Ghana Secondary Technical School, Takoradi, was founded on 9th August 1909 as the Accra Technical School. It was located at the former Accountant-General Offices until 1939. Its founding was in response to the growing need for technical education for artisans working for the Colonial Gold Coast Government – Transport and Communication, Public Works and Electrical Supply Commission. Other products of the school were urgently needed to train pupils in the senior or middle schools in woodwork.
With an initial class of 19 students, (which number had increased to 25 by the end of the first term), the school offered three (3) year courses in metalwork and woodwork to students who then qualified as artisans. In line with the school’s objectives of providing practical training in engineering and craftsmanship, students of the school, from 1912, began practical training, first with the Railways and later with the Public Works Department. This was a symbiotic relationship in which the school had the opportunity to reinforce classroom theory with workshop practical, while the government departments benefited from the services of these students. In May 1912 the first batch of 28 candidates, made up of eighteen (18) metalwork and ten (10) woodwork candidates, were presented for examination. The graduates were recruited into government departments – Public Works, Waterworks and Railways.
Since its inception the school has lived with problems. The pioneers of the school had to be housed in the dormitories of the Government Teacher Training College since the school had no lodgings of its own. As a result of this lack of accommodation most of the students from Accra were non-resident. In 1911, however, two dormitories were put up. Yet another problem was the slow rate of growth of student population. It was really difficult getting boys enrolled into the school and when the Acting Governor of the Gold Coast, H. Bunyan, visited the school in the middle of’ 1912, he was so disappointed at the smaller number of boys and the many vacancies that remained unfilled that he contemplated a reduction of the staff if the number of students did not rise appreciably.
The growing concern shown by the governor and the Director of Education and his outfit gave the school a new lease of life. But this was short-lived as the World War I came to disrupt the school’s activities. The news of the declaration of war on Germany by the British Empire was received on the 5th of August, l914. Four days afterwards instructions were given for the evacuation of the buildings of both the Technical School and the Training College since they were required to house German prisoners caught in Togoland (which was a minor theatre of the war). Not only was the school down temporarily, but the staff were required for various services in connection with the war. Some of the students entered the Volunteer Service and two actually went on active service to East Africa.
In 1917, the first Principal of the school, Mr. H.A. Wright, retired and handed over to Mr. Pickles. Then Mr. Pickles was replaced as Principal by Mr. M. McLaren in November 1919.
In 1921, new dormitories were provided towards the end of the year and all non-resident students went into residence. Then in 1922, work started on a bungalow for a housemaster. It was opened in 1923 and for the first time there was a resident housemaster. 1923 proved to be a year to remember for the end of the year saw the passing out of a total of 45 students made up of 36 woodwork students and 9 metalwork students from the school. That same year the Old Boys Association was formed. Evidently, the story of the school in the 1920s was one of overcrowding and consequently the need for more accommodation. Fortunately, the Training College was removed to Achimota College and its buildings were taken over for the extension of the Technical School. In spite of that, the school experienced acute overcrowding again both in the dormitories and workshops as the school was growing rapidly.
By 1928 there were about 80 students on roll. At the end of 1936, the General Manager of the Gold Coast Railway visited the school and suggested the opening of a Technical School in Takoradi. Takoradi was ideal because it provided a new site for an expanded school and also fed the growing industrial area of the Gold Coast. The school which by this time had changed name to Government Technical School was going to be transferred to Takoradi. The attention it was getting from the government was unique and it stemmed from the fact that it was a potential life-blood of the principal industrial concerns of the Gold Coast. Its products had started taking City and Guilds Examinations from 1933 signaling an upgrading of the courses taken there. A fourth-year was introduced before the planned transfer to Takoradi.
The buildings in Takoradi were completed in 1939 at the cost of £37,000. The site, was larger by far than the former, the new site being on a 120-hectare ground. Accordingly, packing started immediately from May 1939 and equipment from Accra was transferred to Takoradi during the month of June, July and August by road. The school re-opened in Takoradi on the 21st of September, 1939 under the headship of Mr. T. T. Gilbert. Here its unique character became evident as students from other West Africa countries came to do courses in the school. In 1940 students came from Nigeria and the Republic of Benin (then Dahomey) and in 1941 others came from Sierra Leone. Clearly, grammar schools were present all over West Africa but not Technical Schools.
