary Society in London.
The school was established to train teachers and began with 17 pupils. It was originally planned to be sited in Accra because the British Government had, by 1870, decided to move the capital of the Gold Coast from Cape Coast to Accra. However, local agitation and the urgent need to put the idea into practice after eleven years of debate pressurised the government to allow the school to begin functioning, but on the understanding that it would later be moved to Accra, though no such move ever took place.
Mfantsipim was the first secondary school to be established in the Gold Coast, and in 1931, was moved to its present location on the Kwabotwe Hill in the northern part of Cape Coast on the Kotokuraba road. The school sometimes has been referred to as Kwabotwe or simply Botwe for the reason of it being on that hill.
It was deemed to be a grammar school because Latin and Greek were taught there in the beginning, though offered other disciplines such as carpentry, art and crafts. It has always been known as just “Mfantsipim School” or simply, “Mfantsipim”. It is an all-boys boarding school with seven dormitories or houses.
1. Balmer-Acquah Balmer-Acquah is the first house seen from the school’s main entrance. It was named after Rev. W. T. Balmer, headmaster from 1907 to 1910, and Robert Gaddiel Acquah, the first black presiding bishop of the Methodist Church. It was the first house to be built.
2. Pickard-Parker Pickard Parker is located right after Balmer-Acquah. A long rectangular-square structure of two storeys.
3. Lockhart-Schweitzer Named partly after Rev. Lockhart, who is believed to have introduced school uniform system in Ghanaian schooling, Lockhart-Schweitzer is the third house seen from the entrance. It is found on the left. It is not too big and shares similarities with Sarbah-Picot. L.S is noted for hosting the Berlin Wall, a section of the tall wall around the school that has lots of histories.
4. Sarbah-Picot Sarbah Picot shares similar architectural styles with Lockhart-Schweitzer. It was named after John Mensah-Sarbah and James Picot, the first headmaster of the school.
5. Freeman-Aggrey Freeman-Aggrey also shares similarities with Balmer-Acquah, the underneath of both serving as passage for vehicles that enter the school. It was named after Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey and Rev. Freeman, also a priest of the Methodist Church.
6. Bartels-Sneath Bartels-Sneath is the sixth house on location from the gate. It has a lot of histories with seniority in the school and is believed to see many senior boys in move there during their final years. One way or the other it is the only house a form one boy wouldn’t enjoy walking in front of anyhow.
7. Abruquah-Monney Abruquah-Monney is the latest and biggest house in the school, completed just around 2010. Unlike all the other houses, it separates itself completely— stretches near the Blighters’ Gate.
No. Year Headmaster Nationality Comment
1 1876–78 James Picot French
2 1878–79 Rev. J. Jenkins English
3 1879–80 T. N. Wingfield English
4 1880–82 Rev. M. W. Mountford English
5 1882-1885 Rev. W. N. Cannell English
6 1887–88 Rev. W. N. Cannell English
7 1888 Rev. Dennis Kemp English
8 1888–89 W. F. Penny (F. Egyir Asaam) English
9 1889–90 Casely Hayford English
10 1890–93 W. F. Penny (F. Egyir Asaam) English
11 1893–94 J. L. Mayne English
12 1894–96 W. F. Penny (F. Egyir Asaam) English
13 1896–97 Rev. A. E. Somer English
14 1897–99 Rev. David Hinchcliff English
15 1889–99 Rev. Robert H. Gush English
16 1900–02 Rev. Edgar C. Barton English
17 1902 Rev. J. Hannah English
18 1902–03 Rev. George Parker English
19 1903–05 A. M. Wright English
20 1905–06 Rev. Thomas E. Ward English
21 1907 Rev. J. D. Russel English
22 1907–10 Rev. W. T. Balmer English
23 1911–19 Rev. A. A. Sneath English
24 1919–25 Rev. R. P. Dyer English
25 1925–36 Rev. R. A Lockhart Irish
26 1937–41, 1942 Rev. A. S. Fenby English
27 1941–42 Rev. W. A. Warren Irish
28 1942–45 Dr. F. L. Bartels Ghanaian Acting
29 1945–48 Rev. A. A. Sneath English
30 1949–61 Dr. F. L. Bartels Ghanaian
31 1961–63 Rev. W. G. M. Brandful Ghanaian
32 1963–70 J. W. Abruquah Ghanaian
33 1970–76 O. K. Monney Ghanaian
34 1976–80 H. V. Acquaye-Baddoo Ghanaian
35 1980–97 B. K. Dontwi Ghanaian
36 1997-2008 C. K. Ashun Ghanaian
37 2008-2014 Koame Mieza Edjah Ghanaian
38 2014-2016 J. K. A. Simpson Ghanaian
39 2016- Manfred Barton-Oduro Ghanaian
Further information: List of Mfantsipim School alumni
This article’s list of alumni may not follow Ghighschool’s verifiability or notability policies. Please improve this article by removing names that do not have independent reliable sources showing they are notable AND alumni, or by incorporating the relevant publications into the body of the article through appropriate citations. (January 2018)
Alumni of the school include Kofi Annan, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Secretary-General of the United Nations; Kofi Abrefa Busia, former prime minister of Ghana; Joseph W. S. de Graft-Johnson, academic, engineer and politician; J. E. Casely Hayford, journalist and politician; and Alex Quaison-Sackey, diplomat, first black president of the UN General Assembly; H.E.Kow Nkensen Arkaah, former vice president of the Republic of Ghana; Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, former vice president of the Republic of Ghana; Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, former president of ECOWAS commission; Kobina Arku Korsah, first chief justice of Ghana.
Some other notable alumni
Kakra Baiden — Pastor and speaker
Obour — Ghanaian musician and president of the musicians association of Ghana (MUSIGA)
Joseph Van Vicker — Actor and movie director
Majid Michel — Actor
Nii Lante Vanderpuyje — Former Ghanaian sports minister
Derek Boateng — Footballer
Razak Pimpong — Former Ghanaian footballer
James Nii Nunoo Nunoofio — Computer Scientist
Tsatsu Tsikata — Renowned Lawyer and politician
Philip Addison — Renowned lawyer
Henry Martey Newman — Former Ghanaian Chief of Staff
Hon. Joe Ghartey — Politician and former Ghanaian attorney-general
Albert Ocran — Renowned public speaker
Afari Assan — Writer
Winners of the 1999 and 2014 editions of the National Science and Maths quiz, Master Takyi Blankson and Master Ben-Judah
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