The Bo School was the brain-child of the then Governor of Sierra Leone, Sir Leslie Probyn, with the encouragement of the then Secretary of State for the colonies. The school was inaugurated on the pattern of an English public school. Thus in March 1906, the school was established in Bo, in the south eastern province of Sierra Leone. At the opening ceremony, there were many prominent people, including Paramount Chief Madam Yoko of Moyamba, Chief Baimba Hotagua of Bo and Chief Sandy of Tikonko representing the Mende land, and Chief Ibrahim Sanda representing Temne land. On the opening day, there were thirty-two pupils who had already enrolled.
The chief aim of the founders was to educate the sons and nominees of chiefs in such a manner, that after their return to their chiefdoms, they would assist the chiefs and tribal authorities in carrying out their administrative duties. For this reason, pupils of the Bo School were proscribed from entering general government employment. This policy continued up to 1916, when it was rescinded, thus allowing the absorption of Bo School graduates into the colonial civil and other services.
The Rev. James Proudfoot was the first principal of the school and was shortly joined by two European assistants. Some more were recruited as the need arose. Native teachers were recruited to reflect tribal groupings of the pupils. These teachers were in reality interpreters for the European teachers, since the pupils were non-English speaking. In fact, some of the early Principals also served as District Commissioners or Directors of Education in the colony at the same time. During the period, Creoles were not allowed to teach in the school for fear that they could influence boys from the protectorate.
The very first group of Bo School boys attempted the Cambridge School Certificate only in 1943. For over fifty years since its establishment, the school received permanent support from the British Colonial Office.
The pupils’ quarters comprised four groups of huts, two groups for the mendes and the other two for the Temnes. As competitions in athletics and games in general came to be organized, the four groups of huts were given names by the pupils themselves after large cities in Britain and Europe. The largest group of huts was called London, the second Liverpool, the third Paris and the fourth Berlin. Berlin was however renamed Manchester in 1914 after the outbreak of the First World War in token manifestation of school boy patriotism.
By the end of the first five years of the school, the native teachers had become redundant as interpreters, the reason being that some of the pupils in the top classes had surpassed them in education. As a result, the prefectorial system was introduced in 1911. The prefects appointed assisted in the actual teaching process, particularly of the younger boys. To help the proficiency of the prefects in this, a prefects’ class was setup, where more advanced lessons were taught in literature, elementary mathematics, general science, geography and political economy. The European scholars of course taught these subjects.
As most of the Mende and Temne pupils were Muslims, a devout and respected Muslim by the name of Alpha Ahmed Tijan, was appointed to the staff as Arabic teacher to allay the fears of Muslim parents regarding the religious up-bringing of their children. In addition to his Arabic teaching, he became a liaison officer between the European staff and the pupils.
In 1937, a Junior Cambridge Certificate was established and the school became a full secondary school in 1940. By this time, admission to the school had ceased to be limited to only the sons and nominees of chiefs. The first batch of candidates for the higher school certificate was sent in 1954. The pupils, at that time, were housed in modern buildings with full- fledged Sierra Leonean teachers amongst staff.
– Manners Maketh Man