A plea for student leader Bonapha

16 October 2007 at 07:59 | 796 views

By Teddy Foday-Musa, Holland.

Rusticating students from our Sierra Leonean universities as a measure of punishment, is nothing other than allowing the ugly side of our history to repeat itself on us. The history of rusticating university students in our country has a direct link with the 10-year brutal civil war experienced under the canopy of the RUF.

Today, it is no hidden secret that students who were rusticated from FBC in the 80s by the APC government contributed in one way or the other in aiding and supporting the RUF cause as a way of expressing their dissatisfaction. At the end of the day, we saw the RUF, their supported entity transforming our peaceful country into a human slaughter house with Foday Sankoh as the leading butcher of innocent Sierra Leoneans. The RUF did not only throw friends and relatives apart, but actually played them against each other and murdered them in cold blood.

The RUF destroyed our towns and villages beyond repair, including the fabrics of our traditional values. The RUF made our youths the sole candidates of a forceful conscription, thus recruiting most of them as child soldiers at the expense of their lives and future. Sierra Leonean teenage girls under 18 were raped repeatedly, with emphasis on the molestation and degradation of their respectable womanhood.

Our youths became not only the victims, but also forced by warring factions to become perpetrators of war crimes themselves. Their lives became an empty vacuum, full of traumatic events of the war. All of these things happened in the name of RUSTICATION, which would have been avoided by prescribing another form of punishment for those students.

However, we thank God that today this ugly scenario is gradually taking the back seat of our history. We have peacefully gone through our general elections, and we are making progress in consolidating our fragile peace, and trying to reconcile our differences created during the elections. It is amidst all of these that we have received another report of a university rustication, slammed on a certain BONAPHA, who is a law student at FBC, and the president of our National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS).

His club mates who see him as a hero are disappointed and shattered in despair. The NUSS administration of which he is the president, is desperately wishing for an overturn of this decision. His friends and relatives are down on their knees, praying for a miracle to happen overnight in his favour. All of which speaks volumes of how special Bonapha is to his community, and how much support he has as a good citizen.

However, I am not saying that Bonapha or his numerous supporters would transform themselves into any anti-social group against those who took the decision of his rustication from the university. I have not met Bonapha in person, but the mere fact that his rustication has left the moon and the stars in the heavens colliding against each other, gives one the impression that Bonapha can be a fine citizen in the near future.

And what about his parents who have managed paying his school fees on to the point he is at the moment? Kicking him out of the university on a ticket of rustication, will definitely leave his family a disgruntled one within the society. And I am sure the new APC government will not want to start by managing such a disgruntled family, which should have been encouraged for their own individual contribution to the general progress of our country.

Against this back drop, friends and relatives of Bonapha whom I have contacted are desperately looking forward to the intervention of the new APC government in order to strike a deal with the university senate for an overturn of Bonapha’s rustication.

I hope our university authorities will also see reason behind such an appeal and save Bonapha from this rustication. Our university should now be able, in this 21st century, to do things with the same standards like their counterparts in the West and elsewhere.

This issue of rustication as a corrective measure is now out of fashion by universities even in Africa. Instead, most universities in the world today have dedicated lecturers as mentors attached to individual students so as to constantly monitor their progress. Their main duty towards the students is to guide them through their course, preventing them from stumbling into any traumatic situation that will have a negative impact on their studies.

But it is now the public opinion that instead of our university authorities guiding Bonapha through his law degree course, they have instead opened a floodgate of trauma for him by slamming a rustication on him. Bonapha, is now traumatised, and one wonders how soon he will recover even if this decision is overturned, something which will be of concern to any human right activist.

However, the point most be made clear here that Bonapha is not above the law. He should be punished if found wanting of any offence within the ambit of the university’s code of conduct. But the decision to rusticate him is regarded by most as intellectually bankrupt and short sighted. His rustication will be of no good for our fragile peace.

His rustication will make the gap between the students and college authorities grow bigger and bigger. And let us don’t forget that students and college authorities should not be at loggerheads, but live as one big family. Bonapha should be recalled back into this big family where he belongs.

Porta Mosana College,
E-mail: tfodaymusa@yahoo.ca