By Hassan Bruz
Northern Bureau Chief
I am not actually sure whether it is in the Holy Books or just a general a Belief in the Saying that – ‘the Prophet should go to meet the Mountain if it does not come to meet him’, and that a ‘Prophet is hardly honored at Home’. There is another African Adage which says, ‘Charity Begins at Home’. I am not also quite sure about the actual interpretation of all of these. But my understanding is that, one could either go for salvation or it could be brought over to you. I am also of the conviction that it is also better for one to service his or her Home first, before he or she could proceed to salvage those in distant places despite the fact that a Prophet is hardly respected or appreciated in his home and by his People.
This is precisely the case of the Founder and Country Director of Amazonian Initiative Movement ‘AIM’ – Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay- Koroma. It is worth noting that AIM is a Non Government Organisation which is championing the fight against Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting particularly in Northern Sierra Leone while Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma is a Philanthropist extensively known for her uprightness in the Campaign against all forms of abuse against Women and Children. Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma has crisscrossed the length and breadth of Sierra Leone in advocating for the right of Women and Children with a special focus on Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting. At Rolal village in the Bekelokoh Chiefdom, she has set up an Orphanage for Ebola Orphans, Constructed a Nursery School, Primary and Secondary Schools for other categories of disadvantaged young people. This is in addition to the Rescue Home at Masethleh Village in the Marampa Chiefdom / Port Loko District which turns out to be her Paternal Home.
Even though Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma doubles as the National President of the Forum Against Harmful Traditional Practices in the Country and has been in the forefront to convince Soweis – [those who initiates Girls into the Bondo Society] to refrain from the aspect of Cutting, conducted Workshops on the Reduction of Shrines and Bondo Bushes or Yankas, it would appear she did not focused her attention on the home of her late mother in the Tonkolili District. This great Campaigner was therefore amazed when she went to prepare for the Commemoration of the 35th. year of the demise of her beloved mother – Ya Marie Thorley at Mafulka. She was baffled by the level of backwardness of the inhabitants of those Communities which could not even boast of safe drinking water. There is no Mobile phone network and the Road is awful to say the least.
Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma was particularly bewildered by the deplorable condition of the Tonkolili District Primary School at Mafulka. It is the only School for over 6 populated villages. The School was set up by one ‘Commando Kamson’ during the Rebel War in the Country. He saw the need for engaging the increasing number of Children in a form of formal learning and had to convert a small dwelling house to a School. Although it later became a Government Assisted Primary School, its status was never improved. Over the years, the Building has become too old and dilapidated. It is even more of a death trap as the Walls have started falling apart for want of rehabilitation. Pupils who attend at this School from Maworoko , Robombeh, Masorie, Masathie, Rowula , Kenewa and other Villages have to walk approximately 16 Kilometers every School day. They are left with the only option to sit on the bear floor to learn as there are no Benches and Desks for them. The teaching and learning materials are insufficient and only 1 out of the 8 Teachers is on Payroll. It was therefore practically difficult for Madam Rugiatu to turn a deaf ear when prevailed upon by both Parents and Teachers to salvage the situation.
She returned to the Village over the weekend not only to commemorate the death of her mother, but to as well lay the foundation for the construction of a School. It is expected to be a 6 Classroom School Building that would comprise of an Office Space for the Head Teacher, a Staff-room, Store, Toilet block, furniture and Water well. But the Villagers were so unappreciative of this marvellous intervention that the majority of them preferred not to join hands with those working at the Site. They did not also go to attend the meeting that was summoned to deliberate on how the work should progress. It is either because they do not know the importance of Education in a modern School building or the Community People are just so ‘bad – hearted’ than to appreciate the work of this God sent woman. Most of them preferred to idly sit on their verandas instead of attending the meeting for the tuning of the shod.
It is likely that the Villagers would have continued to display their lack of interest, if it were not for the statement of Pa Alhaji Abdul Turay – the father of Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay -Koroma, who was bold enough to point out some basic facts. He said his wife – Ya Marie Thorley died some 35 years ago and the children she had with him are now grownups and would not have any cause to come back to Mafulka to be educated in the School his daughter has come to construct. He therefore admonished all to embrace the School Project and ensure its success for the general good of their respective Communities. The speech of Pa Alhaji Abdul Turay thrilled the gathering especially the Section Chief and the Chiefdom Speaker who assured the establishment of Bye-laws to ensure the cooperation of Stakeholders. They both stressed the implementation of penalties to ensure compliance.
In her statement, the Founder and Country Director of Amazonian Initiative Movement [AIM] – Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma said, even though the attitude of the Locals is very much discouraging, it would not dampened her resolve to construct the proposed School. She used the occasion to explain the rights of Women and Children as guaranteed by Law. She observed that the people of Mafulka are yet bound to what she referred to as primitive loyalty. She cited the issue of Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting which seems to be a common practice in their Communities. Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma said even though Bondo is a cherished culture in Sierra Leone, the practice is crude, painful and shrouded with a lot of health complications which has often resulted to untimely deaths. The Founder and Country Director of Amazonian Initiative Movement who is also the President for Forum Against Harmful Traditional Practices, therefore appealed for the aspect of Mutilation or Cutting to be expunged from the Bondo Culture.
The appeal made by Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma seemed to have been granted in good faith after some sensitization with the Women and other categories of Stakeholders including Children and Girls. The idea for the construction of the Primary School at Mafulka has now been generally accepted. The Sokos on their part had to relocate the Poro Bush or ‘Gbanika’ elsewhere so that the School can be constructed while the Soweis on the other hand, have removed their Bondo Bush or ‘Yanka’ for the big sticks to be cut down and harvested for the production of Boards. Work on the Construction of the said School is now in top gear as Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay – Koroma has promised to pay more visits and conduct additional Training and Workshops at the respective Communities. Below are some photos to help you imagine how it went out there….