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The Methodist Girls’ High School

Founded on January 1, 1880

Motto – Honour Before Honours

On January 1, 2020, the Methodist Girls’ High School, Wilberforce, Freetown, Sierra Leone would be etched in the annals of history as having educated and nurtured young girls to develop character and improve talents for 140 years.

Discussion by the Rev. M. Goodman, General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Missionary Society and his team of gentlemen was held in 1879 to set up a “propriety high-class” school for females as they had already set up a boys’ high school in 1860.

Under the astute management of Mr. James Taylor, businessman and treasurer of the District Building and Extension Fund of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Education Female Institution was opened on January 1, 1880 in the building on Oxford Street, Freetown, (The City Hall that was currently burnt down during the 11-year civil uprising). The first principal was Mrs. E.H.C. Weymouth of England. For the first 50 years, almost all the teachers were deaconesses from the Methodist Missionary Society in England.

The institution was well-managed under Mr. James Taylor when in 1901, he suddenly died. The wife of the principal of the Wesleyan Boys’ High School, Mrs. W.I. Balmer offered to administer the school. The name of the school was then changed to the Wesleyan Girls’ High School (WGHS). The Women’s Deaconess College in England supplied teachers to “encourage industry and vision, develop character, improve talents, and Christian leadership.” The school moved from place to place within the city. There was a co-ed kindergarten that was also attached to the school.

In 1919, a land was purchased in Wilberforce to ease the building shortage that had plagued the school at its inception. Parents were apprehensive about sending their children to such a ‘far away’ place to school. Students had to go by train. So, when the school moved into its new buildings in 1921 there were only 43 students enrolled, the lowest number ever.

In 1932, the name was changed to the present name Methodist Girls’ High School. A boarding department was added to help with the problem of commuting to and from school. The school was threatened closure because of poor enrollment and uncertain staffing. The principal in 1936, Miss Cairnduff, a deaconess, ‘got down on her knees and prayed for a miracle’. Her prayers were answered with the enrollment of 23 more girls to make a total of 63. The boarding department was closed during the war years as the school was used to billet the military from abroad. In fact, the school was moved into the city during this period.

The school returned permanently to the facilities in Wilberforce at the end of World War II in 1946. The school continues to maintain extremely high standard during this period as there was a 100% success of students who sat to the Junior Cambridge Test administered from England.

The Nichol’s Commission of Inquiry set up by the Ministry of Education recommended that Methodist Girls’ High School be “converted to a Secondary Modern School … to provide vocational education for pupils who cannot or do not want to pursue a university education.” Commercial subjects were added in 1950.

Miss L. Olivier was sent from England to recognize the school in 1953. At the end of her 5-year contract, the job was offered to Mrs. Fashu Collier, an alumna, but she had to do a year’s principal course in England. During her absence, several Europeans acted, including Ms. Dina Atkins, and Ms. Jarvis (Mrs. Reid). Mrs. Collier returned in 1959 to take over the administration of the school. She guided and maintained excellence that we are accustomed to, for over 27 years before retiring in 1986.

The school now has a wide range of Liberal Arts, Science and Commercial subjects offered to the more than 2,300 students enrolled. Several extra-curricular activities such as Scripture Union, Girl Guides (first Wilberforce Company), Netball, Volleyball (2005 inter Secondary School Girls’ Champions). The Band is the joint efforts of three international branches, Old Girls’ Associations in London, New York/New Jersey, and Washington DC, though the London branch is responsible for the full complement.

In 1962, Mrs. Collier requested a Peace Corp volunteer, through the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the United States Embassy, for the commercial stream of the school. This was soon after United States President John F. Kennedy had established the Peace Corps Volunteer program by executive order. In  September 22, 1961, he signed congressional legislation creating a permanent Peace Corps that would “promote world peace and friendship” through three goals: (1) to help the peoples of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women; (2) to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; and (3) to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Miss Billie-Ann Day (now Dr. Billie-Ann Day) was recruited as a Peace Corp volunteer for the commercial stream at the school. She taught Typing, Accounting, and Bookkeeping for two years, she adapted well into the Sierra Leone culture and became friends with both teachers as well as students.  It was apparent that Miss Day became an embodiment of the goals outlined by President Kennedy for this program.  To this day, Miss Day supports the Methodist Girls’ High School and is still friends with some of the ex teachers, and past students. She has very fond memories of Sierra Leone.

Several blind students from the Sierra Leone School for the Blind have passed through the school of which Ms. Marie Kamara was the pioneer in the early 70’s. The school is proud that other alumnae can be found in Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, England, and Fernando Po. These alumnae and those in other parts of the world are actively engaged in business, teaching, medicine, law, government, the clergy, politics, and improving the life of society.

We must take this opportunity to thank all old girls, past teachers, and past principals, both European, African, and other nationalities, who have provided assistance to the school over the years.

Three cheers to our Alma Mater, The Methodist Girls’ High School