Monday, 14 November 2016

Education is a human right; not a privilege.

Education is a human right; not a privilege.

Learning in EducAid Sierra Leone

It is a good thing actually I never knew at the time that Education is a right for me and other children of Sierra Leone who struggled (and are still struggling) to get an education. In my experience now as a young man, I have learned that education, like all rights, are there to uphold the freedom, respect, and dignity of every human and to treat everyone with fairness. And, I have also learned that my government, to whom I pay my taxes, has a responsibility in upholding and promoting the right of every Sierra Leonean to get an education. Seeing this month’s theme took me down memory lane.

I am specifically remembering the events which took place in my life about nine (9) years ago, forging the new path I was going to walk on. I was then in my first year of junior school and had just promoted to year two when all hell let loose on my mother. Years earlier, my father passed away in the rebel war, leaving my widowed mother with eight children in total. My mother was uneducated, and every day the pressures of paying rent, taking care of us, and sending us to school grew at exponential rates, after some time making it impossible for us to continue school. Our mother broke down to tears, as there was no one to turn to for help. Every few days, one of us, would be asked out of school for not having paid the ever numerous school fees the school requested. I was brilliant, and loved going to school; my teachers said I had a camera brain. But school had become a very difficult place for me to develop my camera brain.

Soon, my elder brother (very bright) dropped out of school, then my elder sister followed and got married instead to a man the age of our father. Mom couldn’t hold on anymore. The curtains were drawing down on our dreams. Our dreams of getting an education; my dream of becoming a doctor, and my twin sister becoming a lawyer flew too far for us to reach – we acquiesced. I learned the lesson, perhaps unconsciously, that education (as is the case with many rights I now know I had in law) is a privilege for those children born of ‘means’. It was a tough lesson for those of us born to poverty, but one well learned.

My hopes of getting educated were kissing the hand of death when I met EducAid. EducAid is a small organisation which provides education to underprivileged young people in Sierra Leone. It had a school open in my hometown of Port Loko. I spoke with my mother, who was in tears, this time of joy, that we can finally continue our education. What was even more relieving was that EducAid schools don’t require uniforms and you can come to school even in bare feet! What have uniforms, and shoes got to do with learning anyway?! I have been in EducAid for the past 9 years now. I attended secondary school free, went to college free. Since 2012, I have been volunteering and working in EducAid where I have the opportunity of helping underprivileged Sierra Leoneans to get an education by teaching, heading schools and leading teacher trainings where we strive to reach thousands more Sierra Leonean children with better learning.

Reflecting on my experience now, a light shines on the sheer magnitude of this problem. There were friends of mine at that time (and so many children right now) who faced a similar fate but did not have the helping hand with which they would have reached their dreams of an education. Many of them are now living in the streets of this country doing odd jobs, and becoming a burden to our society in many direct and indirect ways. Our society (their inaction), our government (their silence), and the rest of the world (their indifference) are violating a fundamental human right which continues to hold our country, and countries like ours in humiliating poverty.

Learning in EducAid Sierra Leone
I want my government and the whole world to know that in my country, and in many other parts of the world, right now, my story is being replayed. There are millions of children around the world at this moment who are being denied the right to true freedom and the capacity to lead a dignified life. Education, as I have come to know it, is the breath that frees the human mind, and capacitates one to lead a dignified life - let us make it a right, and not a privilege for those of means. For in this seed (education) I believe, each and every one of us shall reap the fruits of a more peaceful and prosperous society.  

America votes Donald Trump and Britain voted Brexit, so what?

America votes Donald Trump and Britain voted Brexit, so what?
This is an interesting topic and I will try to make my contribution from an African angle.
America has elected Donald Trump, a businessman with no experience and knowledge in governance, and not very long ago Britain voted to leave the European Union "on what many believe to be xenophobic grounds". What does this mean for Africa? To understand what this means for Africa we have to understand some key factors that motivated these decisions which both sent huge shock waves throughout the world.

Every country has the right to choose their leadership, and the path they want their country to take. However, this decision of choosing the leadership and path a country takes has a lot to say about the people of that country. This can be especially so when it has to do with countries like the United States of America and Britain, whose actions forged a new path for Africa, left an indelible mark on the continent, and whose pervasive social and economic influence still hold great prominence on Africa.

America and Britain are among the richest nations in the world. But I would like to remind you all that the wealth you are sitting on today, and guarding so selfishly was created at the expense of Africa´s growth. While I do not wish for us to dwell on the past and use it as an excuse for not standing up for one self, we must not forget that the deep scars and pervasive ugliness inflicted by Colonialism and the slave trade, which directly fuelled the economic prosperity of both America and Britain, still haunt Africa and the people of African descent.

The wealth brought by the slave trade to Europe provided the capital, and resources that financed and facilitated the industrial revolution that is the cornerstone of the immense wealth possessed by these countries. Interestingly, America and Britain were at the very centre of this trade. While white people had the opportunity to go to school and wander into the new realms of science and technology, the people of Africa were held in darkness that perpetuates to modern times.
 I just cannot believe that America can shamelessly look straight into the eyes of history and choose to vote for a president whose “only response to black Americans is violence and moral degradation”.

Before Trump, the American people gave hope to the world when they choose to elect Barack Obama. It showed the willingness of the American people to break down the trammels of our ugly history and strengthened the position of America as the land of the free, home of the brave. It is thus a shame and a great contradiction that the land of the free and home of the brave decides to vote in favour of a protectionist America, an America intolerant to Muslims, and an America that views immigrants as rapists etc. How pitiful! I cannot help but be awed by the very forgetfulness of Americans that all the wealth and greatness of America was created by African slaves on the plantation farms, and in the large scale export of Africa´s natural resources from which Africa benefitted nothing more than a broken society.

Let us not lose hope entirely. I still believe that not all Americans are blinded enough to support a protectionist America that forgets its historical social responsibility to the world. Donald Trump´s election and the Brexit say a lot about how strongly the drive for more wealth has washed out our society´s moral fibre, but these are errors the American and British people, and perhaps the rest of the world, must do all they can to correct. You cannot take everything from the world and turn around to say they should take care of their mess; the mess Britain and America created in the first place . Americans and Britons, do not forget that you owe the world a historical social responsibility. You paused, broke and reshaped the course of history to create the immense wealth you enjoy today. Instead of gravitating towards protectionist tendencies, let us all work together to break the ugly face of our collective past. Lets be human!
This is a food for thought.