The book titled, Sierra Leone Experiment in an African Nation, by Gershon Collier, and published by the New York University Press, was dedicated to his wife, “To Fashu, my wife whose selfless love and unflagging devotion have been constant sources of inspiration in my life.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the Methodist Girls’ High School Old Girls’ Associations in the Diaspora are proud to share the love, devotion to duty, selfless sacrifice, caring personality, and hard work that shaped the life and legacy of Fashu Dora Collier, a woman of integrity, beauty, and class.
In 1959, when Fashu Collier was appointed the first qualified African female Principal of the Methodist Girls’ High School, she never set out to establish a legacy. It was the work and commitment toward the pupils, the teaching and non-
As a pupil at the Methodist Girls’ High School, Wilberforce, Fashu Collier’s dream was to live in the hills of Wilberforce in open spaces, with colorful flowering trees, shrubs, and huge fruit trees.
When she assumed office as principal, she faced enormous challenges. These challenges had nothing to do with her performance, the pupils, or the staff, but everything to do with what she inherited at the school, unpaid bills, and debts of all sorts. That was inundating.
Fortuitously for her, an introduction to an American businessman, Mr. Maurice Templesman, of Harry Winston in New York, in the early sixties, a gentleman who later became known as a friend of the Methodist Girls’ High School was a bridge to the unpaid bills. As a result of that introduction and the donations from the United States Embassy, the school was blessed with a newly constructed school library.
Consequently, an invitation to a curry lunch at the home of a Rev. & Mrs. Gill, presented an opportunity for Fashu Collier to meet with Rev. Butler, a representative of the German Evangelist Churches, who was in Freetown, Sierra Leone to identify projects that could be financed by his group, Bread for the World. The aftertaste of curry, must have been short lived for Fashu Collier, while the conversation that centered on the projects expected to be undertaken at the school, had an enduring effect with a lasting impact. Soon after that, changes began to take place at the school. There were physical structures, a dining hall and kitchen for the boarders, a block of six staff flats, and a principal’s residence, where Fashu Collier eventually lived, thereby fulfilling her childhood dreams.
She also took advantage of the Ministry of Education/International Development Agency (IDA) projects. These projects added an assembly hall, showers and toilets, an office block, additional classrooms, a physics laboratory, and a block of specialist rooms for Home Economics, Commercial, and Arts subjects. These projects expanded the school dramatically to new dimensions.
The Original Boarding Home at the Methodist Girls’ High School closed during the World Wars in the 1940s.
As soon as Fashu Collier took up office, she was determined to open a new boarding home especially for pupils whose parents were domiciled in other parts of the country and overseas. In 1965, a new building for 36 boarders was opened with a short service at the home on the first night, another dream of Fashu Collier.
The boarding home was a well-
She was a strict disciplinarian who strived for the best in every pupil at the Methodist Girls’ High School. Fashu Collier was always proud of pupils who did exceptionally well at external examinations, she would share the joy with the teachers who also contributed to the success of the pupils.
She ensured that when pupils attended school in the morning, they were in a safe environment. She arranged for reputable food vendors to be available at the canteen to sell Sierra Leonean “munchies” like, beans and rice akara, bread, olele, fried fish, ginger beer, etc. No one was permitted to get outside of the school grounds.
Fashu Collier knew her students and could identify them, as well as majority of their parents. She interacted with the parents whenever they attended Parent Teachers’ Meetings or were invited to school because of their child’s bad behavior. She was a mother figure, kind and firm, who could also love and discipline.
The school’s motto – Honour Before Honours -
She had such a caring personality. One day she exhibited it during an interview for new entrants into the school. Two sisters, who were successful at the Selective Entrance Examination, and should start Form I, were accompanied by their parents for an interview at the principal’s office. Fashu Collier identified the parents realizing there was a third sister, promoted to Form 2 in the school. At the end of the interview, the parents asked whether the school could offer any financial assistance to, at least, one child. Fashu Collier gave the parents assurance that she would assist. At the end, she offered an Old Girls’ scholarship and a Government scholarship to the two sisters. Her assistance came as a tremendous help to the family.
In her own words, Fashu Collier said, “without pupils, there would have been no school.” She was proud of the Methodist Girls’ High School that offered Liberal Arts, and Domestic Science subjects to its pupils, but in1960, a year after she became principal it changed. The Commercial course for the London Royal Society of Arts Examinations having begun, this came with its advantages and disadvantages. The course was handicapped by lack of commercial teachers. Fashu Collier negotiated with senior secretaries at the Sierra Leone Government and encouraged them to take up positions as part-
Fashu Collier taught English and History and was passionate about her role. When she was not teaching, she monitored the various classrooms to ensure that teachers never shirked their responsibilities. If a teacher were absent from school, she would be in that class to engage the pupils. She had an excellent relationship with her teachers. Their commitments made the Methodist Girls’ High School one of the most stable for teacher recruitment.
An old girl recalled that after she and her peers completed their GCE examination in Form 5, the principal mandated them to be in school every day. She had obtained a volunteer job at the Sierra Leone School for the Blind and the Children’s Home because there were little or no activities at school. She never allowed the pupils to go on their own. She was prepared to drive them, even though her car could only accommodate four passengers. She would shuttle the pupils several times each morning after devotion and pick them up in the afternoon back to school. That was a great demonstration of caring and selflessness.
Fashu Collier encouraged pupils to participate in extracurricular activities. There were activities like the Girl Guide Company, the Literary and Debating Society, the Student Christian Movement, the Drama Club, the Choir, the French Club, and other sporting activities, like the netball.
Thousands of old girls of the Methodist Girls’ High School are living and working in responsible positions in various countries all over the world.
Whenever Fashu Collier travelled out of the country, old girls would recognize her by organizing get-
On Sunday, 9th November, 2008, an event, An Afternoon with a Legend in Freetown, Sierra Leone, was well attended, This was an event to honor the love, sacrifice, dedication, and hard work, the legacy, of Mrs. Fashu Collier, the event hosted by three old girls, two of whom had relocated to Freetown from the United States of America: Mrs. May Johnson Njie, and Mrs. Enid Meyer Turner and the third Mrs. Octavia John Johnson, travelled from the United States to be a part of the event. It was an afternoon to be remembered.
The Methodist Girls’ High School Old Girls’ Associations, the United Kingdom Branch, Washington DC Metro Branch as well as the Alumnae Association NY/NJ/CT hosted Fashu Collier as well on several occasions. They organized get-
At an event hosted by the NY/NJ/CT Branch on June 16, 2001, Fashu Collier mailed a thank you note from Missouri the following week. This is in her own words:
What a pleasure it was to see so many of my former pupils last Saturday!! You all looked so well and prosperous.
Thank you very much for the party and your presentation, the kind words spoken and written and your gift. I shall purchase something I can keep in memory of the occasion. Please thank, also, those who were not able to be present.
I pray that you continue to show the commitment to the Association which I sensed on Saturday and your affection for each other.
May God guide and bless each of you and your families and the Alumnae for which you work so hard.