Thursday, 30 June 2016

It was not my fault
Was it my fault to be born a girl? Why has it been so difficult to be me? The battered life I now live is the relic of age-long discrimination and subordination of all women in my community. Countless numbers  of girls are suffering through the same ordeal shoved down my throat . Why the loud silence to such a disease with conspicuously devastating effects?
I was only eight years old, if I can still remember. Or perhaps even younger when men (very old ones) started investing in my sexuality. Men older that my father, my uncles started bringing gifts saying jokingly “ mother-in-law, this money is for my new wife’s nappy.” Or perhaps, as it turned out to be, it wasn’t a joke at all.
As I grew up, more gifts, money and favours took a different pace. My mother and father seemed proud to have been the parent of such beautiful fruit. I experienced the title of ‘wife’ at a very tender age. This all seemed so ‘normal’ in my village that I also started conceding to be ‘happy’ and looking forward to it!
The opportunity cost of staying and working hard in school and the very frail possibility of reaching to university as a ‘girl’ was thoroughly contrasted by the ease with which I reaped the fruits of my sexuality; of my just being a beautiful young girl; ‘a fine pikin’ as they would say. And even better, my parents prefered the quicker profits of giving birth to a girl to that of tedious education.
It was the same all over my village. And even the surrounding villages that I get to visit lumor days (market days). Everyone of us seemed to enjoy this immoral predatory tendency.
At the age of 11, as the ‘my wife’ logo started to get more serious practical, I started giving up on the tedious work at school. I came to prefer learning take my rightful and perhaps only possible place in society; a wife. This seemed and was made more natural by the norms and traditions of my society.
At 12 years, it all cracked open as I was informed that I shall be marrying the Pa Komrabai the regent chief of the neighbouring village of Kamabai. I was asked to bring honour to my family, and I dared not defy the sacred word of my parents lest I become disowned. It was less devastating that I accepted.
I was very well taken care of by my husband as the ‘batheh’ (sweet heart) as I was called by the chief’s friend and kinsmen. I became very effective in my office of ‘wife’ (and batheh for that matter). I gave birth to many children in no time!
Clearly the new role of ‘mother’ withered away my beauty and my grand title of ‘batheh’ and started looking old and saggy. While I suffered, my ‘husband’, the chief, went out to look for another ‘batheh’ to add to his growing football team of farming and child-bearing slaves.

Now, here I am, looking at, a young lawyer. How I long to be like her! I heard she is 27 years old! Society failed me and it was not my fault.
Democracy must go to school!

I have never really woken up until today when I set my eyes on these words from former US president, "Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of a democracy, therefore, is education." -Franklin D Roosevelt.
 A few steps on, the words of former UN Secretary General shot at me from another chart on a wall. "Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development."-Kofi Annan.

 Questions shot out of every corner inside my head! If education is so crucial to the freedom, democracy and sustainable development, and we do have an educational system, then one of our task then is  to focus on the training of our next generation in a way that makes them productive citizens able to champion their personal and communal development. What can we do as a nation to ensure that education serves its rightful purpose in building our democracy? One thing comes to my mind: (as radical as it may sound) 
Let's take democracy to our schools! It's the right place to begin!

I am often confused by the very lack of will to shake up those ways of thinking that have rendered us unable to unleash the great potential hidden within our great nation and the African continentHelping our country escape the powerful clutches of corruption and poverty is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing Sierra Leone today. The process producing true development needs the helping hand of a meaningful education system. We have currently failed to consciously help our young people to understand what democratic processes really are, and how to become well informed, involved and productive citizens in a democratic context. Yet, we carry on dreaming of prosperity. It is like making a bed of thorns and hoping to find comfort lying in it!

The ways of thinking and behaving learned  in schools in turn get applied into society -for good or for bad. For example if I have learned in school that my voice doesn’t matter, that success is money, cars, big houses, passing exams,  and 'things'. Or say girls cannot be made leaders, that the wisdom of authorities is unquestionable, or that the only way out of poverty is pulling out a corrupt trick –and no one is going to do anything about it, then these learned behaviors and ways of thinking become the filter through which I see, act towards, and evaluate myself and others. Just as the saying goes it’s impossible to teach an old dog new tricksNo matter what, young people will learn to implement the ways they have seen adults make decisions in their community. Are decisions made by bringing people together to find a collective voice? Are all members supported to have a stronger voice? Are we teaching children to care about not just themselves? Questions like these prompts one to start seeing that without a more proactive education system, sorry to be blunt,  our dreams of prosperity and sustainable development will only remain to be dreams.

