Bo: Politicians, Teachers and Students

16 March 2006 at 23:43 | 476 views

Recently, thousands of teachers met in Bo, the capital of the south of Sierra Leone to endorse Vice President Solomon Berewa as their candidate for the 2007 elections, according to a local newspaper. Joko Lahai analyzes the event from London:

By Joko Lahai

When politicians become the pedagogues and teachers become the humble students, one must be worried about the quality of education for our future generation.

Bo Teachers all say... "Solo B bizness nar serious bizness!"
Such was the situation in Bo Town Hall on Saturday 4th March 2006 when, according to Awareness Times, over one thousand teachers across every institution in Bo gathered in Bo Town Hall in praise and support for the presidency of Vice-President Berewa and for the launch of the Teachers Support Movement for Berewa (TESMOB). But behind the façade are demoralised teachers who mainly work in the most unsatisfactory, inadequate and perhaps deplorable conditions for months without salaries or short changed wages.

Teaching is a noble and honourable profession; in fact, it is devotion, a profession from which one derives the greatest satisfaction and pride because it is a vehicle through which honesty, knowledge and wisdom are transferred to future generations upon whom a nation is built. Teachers are relied upon to educate and equip generations to build and develop a caring nation that will guarantee good quality of life for everyone. We all know such can only happen when pupils and students are taught correctly, using the appropriate syllabus and framework that can be delivered by highly motivated, confident, well trained and devoted teachers who take pride in the profession.

Bo has always been, and hope will remain, an academic hub and city. I know this from my school days in Bo in the 70s. We were very proud of most of our teachers then because they were not only instrumental to our successes but were also motivational and inspirational. They displayed a high level of pride and confidence in their job and above all, they demonstrated their independence, commitment, unbiased judgment both within and outside the classrooms. Hardly were any of them ever influenced or had their performance and integrity undermined (in the way the photo above pitched it) for political and financial gains, by politics and politicians. At least I have no evidence of any teacher being so indulgent with political manipulations in the face of financial hardship and threats to professionalism.

It is often said that a picture tells a thousand stories and says a million words, so when teachers in Bo get involved in politics in such an unprecedented way, one is bound to ask what is going on with our education system, what will teachers be teaching our future generation and what kind of example are they setting? In short, what message are our teachers and politicians giving to the nation?

Teachers being one of, if not, the most instrumental and influential elements in galvanising the hearts and minds of children and young people during the most delicate and formative part of their life, we should be concerned about politicians’ direct involvement with teachers in the way described and illustrated in Awareness Times Newspaper.

I believe that children and young people have the right to be taught properly and correctly in the most appropriate environment by well trained, committed and highly motivated teachers who take pride in the profession. This means providing for both students and teachers the necessary conditions for teaching and learning.

In my opinion, that meeting lacked focus; it was all about wrong values and deceit. It was about making sure Solo B becomes the next president of Sierra Leone. Nothing wrong with that but for politicians to use teachers and for teachers to allow themselves to be used by politicians in such a way I think is disgraceful and despicable and sends out the wrong message. Nothing substantial about conditions of schools was mentioned, no reliable word about current circumstances and conditions of service for teachers was uttered let alone anything about pupils and students which should be the prime interest of teachers and not politics. It was all about lip service, so where is the credit and direction here when schools and students are completely forgotten?.

To me, the whole exercise will go down in history as the day when our educators gathered under one roof, in an academic city like Bo, for a political spin and lecture by Solo B on the Devil’s Philosophy titled: ‘Solo B Bizness Nar Serious Bizness’, - all behind the backdrop of educational decline in a country once known as the Athens of Africa for its internationally acclaimed educational standards. And Saturday 4th of March 2006 would be marked a dark day for education in Bo Town.

Photo: Bo teachers

Photo credit: Awareness Times,Freetown, Sierra Leone.