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Tribute to a distinguished Sierra Leonean

31 May 2018 at 18:16 | 4023 views

Tribute to a distinguished Sierra Leonean, Professor Alhaji Dr. Mohamed Aroun Dahniya, MB BS FRCR FWACR

By Ambassador Alhaji Amadu Deen Tejan-Sie Esq

This tribute is in honour of a friend and a brother in law, whom I have known for over sixty years. Writing this tribute is one of the saddest days in my life but it has to be done given the substantial contribution made by Professor Alhaji Dr Mohamed Haroun Dahniya (photo) to the development of Medicine and Radiological sciences in this country. He died peacefully at the Choithram Memorial Hospital at Hill Station on Friday 11th May aged 82 years and was buried at Aku Mohamedan Cemetery Kennedy Street, Freetown on Sunday 13th May2018.

As I write this tribute my thoughts are punctuated with emotion as the reality dawns on me that my dear friend and brother in law is no longer around to share my jokes and discuss the political events reported in the newspapers. Dr Dahniya is certainly a household name throughout Sierra Leone. His death is not only an irreparable loss to the country but to the whole of West Africa where he was known and greatly respected as one of the brilliant Radiologists our continent has produced.

Haroun or Doc as he was fondly known to me was born on the 30th September 1935 to Mrs Hawanatu Dahniya and Alhaji Blyden Nasiru Dahniya a family in the Foulah Town Community. He was the first son and the third child to the family. Haroun attended Amaraya Primary School at Foulah Town where I am informed by his class mates that he excelled and attained the first position throughout his primary education. He also attended the Islamia School at Magazine Cut, Freetown where he passed his Common entrance examination and gained admission into the Methodist Boys High Secondary School. He later took the Cambridge School Certificate and obtained Grade 1 with distinctions in Chemistry and Physics.

On leaving school, Professor Haroun Dahniya taught for a while at the school before proceeding to Fourah Bay College for a short period. He later won a scholarship to study Medicine at the University of Newcastle, United Kingdom. He left Sierra Leone in 1958 and returned in 1964 after his qualification and was employed as a Medical Officer. Speaking to one of the students he taught at the Methodist Boys High School the student revealed that his current achievements emanated from the inspiration and counseling from Professor Haroun Dahniya as a young and modest school teacher. Another student was a jurist in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He also paid a glowing tribute to Professor Dahniya.

As a Medical Officer Haroun worked in Freetown for a short while and was later transferred to Kailahun District where he worked for several years and then to Lungi, Port Loko District where he served for three years before he gained a post graduate scholarship to study Radiography in the United Kingdom. He returned home in 1973 after obtaining his Fellowship in Radiology and headed the Department of Radiography at the Connaught Hospital. Disturbed by the failure of the Government of Sierra Leone to equip the Department with modern equipment, Professor Dahniya resigned and travelled to Maiduguri Borno State in Nigeria where he was employed as a consultant Radiologist. He was also appointed a senior lecturer at the Teaching hospital in the University and taught clinical medicine and Radiology. He taught for four years and presented papers in Radiological Sciences in several teaching Hospitals in Nigeria before returning to Sierra Leone and proceeding to Kuwait to be employed as a Consultant Radiologist.

Given his brilliant performance at the University of Maidugiri, Haroun was appointed as a senior lecturer in Department of Radiology at the University of Kuwait where he taught for over ten years. In fact one of his students later became the Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health in Kuwait City.

One of the enviable qualities of Haroun was that he never failed a public exam in his entire life. I remember raising this matter with him in London after successfully completing his Fellowship examinations, and in his usually modest way his reply was when one works hard one will certainly expect good results.

I met Professor Dahniya over sixty years ago at Foulah Town as a teenager after his brilliant School Certificate Examination result at the Methodist Boys High School. Obtaining a grade one Cambridge Certificate in those competitive days was quite challenging. He was a role model to many of us at the then Young Men Muslim Union. We in the association were proud of his academic success as a young and promising Muslim. We considered Haroun as our mentor and were determined to emulate him and achieve his academic laurels. In my quest to associate with this brilliant scholar, little did I know that I will one day be a friend and ultimate brother-in law. I was living at Sibthorpe Street in Central part of Freetown and he was living at Sixth Street, Foulah Town. A few of us at the Young Men Muslim Union would find time to visit Haroun especially on Sunday Mornings to discuss matters relating to our education, as we were also preparing for our School Certificate Examinations. In those meetings we discussed past papers and how to answer questions and he would advise and coach us.

