At the turn of the 20th century, the government of the colonial Gold Coast confronted with the growing demand for technical education required for its ambitious industrial expansion decided to establish a technical school for post-primary school students in the colony. The school was necessary to train a workforce for its Transport and Communication, Public Works, Electricity Supply Commissions, and general infrastructure development.  In response, the government established the Accra Technical School in 1909.

The School was initially sited at the former premises of the Accountant-General’s Department at Kinbu in the heart of Accra. As a fledging establishment, it had its teething challenges. Without dormitories of its own, the 19 pioneers of the school had to lodge at the Government Teacher Training College.  As a result, most of the students from Accra were non-resident. By the end of the first term, the student population had increased to 25. In 1911, two dormitories were put up to accommodate the increasing student population.  The school offered 3-year courses in metal and wood works to students who 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.

Great visions often encounter setbacks, and the school was no exception. It was plagued with its fair share of holdups. On the 5th of August 1914, there was news of a declaration of war on the Germans by the British Empire. This declaration would ultimately disrupt activities of the school as four days later; instructions came for the evacuation of the buildings of the Technical School and the Training College for German prisoners of war.  The temporary closure of the school also affected its staff as they too were required for various services in connection with the war. Some students entered the Volunteer Service, and two went on active service to East Africa.  The school resumed when the war ended, and with it came a gradual increase in student population to 80 by 1928. A new and larger site was needed.

The buildings in Takoradi – the new site for the school – were completed in 1939 and built like an Olympic stadium. This new site was larger by far than the former and occupied a 120-hectare ground. It cost an estimated £37,000. Technical equipment was moved from Accra to Takoradi by road, between June and August 1939. On 21st of September 1939, under the leadership of Mr. T. T. Gilbert, and with the new name, Government Technical School, the school re-opened on this new site that overlooked the bay of the harbour, and offered a picturesque view of the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Grammar schools were all-over West Africa, but not Technical schools. This unique character became evident as students from other West African countries – Nigeria, Dahomey (now Benin) and Sierra Leone – came to do courses in the school.

Soon after the school started settling down in Takoradi, World War II was declared, and the school had to move house again as its premises were required for the use of the Royal Air Force (RAF). 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 science 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 again had 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.

Then another setback was recorded; after a mere sixteen-month period, the castle was also required for the training of service tradesmen, the technical branch of the military force. This time academic activities were disrupted as the school was absorbed by the technical branch of the military force. All the staff and most of the pupils served 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 the 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 to shape and growing again, with 110 students in 1950.

In 1953 the authorities revised the school’s programmes and introduced Secondary curriculum. Accordingly, Government Technical School became the Government Secondary Technical School, and with it also a five-year course 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 (GSTS) had its first African Headmaster, Mr. J.W.L. Mills (who took over from the last white head, Mr. F.E. Joselin) in August 1958. Sixth-form education began in 1961.

Another landmark is the story of the military’s involvement in the school. On 3 November 1965 the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, first President of the Republic of Ghana, announced that the Government Secondary Technical School was to be adopted and turned into an Air Force Training College.

His announcement that “students in the Government Secondary Technical School will be given such opportunities as are appropriate and suitable to make them potential candidates to the Air Force and even for our Civil Aviation,” was refreshingly received. The coup of 1966 that overthrew Dr. Nkrumah seemed to have jettisoned that idea. However, on 23 April 1971 Air Marshall M. A. Otu (formerly Lt. General) and some Senior Officers of the Military Division of the Ministry of Defence visited the school to clarify the intention of the Army’s involvement in the school.  The headmaster at the time was Mr. B.W. de-Graft Johnson who presided over the name change of the school from Government Secondary Technical School to Ghana Secondary Technical School as the school had ceased to be a wholly managed government institution. In the 1972-73 academic year, the batch of students admitted to the two-year sixth-form course included a group of young men from the Military Academy and Training Schools (MATS) that the Armed Forces had sponsored to enlist them. It was a combination of regular academic work with intermittent military training during holidays. This exclusive arrangement, similar in nature to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, was however short-lived with no further intake from the MATS. The last batch of military sixth-formers left in the mid-1970s.

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 several 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. Chiefly was the pressure on the school for more intake and the resultant effects on its facilities.

Many parents, enticed by the academic excellence and strict discipline of the school sought to enroll their wards in this innovative institution without considering whether their children could appreciate the high Science and Technical courses. Metalwork or Woodwork was compulsory options for any student (Blacksmith and Pottery having fizzled off for lack of interest). Idealism crumbled as pragmatism held sway, forcing the school’s authorities to create an Arts class for students, to read arts for 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 subjects to the examination level. The intense pressure on the timetable was an unhealthy one. In 1985, therefore, a bold decision was taken to drop the arts courses. The last batch of art students passed out in 1986.

Meanwhile, about 1979, the government regularised the “Continuation” technical curriculum of the Middle Schools and christened them Junior Secondary Schools (JuSec). The successful students from these 3-year JuSec schools entered the regular secondary schools at year 3.  GSTS had its fair share of the pioneers in the 1980-81 academic year and thereafter.  With the introduction of the Senior Secondary School (SSS) system in 1990, Arts courses were reintroduced. Paradoxically, this also culminated in the abolition of compulsory technical education in a school whose bedrock was Technical Education!  The irony of this shift in focus meant that a student can now go through the Ghana Secondary Technical School without technical education. The workshops, prided as the substratum of this iconic school, now lies in ruins. The practical aspects of the specialized curricula were being considered too wearisome for students who now spend barely three years of secondary-level education.

Then in 1991, the inconceivable happened: five (5) bold ladies blazed the trail and attempted to establish another paradigm shift in the school’s masculine structure. Admitted as Day Students, those girls can pride themselves at the only girls ever to be permitted to enroll in the envious institution.

Apart from being the first Secondary Technical School in Ghana, the first cadet corps in Ghana started at GSTS. With many pioneers out there, the history of science, engineering, and the Armed Forces in Ghana cannot be told without mentioning the pivotal role that GSTS has and continues to play. Like Giants (Alumnus of GSTS) of old, our current students continue to excel in Ghana, West Africa and around the world. We remain one of the best secondary/technical schools in Ghana, and we look forward to the next century of this great institution with great hope and higher expectations.