A GNA feature by Josephine Naaeke
Accra, Nov. 4, GNA - Just like how parents nurture their children until they are mature and celebrate their years of struggle through to their time of success thanking God for all the blessings, so also is the life of every established school and St Francis of Assisi girls senior high school.
Located in Jirapa in the Upper West region, the school has attained 60 years that calls for celebration of a diamond jubilee.
Come November 16, 2019, which would be the climax, government officials, old girls, staff, parents, well-wishers as well as other stakeholders are expected to gather at the school to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the school.
Referred to as home coming by every alumni, old girls are feverishly preparing to return to their home (school) to take stock and celebrate from 14-17, November 2019.
President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo is expected to deliver the key note address with Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development and an old girl as quest of honour among other dignitaries.
The theme for the event; Sixty years of holistic education, a spring board to nation building reflects the schools’ vision; “Exists to provide holistic education inspired by Catholic values to nurture girls into women of dignity and productive citizens in an environment of discipline, unity and peace.”
Located at Jirapa on the Wa to Nandom road, the school, fondly referred to as St. Francis girls or St Francis of Assisi girls or Assisi Girls, was established in 1959 by the Roman Catholic Church under the authority of the late Rt. Rev. Gabriel Chapagne, of the Missionaries of Africa, the then Bishop of Tamale and the late Cardinal Peter Porekuu Dery as co-founders in collaboration with the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM), an international women religious congregation.
The Rev. Sisters named the school after St. Francis of Assisi, their spiritual father as the patron saint of the school to guide and protect them to imbibe his virtues of simplicity, humility, peace, loving and forgiveness among others so as to accept others with their differences and seek for the common good of all.
As the first ever girls secondary school in the northern territory, the administration was run by the Reverend Sisters who were also staff.
Rev. Sr. Herminia Coquia (FMM), a Philippino, known as Sr. Florencio was the first headmistress from 1959 to 1961.
After the establishment of the school, which was flourishing, the Sisters sent some of the pioneer girls abroad for further studies in preparation for them to return and take up the leadership position and also to teach in some subject areas.
Some of them included; the late Mrs. Prudence Gyader who became the fifth but first Ghanaian Headmistress from 1978 – 1997 whose administration lasted for many years and towards the end of her reign, the then local ordinary, Rt. Rev. Bishop Paul Bemile called on the FMM to come back to the administration.
From that time on the office of the Headmistress, has always been a bone of contention as to who should run it.
Also referred to as “Box 5”, the postal address could easily be remembered by parents and students from other schools around as most old girls could recall because those days letter writing was the order of the day making this box number a must know.
The school was the third second cycle institution in the northern part of Ghana after Tamale secondary school or Tamasco and St. Charles Minor Seminary both in Tamale.
Objectives of Establishment
The objectives were to attain and maintain a high level of self-discipline through the enforcement of school rules and regulations and effective supervision.
To achieve a high sense of team spirit through unity and co-operation among others.
To achieve a high sense of God-fearing spirit and uprightness through honesty, respectfulness, obedience and humility.
Government remains the major source of funding for development and with the free SHS the government takes care of everything.
Other groups that support the school include; a Non-Governmental Organization; Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), Old Girls Association, Parent Teacher Association, Missionszentrale der Franziskaner (German), Plan Ghana, Vodafone Ghana and other philanthropists who donate to the school in various forms.
St. Francis Catholic High School in California in the United States is the sister school.
Rev. Sister Martha Kello, a Franciscan Missionary sister and Headmistress of the school and an old girl told the Ghana News Agency in Accra that, the Rev Sisters at the time were poised for action and quickly responded to the need in line with their missionary option for the poor and vulnerable with particular concern for women and children.
The first batch of 12 girls nicknamed the twelve apostles were selected from St Agnes middle school, in Jirapa, in the region to embark on this educational journey.
Six of the 12 or the big six completed in 1964 with very good results followed by the second batch in 1965, which increased to nine with similar performance.
The outstanding performance of the school and work by the Missionaries drew government’s attention.
Cardinal Peter Porekuu Dery began negotiations with the government for support and same year 1965, the school was absorbed as a public school and henceforth, Assisi girls became a government assisted school.
The school started with only two Rev. Sisters and as the years went by some expatriate volunteers came to support and later some Ghanaian lay people were added to the number.
There are eighty-two regular teaching staff with forty-seven non-teaching staff.
The student population has since grown over the years and fluctuated between 1,200 and 1,100. In the last academic year, the school recorded 1,282 students with 436 as candidates.