Professor Haroun Dahniya’s enthusiasm to train young medical officers and teach students was not only confined in Freetown but was replicated wherever he worked. He was passionate about his profession and the field of Radiology and sought to convince and attract young doctors to study Radiology. Mindful of the fact he and Dr Gordon Harris were the only two Radiologists in the Country and noting that we needed more Radiologists to meet the demands of a growing population he felt that training more was critical. It was in pursuant of this objective that he was engaged in encouraging and training young Doctors interested in pursuing a career in Radiology.

When President Kabbah took Office in 1996 he was determined to improve the health sector which had been ravaged by the civil war. Given his childhood relationship with Haroun and recognising his skills and commitment, he contacted him and asked him to return to Sierra Leone and actively participate in translating his vision. It was not an easy solution as the Kuwaiti Authorities were also keen to have Haroun in the Country to teach and continue his consultancy work. The Ministry of Health in Kuwait offered him Citizenship to forestall Sierra Leone Government’s effort to get professor Dahniya to return. As the then Ambassador with accreditation to the State Of Kuwait I had to intervene pursuant to instructions from the Government to persuade the Kuwaiti Authorities to allow Professor Dahniya to return to Sierra Leone. I eventually succeeded and The Kuwaiti Authorities allowed Haroun to return assuring him that he was always welcome whenever he wanted to return. The tussle between the two authorities aptly demonstrates the appreciation, the magnitude of respect and gratitude accorded to Professor Dahniya.

Apart from his exemplary professional pursuits, Haroun was very religious. Apart from performing his daily prayers, he read the Holy Quran whenever the opportunity arose. He attended Arabic lessons during his formative years at Foulah Town and improved in his Arabic during his residences in Kuwait and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

He had vast experience in religious matters and occasionally taught Arabic to students keen to pursue Arabic studies. He was a Deputy Imam at the Foulah Town Mosque occasionally leading Fridays and Eid Prayers. He was also a respected and strong member of the Divorce and Executive Committee of the Jamaat.

His compassion, modesty, commitment, and enthusiasm to help people in need and respond positively to challenges are certainly his hall marks for his success in his life. He was an icon in the field of Radiology and an inspiration to many aspiring young doctors venturing into the field of Radiology.

During his professional career he has published several scientific papers and many other publications in Radiology. A few years ago Haroun teamed up with Dr Funsho Komolafe to write a text book on Radiology which is one of the standard books recommended in the Study of Radiology in most Universities in West Africa.

Haroun’s natural instinct and quality of mixing with people regardless of their status in life was without doubt, one of his greatest human assets, which, as he settled in the Medical profession became a recipe for his popularity. His modesty in life, commitment to duty, his very high sense of responsibility and respect for authority earned him the respect, trust and admiration of his colleagues and those in authorities. He was highly intelligent and with such intelligence, Haroun executed his professional duties to his patients in a friendly and skilful manner making sacrifices where one is due without compromising his firmness and professionalism.

In Kailahun, Lungi, Maiduguri, Kuwait, Fujairah in the United Arab Emirate, Professor Haroun Dahniya left an exemplary and indelible mark in field of Radiology in those Countries. His Radiological Reports were clear and comprehensive. My late friend a specialist in Chest diseases, once told me about the clarity of Haroun’s Radiological Reports and the effective and comprehensive nature of those Reports. He was a great admirer of Professor Dahniya.

He was a wonderful and dependable person who cared for his children, his extended family and above all his patients. He was exceptionally charitable to his poor patients treating them free of charge, buying the drugs he had prescribed and giving them transportation. This is indeed a unique quality of Haroun. No wonder his funeral was so well attended. The Communities in Fourah Bay, Aberdeen and particularly Foulah Town will miss him.

He was devoted to his wife Haja Humu of fifty seven years of marriage, his daughters Haki, Hawa, Faria and Zainab, his brothers especially Abdul Hamid who has supported him over the years, his sisters, nephews, nieces, and other members of the family. Professor Alhaji Dr Mohamed Haroun Dahniya has indeed left us but our memories of his kindness, compassion, duty, and the many lives he has saved will continue to linger in our minds. His demise is without doubt a great loss to Sierra Leone.



Courtesy: Foulah Town Association GL

P.O. Box 2258

Merrifield, Va 22116-9998