Old students of Navrongo Secondary School (NAVACSO), now Navrongo Senior High, in the Kassena-Nankana East Municipality in the Upper East Region School, cannot wait any longer to gather together to celebrate their school and reminisce their days in school, after the COVID-19 outbreak in the country in March 2020 derailed an outline of programme of activities to celebrate the school’s 60th anniversary last October.
With COVID-19 vaccinations taking place in line with strict adherence to health protocols, it is the hope of the past students that the country would attain herd immunity. They think that would enable the government to ease restrictions on mass gathering for the old students to reconnect to their alma mater, the school that has shaped their lives with academic excellence that is reflecting in their contribution to national and global development.
History of NAVASCO
I may not be in the position to tell the firsthand history of NAVASCO as it is older than me by six years, but as an old student, I am privy to some historical facts about my alma mater.
NAVASCO was established by the first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, on September 30, 1960 under the Educational Trust Fund, to address the development gap between the north and the south occasioned by the colonial administration. It had initial student body of 66 and a staff of four, including the first Headmaster, J.K Fiergbor, now of blessed memory. The school is identified by its emblem of a “Horn”, a symbol of bravery and unconquerable zeal to excel.
Its logo bears the Latin phrase “Lux Borealis,” to wit “Star of the North”. When President Nkrumah toured the school on October 24 1960, he wrote in the visitor’s book: “This school has a future. I shall watch its progress with great interest.”
Master J.M.Dugran, who later became a Professor of Geography, on behalf of the pioneering students, in welcoming the President to the school, said: “We are, on our part, leaving no stone unturned to be worthy of this trust, and we are toiling to establish and uphold a high tradition of scholarship, moral integrity, discipline, patriotism and unflinching loyalty to your person and to the government.”
Past students of the school are known as Nabia, a local word meaning a Princess or Prince. Students are identified by a unique serial numbering system that started with Folio number 01 for the first student.
The Folio numbers have reached 25,000th mark, ostensibly showing the inter-generational progress of the school.
NAVASCO was named ‘The President’s School” because of Dr Nkrumah’s soft spot for it. However, the coup d’etat of 1966 that overthrew Dr Kwame saw the school reverting to its former name, Navrongo School, later Navrongo Secondary School and currently Navrongo Senior High School. Indeed, its second headmaster, Rev Robin Crawford, had the avowed aim to make NAVASCO “Achimota of the North.’’
“Can- do -spirit of NAVASCO”
Established on a one-mile square piece of land, about five kilometres south of Navrongo town, in the ‘bush’, without the niceties of urban life such as reliable electricity from the national grid and regular supply of water from the national pipeline, NAVASCO braced the storm to set the pace for academic excellence.
Few pioneer teachers and US Peace Corps volunteers, who had left their comfort zones of city life, teamed up to turn around the fortunes of the school whose products are now shaping the development of the country and impacting in society and across the globe as well. We cannot afford to forget the “can-do spirit” of the students to excel in those trying conditions.
NAVASCO had a school farm and students were deployed on the field for practical training in agriculture. Produce from the farm made the school self-sufficient in term of food. The school’s main hall, named after its most popular headmaster, Collins G. MacDonald, was built by the students with steel brought down by MacDonald from Accra.
Besides, the school had a maintenance department for metal works. Students were deployed under the tutelage of the metal works master to build the body of the school truck that was used to transport students across the country for sporting and entertainment programmes.
In the 1970s and 80s, NAVASCO’s dance band, Sensational Horns, was a household name in the entertainment industry in Ghana and in the neighbouring country of Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso.
The “Sensational Horns” captivated their audience as they travelled the length and breadth of the country, to provide the best of entertainment to soothe the souls of people suffering the boredom of life.
In the 60s, it was the wish of many to have secondary education in Ghana at NAVASCO. Indeed, prospective students travelled from far and near to enrol there.
For instance, Nigerians, numbering over 40, attended NAVASCO and are now serving their country in all fields of endeavour. The school has strong old student presence in UK, North America and East Asia.
The achievements of old NAVASCANS are too enormous to recall in one piece of writing. However, suffice it to highlight some of the contributions of the old students to national and international development.
At the school’s Speech and Prize-giving Day in 1980, the then Headmaster, Mr. MacDonald, reported that in the 1978 academic year, NAVASCO had more students admitted to University of Ghana than any other school in the country.
Perhaps, apart from the highest offices of the land, President and Vice President’s positions, Old NAVACANS have occupied and continue to occupy top offices in both the private and public service sectors of Ghana, as well as international roles.
In the 5th Parliament of Ghana (2009-2013), we had two old NAVASCANS — Cletus Avoka (NDC-Zebilla) as Majority Leader; and Ambrose Dery (NPP-Lawra/Nandom) as Deputy Minority Leader.
In the 7th Parliament (2017-2021 January 6), there were 12 old NAVASCAN legislators from both sides of the House, being second to Presby Senior High School. The Minority Leader of the 8th (current) Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, is an old student of NAVASCO.
In 2015, when the country was going through energy crisis, it took two old students of NAVASCO who are expert in energy, Dr Kwabena Donkor (MP-Pru East), then Minister of Power, and Ing. William Amuna, then Chief Executive Officer of GRIDCo and chair of the Load-shedding Management Committee, to provide technical direction to navigate the country to an appreciable level of energy stability.
Big names don’t make schools; it’s the zeal and determination to excel as exhibited by the founding fathers and pioneer students of the school.
Old students of NAVACSO are making waves in the international scene too. As just a slice of it, we can mention a few of them. For instance, Prof. Francis Ali Osman, a pioneer student, who is a globally-recognised Professor of Neuro-oncology at the Duke University School of Medicine in the US who was appointed by President Barrack Obama, in 2016, first of its kind, to the US National Cancer Advisory Board, to provide technical support to help fight cancer in US and globally.
Prof. Rashid Sumaila is a world renowned Fisheries Economist with the Fisheries Economics Research Unit of the University of British Columbia. He is one of the world’s most innovative scientists researching into the future of the ocean and marine life. He was deservedly awarded the Volvo Environmental Prize for 2017. He has challenged the traditional ways of marine governance and has introduced new ways of thinking, such as protecting the high seas as a “fish bank” for the world.
Besides, Prof. Sylvester Abanteriba, formerly of University of Melbourne in Australia, is a great scholar of international repute. He is world leader in “propulsion system”. His expertise covers piston engine for automobile marine and power generation. His work in Tribology of international combustion engines has internationally been acknowledged as ground-breaking.
When things go according to plan and the Nabia gather together in NAVASCO in October, the gathering will eulogise the past headmasters and the present one, for their contribution to the development of the school. We are proud of Mr Fiergbo; Dr Y.D. Agyeman Dickson; Rev Robin Crawford; James Ramsey; Collins George MacDonald; A.A. Abem; David Adeenze Kangah, who later became Deputy Electoral Commissioner; Ms Katumi Fuseini; P.K.Tangonyire; late Francisca Yizura and now Mercy Babachuweh.
All is not rosy in NAVASCO; the school has its challenges. The theme of the anniversary, “Sustaining Sixty Years of Quality Education in NAVASCO: the Role of Stakeholders”, will certainly engender keen debate and necessary interventions to restore the school to its glorious past.
LONG LIVE NABIA!!!
By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman, (Folio Nos.5306)