PERSONALITY PROFILE. CoEWJ Interview with Rev. Fr. George Kyeremeh, Principal, St. Ambrose College of Education, Dormaa Akwamu.

CoE-WJ: Good morning and welcome to the Colleges of Education Weekly Journal Personality Profile.

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Good morning and I am honored to be with you.

CoE-WJ: Kindly begin by telling us about your life growing up as a child.

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: I was born in Dormaa Ahenkro but I grew up in Sunyani. My father is from Dormaa Ahenkro and my mother is from the Central Region of Ghana. I have three siblings from my mother’s side and one at my father’s side. I grew up mostly with my mother because I was the youngest child. With time, all the other siblings came to stay with us.

I had both my primary and middle school education in Sunyani at the Sunyani Catholic School. From there, I had my secondary education at St. James Seminary school also in Sunyani.

CoE-WJ: Tell us about your days in the secondary school.

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: I actually started my secondary school in 1986 and completed in 1991, for my O Level. Back then I use to work a lot in the school library. I was helping the librarian as an assistant librarian for almost four years. I later became the Senior Prefect (now SRC President) during the 1990-1991 academic year. I later moved to do my 6th form (Advanced level) at St. Hubert’s Seminary in Kumasi.

COE-WJ: At what point did you make the decision to go to the Seminary and what motivated that decision?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: That was somewhere around 1984 when I was in the middle school. As for the motivation, it was a difficult one, there were actually two instances leading to that. First, someone suggested to me that, looking at my academic background it would be good if I attended St. James. At that time and even now, St. James was a good secondary school and also a seminary. I took part in the entrance exams while I was in form three but I did not know if I was going to continue since I had to get to middle school Form Four and finish to get my middle school leaving certificate. I passed the exams and went ahead and passed the interview as well. It was then that I had the desire to continue. So I entered the minor seminary at that time.

The other option was someone suggesting to me that I resemble the Bishop at the time: the person thought I was a child or a relative of the Bishop. So it dawned on me on how l could be a child or a relative of Bishop in someone’s eyes. This also triggered some kind of feeling in me.

CoE-WJ:  Were you involved in any co-curricular activities in the secondary school?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Basically, I was not a sports person. Also it was more of academic work throughout. And as I said I used to work in the library a lot and that really was what caught my attention. However, I was part of the drama group every year, either in poetry recital or drama, I was very much involved.

CoE-WJ: Were your parents okay with your decision to go to the seminary?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Well, they were okay but it was a question of why a poor man wanted to go to the seminary. Because they were looking at the financial implications. Because my parents separated when I was very young. My decision to go was not their decision, honestly. Even my going to write the exams was a secret. It was after I went for the interview and passed that I formally laid it before my parents. If they had said no, I would not have had any other option. But fortunately, they accepted it.

CoE-WJ: Where was your next stop after completing secondary and middle school?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Back in the day, after 6th form, one had to do National Service. So I did mine with the Non-Formal education division. I was the Zonal Supervisor at Chiraa in the Bono Region. I used to supervise the facilitators and also facilitate as well. We were teaching adults how to read and write. That is what I did during my National Service period. After that I took a decision to continue with the seminary. That was when I entered the seminary proper in 1994. I went to St. Paul’s seminary at Sowutuom for spirituality and philosophy. That place was also constant academic work but I was involved in the drama group as well. Most of the time, I was chosen to act as a woman due to my skin tone.

CoE-WJ: Basically, how is life at the seminary?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Life at the seminary is about prayer, studies sports and work. When you are able to do these you become very disciplined. Our prayer and work life is structured. We have regular games where one will choose the sport of interest. I used to play football but I won’t talk about it because I was not good at it.

CoE-WJ: Before you went to the seminary, did you not have female friends who had interest in you and could have prevented you from going to the seminary?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Of course, I did. I had a lot of friends growing up. But what I would say is that because I attended an all-male middle school, it had some effect on me somehow. That is not to say I did not have friends. But those friends, I would say were more of motivators to me than critics or dissuaders.

CoE-WJ: Take us back to how you found yourself in the teaching field.

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: You know the seminary is in two phases, we have philosophy and theology.

