Dr Joyce Asibey — Dad Was My Role Model

By Daily Graphic

As a child, Young Joyce was fascinated anytime she saw her father teaching in what was then known as night school. What even captivated her most was when some of her father's students carried his books home.

She was so thrilled by the respect accorded her father that she resolved to become a teacher just like him. Indeed, Young Joyce did not only live up to her dream but her contribution to education in this country, especially at the secondary level, has been wonderful.

For 14 years, she taught at one of the prestigious girls schools in the country, Aburi Girls' Senior High School and later served as its headmistress for 17 years, a total of 31 years in the teaching service.

During her tenure as headmistress of Aburi Girls', she did well to raise the moral, discipline and academic standards of the school. So high was her standards that most of her former students felt she was too strict but today, they are grateful to her for the discipline she instilled in them.

This is evident by the messages engraved on plaques that various year-groups of the school have presented to her, which adorn the living room of her Madina residence.

When Junior Graphic met 77-year-old Dr Asibey at her residence to share her story with our readers, she attributed the secret to her success to the discipline she had as a child, especially from her father and from Achimota School.

Dr Asibey, who believes she is the first female graduate of Ashanti descent, disclosed that her father, an Oxford graduate, faced a lot of opposition from people because he paid so much attention to her education. But he never gave up.

"It was when I grew up that I realised how fortunate I was as a girl in those days to have had education."

Joyce was only five years old when she was enrolled at the boarding house of Achimota School. Although young and separated from her parents and siblings, Joyce was all right at school because "the set-up was such that each dormitory had a mother who took care of us just like our biological parents. For instance, they helped us to take our bath".

The fact that Joyce was in school did not mean she did not perform the everyday chores children usually did at home.  "At Achimota School, we cleaned, swept and went to the school's farm occasionally. And one of the fond memories I have about the school was the strict instructions that we should not talk at bedtime.

However, because we were little girls, we continued yapping when we're in bed until Papa K.K, the watchman, came and frightened us with his "yooye" stick and immediately everybody would be silent.

We were also made to learn hobbies like carpentry, book binding, pottery, and carving, which has become part of my life now."

But despite all these activities, Young Joyce, who was once the Games Prefect of her school, loved her books. "I loved reading, so I spent most of my play time reading."

No wonder she was the one who took the Lady Burns Scholarship (instituted by the wife of the then governor, Burns), which enabled her to start secondary school in Form Two instead of Form One.

As a young girl, Joyce sometimes spent her holidays with her mother at Agogo or with her father at Juaso because her parents were separated. On occasions when she spent her holidays at Agogo, she went to the farm, fetched water from the Aboabo spring, washed and swept just like the rest of the children in her home.

Because she was a child, she had little to do on the farm but very often, she harvested ripe pepper and carried firewood back home. Doing these chores was a bit tiring for her because their farm and the source of water were both located on a mountain which she had to ascend and descend.

Young Joyce loved it when she spent her vacation with her father at Juaso. During those occasions, she had the opportunity of being taught by her father and also spent some of her time with her best friend, Akosua Kufuor, President Kufuor's sister.

She recalled with nostalgia how the president's uncle would put all the children in the house in his pick-up and take them for a ride.

After Sixth Form at Achimota School, Dr Asibey won an Asanteman scholarship to further her education at Reading University, Berkshire, UK, where she became the first black female to enrol in that school. She was there from 1953 to 1957 and graduated with an Honours Degree in Geography and Diploma in Education.

On her return to Ghana in 1957, she started teaching at Aburi Girls' and rose through the ranks to become its headmistress.

She is also one of the foremost chief examiners of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and former President of the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS).

Dr Asibey is the widow of Dr Emmanuel O. Asibey, former Head of Department, Game and Wildlife and also of the Forestry Commission and has two children.

Story by Augustina Tawiah