In Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College turns 190
NON SIBI SED ALIIS
BY ANTHONY KAMARA ( SNR )
Memoires and moments of my student days on the hill top University town of Mount Aureol in the early 1970s: a moment of recapitulation and reflection in a memory lane narrative.
My Fellow alumni and alumnae, friends and well wishers of Fourah Bay College in all West Africa and beyond, I salute you all on this momentous anniversary of our great institution. Fourah Bay College turns 190 years on the 18th February 2017. The age of an educational institution like human age, are moments worthy of reflection on how far we have gone, what moments of recollection we can make and mentally re-create a picture of those moments of one’s student days, both those exciting and less exciting moments; above all, age 190, is worthy of celebration and jubilation by all who pursued courses of study at Fourah Bay College. Many of us may not live to witness the bi-centenary of this great institution. The greatest pride we all have for our beloved Fourah Bay College is the fact that we are blessed to have the very first western style University in all Black Africa, a University which became an educational magnet to all English-speaking West Africans in our sub region. Hence the very first student to sign the admissions Register of the College is a Nigerian from the Yoruba ethnic group.
I got admitted to Fourah Bay College in October 1970 during the administration of the Professor the Rev Harry Sawyer. From the moment I received my letter of admission from Mr. Isaac Cole the University Secretary, I started my countdown to Saturday October 3, 1970, the College’s re-opening date. But the nation was severely it by a cholera outbreak in September of that year and there was general fear on Mount Aureol that the epidemic might spread up campus; fortunately it never did and the re-opening date went ahead as planned.
Interviews for all applicants from Northern Sierra Leone were conducted at the Magburaka Boys’ Secondary school in the month of May 1970, thereby saving applicants the difficulties of having to travel to Freetown and all its concomitant problems and logistics. The interviews were conducted by lecturers from the different departments of the College. In my situation, my interviewers as I later found out were Mr. David Thomas from the classics department who became one of my Latin tutors and Dr Peter Esedebe from the history department. At this interview I was given the assurance of my acceptance to read History, Latin and English for my first year.
Now it was re-opening date, Saturday October 3, and all students were up on campus by 4:00pm. Taxis were shuttling back and forth conveying students to campus. It was a very emotional weekend to be up at Fourah Bay College for the very first time. By 6:00 pm the freshmen/women and continuing students had their first experience of having supper at a University dining room. The situation looked weird as it was all strange faces with no acquaintance with anyone.
As Freshmen, there was and still is the tradition of providing accommodation for all newcomers in the old army buildings with the exception of the female students; we felt very much disappointed to be lodged in those decrepit buildings as many of us were eyeing the Davidson Nicol built towers, but had no choice as that was the tradition of the College. But after a year of stay in the army barracks, we got distributed among the four Halls of residence, the Davidson Nicol, Bai Bureh and Solomon Caulker Halls; the female students at Lati-Hyde too got distributed and absorbed into the three halls of residence, the Davidson Nicol, Bai Bureh and Solomon Caulker.
The following Monday was October 5 and was student Registration day for the Michaelmas term, and this was the most tedious of the College rituals. Imagine students leaving their hostels as early as 6:30 am to go and line up on the administrative office stairs opposite the College chapel. The process was so slow and tedious and consumed almost the entire day. Many did not even have the time to have their breakfast but rather preferred to forego it only to join the queue early. The academic year then was divided into three terms beginning with the Michaelmas, Easter and Epiphany terms quite different from what prevails today; College sessions today are divided into two sessions – First and Second semesters. As a Durham University College overseas the names of the three terms reflected the Durham system of nomenclature. This difficult registration exercise had to be repeated in the Easter and Epiphany terms. The internet was yet unknown and everything was done by typewriter. Can anyone imagine a College of 1,500 students including 500 females and the administrative difficulties of the period among the four main Halls? As freshmen and freshwomen, we were too eager to start classes but classes did not commence for the first week to allow students to do all necessary preliminaries and have all their course text books ready. The Leone was very strong as Le2.00 was the equivalent of one pound sterling, and the text books were relatively reasonable in cost as they were sold at UK price without any alteration.