 School is where we train young people to take up critical roles in our society. Hence, to do a good job at this, we must ensure to reinvent our thoughts regarding education and take radical action to make it fulfill its rightful purpose. If schools are just a place to get basic skills and paper qualifications we are doomed. Young people need to be able to think critically, to believe that their voices matter, and actively participate in decision making processes in addition to those formal skills they need to be productive citizens in today’s modern world.

The solution? Let us take democracy into our schools! Let us go in there, involve children and instill the values and attitudes of a true democracy. I believe this is our only hope if we are to achieve our important dreams of lasting development and prosperity. Actively simulating democracy in our schools is what we need if we are to stamp out the forces of extreme poverty, denying millions of Sierra Leoneans the means to lead a dignified life, able to fully participate in nation building and security.

Where do we start? We need a radical change to happen! For this radical change to happen, you and I who believe in a truly democratic Sierra Leone must put hands and voices together and take the challenge of driving this revolution towards towards a new face for Sierra Leone. The first step, in my opinion, involves encouraging government, schools, and other agencies wishing to help Sierra Leone to directly involve young people in all matters of the planning, design, implementation and evaluation of all programs and interventions affecting their lives. Is that not democracy?

The result will be a highly skilled population with a higher sense of personal responsibility to hold themselves and others to account and think with a democratic perspective. Isn’t that a good thing? Or should we wait until they are too old and out of school? When we have directly and indirectly taught them that their voices do not matter?

I passionately agree with the words of Franklin D Roosevelt and Kofi Annan, in education lie the hope for saving our society and achieving our president's agenda for prosperity and a truly independent Sierra Leone.
If we are passionate enough, I believe we can.
In the next couple of posts we shall start looking at what this really means in the Sierra Leonean context.
Thank you.
Let's begin!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

On the streets of Freetown, poem by Alusine Barrie.

Hope, Where can I find you here?
On the streets of Freetown: by Alusine Barrie
Oh hope! Give up not though
As thy courage worn I thin and saggy
Crossing cycles of seasons you stood my camel
Crossing endless nights of toil convincing
Weakened phalanges to keep
Grinding you bore my burden
Through the dark dank blackholes of corporate Salone sniffing
Like angry dogs of beautiful African huntsmen; nothing
Thoroughly stuffed with fellow prisoners, panting
In a bale of new junk clothes headed for Africa
The young walls of my heart broken, crumbling,
Exiled in my own country
You kept me moving
Oh hope! Give up not though
As thy courage worn I thin and saggy
Throat dry like sweetened rivers of African Sahara of
Deserts lost and thoroughly stripped yet
You kept a slow and steady makambo in the quiet of my mind
Crossing cycles of seasons you stood my camel
Shoes giving up the cool of molten tarmac of days in vain
Perforated by a million stitches of tired cobblers; injections
In the unforgiving streets of Freetown, you
You kept me moving
Wide-eyed kinsmen drawing down faded curtains of hope; waiting
Reluctant fruits of a tree so well tended
In a society, had I known better
Not to trust your wisdom
So give up not though
Thy courage worn I thin and saggy
I trusted to follow your hand
Like a blind man in the unforgiving streets of Freetown
Where hope is choked to death
I fulfilled my own end of the bargain
Of thousands of years the masters pouring my vessel; of nothing
Worth my while, I stand by you
So ready us our defeated bodies for
At dawn we sail the blues

For every day is its own matrix.

What's this all about?

I have a dream!

I have a dream of a Sierra Leone where educated citizens come together to tackle poverty, corruption, and promote sustainable development using the mighty instrument of Education.

This blog will be a reflection of my thoughts on education in and out of the classroom. It will also reflect the thoughts of fellow Sierra Leoneans as we sail through the ups and downs of making this dream a reality.

 This blog will create a platform for sharing perspectives and ideas with fellow educators and those working to see real change in the African continent.

I believe in the truth that a society is never doomed to fail forever! Every point can be a new beginning. Let's begin!