‘Knowledge is power for service’

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  • Celebrating Esme Siriboe, Morning Star School founder

Far too often we choose to see the sparkle and permanence of the present but hardly the uncanny vision that releases boundless potential into solid accomplishments. Vision – being a transient thing – not everybody is able to persevere, to hold on for the lush finality.

Watching both the huge morning or late afternoon traffic at La Bone – where parents were depositing or picking up wards at the Morning Star School – one may be excused for not attempting to reckon with the school’s humble beginnings.

Be that as it may, I’m often reminded of the quote by the British historian, R.S. Rattray (writing in the Gold Coast days) that “there is more wisdom in the African matron’s head than they dream of in [colonial] philosophy.”

Mrs Esme Siriboe

Truly, it’s a wonder how education in Ghana would have fared were it not for the vision and commitment of such matrons! One of such unforgettable women was Mrs Esme Praah Siriboe, founder of Morning Star School, Accra.

Early education

Born to Mr Samuel Oppon Gaisie of Saltpond in the Central Region and Madam Mercy Yaa Assan of Kyerekrom in the Ashanti Region, Esme Gaisie’s basic education commenced at the Saltpond Methodist School.  Later, she completed her Middle School Education at Mmofraturo Girls’ Boarding School, Kumasi.

Her excellent academic record earned her admission with a scholarship to the teacher training programme at the Achimota College from 1942 – 1945. There she attained her Teacher’s Certificate ‘A’ and the Special Housecraft Teacher’s Certificate. Besides sports, where she was a notable hockey and tennis player, she was an entertainment prefect as well and won a prize for earning a distinction in Mathematics, Art and Craft. 

In 1946, she served as a Domestic Science Teacher at the Government Primary School, Juaso and was to return to Achimota College where she earned a Special Housecraft Certificate in Cookery, Laundry work and Housewifery. At the Colonial Institute of Education, University of London, she acquired a Professional Certificate Course in Education.

On returning to Ghana, she joined the staff of Achimota Training College on secondment by the Gold Coast Government and taught at the Housecraft Department. Later, she pursued a refresher course in Early Childhood Education and Child Psychology at the Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Mrs Siriboe with Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt

Back home, she was employed as a Mass Education Officer in the Gold Coast Civil Service. She worked on programmes for Adult Education and Rural Women Empowerment with income generating skills. By 1958, notwithstanding having risen to the rank of Principal Community Development Officer with the Social Welfare Department, she resigned to spend more time with her family after her marriage to Justice Johnson Boateng Siriboe in 1957.

Arise, O Morning Star

In the early 1960s, with the encouragement of her spouse and endearing friends such as Mrs Felicia Agyeman – then founder and proprietor of Tiny Tot Nursery – and Mrs Grace Quist-Arcton, Mrs Siriboe’s residence at Bungalow 11, 5th Circular Road, Cantonments, which was already nurturing the preschool education a year earlier for her own child, welcomed six more pupils. The birth pangs of a new school had begun. 

In 1965, ‘The Morning Star Kindergarten’ was born. The first classroom was the garage of her dwelling. For a school hymn, she selected the first and last verses of Methodist Hymn “Arise O Morning Star, Arise and never set”. The school grew rapidly, and she soon had to cater for both preschool and early childhood programmes from Nursery to Grade 2.  Relocation was inevitable! 

The school was her life and her school family were invaluable jewels. She loved to teach Geography, Composition and Quantitative and Verbal Aptitude courses especially to the candidates preparing for the Common Entrance Examination.  She was passionate about organising school-wide spelling drills and disciplined pupils who misbehaved. 

Speech Days and Sports Days were held regularly. Ghanaian Languages (Twi/Ga) and French were taught. She particularly targeted music education and activities for practical lessons requiring learners to play the traditional bamboo flute (atenteben) and the xylophone.

Progressive educator

In the 1970s, when students completed the Common Entrance Examination and were awaiting results, she would engage the services of resource persons to offer instruction in vocational skills such as catering and typing. Excursions were also organised to broaden the scope of knowledge of the school community beyond its borders. Some fondly remembered trips were to Lome -Togo, and the Cape Coast Castle.

Mrs Siriboe loved to see her pupils perform drama productions, cultural dancing, poetry and scripture verse recitals and nurtured programmes to develop such talents. Some school plays were performed at the Arts Centre and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC).

In 1990, she celebrated the 25th Anniversary of The Morning Star School. She constructed and established the Junior High Department, and the first candidates sat the examination in 1992.   Her school is proud to count among its alumni, men, and women in prominent positions worldwide.

Despite her hectic schedule, she supported several organisations including Osu Children’s Home, New Horizon Special School, Akropong School for the Blind, Dzorwulu Special School, Juvenile Correctional Centre, etc.

After her passing in 1994, and with the help of her late son, Nana Juaben Boateng, and two daughters – Nana Abena and Nana Yaa Pokua Siriboe, the school has grown and now provides Upper Secondary Education at the Morning Star International High School, Dodowa.

Mrs Siriboe with children

Email: anishaffar@gmail.com

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