After the registration exercise, the next task was the issuing of our Book vouchers and stationery cash allowance. Each student received Le40.00 in book voucher and Le20.00 in cash making a total of Le60.00 in Book allowance. With the Le40.00, every student could get all prescribed texts. The idea of book vouchers was to compel students to purchase their course text books and used the Le20.00 for stationery. But while the horse may be taken to the river to drink, the animal cannot be forced to drink. So, young school leavers often sold their book vouchers at half their cost value to anyone who could purchase them to get more purchases from the bookshop. Teachers and civil servants on study leave with pay were always ready buyers.
Students Matriculation: After about six weeks on campus, came the Matriculation. By this all newly admitted students were now given the opportunity to be formally admitted to the University. At this ceremony which usually took place at the Mary Kingsley Theatre on a Saturday morning presided over by the Principal himself, the Vice Principal and the University Secretary, all newly admitted students were given the opportunity to sign the admissions register against their names and received their Admission numbers as they appear against their names. The students were all expected to appear in their undergraduate gowns. At the end of the ceremony, Chucks the College photographer, himself a former student, was around to take photos of interested matriculants.The student’s allowance: Every student in College looked forward to the payment of the personal allowances then Le60.00 per term. This was no small amount, because what Le60.00 could do for a student in those years, Le500,000 cannot do today. The allowances were normally paid once classes had gotten started. In the Michaelmas term of 1972 the allowances were delayed for reasons the students could not understand, and anytime the students enquired at the Finance office they got the same answer, namely that the Ministry had not yet remitted the money to the College.
After about six weeks’ delay, four members of the Students Union Government including the President, the Secretary and the Foreign Minister and one student representative decided to lead a fact-finding delegation to the Ministry at New England Ville to ascertain the truth of the Finance officer; it amazed the students’ delegation to learn from Ministry officials at New England that the long awaited allowances had in fact been remitted to the College some five weeks earlier. The Ministry officials stated categorically that the allowances had been paid and it was surprising to see the students delegation on a verification visit to the Ministry about the said allowances. The Students Union returned to report on the outcome of their mission to the Ministry. The students became very irate, threatened violence and immediately called for a march on Kort Right to the Principal’s residence that same evening to demand answers. The Principal unfortunately would not show up to address the students and left with shouts of Harry Sawyer must go. The next day nobody was interested in class attendance but wanted the allowances. But the allowances were not paid for another day. The College was trying to sort out how to raise the amount required disbursing to the students. It was an urgent matter as the students were not prepared to wait any longer. Either the allowances, or no class attendance.
In all this saga, the Vice Principal Professor Kosonike Thomas was the spokesman for the office, believing that what the Principal Professor Rev. Harry Sawyer told him about the allowances was true. Relying on the account of the Principal and the College Finance office, Prof Kosonike Thomas met with the student government to advise the students to exercise patience and restraint as the allowances would be paid soon. But when he discovered this to be all untrue he felt let down by the Principal whose word he had always trusted and for whom he had always had absolute confidence and great respect. The following day the Vice Principal tendered his resignation. Prof Kosonike Thomas’ popularity among students had been damaged and plunged and now seen by the students as part of the problem; he had absolute trust in the Principal who he now believed had used him to lie to his students. He could stand it no more. After knowing the facts of the story the students felt saddened and compassionate that a honest gentleman like Prof. Kosonike Thomas unknowingly became an innocent victim of confidence and trust by the Principal’s untruthfulness. His resignation led to the appointment of Professor Eldred Jones as acting Vice Principal and later Principal and it was during Jones’ administration that cuts in students’ benefits were announced, and it came as a bolt from the blues one evening when at supper time Professor Eldred Jones himself went to announce at supper time over Radio Mount Aureol that commencing the next term, government was going to cut down on sugar for students; that to complement for the cuts on sugar the College was going to supply each student with one bottle of saccharine and one packet of St Louis cube sugar (90) in a packet for the term of seventy days. This incident marked the genesis of the crisis of the 1970s which often led to clashes between security forces and students at the College, clashes which in turn spread to the city to be joined by secondary school students and hooligans in the city and all over the country. In one of these crises, the Principal and warden of students Dan Decker became victims of violence and arrest. If there is one thing any administration should take seriously on Mount Aureol that is the students’ entitlements. The students needed their allowance without delay or any explanation.
