Literary Zone

Poetry-Before Independence

19 July 2011 at 02:04 | 969 views

Before Independence

By Josephine Ansumana, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

We had...
Paved roads, steel bridges and galvanized jetties
Before independence you know...
Potholes, roadblocks and ditches were not allowed.
Urban cities, towns and villages well planned
Geometrically mapped into administrative quadrants
Streets and roads diagonally designed
Sidewalks and byways strategically demarcated
Road signs and street names distinctly embossed
A “welcome” sign announced each neighbourhood.

II

We had universities, schools and teachers galore,
With rubrics of international standing avowed
There were school supplies and free meals
Charged to the state, at no cost to the parent
Distant learning was an option, we explored
The “Athens of West Africa” we once were called.
“The Queen’s English” we flawlessly rehearsed
Corporal punishment ensured school lessons done
It was a crime to keep a child away from school.
Education was a right not a privilege.

III

We has hospitals and satellite clinics then,
Even the villages had doctors on call.
Institutions for the mentally disabled
Cheshire home a disability safe haven
The King Georges’ a home for the aged
Roving medics’ inoculations dispensed,
Smallpox, measles, and tuberculoses expelled.
Like the days of Florence Nightingale,
Our doctors and nurses worked around the clock
Giving care to the suffering and broken
Dedication to duty their honour code
This... I say was our golden age.

IV

We had trains and double-decker buses too,
Cargo coaches, frigates, sea cars and
Ferries on navigable waterways ensured
Long-distance commute with ease was done
Railway station masters a tight schedule observed
It was fun to hear the whistle blow right on the hour
Mail boats, post masters express delivery ensured
Alan Buckman mail-order was just two weeks away.

V

We had paraffin street lamps at every intersection
Lit exactly at eighteen hundred hours each day
Their sonorous gentle amber night glow engulfed
The bellicose stillness of the African midnight skies
On Fort Thornton Hill, stood a national monument
The Governor General’s residence “no-go “area
“No walk on the lawn,” and “No trespassing” signs,
Protected our private space and property
Visits were strictly by “invitation only”
A neighbourhood watch was always enforced.

VI

We had dog catchers and vermin agents too,
Street cleaners and sanitary inspectors on the trail
Weekly rations of safe drinking water supplied
From controlled hygienic public water tanks
A matter of priority, public hygiene maintained
Daily checks ensured phenol scrubbed public baths
A levy of twenty pence for sanitary violations imposed
Evading a levy came with a warrant of arrest
Resisting arrest landed you in the block
Public nuisance and loitering were disallowed
Drunkenness on a week day was off the charts
There was law and order, an unspoken curfew imposed.
All law abiding citizens we were.

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