Let us kindly find out how our African colonial elites in the “Gone Fantee” movement who found their ideological grounds in the Aborigines Right Protection Society (ARPS) of gold Coast used their social capital in selfless manner to improve and establish schools with indigenous curriculum in mind, before the British government take-over.
“GONE FANTEE’ movement (PART II)
The educated groups in the ‘Gone Fantee’ movement were sharply critical of the contents of missionary education in Gold Coast. Kofi Asaam, a lawyer and a very able editor of the Society’s newspaper, The Gold Coast Aborigines, condemned a system of education which enabled scholars of the mission schools to answer with a precision that will astound the questioner’ any questions on events in England in 1066, 1215 or 1714. The scholars would also know everything about the Spanish Armada, Judge Jeffreys or the Cabal, and could recite the names of the sovereigns of England from William the Conqueror to Victoria. Yet the same scholars would be totally ignorant of events in the Gold Coast in 1824, 1868 or 1874; they would also not know who Philip Quaque or George Blankson were; and they would also not know the name of the current Omanhene of Cape Coast.
Casely Hayford again claimed that missionary education had been responsible for the creation of ‘the superfine African gentleman, who at the end of every second or third year, talks of a run to Europe, lest there should be a nervous breakdown’; and ‘the African lady, who talks of going home, meaning Europe, to be confined’. The Reverend Attoh Ahuma described the average mission scholar as ‘a black white man who is a creature, a freak and a monstrosity’. The most scathing parody on the acquired habits of the typical educated African was a play written by Kobina Sekyi in 1915. The chief character in the play is Mrs Brofusem, who constantly talks of ‘In England this, in England that, in England ad nauseam.’
The curious thing about all those critics was that they had all been trained by the missionaries. The missions in fact held a monopoly of education, so the “Gone Fantee” movement decided to change that dependency trend.
The ‘Gone Fantee’ movement advocated:
(1) Establishment of schools by creating independent non-profit foundation, from which an accumulated capital can be obtained to establish independent native schools, the first of which was Mfantsipim. The intention was later to develop Mfantsipim into a university, with an extra-mural department to run a public library, ladies’ clubs and associations, improvement societies, athletics, sports, cricket, croquet, lawn-tennis and football clubs. (This clearly shows that Mfantsipim was established by “Gone Fantee” movement within the Gold Coast ARPS, and not founded by Methodist Missionaries/Church as F L Bartels sought to portray in his book:“The Roots of Ghana Methodism”. Quantum of archival evidence from ARPS file at PRAAD proves that).
(2) “Gone Fantee” movement intends to make the established schools modelled with native focus to compete with the missionary schools and also compete with Christian missions in the Gold Coast in the establishment of schools for Gold Coasters.
(3) African studies oriented education (African history, languages and culture) was proposed to be taught at basic school level along that of Western liberal arts, science and mathematics. To this, lawyer John Mensah wrote: ‘to be wholly African in outlook is not incompatible with being a good Christian’; and again, ‘pride of race in the African is not a sign of disloyalty (to the Crown].’
(4) African-centered education to divest the people, especially the rising generation, of their slavish mentality to European culture and foster in them a quality which missionary education had failed to give them – pride in themselves as Africans.
(5) Usage of Mfantse kasa (Fanti language) as core part of teaching Gold Coasters in schools to make them understand ideas and concept better, in order to enable them to play a significant part in the development of the Gold Coast. English was to be used alongside. (This proposal was put forward by lawyers, Mensah Sarbah and Casely-Hayford with the president of the Aborigines Right Protection Society, Henry Van Hein of Elmina supporting after he had received authority from the Department of Gold Coast Native Affairs that Fanti was the major language in Gold Coast colony. Note: at that time Ashanti, Northern territories and some part of Volta region, except Trans Volta Togoland, were not part of Gold Coast Colony).
(6) Africans who have anglicized their names from Kyei to Kaye, Andah to Anderson, Danso to Dawson, Tawia to Taylor, Kumi to Coomson, Efoa (Ephua) to Hayford, and so on back to its native roots.
To make these plans a reality, Mfantsi National Education Fund was established to finance educational institutions. Gold Coast chiefs were prevailed upon to pay some of their levies into the fund, but most of them refused. However, in 1902, Mensah Sarbah (now Kofi Mensah) persuaded his Wassa chiefs who were his clients to contribute ten percent of their rents from mining and forestry concessions towards Mfantsi National Education Fund.
To supplement the contributions of the Wassa chiefs, Sarbah and W. E. Sam (a Cape Coast mining engineer), travelled to London in 1903 to float a company, the Fanti Public School Limited, the shares of which were sold to the public. (I hope some Ghanaian youths, the elites and the politicians will read this concept of self-reliance back in the day).
Thus, out of Fanti Public Schools Limited, the then non-functioning Richmond school was started as Mfantsipim school (a secondary school) on Monday, 3 April 1905, with its motto: Dwin Hwe Kan (literally ‘Think Ahead’). Many other basic schools in the Gold Coast were established from the Fanti Public Schools Limited, a subsidiary of Mfantsi National Education Fund. Trustees of Sarbah, J.P. Brown, W E Sam and J.E. Biney (a prosperous Cape Coast trader and own of the founders of Ashanti Gold Fields/AngloGold Ashanti).
Source: Fage, J. D. (1995). When the African Society was founded, who were the Africanists?. African Affairs, 94(376), 369-381.
Falola, T. (2001). Nationalism and African intellectuals. University Rochester Press.
GOVERNANCE, I. E. G. VOL. XXVII UNIVERSITY OF GHANA LAW JOURNA
Nti, K. (2002). Action and reaction: An overview of the Ding Dong relationship between the Colonial Government and the people of Cape Coast. Nordic Journal of African Studies, 11(1), 1-37.
Sarbah, J. M. (1968). Fanti national constitution. Psychology Press
Tenkorang, S. (1974). The Founding of Mfantsipim 1905-1908. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, 15(2), 165-175.
Tenkorang, S. (1973). John Mensah Sarbah, 1864-1910. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, 14(1), 65-78.
Kweku Darko Ankrah