The Bookshop: The bookshop was efficiently run by Mr. Kurtz, an expatriate German contract officer with two Sierra Leonean assistants. The Bookshop was well stocked. There was not a single prescribed text book that was not available at the College bookshop, though some students preferred to buy secondhand books at cheaper cost from senior students who no longer needed them. For instance, all my Latin text books were bought from Christian Cole Jar, now Bishop Christian Cole.
The College library: Most of the library collections at the time were very old and mostly of medical stuff at a time the country had no medical school yet. Few reserved books were Reference books kept away from the students to ensure that any student borrowing a reference book, signed for it and such books could not be taken out of the library. Some students were not only selfish, but destructive. There was the case of a final year student now a powerful politician who borrowed a reference copy, but instead of just sitting in the library to extract the material he needed, and if unfinished, could revisit the library for the same book; this senior student was actually caught using a razor blade performing surgery on a whole chapter of the book. He was caught red handed in the act of cutting all the pages of a whole chapter by one of the library attendants who reported the matter to the Late Rev Ndanema; Rev Ndanema in turn referred the matter to Mrs. Gladys M. Sheriff then the College Librarian who in turn reported the matter to the administration. An embarrassment for the senior student. The final year student forfeited his whole student allowance of Le60.00 for the term as payment for the lacerated book. This is just to show how students can be destructive and selfish to common property. I will not be surprised if this practice still continues today.
Inter-Hall competitions: An area of great interest on Mount Aureol was the annual athletics, Soccer and Volley ball competitions. I was not an athlete or soccer player myself but a vociferous member of the Bai Bureh Hall, which in all my four years at the College, always emerged as winners of the athletics championship trophies, the soccer and volley ball competitions. Bai Bureh Hall was just lucky to have gifted athletes and soccer and volley ball players. Both the soccer and volley ball teams were formidable and never let our hall down.
Social activities on campus: there were a number of fraternity and sorority clubs on campus like the Gardeners club, the Sigma club, the Scripture Union etc. These clubs occasionally provided free entertainment at the MK Theatre, especially the Scripture Union which used to invite group of Gospel singers from downtown Freetown. In addition there were the Students’ union organized socials with popular music bands like the Super Combo kings, Orchestre Muyei Power, Dr Oloh and his group. Interestingly, our College medical officer Dr. Otis Pratt, by nature a socialite almost always served as our Master of Ceremony ( MC), a job he always performed very impressively. Some of these were free shows at the Mary Kingsley Theatre. But dances were fundraising, and so entrance to all students’ union organized dances was Le2.00 and Le3.00 for outsiders. I must also mention the occasional visits to Radio Mount Aureol at Supper time by one time popular Broadcaster, Hylton Fyle to present supper time entertainment including interviews and friends’ music requests for loved ones.
Foreign dignitaries to Mount Aureol: In 1971, the Foreign Minister of Israel the Late Abba Eban paid a State visit to Sierra Leone. Our Foreign Minister then was the newly appointed Cyril Foray. Mr. Eban paid a courtesy evening visit along with his Sierra Leonean counterpart Mr. Cyril Foray amidst very tight security to Mount Aureol where he delivered a powerful speech in the Mary Kingsley Theatre making the case for Israel’s right of existence alongside Arab neighbours in the Middle East.
Next in 1972, the Emperor of Ethiopia, The Conquering Lion of Juda, the Late Haile Selassie while on a State visit to Sierra Leone, visited Fourah Bay College where he was conferred at a special Convocation ceremony with the degree of Doctorate of Civil Laws (DCL) Honoris Causa at a well attended ceremony during the principalship of the Rev Cannon Harry Sawyerr at the Adjai Crowther Amphitheatre.
What about the spectacular swapping of spouses by two ex-patriot staff members? One of the most amazing experiences we saw on Mount Aureol was when the Bookshop Manager Mr. Kurtz and the Head of the political Science department Dr Roger Tangri divorced their wives on the same day, and on that same day as if pre-arranged by the two couples, the two men re-married each other’s former spouse at the Registry in Freetown. This swapping of partners is hard to imagine and it happened with no noticeable rancor either between the former husbands or their wives. Yes this happened on Mount Aureol during our student days.
