Opoku Ware School, often referred to as OWASS, is a senior high school for boys in the Ashanti region of Ghana. It was established in 1952, as one of the five Catholic schools in Ghana that year. The school was named after Asante King Opoku Ware I. The students are known collectively as Akatakyie, an Asante word meaning “conquering heroes”.
It is located in Fankyenebra, near Santasi, along the Kumasi-Obuasi road.
The patron saint of the school is Saint Thomas Aquinas. The motto of the school is “Deus Lux Scientiae”, meaning “God is the Light of Knowledge”.
The school is governed by a board, who appoints a headmaster. It contains 10 boys houses, each headed by a housemaster, selected from the more senior members of the teaching staff, who number some 60. Almost all the school’s pupils go on to universities, about a two-thirds of them to the three premier universities in Ghana, being: University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and University of Cape Coast.
The current headmaster, F. Matthew Oppong Mensah (W4), an alumnus of the school is a member of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Senior Secondary schools (CHASS) in Ghana.
OWASS today is much larger than its inception. In 1952, the school began with 60 boys. This number has significantly risen to over 1,800 boys now.
Opoku Ware Senior High School was the first Catholic boys School in the Asante Kingdom. Although it is the Second all boys school in the region.Until its establishment, youth from the Ashanti Kingdom and the Northern part of Ghana who wanted Catholic education had to travel south across the Pra River to attend secondary schools.
This meant that members of the Catholic Church who wished to have their children educated in accordance with Catholic traditions had to send them to St. Augustine’s College or Holy Child College, both in Cape Coast.
The original plan to establish a secondary school in the Kingdom at the initiation of the King, called for one school jointly with the Catholic Church, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. The Catholic Church opted out of it and asked the King’s blessing for the establishment of a separate school for the Catholics.
At a meeting held on 31 January 1951, a decision was taken to build a Roman Catholic Mission secondary school. The government was to provide all the funds for the building of the school. The school was meant for 360 students with a possible expansion to the Sixth Form. It was to be developed according to a ten-year development plan, and the final cost was estimated at £250,000. An expatriate construction firm, Fry, Drew and Company, was awarded the contract to build classrooms, dormitories, laboratories, and administration block and staff bungalows.
OWASS opened its doors on 28 February 1952 to 60 young boys to the school, originally called Yaa Asantewaa College. Two weeks after the school opened, the name was changed to Opoku Ware School following consultations with and instructions from the Manhyia Palace. This was to honour one of the most illustrious Asante Kings, who in May 1744 approached the Roman Catholic Mission at the Elmina Castle to educate Asante youth.
Katakyie Opoku Ware I, ruled Asanteman between 1720 and 1750. A past student of the school is known as Katakyie (conquering hero) the title by which Nana Opoku Ware I was known, principally for the expansionist drive of Asanteman’s frontiers, and for which he became famously known.
The late Rev. Fr. P. R. Burgess, An Oxford University graduate, was the first headmaster of the school. He was the son of an Irish draper and a former major in the British Army. He was a Polyglot and spoke Italian and French fluently. He also spoke Aramaic. The boys spent their first night at St. Paul’s house, the only dormitory in what was a desolate clearing. Two small rooms next to that house served as their dining hall, their assembly hall and their classroom.
By 1955, the school had five dormitories (St Paul, St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke and St John), ten classrooms, three science laboratories, an administration block, dining hall, kitchen, library, and 17 staff bungalows. There were 450 students attending the school.
A Sixth Form was established in 1958, to provide courses in both the arts and sciences. A Cadet Corps was formed in 1960.
Presently, the boys are housed in nine houses. There are over 74 classrooms, six science laboratories, two libraries, a science resource center, computer centre, language laboratory, and French and German languages teaching centres.
There are 36 staff bungalows, a block of eight flats and quarters for junior administrative staff, cooks, and pantry boys. There is also a staff canteen, a chapel, a dining hall, and a sick bay.
Ultra-modern ICT centre for the school
There are 10 houses named after various in the Catholic faith. The houses are named St. John, St Mathew, St Mark, and St Luke. The rest are St Paul, St Peter, St James, St Andrews, St Philip and St Thomas.
The idea of sustainability was incorporated not only in the architecture of the houses but most buildings in the school. Each of the houses as well as most of the staff bungalow has an underground well which provides water for the boys when there is shortage of water.