This year, 306 are in form three, 498 in form two with the first year’s green track still reporting while others are yet to come for their admission letters.
In all 431 are expected.
According to Sister Martha, since its inception, discipline was the hallmark of the school and as such students were performing well in their final exams with great continuous improvements in some years.
Out of the 436 candidates that were presented for the WASSCE 2019, 314 candidates passed in eight subjects. The best aggregate was ‘9’ and only one candidate obtained that.
Five candidates got aggregate ‘10’ and three obtained aggregate ‘11’.
PERCENTAGE PASSES: 2019 as against 2018
English Language 94 per cent 94.39 per cent
Mathematics 81 per cent 48.21 per cent
Integrated Science 98 per cent 92.23 per cent
Social Studies 99 per cent 98.98 Per cent
Dagaare 100 Per cent 98.18 Per cent
Business Management 100 Per cent 90 Per cent
Clothing & Textiles 100 Per cent 100 Per cent
The Headmistress said the overall percentage passes in 2019 was 94 per cent as against 87.68 in 2018 and it shows that there is great improvement over the last year’s performance most especially in Mathematics, adding, as an institution “ we are aiming at getting back our 100 per cent overall passes with quality grades.”
Statistics indicate that from the year 2003, Assisi came 60 out of 501 SSS in the country on the league table.
This performance placed the school as a Category ‘A’ school.
As such there is always a great demand of girls desiring to go to the school and some of whom refused to go to any other school if placement did not favour them, She revealed.
In the 2012 West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, the school had 14 candidates obtaining single grades and the best that year was aggregate ‘7’ which broke aggregate 8 record in 2004 and this record has since not been broken.
Extra Curriculum Activities
Students from Assisi girls school are not only academic; they also excel in societal club contest such as debating, drama, quizzes, sports and inter-schools competitions and came out with excellent performance.
One of such occasions is the tenth anniversary quiz competition of the National Health Insurance Scheme, organized at regional and national levels and Assisi girls came first and second respectively in two years.
In June 2019, two Assisi Girls from the Home Economics Department represented the region at the National Onga Cook Art competition in Accra and came 3rd out of 154 schools.
On the 61st Independent Day celebration, the Municipal Chief Executive of Jirapa, Mrs Christine Amadu Bombanye awarded the school for lifting the name of Jirapa high in many ways.
CAMFED MasterCard foundation also awarded the school in recognition of outstanding citizenship, NCCE for project citizen 2015, second runner up, 2016 and 2018 among others.
From the start, the school was run in a Sisters compound, where the sisters were also housed as well as a one-storey building, which served as both classrooms and dormitories until it was moved to the new site in 1963 and gradually many more structures were added.
With support from the Ghana Education Trust Fund, in 2007 a two-storey hostel, a Library Complex, and a Kitchen-Dining Hall Complex followed by an auditorium and a fenced wall were added.
The last two structures were 90 per cent and 97 per cent complete and remained up to date.
In 2010/2011 a Science Laboratory was added to encourage many girls to be interested in the subject, she said.
Currently, there is an on-going water closet toilet facility, a government project together with a borehole and solar energy to supply water and light respectively.
Rev Sister Kello, commended government for some new infrastructural investment to improve learning and however asked for more.
It is on record that the school has turned out seven thousand eight hundred and seventy two (7,872) prominent women, some of whom have retired from active service, while others are in positions of government.
Aside the Local government Minister, Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama, the Member of Council of state, Margaret Amoakohene, the Minister for Upper East Region, Mrs Paulina Abayage, Mrs Catherine Lankono, District Chief Executive (DCE) for Nadowli, Mrs Veronica Heming of Bole District and Justice Angelina Mornaa Domakyaare are all products of the school and others are in working in various fields including, Education, Health, Journalism, Business in both private and public sectors and many more are still in the making.
On the issue of infrastructure, the Headmistress said the institution is bedeviled with a lot of old infrastructure, some of which were calling for urgent renovation lest they cause disaster one day, indicating that the first classroom block and the Home Economics (one-storey) block needed immediate attention.
She also appealed for an ICT Centre.
The school has no good administration block as it is operated in a library and office block over the years and appealed to government to support the school with a modern administration block to accommodate all the administrative staff and a conference hall for meetings.
She also asked for staff accommodation, Science, Mathematics and English Language teachers.
With its Latin motto, “Ad Veritatem per Caritatem” which means to “Truth Through Charity” Assisi girls school has, Assisi!!Shine!!!! as the slogan.GNA