What about the violence unleashed upon Mr. Lemuel Johnson of the Geography department by Late Mr. Melvin E A Coomber of the English department the incident took students who happened to be at the College post Office completely by surprise; the two lecturers met by chance at the Post Office attached to the lower floor of the Arts building. It came as a big surprise to the students to see Mr. Coomber inflict a heavy and unexpected slap on Johnson’s face; Johnson did not retaliate or put up a fight but left in anger a demoralized man, humiliated in the presence of students and headed for the administration office; the aggression was unexpected and so Johnson was unprepared for a violent defence. Whether Lemuel Johnson took legal action against Coomber or not it’s hard to tell. But what we were able to surmise as the ‘casus belli’ for the aggression was that it all emanated from a relationship between a female Geography student who had intimate relationship with one of the two lecturers. Not sure whether the matter was referred to the College’s administration for mediation. This was the most shameful incident of our time on Mount Aureol. Not surprisingly, Mr. Coomber became the permanent partner of the lady in question.
Student demonstration following the death of the President of Ghana, the Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah in 1972. Fourah Bay College students led by Students’ Union President Hassan Luthuli Kamara, organized a demonstration which first called on the Vice President and Prime Minister Hon Sorie Ibrahim Koroma who addressed the group before they moved to the office of the Guinean Ambassador to Sierra Leone Mon Alpha Camara who also addressed the students. The final destination was the main target of violence, the American Ambassador to Sierra Leone. Unfortunately news reached the Ambassador that angry students were on the way to attack his office following the death in exile in Guinea Conakry of Dr Kwame Nkrumah. By the time we arrived at his office, he had left for home. Nevertheless a statement was read condemning Western powers as imperialists and Neo colonialists and some windows were broken before they withdrew and returned to College.
There were also the regional groupings of students at the College, namely The Northern Youths Association (NYA), now re-named the White Camp, the South Eastern Students Association (SESA) and the Kono Educational Students Union (KONSEU). SESA and KONSEU now renamed the Black Camp. These regional associations were locked in fierce students’ politics on campus and each group had national politicians from their respective regions as associate members with the White camp aligned to the All People’s Congress party (APC) and the Black Camp, aligned to the opposition Sierra Leone People’s party (SLPP).
The greatest problem on campus at the time was the never ending tribalism. The warden of students Dan Decker one year, decided to test two notoriously known arch-student tribalists by putting them together as roommates to see if they could accept the arrangements. The students Farrell Ryan Coker a Creole and Lumumba Rogers a Mende from Blama. It was usual to choose one’s roommate and if both agreed to share a room, then it was good for both. Lumumba Rogers was the first to pick up his room key and went to see his room, without knowing who his mate was going to be. That same evening came Farrell Ryan Coker only to realize on arrival at their room that evening that his partner to be was Lumumba Rogers. These two were die-hard arch tribalists, and no sooner they met in their room both burst into a fit of laughter knowing the arrangement was unworkable and agreed without any waste of time to petition the Warden of students Dan Decker the next day to change the arrangement as a matter of urgency and re-assign them as the two could not get on well, and the change was made. Farrell did not even spend the night with Lumumba, rather he slept with one of his friends in another room. But it was all laughter on campus for the two students known to be haters of each other’s ethnicity group as Lumumba was Mende while Farrell was Creole.
There was also the annual University Convocation for the conferment of degrees of both Njala and Fourah Bay College at the Ajai Crowther Amphitheatre. It has always been a very solemn and impressive ceremony to which all graduands were expected to invite family members and friends. For few years it was a joint FBC / NUC ceremony on Mount Aureol. The Convocation and procession of graduands to the Adjai Crowther amphitheatre was preceded by music performed by the Sierra Leone Police band. The ceremony was opened by an address by the University Public Orator, Professor Edward Blyden III of the Political Science Department, later succeeded after his retirement, by Professor Cyril Patrick Foray of the History Department and later Mr. David Thomas of the Classics Department.