In addition to the housemaster, each house has a House Prefect and an assistant who are chosen from the oldest year. There are house gatherings once a week and usually happens in the morning before classes. The housemaster and boys have an opportunity to make announcements during house meetings; the boys get the opportunity to voice the views and express grievances.
Each house participates in weekly morning mass at the school chapel on rotational basis. Many inter-house competitions occur, mostly in the field of sport. For much of the school’s history, first year boys have to act as servants, to older boys. Their duties mostly includes cleaning, and running errands.
Student identification system
One of the most enduring legacies of Rev. Fr. Burgess was the student identification and numbering system, a proud tradition that continues till today. For easier administrative purposes, he decided to assign a letter of the alphabet to each year group, and then combine it with a sequential number to each student who gained admission.
The pioneering group had the letter K. Thus K1 was the very first pioneer student to gain admission, followed by K2 and on till K60 the last student to be admitted that year. The following year, the letter S was assigned, then P in 1954, M in 1955 and so on.
The choice of the letters did not follow the alphabetical order. When the single letters ran out with the Z batch of 1975, the school simply began a double letter assignment, with the AB group in 1976. After the AZ group entered in 1999, the following year saw the BC group.
A student’s number is an integral and unique part of his identity and stay at the school, and cannot be assigned to another person even if the original assignee leaves school after a day in the first term. Students are assigned to their dormitories on the basis of the last digit of their number. Thus when a student’s number is mentioned, it is easy to figure out his year group and dormitory. So a student with the number BQ 617 for instance entered in the year 2011 and is in St. James house.
The school has won the Science and Maths quiz twice and have been runners-up four times. It has also been runners-up in the 1995 Brilliant Science and Mathematics Quiz Competition, and champions in 1997. Kwadwo Nkansah Osei-Agyemang particularly stood out with his exceptional ability in Maths, Physics and Chemistry, and also that quiz team in 1997 was so exceptional in the answering of the riddles round. Joseph Amamoo and Richard Oteng were the other stellar candidates. In 2002, Paul Azunre, Aubrey Mwinyogle and Vincent-Michaek K Ampadu brought another national science quiz title to the school. OWASS has been in the finals of this championship 6 times, second only to Presec legon Boys. The school is voted # 2 best school in Ghana, 2nd only to Presec legon School. It placed second in the first and only time the SSSCE results were published in a league form in Ghana. In addition, OWASS has won the National Debate Competition once and placed second in the 2002 competition as well. This makes The School the most successful Secondary school in the National Debate Competition which is administered by the Government of Ghana and culminates as part of the Ghana Independence Day celebrations.
The school has won 9 out of the 13 Superzonals Athletic competition in recent years in the Ashanti region. The school has produced several national athletes and Olympians including Ohene Karikari, Sandy Osei Agyemang, and Christian Nsiah.
Until the 1980s, OWASS as they are affectionately called was the only authorised test center for the administration of TOEFL and SAT exams in Ghana. It attained about 10 8As in the 2012 WASSCE making it the second best school in Ghana.Opoku Ware School is the only school in Ghana who have handed the heaviest NATIONAL SCIENCE AND MATHS QUIZ defeat to Prempeh College, one of the grade A schools in Ghana, in a 96–46 score that shocked the air waves in Ghana.
Headmasters of OWASS
Rev. Father Burges (1952–1961)
In March 1961, Father Burgess was given his marching orders from Ghana, having preposterously been accused of interfering in the nation’s politics. In reality, he had refused to admit the son of a government minister who had not made the required grade. His principled stand cost him his job and parted him from his dear school, but his values continue to inspire.
Leo Kalinauckas (1961–1963)
An Englishman of Lithuanian heritage, who ran the school between 1961 and 1963.
Kwame Adu-Amankwah (1963–1969)
In 1963, the school had its first Ghanaian headmaster in the person of the late Mr. Kwame Adu-Amankwah, who was headmaster until 1969, when he left to join the new government of Dr. K. A. Busia as the Eastern Regional Minister, and subsequently Ghana’s Ambassador to Mexico. During his time, the school’s academic performance improved remarkably, and St. Peter House and the Gambrah Library were both constructed in 1966. He had a reputation as very strict disciplinarian and dedicated Catholic.
