Roman Catholic Elementary School- Half Assini
Kwame Nkrumah’s mother was very instrumental in his education. Even though she was illiterate, she insisted that he had an education. He began his elementary education at a Roman Catholic School in Half Assini, a town close to his hometown, Nkroful. Initially, Nkrumah did not enjoy school and ran away on his first day but his mother made sure he went back. With time, he began to enjoy his lessons and looked forward to going to school each day. There was only one room in his school which housed all the various classes and only one teacher who taught all the classes, one at a time. Nkrumah was so keen on learning that, fearing that his father might one day not be able to afford his school fees, he began rearing chickens which he sold to pay his fees and buy his books.
A German Roman Catholic Priest, called George Fischer significantly influenced his education at this stage. He took an interest in Nkrumah, and helped him with his studies. He became Nkrumah’s guardian during those early years of his education.
Accra Government Training College
After completing elementary school, at the age of sixteen, Kwame Nkrumah became a pupil teacher at the same school for about a year. In 1926, the Principal of the Government Training College in Accra, A.G. Fraser visited the school and during an inspection, was so impressed with Nkrumah’s work that he recommended that the young Nkrumah be sent to his college to train as a teacher.Nkrumah thus enrolled at the Training College in 1927.
He arrived in school feeling homesick and miserable because of the bullying he suffered from the senior students. That same year, he received news of his father’s death but could not get home in time for the burial. This was a huge tragedy for him.
The Vice Principal of the school at the time was Dr Kwegyir Aggrey, a great orator who believed in harmony among the races. He was the first African member of staff of the college and it was he who first aroused the spirit of nationalism in Nkrumah and the desire to further his studies in the United States of America.
Prince of Wales College-Achimota
In 1928, while Nkrumah was a student at the Accra Government Training College, the school made a part of the Prince of Wales College in Achimota. He was thus part of the first batch of students to be trained at Achimota as teachers.
At Achimota, Nkrumah was fully committed to his studies. His favorite subjects were history and psychology. Outside the classroom, he was an active member of the school’s Debating Society (the Aggrey Students' Society). This was formed in memory of Aggrey after he died in 1927. It started as a forum for speechmaking but later became a debating club. He may not have known it at the time that his skills in debating would later in life prove very useful in his political career.
He was also involved in drama and played a role in a house play entitled ‘Kofi goes abroad’ which told the story of an African who after training abroad as a doctor, went back to his village to challenge the witch doctors. In addition to this, he joined the Asafo Company, in which he spent many evenings drumming and dancing. Nkrumah also took an active part in sports and ran for the College in the 100, 220 and 440 yards dashes.
Religion was part of their lives in the school but believing that going to church should be a matter of conscience and not obligation, Nkrumah used to skip church service quite regularly.
In his final year, he was made a prefect and found out that he had very little difficulty dealing with people. He had many friends and considered his years at Achimota among the happiest years in his life.
During vacations, owing to financial difficulties, he would sometimes stay behind with his friends and earn a daily wage of a shilling for weeding the compound.
In 1930, Nkrumah graduated from the college and obtained a Teacher’s Certificate.
He left the school with a heavy heart but with confidence and determination for what lay ahead.
In 1935, Nkrumah travelled to the United States of America to begin his studies at the Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. With the little savings he had and with the help of a relative who lived in Lagos and the Chief of Nsaeum who was also a relative, he was able to raise the money to pay for his passage. Since there was no American Consul in the Gold Coast at the time, he travelled to the United Kingdom first to obtain a visa and then onward to the USA to begin another phase of his life.
Lincoln was established in 1854 to provide higher learning for blacks in the USA and had trained many black people from Africa including Nnamdi Azikiwe, one of Nkrumah’s mentors.
He arrived in New York at the end of October, feeling nervous because he was already two months behind his class. He was awed by all the hustle and bustle that was going on around him and the tall buildings that seemed to hem him in. He had very little money left but was allowed to stay on the promise that he would work his way through school.
Later, through hard work, Nkrumah got a scholarship. To earn an income, he served as a library assistant, waited in dining halls, and also wrote reports for his fellow students at a fee.
He was described by his lecturers as a good student who enjoyed reading and talking about the independence of the Gold Coast. During his first year, he took part in the freshman oratorical contest( the Kappa Alpha Psi oratorical contest) and spoke on the topic: ‘Africa, the burden of the Negro’. He gained second place and won a gold medal.
Also, in 1838, he received the Robert Flemming Labaree memorial prize in Social Science for the best dissertation on the topic: ‘Imperialism: its Political, Social and Economic aspects’.
On the social level, Nkrumah was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, The Fireside Club, the Philosophy and Science clubs, and briefly the Dramatic Society. He participated once in a play and refereed Soccer games between Lincoln and other Black Universities.
He graduated from Lincoln University in 1939 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Sociology and was voted as the ‘most interesting’ student of his year group.
After Lincoln, his initial desire was to enter the Columbia University School of Journalism but his financial situation made this impossible. Indeed due to his financial situation, he could not get his degree from Lincoln the same year he graduated, because he still owed the university some money. He later gained admission into the Lincoln theological seminary while working as an assistant lecturer in philosophy at Lincoln and graduated top of his class with a Bachelors Degree in Sacred theology in 1942. He delivered the graduation oration for that year on the topic “Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hand unto God."
Other Gold Coasters who were at Lincoln with Nkrumah included Ako Adjei and KAB Jones Quartey.
University of Pennsylvania
In 1939, Nkrumah arranged to continue for a Masters degree in Philosophy and Education at the Pennsylvania State University. He paid for his studies with a Scholarship awarded him by the Washington Presbytery.
In 1942, he obtained a Master of Science degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, and a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy in 1943. He then began a doctorate in Philosophy and finished the course work within two years but was not able to complete his thesis due to financial difficulties.
He wrote a number of essays during this time. His first article was in 1941, when he was most probably completing his Masters in Education degree, and, without surprise, it was titled "Primitive Education in West Africa."
His other article, which appeared in 1943, was a more explicit connection of colonialism and the struggle over African educational institutions entitled "Education and Nationalism in Africa."
Two dissertation-length manuscripts from this period of Nkrumah's life can now be found in the Ghana National Archives, one titled "The History and Philosophy of Imperialism with Special Reference to Colonial Problems," and another, "Mind and Thought in Primitive Society: a study in Ethno-Philosophy with Special Reference to the Akan Peoples of the Gold Coast, West Africa."
While at the University of Pennsylvania, Nkrumah also helped set up an African Studies section there.
London School of Economics
In May 1945, Nkrumah left New York for London determined more than ever to fight for African liberation. His intention was to study law and complete his thesis for his doctorate in philosophy that he had started in Pennsylvania. He later abandoned his original research work on ‘ethnophilosophy’ and started a new one on ‘Logical positivism.’ He did not carry out with his study plans, however, because he soon got himself actively involved in politics with the West African Students union and the Pan –African movement.