Quality of teaching: The 1970s were exemplary years in the FBC teaching staff. The College, with just 1,500 students and the quality of teaching was unquestionable. All subject departments had qualified and competent tutors. In my courses for instance, there was no reason to complain. The history department in all my four year stay was manned by Dr Peter Essedebe from the University of London, Dr Arthur Abraham who taught us North and West African history from University of Birmingham, Dr Stan Mudenge from the University of London later to become Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister introduced us to East, Central and Southern African history, Professor Cyril Foray taught European history and Professor John Peterson the Head of the history department taught American and Sierra Leone history. In the English department, we had Mr. Cecil N. Fyle who taught us transformational English, Mr. Derek Elders African literature, Late Dr Lemon Johnson on sabbatical leave from the university of Michigan, handled the poetry aspect and prose while the drama by a VSO, 20 year old Cecilia Craven, a first class honours graduate from Cambridge. What else would students want in terms of the right lecturers? The Latin class started with four students , two girls Princetta Godwin and Elizabeth Lamide Boyle from the Annie Walsh school, one guy Paul Lappia from CKC and myself from St Francis school Makeni. But after the first year the three quit the Latin class while I quit the English department. For the next three years I was a loner in the Latin class and lectures were on a one on one basis in the offices of the different lecturers; Mr. David Thomas did my Latin Grammar and Unseen, while Mr. O. D Kember did my Latin Poetry and My G. D Field my Latin Prose with different Latin authors including Julius Caesar’s Gallic and Civil wars. He also treated the ‘Agricola’ one of the most difficult of Latin literature and Cicero one of the best Lawyers in Roman history. I happened to be the very last student of Latin at FBC, and after my graduation, the department closed as there were no more applicants for the department. Fourah Bay College in those years had no staff problems. I took classes in Political Science for Intermediate and Qualifying years. Lecturers included Mrs. Gibson for Comparative government, Dr Balla Musa Conteh from the University of Rome, Dr Mohamed Lamin Kamara from the Surbourne in France, Mohamed Ramadan Dumbuya and the Head of department Dr Roger Tangri from Tanzania. Quite an impressive staff of confidence.
Examination time: This was a very tense period at the College. There were three exams, the Easter term and Epiphany term exams taken in June. If a student did not make the grade in June he was given a second chance in a September to re-sit: if still unsuccessful, the student had to repeat the class if he was not already a repeater otherwise he was asked to leave. However the downside of the exams was some lecturers were vindictive of students whose interests in some female students clashed with lecturers’ interests. This only applied to Sierra Leonean lecturers. Many a time examiners claimed that some answer sheets of some students were missing from the answer booklets. This was weird as all scripts were firmly secured with a string. How all this happened was always a mystery. The downside of FBC exams at the time was that students could not challenge the grading of a lecturer, thus placing the student at the mercy of the tyrannical and vindictive lecturer. The lecturers at FBC therefore became ’emperors’ and tyrannical in terms of exams. Another was the annual occurrence of casualties during exam time with some students fainting or collapsing at exam time probably due to sleeplessness or bad study habits at exam time. Whenever a student collapsed, he was immediately rushed to the Mount Aureol clinic along with his unfinished answers to give the student the opportunity to continue his exams anytime he was able to recover and continue under the supervision of one of the clinic nurses. But the exam time allowed for the sick student was 8:00 pm, after which the answer booklet was collected and sent to the lecturer in charge. Another problem was exams questions leakages. This used to happen every year as the secretaries to the Heads of departments were females who did the typing and printing of question papers. In the process these secretaries either tried to assist friends and family members or just sold papers for pecuniary advantage. Those students who were caught with leaked exam papers always pointed the finger of blame to the secretary of one Head of department or other. Only once did we hear that one such secretary got fired.