Stephen Oduro’ (1971–1978)
During his time, OWASS saw another wave of expansion, with a new dining hall, the Soweto classroom block, new staff bungalows and another dormitory, St. Andrew House. A new assembly hall and a new headmaster’s bungalow were also commenced.
Peter Owusu-Donkor (1978–1987)
He steered the school through the difficult mid-1980s, which saw unprecedented bush fires, drought, fuel shortages and food crisis in the country A strong disciplinarian, he managed to guide the school during these stormy waters with great help from the Catholic Church.
James Dapaah Berko (1987–2003)
As the first alumnus headmaster of the school, Mr. Berko went on to hold the post for a record sixteen years. During his time, the school saw many reforms and academic performance improved remarkably. Other successes chalked included winning the National Brilliant Science and Maths Quiz on two occasions (1997 and 2002) as well as several regional sporting championships. It was during his tenure that the old students initiated the construction of an ultra-modern ICT centre for the school.
Stephen Anokye (2003–2011)
Again, the school continued to grow from strength, winning several academic and sporting laurels. Staff morale was high. During his time, a new house (St. Philip) and new library project were commenced and completed. The PTA also commenced a major classroom block project. A new assembly hall was also commenced under Mr. Anokye’s tenure.
F. Matthew Oppong Mensah (2011–present)
Determined to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors. A tenth dormitory is currently under construction.
(**Rev. Fr. Habits and Mr. T. Bediakoh served as Acting Headmasters for short periods)
Air-Vice Marshall G. Y. Boakye (S59), former Air Force Commander and Airforce Chief of Staff under the SMC government in the 1970s
Commodore Steve Darbo, Flag Officer Commanding the Eastern Naval Command
Commander P. M. G. Griffiths (Rtd) (R8), former PNDC and NDC Deputy Minister of State
Naval Capt. Butah (Rtd) (P61), former NDC Minister of State,
Major Boakye-Gyan (Rtd) (Q4) of AFRC fame (Spokesman)
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Amponsem-Boateng (AF 1), fmr Commanding Officer 4BN
Ernest Owusu-Poku fmr Inspector General of Police, Ghana
Mr. P. V. Obeng (N28)(deceased), former Member of the PNDC and Chairman of the Committee of Secretaries
Prof Kasim Kasanga former Minister of Lands
Mr. J. Bentum-Williams (S50), former Ghana High Commissioner to Malaysia under the NPP government,
Mr. Francis Poku (A4, A60?), National Security Minister under the NPP administration.
Mr. Justice Stephen A. Brobbey (Y76) Supreme Court Judge and former Chief Justice of The Gambia
Prof. Dr. Richard Oppong Frimpong (AT 97) Assistant Professor of Law Thompson Rivers University
Dr. Gobind Nankani (D252), Former Economic Advisor to President Mills and Vice-President of the World Bank’s PREMN,
Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi (W215) of GIMPA and former NDC Minister of State,
Dr. Kwame Barwuah Edusei (O239) of the EO Group and formerly Ghana’s Ambassador to Switzerland and the US
John Bentum William fmr High Commissioner to Malaysia
Prof. Owusu Sarpong (L61), former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at KNUST and also a former Ambassador to France.
Mr. Ato Austin (B24)(deceased) of the PNDC government,
Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, Former Finance Minister and current MP for Old Tafo
Dr Mustapha Ahmed MP & Dep. Minister
Dr Osei Akoto Afriyie (B43) MP Kwadaso
Philippe Ayivor (C6) President, American Chamber of Commerce – Ghana
John Boadu Deputy Communications Director, NPP
Kwabena Kyere fmr Dep Min of Education
Nana Yaw Ofori Kuragu MP Bosome Freho
Prof. George Gyan Baffour MP and former deputy minister of Finance
Mr. Jacob Osei-Yeboah (AH 125) Independent Presidential Candidate in the 2012 elections
Kwasi Appiah (O123), former Black Stars captain and former National Football Coach for the Black Stars,
Prof. Boakye-Yiadom (S), former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of KNUST,
Dr. Ernest Gyimah (Av 98), Former Vice-President of American Inc. University, London
Prof Richard K. Amankwah – Dean of Students, University of Mines and Technology.