The first part is philosophy. We started with spirituality and later entered into philosophy proper. We then continued with theology. In theology, we also had the opportunity to do our first degree at the time in religion and sociology. At the tail end, we had the chance to do education. So after our graduation, we did the post graduate diploma in education UCC, Cape Coast. That was where I had the skill and training in education. Right after my ordination in 2001, my first appointment was not into a parish but straight to school. Therefore, I started teaching since January 2002.

Since that time everything about me has been about education. I taught at St. James from 2002 to December 2005. The diocese then sent me to the United States for further studies hence I had to take leave without pay from GES. I was sent to do theology and my campus was about two hours from where I lived. I also realized that there was a university about five miles from where I lived and they were offering psychology.

With the approval of my Bishop, I decided to enroll in the two institutions and offer the different programs. The theology was straight forward but because I was teaching before then I started with the school psychology. When I did that, I made enquiries about the course and realized it was not recognized in Ghana. Even as we speak, I do not know if anyone is using that certificate here. We have educational psychology which is different from school psychology. When I realized it was not recognized, I discussed with my Dean to think of the way forward. At the same department, they were offering general psychology and mental health counseling which is equivalent to clinical psychology. I chose to do the mental health counseling; it was more involving because it was a 60 credit hour programme. The theology on the other hand was a 30 credit hour programme. But because psychology was a new thing to me I had to put in much effort. I was commuting between the two universities concurrently. In 2010, I finished with theology and in about 6 months’ time that is January 2011, I finished with the mental health counseling. I came back that same year and my first assignment was to be the Director of the Pastoral Centre in Sunyani. I was the Director for a year and at the same time Retreat Director. After that, I was asked to go back to school and that was when I was sent to St. Ambrose College of Education. I started my administrative work in December 2012 and I have been there ever since.

CoE-WJ: How has the work and experience at St. Ambrose College of Education been so far?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: As I told you I had a background in education and I have taught for a while. But I did not have much background in administration. So when I came I decided to do some kind of training. The Principals around contributed a lot in helping me settle in. I also visited other principals beyond our Region. Also, I took to reading books which helped me a lot. NCTE usually organizes leadership workshops and trainings which I took part. All these while we were a private College. In 2016 when we became a public institution we had access to T-TEL. They were organizing regular training for educational leaders. I must say that I never missed any of them because they were enlightening.

CoE-WJ: Going back to your childhood, what were your aspirations then?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: You know background counts a lot in these matters. Honestly speaking, I did not go to school early. It was not abnormal though but I started class one when I was 10 years old. Because I was little older in the middle school, I had planned to go to the technical school. This was my plan because I was looking at who was going to support me in a different field. But in the technical school I could do part time in those days. I had in mind doing carpentry or masonry but I did not really research into it. It was when I entered St. James that the interest really popped up that I wanted to be a priest.

CoE-WJ: What would you say is your greatest achievement so far at St Ambrose College of Education?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Well, I came to St. Ambrose at a time when we had graduates without posting. They graduated in 2012 and were not posted. The next groups joined, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. You could just imagine how the numbers kept rising. But with the support of some people on our Board of Trustees and the Bishop, Management and all others, we were able to make a case for these graduates. Fortunately, in 2016, all the year groups from 2012 to 2016 were posted. This brought a lot of satisfaction and joy to the College. With this came our absorption into the public status. This meant that our students did not have to worry about posting anymore.

One may say that it is my achievement but it was not a single handed effort but rather a collaborative one.

CoE-WJ: Any fond memory of your 8 years stay at St. Ambrose College of Education?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: That would be when I got the message that all the year groups were going to be posted. It was really an exciting moment for me. Because before then, there were a lot of accusations, insults and what have you. Some were even saying we did not even have the accreditation to run the school.

CoE-WJ: Currently, are you mentoring any young person who wants to go to the seminary?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: I told you earlier that I am into mental health. I must say that it is an aspect that has had an impact on a lot of people. I may not be able to give you specific numbers or names but some of the seminarians look up to me on their personal level. They seek guidance from me on their journey. Interestingly, one student graduated from the College and went to the seminary. I do not know what influence I had on him though but he is currently there. I must say that indirectly I am influencing a lot of people.