There was also the annual Ramadan festival and Lantern parade at the Cotton tree. The 1970/71 year saw Fourah Bay College Muslin group constructing a huge airplane, the BOAC with flight captain then Ibrahim Sorie now politician and ambassador to Brussels, with his air hostess. At about 10:30 pm the parade commenced. Each lantern group was warmly applauded as they processed with their lanterns, dancing with their colourful Ashobee. At about 11:30 pm, the FBC airplane touched down at Cotton tree. There were thunderous applauses as the plane taxied past, with Ibrahim Sorie in his flight captain attire peeping from the window of the plane to announce the flight time to London’s Heathrow and flying at an altitude of some 40,000 feet. Next the air hostess, Late Mariama Deen announced to passengers to fasten their seat belts and get ready for takeoff under Captain Ibrahim Sorie. The applause was deafening and all over the Cotton tree could be heard the voices of supporters and well wishers cheering and yelling and even screaming repeatedly “di bookman dem done cam”. The moment became very emotional as public viewers were thrown into a fit of thunderous applauses and many downtown joined the FBC group in a show of support. We were very proud of our performance and felt very proud that Mount Aureol was the best place to be as a student.
Meals period: There were three meal periods served at Breakfast before going for lessons, Lunch served between 1:00pm and 3:00 pm while supper was served from 6:00pm, served in four dining rooms – the Express dining room which was the first and oldest of all the others. This express room mostly served the Applied students of Engineering and other science students, while the rest of the student body had service at the three new Davidson Nicol built dining rooms. Many of the female students never attended College meals. As a result those female students sold their meal tickets for half their value to ‘Gorilla’ students who did not qualify for government bursary. The term lasted seventy days. Gorilla students have always been at FBC and I believe they are still there more so as the College is now more than 3,000 student population.
Saturday supper was exceptional in the sense that even students going for weekend would not leave until after supper. What was so special about the Saturday supper? Foofoo or ebba was served and this made it special and no one wanted to miss the Saturday supper. Sometimes fried plantains were also served. Fourah Bay College was really the place to be.
There were in addition to the daily meals, the once a term official dinners for each Hall of residence. The official dinners really deserved our attendance with our undergraduate gowns as the kitchen staff of Mama Ayub always displayed their culinary skills. The food was delicious and everybody enjoyed such dinners served with drinks of one’s choice. It was at one such dinner that we of Bai Bureh Hall had the privilege of meeting the much admired Scientific and University administrative Guru, the Legendary Dr Davidson Nicol, then our Chief Guest of honour.
There was also the FBC/NUC exchange programme whereby the student union governments of the two institutions decided to foster, promote good and friendly relations between the two sister University Colleges. This relationship took the form of once a term exchange visit to each other’s campus. At FBC, this programme kicked off during the student presidency of Marcel Tomasi, when a Students’ Union Coaster mini bus packed full of students (40 in all) left the campus on a Friday afternoon for Njala and returned the following Sunday night. The visitors returned with pleasant memories of the trip, the hospitality accorded them and were full of praise for the NUC dining halls which were never locked after dinner but remained open at all times for students to be able to get access to food at any time of the night. The visitors had a wonderful experience.
The way forward for Fourah Bay College: We need the restoration of our College ceremonial outfits. The College was unfortunate to have administrators who in my opinion, ignored the things that matter to the College and students. For instance, Fourah Bay College no longer has her dark green students’ Blazers with matching neckties and caps. In 1970 few final year students still had these outfits and occasionally used them. In fact students who entered after 1970 never saw these College coats and therefore did not even know if they ever existed. But since then College blazers disappeared from FBC as if they never existed and none of the Principals since Dr Davidson Nicol did not seem to care. Not that the College cannot order the Blazers and ties for sale to students and alums, but the respective administrations did not just care or consider it a priority. Of course it should be one of the administrations’ priorities and , not to mention the students who need them as a matter of right and identity. If secondary schools like the Grammar School, St Edward’s Secondary school, the Albert Academy, The Prince of Wales, Methodist Boys’ High School, Bo school etc., can always order their ceremonial uniforms for their students and alums for ceremonial functions and sell to their students, I cannot understand why FBC cannot do the same, after all it’s an investment to the College’s financial advantage. No University worth its salt can oversight this important aspect of students’ needs. It is embarrassing to us all to say the least and frustrating that Fourah Bay College administrators have all failed to provide such an important need for her students and the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of all those who came after Dr Davidson