Prof. Kwame Sarpong (Y11), first Provost of the College of Health Sciences at KNUST,
Dr. Akwasi Acheampong Boateng (G67), Lead Scientist/Engineer, Author & Inventor, Biofuels Researcher, USDA, Philadelphia USA
Dr Richard K Okine Inventor (C3) (fuel cells) holding several US patents
Dr. Ohene Boachie Adjei (G8) who recently performed a spinal surgery on former President John Agyekum Kufour
Mr. Martin Esson Benjamin (B53) Chief Executive Officer – Millenium Development Authority (MIDA), Joint effort GH/USA
Mr. John Boakye(AB140) Chief Financial Officer – Millenium Development Authority (MIDA), Joint effort GH/USA
Mr. Joe Mensah (V53), Country General manager, IBM Chief in Ghana
Mr. Ernest Abankroh (X40), former Country Manager, Anglogold -Ashanti and currently CEO of West Africa Gas Pipeline Authority,
Thomas Baafi (X43) Owner & CEO Bsystems (98th by the GIPC on the Ghana Club 100 list for 2011)
Dr Kofi Amoah (J16), CEO Progeny Ventures (Citizen Kofi), chairman CAN 2008 LOC
Mr. Ohene Karikari (U17), former national athlete and Africa’s number one sprinter during his time
Christian Nsiah(AM11) national athlete, Olympian
Rexford Brobbey- Deputy COO- AFCON 2008, fastest man in Ghana-100meters. Olympic game semi finalist(Fastest in Africa in 1984 (10.08sec))
S. S. Atuahene fmr National Athletics Coach
Ken Kuranchie (AK 63) Managing Editor, Daily Searchlight, Civil rights advocate
Kontihene Musician ( Known for “Aketesia” song)
Nana Akuoko Sarpong (Q125) Agogo Manhene
Nana Otuo Serebour (E36), Omanhene of Juaben, an industrialist and electrical engineer, known in private life as Peter Amponsah
Prof. Kwabena Oppong-Boachie (L19) Director of CSRMM. aka Obrempong Boachie Amoah Kromansah II, Manhene of Nsoatre Trad. Area.
Dr. J. Oduro-Boateng(W128) CEO of Emmanuel Eye Centre, Accra,
Dr. Felix Anyah (F209), CEO of Holy Trinity Spa in Sogakope.
Peter Osei Duah (J77), fmr MD SIC
Mr.Francis Owusu-Ansah(AP 71), Prominent Radio Personality/National Communications Director, Living Grace Ministries
Dr.Charles Kwabena Adu Poku (H9)Md of Poku Transport Children’s Hospital
Nana Osim Kwatia II (a.k.a Fred Croffie-T135) Chief of Amanokrom and Gyasehene of Akuapem Traditional Area,
Mr. Martin Brobbey (AH7), CEO of Lexta Ltd, suppliers of YAZZ products
Sarfo Abebrese, Lawyer and founder of Coalition of Supporters Unions of Africa – A Pan African Initiative
Kwasi Adu Amankwah, Gen Sec. Int. Trade Union Conf. Africa & fmr Gh TUC boss
Bishop George Adjeman Founder, Winners Chapel Ghana
Dr Joe Manu Owner &CEO Pro Vita Specialist Hospital, Tema
Dr Yaw Adu Gyamfi Owner &CEO Dan Adams Pharmaceuticals Ltd
Dr. Jacob Kwakye-Maafo Owner & CEO, West End Clinic, Kumasi
Dr. Michael Roy Appiah (R10) fmr Director, Cocoa Research Institute
Dr. Clement Osei Akoto (AN 94) Archimedes,Phd Organic/Medicinal Chemistry University of Utah, First person to attain First Class in Chemistry at KNUST in 2000 congregation.
Kwame Adinkra (AP 3**) Radio Personality (voted most consistent Performer on Radio)
Prof Ohene Adjei CEO Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital
Dr. Kofi Essuming Appiah (AS 123).( Phd in Computer Science)–Youngest Phd holder in Ghana at the moment
Dr. Paul Azunre, PHD at MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation known for Globally optimal Engineering system design
Dr. Cletus Oppong-Kobiah. Anesthesiologist Albany New York
AKATAKYIE USA ALUMNI
Deus Lux Scientiae