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Anecdotes: Albert Academy marks its 116th anniversary

By  | 6 October 2020 at 02:45 | 1060 views

Albert Academy (AA), a premier school in Sierra Leone, was founded in Freetown on October 4, 1904. It is named after American missionary Reverend Ira Albert. The school stands tall along Berry Street, at the foot of Mount Aureol. This year 2020, AA celebrates 116 years since its founding. .

I cherish the two years I spent at AA as a sixth form pupil, from 1981 to 1983. This piece was inspired by the indelible impact the experience has had on me. The memories I share here may have been routine, obscure, or trivial at the time. Now, looking back, they remind me of the many people, facilities, and events, which helped shape AA into something special. .

Here’s to AA:

1. Team Max-Ada
Max Bailor and his wife Ada were remarkable as a couple. They were a husband-and-wife team of administrators who were exemplary complements as principal and vice-principal. Mrs. Bailor was the anchor. She was just as diligent as a history teacher. I still remember how she would bring colourful maps to her sixth form class, to illustrate a lesson effectively. Such was Mrs. Bailor’s diligence and attention to detail.

Mr. Bailor (aka Pa Bailor or Bra Max) was firm in getting pupils to follow the rules. He would readily resort to stern corporal punishment, if necessary. Anyone who went to AA around that time knows or heard about ‘bashing-with-the-bat’ as a viable option in instilling discipline.

2. Principal’s Hour
Mr. Bailor was as charismatic as he was competent. His sense of humour was legendary. I knew all this firsthand. Pa Bailor ensured that he met every sixth form pupil by teaching a class called ’Principal’s Hour.’ It was compulsory for all pupils in their first year of Sixth Form (Lower Six).

“I am bigger, stronger, and better educated, than any of you in this class,” he would say. “I am more handsome than you boys (we had Sixth Form girls). If you don’t believe me ask my wife.” Indeed the man was big, sturdy, and tall, and he had a master’s degree. Of course, no one challenged his claim to good looks.

3. Punctuality
It struck me that the principal of a school would serve as its dedicated time-keeper. Principal Max Bailor kept a piece of wood in his office. He would use it as a probe to ring the bell and signal the start/end of class periods, and the day as a whole. Through the glass screens, Pa Bailor would be visible as he stretched his full frame to press the buzzer on the wall. He ran this timing system punctually, every school day.

4. Shuttle Bus
AA had a Toyota Coaster bus which served the school faithfully. Some pupils were known to have used its driving from Model Junction, up the hill and into campus, as a sign that the school day was about to begin. I lived nearby around the junction of Macauley Street, Mountain Cut, and Regent Road, so I walked to and from school. Yet, I appreciated the service, especially the timeliness of its shuttles.

5. Technical Department
AA had a diversified department dedicated to skills training in trades like carpentry and metal. In addition to turning out candidates for polytechnics like Freetown Trade Centre and the two Technical Institutes (in Freetown and Kenema), this department (staffed by the likes of Pa Carew) helped with supplemental maintenance of school furniture and fittings

6. Geography Laboratory
A spacious and well furnished Geography laboratory was tucked away on the top floor of the main AA building. The long flight of stairs leading to it made it less attractive to loiterers. However, it was a valuable resource centre to pupils taking the subject.

7. Accreditation
In addition to accreditation from the West African Examination Council (WAEC), Albert Academy facilitated tutorials and exams for programs accredited by institutions based in the United Kingdom. They were mostly accounting, book-keeping, and related programmes. These options, no doubt, enhanced the employment chances of beneficiaries.

8. School Band
The AA school band caught my attention because of the positive effects it had on some of schoolmates, as newly recruited band members. Most of us sixth formers were focused on the GCE Advanced Level exams around the corner. However, the few among us who did join the prestigious ensemble were so proud of themselves. I sensed that there must be something special about the AA brass band.

9. Evening Song
The school not only had its own traditional symbols like crest/colours, motto, necktie, and school song, it also has an Evening Song. Now every time I hear the Sierra Leone National Pledge or ‘God Bless America,’ I think of the AA Evening Song. Even though countries may have traditional national anthems, it is not uncommon for some to have one more tune as a ceremonial supplement. Albert Academy was way ahead in this context.

10. Kaleidoscope
Most schools have four houses, with each house adopting one of the primary colours (blue, green, red, and yellow). This inspires healthy competition in sports, debates, and other extracurricular activities, at the intra-school level. In fact, Fourah Bay College (FBC) has only three – Bai Bureh (Blue), Davidson Nicol (Yellow), and Solomon Caulker (Green).t Academy.

For Albert Academy, it seems like a ‘colour-full’ statement in diversification. The school had at least six ‘houses’ with corresponding colours like white and mauve in the mix. The effect was that more pupils stood the chance to qualify and compete as representatives of their houses. I still remember house names like Doherty, Manley, Muscleman, King, Rosslot, and Sumner.

At annual inter-house athletics meetings, teachers and pupils would flock to the grounds in their various house colours. The place would transform the AA crowd into a glowing kaleidoscope.

“Esse Quam Videri.”

The author, Abayomi Charles Roberts, in Edmonton, Canada.

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