Ghana's 1st Surgeon, Architect & Judge: 3 Achimota School Past Students Who Made History

Ghana's 1st Surgeon, Architect & Judge: 3 Achimota School Past Students Who Made History

  • Previously called Prince of Wales College and School, Achimota School is one of the most historic Ghanaian high schools set up in 1927
  • Since its inception, the school has been known for producing some of the greatest history makers and political leaders in Ghana and abroad
  • takes a look at three peculiar individuals who attended Achimota School and became history makers in their fields
  • Theodore Shealtiel Clerk was Ghana's first architect, Annie Ruth Jiagge was the first female Judge from Ghana & Charles Odamtten Easmon was the first surgeon

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Achimota School is known in the history books of Ghana as one of the top institutions in the country to have produced countless iconic individuals who have made great impacts in their various fields since its inception. Founded in 1927, it has undergone a name change on three different occasions. From Prince of Wales College and School at Achimota, the name changed to Achimota College, and now Achimota School.

The story of Achimota School is one that could probably qualify for the Guinness World Records. It should be studied how one high school managed to produce six different heads of state in different African countries, namely, Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana; Sir Dawda Jawara of Gambia; Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana; Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana; and Edward Akufo-Addo of Ghana. The school can also boast of producing professionals in various fields, including ministers, academicians, health personnel, engineers, and artists.

Today, highlights the achievements of three of the many Achimota School trailblazers who rose to become the very first people in Ghana to attain high-profile positions and become the first achievers in their fields.

1. Theodore Clerk, Ghana's First Architect and the man who Designed Tema Harbour

Trail blazing Ghanaians who completed Achimota School
Theodore Clerk with his sister, Matilda Johanna Clerk on the left and a photo of just him Photo credit: pipiwiki
Source: UGC

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Theodore Shealtiel Clerk was the first formally trained architect Ghana ever had and was also known for being the first to have accomplished many things in his lifetime. He was in Achimota School around the same time as Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president.

After his secondary education, he received a Commonwealth grant to pursue a degree in Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art in 1938 and graduated in 1943. Completing his program made him the very first formally trained architect in Ghana.

After tertiary, Theodore stayed in the UK researching housing projects and in 1946, he moved back home to work with the Town and Country Planning Department in Accra and later got transferred to the Sekondi branch after two years.

In 1960, he oversaw the design, urban planning, and development of the Tema port and was the Chief Architect and Town Planner in the Tema Development Corporation.

Theodore Shealtiel Clerk was the son of Nicholas Timothy Clerk, who was a theologian and a founding father of Presbyterian Boys' Secondary School, Legon, and Anna Alice Meyer was his mother.

His sister, Matilda Johanna Clerk, was the first Ghanaian woman in any area and the second female doctor in Ghana to get an academic merit scholarship for study at a foreign university.

2. Annie Ruth Jiagge, the first woman in Ghana and the Commonwealth of Nations to become a Judge.

Trail blazing Ghanaians who completed Achimota School
Annie speaking at a convention Photo credit: Elizabeth Bracht/YouTube, World Council of Churches
Source: UGC

Annie Ruth Jiagge started her career as a teacher after acquiring a teacher's certificate from then Achimota College in 1937. Her parents were very focused on ensuring she gained an English education. Hence, they moved her from her birth town, Lome in the then French Togoland, to stay with her grandmother in Keta.

Annie worked as a school teacher from 1940 until 1946 when she made the decision to become a lawyer. She got the chance to pursue a law degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and in 1950, she got called to the bar.

The same year, Annie returned to Gold Coast and started a private practice. The driven Achimota old student transitioned from a lawyer to a magistrate in June 1953 after getting married. She excelled in her new role and became a circuit court judge after six years. This made her the very first female judge in Ghana.

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Annie Ruth Jiagge founded a state-supported organisation called the Ghana National Council on Women and Development in 1975. During a speech at a UN Convention, she brought to light the vision of the organisation:

"In Ghana, the poorest of illiterate are women. The aim is to raise the standard of living on a broad national basis by bringing into the productive sector of the economy, unskilled who are mainly women and to integrate them in the development process at all levels", she said.

Ruth also became a High Court judge and finally a judge of the Court of Appeal in 1969 until her retirement in 1983.

3. Charles Odamtten Easmon, the first Ghanaian surgeon

Trail blazing Ghanaians who completed Achimota School
Surgery ongoing, Charles posing for the camera Photo credit: face2faceafrica
Source: UGC

Charles Odamtten Easmon began his education at Achimota School after completing Osu Presbyterian Boys' Boarding School in 1928.

He became the first formally trained surgeon in Ghana upon completing his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh and getting admitted as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He became the first Ghanaian to be accepted into the Royal College.

Charles first worked at Korle-Bu Hospital when he returned home and was eventually put in charge of the hospital after many years. In 1960, he was appointed by the then president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, as the country's chief medical officer. He performed the first successful open-heart surgery in Ghana in 1964.

His next position was as the first Dean and Professor of surgery at the University of Ghana Medical School, which had been newly established. The surgeon helped design the Ghana Medical Association logo.

Charles Odamtten Easmon retired as a medic in July 1993 and spent the bulk of his free time travelling to Europe with his wife until his passing on May 19, 1994.

Matilda J Clerk: The Ghanaian Woman who was First to Receive Scholarship in any Field to Study Abroad

Matilda Johanna Clerk is known in the history of Ghana as the first woman in any field who received a scholarship based on academic merit to study abroad.

She also doubles as the second Ghanaian woman to have acquired a university degree, making her the fourth lady in West Africa to become a university graduate.

She started her primary education at a Presbyterian school and went through middle school at Aburi All Girls' Middle Boarding School. Then, she gained admission to Achimota School and obtained a Second Divison Teachers' Preliminary Certificate in 1935.

She also partook in an intermediate preliminary course in basic medical science and became the first woman to complete it. She was elected as the Girls' School Prefect in her senior year at Achimota.

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