Good morning, I’d like us to share briefly a word of prayer on behalf of SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of life and most especially for today, as we launch the 25th year celebration of this great school. We are grateful for the pioneers, staff, both old and current, from the Principal to the Janitors, whose tireless efforts have contributed to what the school is today. We pray that this college will continue to grow and prosper and that through it you will mould our children into responsible adults whose talents and knowledge will transform our world. Amen.
Your Excellency, distinguished guests, staff and students, ladies and gentlemen,
With great pride and pleasure, I’m here to give you a glimpse of what SOS was to me and what it has become through the lens of personal experience as one of the old parents and also through my children’s journey in this school. With their reluctant permission of course, not knowing how liberal my sharing will be. But I have assured them that I’ll try not to divulge any secret episodes, so I will proceed with great caution.
The first time I heard of SOS was when a friend who had a son here mentioned it in conversation. I thought to myself then, why would I send my children to a school that was hardly known back then? I quite liked the idea it was a small school and my children would get individual attention in a collaborative learning environment. Furthermore, my friend’s son who used to be timid and shy, so impressed me by the confidence he exuded after his first term here, that my interest was stirred to come and find out more about this school.
My first impression as I walked through the gates swept me off my feet (you could call it love at first sight). The well-kept grounds and buildings, friendly reception and wealth of information I received was nothing I had envisaged and on touring the school, I was even more fascinated and impressed with their facilities such as the science, language and computer labs and their well-stocked library. Currently, I know the standard of these facilities have been upgraded to state of the art, not to mention the swimming pool, gym, athletic tracks, the Mac lab, computer stations at the hostels and even more hostels to house the ever increasing number of students hoping to gain admission here.
Now, back to my story- So with much enthusiasm and conviction, I discussed the prospect of sending the children here with my husband. He was also convinced it was the best thing to do until he saw the fees. Then his resolve began to dissipate. But I can assure you, it was worth every Ghana cedi sacrificed.
After dropping them off on their first day of school here with much anxiety about how they would adjust, home sickness and the usual things we worry about as parents, I was rather disappointed to find out that I had not been missed one bit. I was summarily and subtly dismissed after about 30 minutes into the visiting time of 2 hours when I had planned to spend my whole afternoon with them. Throughout their busy 4 years here, these are some of the tangible excuses I have received with the usual dismissal phrase-“mom I gotta go”
- My friends and I have to practice for IG1 night, I have singing competition rehearsals, I’m in the school play, I’m managing the tuck shop this week, we have a biology trip to standards board on Friday, we have gardening competition, we have inspection, don’t come this weekend we have a CAS trip to Kakasunaka to help build a classroom, we are going to an orphanage to help the children read, we have MUN with Lincoln, we have sports day with GIS, and it even escalated to-guess what mommy, I am going to the Lillestrom school in Norway, I’m going for MUN in Jordan, I’m going for an exchange programme at St. Clare’s in the UK . I could go on and on but the most frequent one has been – mom we have exams, and with that the snack is grabbed and you are left at the mercy of other parents who have also been abandoned under the palaver hut, nevertheless great friendships between parents have evolved here. This is to mention just a few of the flurry of activity that goes on in this school.
I love this school and I have been as much a part, as some of you students here, so much that I even knew the nicknames of the teachers, which I wouldn’t dare to mention on this platform. In earnest, this school has been a family to my children and I know they are still in touch with some of the staff. Also, some of their friendships formed here which impacted their lives went beyond the borders of Ghana and to other countries, and I am happy to say that I have had Mulu from Ethiopia, Musonda from Malawi, and Claire from Cameroun spend some of their midterm breaks in our home and today, I’m still “mom” to them.
But you may ask what makes this school so special from other schools?
This school apart from its boarding experience which teaches our children to be independent and disciplined also fosters in them a sense of ownership, communal work, team spirit and healthy competition.
I am thankful to the school for the leadership roles my daughters held which helped them to hone their leadership skills, careers day which cleared their indecision on what career to pursue, Pan African club which has instilled a sense of who they are as Africans and is bringing my third daughter back to Ghana after her graduation in May, Roteract club which has taught them to give back to society, the annual funfairs entirely planned and executed by the students themselves, which taught them how to raise funds for a cause and I make special mention of this because Yolande single- handedly organised a fund raising event in New York for an orphanage here in Tema called The Marfo Children’s Care Foundation. And of course national day which taught Dionne how to pound fufu, and how to eat njeera, an Ethiopian delicacy. If it wasn’t for this school, I could never have imagined that my quiet Michelle could stand in front of a packed assembly hall and belt out a solo in tenor. She went on to become a member of her school’s acapella group. SOS without a doubt unearths the hidden talents in our children.
I recall with joy how on our numerous trips to and from exeats they would talk about their interesting TOK essays, their excitement about research projects, and also tell me about the legends of the school who had gotten 45 in their IBs and of those who got 10 A stars in their O levels, and it was pleasant to observe that they were yearning to emulate the standards of those who had gone on before them to the hallowed halls of Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge, Korle bu medical school, Ashesi, etc. However, all this talk was never devoid of the complaints about the work- load, to which I always replied- hard work never killed anyone! On exeats, I am happy to learn that now students return the next day- a welcome change from rushing back the same day and having to leave home barely 4 hours after getting home.
Today, the successes, this school has chalked is not only marked some of the highest scores in SATs, IGCSE and IB exams, but also by admissions to the most prestigious colleges in the world, with our students rubbing shoulders with their peers in the world’s leading firms and corporations, and for those with the African Dream (not the American dream) coming back to Ghana, doing start-ups and entrepreneurial projects.
It is pleasant to also note that, even before the alumni was officially formed, old students always looked out for their own-checking college essays, recommending those out of college to their firms, coming back to the school to give informative talks, and even helping with accommodation out there.
In closing, I would like to add that every experience in this school teaches you something, challenges you and brings you out of your comfort zone (as it has drawn me here this morning)-even the application process to get here), I would say, prepares you for college applications, rising to the challenge when the panel of accomplished school administrators grilled you during the interview, including the anxious wait to hear from the school secretary, actually helps you to handle better your college interviews and deal with the waiting to see whether you got a fat or small envelope from the colleges you applied to.
I am hoping to be back in the school full time as a parent once again, to share in the actual celebrations of the 25th anniversary of this amazing school.
Students, make the most of your stay here, and while you are at it, enjoy your time here because someday contrary to what you may think now, you are going to miss this place and realise that these life skills, more than the academic laurels, is what has prepared and primed you for a life of excellence, wherever you may find yourself in the years to come.
Thank you or your time and attention.