Just when the school was settling down in Takoradi the World War II broke out and the school had to move again as its premises were required for the use of the Royal Air Force. In August, 1940 the school moved to the Elmina Castle and the Royal Air Force occupied its buildings. (Today a miniature nose of an airplane hangs at the entrance of the main classroom block to commemorate the occupation by the Royal Air Force). The castle was woefully unsuitable for a school and a few alterations were required before it could house a school. Equipment had again to be transferred and this was done in November and December and the school re-opened in January 1941. Fifty (50) of the old students returned.
Merely sixteen-month after relocating to the castle, it was needed for the training of service tradesmen, the technical branch of the military force. This time the school was closed altogether or rather was absorbed by the technical branch of the military force, with all staff and most of the pupils serving with the forces until the end of hostilities. The Royal Air Force which occupied the school’s buildings in Takoradi moved out in October 1945 giving way for the return of Government Technical School under the headship of Major T.C. Watkins, designated Acting Principal. A few of the former staff were brought back and the school started assuming shape and growing again, though rather relatively slowly, for in 1950 there were 110 students compared to 80, recorded as early as 1928.
THE MODERN ERA
The year 1953 saw the beginnings of drastic revision which was characterized by the introduction of a Secondary Curriculum. The school then became Government Secondary Technical School. A five-year course was begun leading to the School Certificate. The pre-1953 curriculum comprised Engineering and Construction with English, Mathematics and Science as background subjects.
From 1953, there was an expansion to include academic subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Elementary and Additional Mathematics, Geography and French. Religious Knowledge, Music and History also came later though for a considerable length of time they were not offered for the school certificate examinations. They were brought in to avert a situation of narrow-mindedness on the part of the products. Government Secondary Technical School had its first African Headmaster, Mr. J.V.L. Mills (who took over from the last white head, Mr. F.E. Joselin) in August 1958 and sixth-form education began in 1961.
Another landmark is the story of the military’s involvement in the school. On 3rd November 1965 the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, first President of the Republic of Ghana announced that Government Secondary Technical School would be adopted and turned into an Air Force Training College.
“Students in the Government Secondary Technical School will be given such opportunities as are appropriate and suitable to make them potential candidate to the Air Force and even for our Civil Aviation,” he said. This pronouncement was not immediately followed by any action until the early 1970s when Air Marshall M. A. Otu (formerly Lt. General) and Senior Officers of the Military Division of Ministry of Defense visited the school on 23rd April, 1971 to clarify the intention of the Army’s involvement in the school. In the 1972-73 academic year a batch of students were admitted to do a two-year sixth-form course. It was short-lived for no others came.
The academic year 1970-71 recorded another change of the name of the School. From Government Secondary Technical School it became Ghana Secondary Technical School (to maintain G.S.T.S.) when the school ceased to be a completely government-run institution. The course of the school’s history in the 1970s seemed to suggest that everything had fallen in place. The curricula of the school appeared to have undergone all the relevant changes and had stabilized.
The school was doing well in sports, always taking the first position in athletics and rubbing shoulder with other schools in hockey, football, basketball and the rest. There were a number of clubs and societies to take care of both the social and academic life of the students. The upward surge in the reputation of the school brought other problems in its wake. The chief of these was the pressure on the school for admission and consequently on the facilities of the school.
Many parents sought admission for their wards without considering whether their children could read the science and technical course. The authorities of the school gave in to pragmatism and created class for the arts. Students who could not read science were given the opportunity to read arts to the ordinary level examination. For a while the school carried on successfully until it became evident that the authorities had bitten more than they could chew in allowing arts to be read to the examination level. The intense pressure on the time-table was an unhealthy one. In 1985, therefore, a bold decision was taken to drop the arts course and this was done with the last batch of full arts students passing out in 1986.
With the introduction of the Senior Secondary School system the authorities realized they could not run away from the maxim, “Variety is the sauce of life.” An arts course had to be adopted. In 2009, GSTS celebrated its centenary. It can be argued that GSTS during the storied 100 years and now over, it produced some of the best students in Ghana especially in the areas of Science, Technology and Engineering. This strength is evident in its successes at National Science Competitions, Robotics Competitions, and National examinations.