CoE-WJ: What is your general view on the recent educational reform policies going on in the Colleges of Education?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Positively, you know education is not static, it is dynamic. Therefore, upgrading the Colleges from diploma awarding institutions to degree is a huge jump and very good for the image of the Colleges and the students who graduate as well. Then again, when it comes to professionalism, the idea of licensing of teachers is also a step in the right direction. When I was doing mental health in the States, if I had decided to stay there, there was no way I was going to practice without a license. So to practice as a teacher, your image is higher when you have a license. You also have protection because of your professionalism.

CoE-WJ: Any comments on the impact of T-TEL in your College and other Colleges in Ghana.

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: T-TEL has had a huge impact as far as my College is concerned. We have received tons of training from T-TEL and I have personally benefitted a lot. They have been very influential.

CoE-WJ: What would you say has been your biggest challenge in running St. Ambrose College for the past eight years?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: My biggest challenge was non-postings of graduates of St. Ambrose and its related issues. Because students graduated and were not posted, the graduates themselves had a smear campaign against the school. During the times for new admissions, the graduates positioned themselves at vantage points to discourage new entrants from enrolling into the College. They were able to convince people who had already paid admission fees to demand for refund. This was a sad time for me. They thought we had a hand in posting the graduates and we were rather refusing to do so. Unfortunately, some educationists who knew how the system worked were also part of the campaign. Those were my darkest moments, because we were receiving threats but thankfully they are behind us now.

CoE-WJ: Who is your favorite colleague Principal?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: That would be St. Joseph and Berekum Colleges of Education Principals. Because we are so close, we share a lot. Because I came into the public system not long ago, anytime I am confused about anything, I call on then and they readily give me the needed support. That is not say l did not get support from others. Other principals have also influenced me positively.

CoE-WJ: Do you think the current crop of student leaders are living up to expectations and is there any of them that you would like to commend?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: You know I have been a student leader myself, from primary to the secondary school and then to the seminary. I would say that some of them have visions but it is not well directed. Some of them think that there should be some sort of attack or violence to get their voices heard instead of dialogue. But I must say that there are some who are level headed, humble and willing to dialogue with you to achieve the best results for their people. During the days when we had the issues of non-posting, some of the leaders were very supportive. The 2015 and 2018 leadership were very good. It probably is because of my way of dealing with them. There was one particular leader who did not make it to an appreciable level and it almost landed him in trouble. Apart from that, the rest are doing good but they need to be guided.

CoE-WJ: Any interest in mainstream politics?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: No, not at all. I want to keep my heart at peace.

CoE-WJ: What do you do for relaxation or at your free time?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: I do painting and make statues. My kind of painting is actually different. I also exercise regularly to keep healthy and also do yoga.

CoE-WJ: What is your favorite food?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: That is a big one but I would go for yam or plantain slice ‘Ampesi’ or rice.

CoE-WJ: Who was your role model as a child?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: There was one teacher in class three who really had an impact on me. Because I was one of the oldest in the class at that time, I was troublesome. He identified that I was not just a troublesome child but it was due to what we were studying. He changed my sitting position and pulled me closer to himself. He treated us like his own child. He was into politics so he had to leave the country after the 1981 coup and later died when he got back. Also at the seminary, I did not have much contact with the then Bishop but I used to like his simplicity.

CoE-WJ: Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: Honestly, speaking if you should ask me what I want to do, it would be to do more counseling, that is clinical work. To be honest with you, I still have a client base and today in our world a lot of people are going through a lot of mental health issues, stress, anxiety, etc. I therefore look forward to getting more time dedicated to that area so that I can support a lot of people.

CoE-WJ: What would you say is your biggest regret in life so far?

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: With my background, I do not really want to regret anything. As Christians, sin is part of us. But as a catholic I know that once I go for confession, God forgives me, I put everything behind me and move on. I prefer to call them lessons and experiences than regrets.

CoE-WJ: Your final words to our cherished readers.

REV. FR. KYEREMEH: I would say that one should not lose focus. My focus has always been on God and what He wants me to do. I may not fully understand Him but I am trying to do his will. So wherever I am and whatever I am doing I want to give my all. So whatever people find themselves doing, they should do it wholeheartedly. Brighten the corner you find yourself. It is better to light the single candle you have in the darkness than to curse the darkness. That is my belief and I know it will help others as well.

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