Nicol. This is an example of failed leadership; one must point out with all frankness. They are all guilty of neglect. No one is exempt from this blame. We want to boast about Fourah Bay College overseas, but what can we show to the world to make this boast when our only ceremonial identity outfits to make us look smart, dandy and uniquely identifiable in the countries we find ourselves today are not available? So boast for what? We are all virtually naked in terms College attire, can anyone deny this? For how can an old University like ours go unnoticed, and what can we tell people about our alma mater? We need these College outfits and all that go with them. I call upon the current Principal / Vice Chancellor to direct his attention and energies to this issue as a matter of urgency and revive or restore the College uniforms. It is never late to bring back what was lost. Let him make this uniforms affair his own legacy before leaving the College and will be remembered for many years to come as the restorer of our beautiful ceremonial uniform outfits. But the present situation is nothing to talk about or be proud of. Prof Redwood-Sawyerr must put this all important matter before his College Council for discussion, a Body which I believe will give him their nod and thumbs up more so as many of them are alumni. No Board Member will be opposed to such an idea. I hope all or nearly all Board members are alumni. Let us make Fourah Bay College known not only by her name at home, but also overseas. Fourah Bay College provides the educational light not only of Sierra Leone but also of Africa and beyond. The Vice Chancellor is the executive head of the University whose word and policy proposals become the topic of discussion in his Council and Senate whose endorsements can never be in doubt. The Principals must rest assured that they will always have the backing of these two Bodies whose main task is to help him take decisions. They are not appointed to thwart the Vice Chancellor’s / Principal’s policies so long as they are in the interest of the institution. Fourah Bay College must be restored to her former glory and must lead not from behind but, from the front. What will any FBC Principal explain why the Annie Walsh Memorial School which was opened twenty years after Fourah Bay College and the CMS Grammar School eighteen years after FBC both have ceremonial uniforms while the first born child of the CMS Fourah Bay College become neglectful? The current Vice Chancellor and all his predecessors did a bad job in this area of need, sad to mention. The powers at Mount Aureol must wake up now. Incidentally, the CMS Missionaries gave both FBC and the AWMS the same uniforms colour, Dark Green. Restore our dark Green coats and ties, we can’t afford to wait any longer; we want to start buying them from the College as soon as they are made available. I am appealing on behalf of all alumni and alumnae to the Principal and decision makers at Mount Aureol to make this a reality. We need these uniforms. If this was an oversight, this is now the reminder.
Fourah Bay College is a small city with a ‘big’ name on a mountain top, and her light cannot therefore be extinguished. It is too strategically located, the only known University in the whole world on a hill top, deliberately positioned to give educational light, educational leadership and educational guidance to the rest, in accordance to the College’s motto of “Non sibi sed aliis”. Even the Bible tells us,” as the light of the world, a city on a mountain cannot be hidden, because it has a responsibility to give out her light to all and sundry”. Fourah Bay College is the undisputed light of all Africa by being the first western style University in all Black Africa just as the University of Timbuktu in ancient Mali became the first Oriental style University in Africa. Now is the time to rekindle and illuminate Mount Aureol’s torch even brighter than before and must be done with minimum delay. Fourah Bay College is our glittering beacon of hope, the lighthouse for all educational institutions in Sierra Leone and Africa; that light cannot be extinguished by anyone or by negligence. We know very well that we are the first born ever in Africa South of the Sahara and that position of ‘First’ can never be usurped by any newborn siblings. No one need remind us that we are the first and the best; we are conscious of our status in Africa. Therefore Fourah Bay College has a great responsibility to all her siblings. Failure is therefore not an option.
Instead of the blazers, the College puts more emphasis on buying academic robes for Convocations. These outfits are of no use after that one day ceremony which some students don’t even attend, but prefer to doing it ‘in absentia’. Since my graduation, I have only had cause to use my academic gown four times in 43 years. It is useless after the Convocation. The academic robes must be rented out to students for Convocation, and to be returned within a week after the ceremony, failing which the student cannot receive his / her degree diplomas or certificates. Blazers can be worn as often as we need them. Once again, I strongly appeal to the present administration to focus on restoring our lost fame and identity, the College coats with the CMS Logo affixed and the matching necktie and make this his legacy. The College must place heavy premium on these items of need. The administration may contact any of the Principals of the above listed institutions for their uniforms suppliers overseas and get the job done. We will buy because we like and need them and can own and wear them for the rest of our lives.
Finally, on this auspicious Anniversary of our great alma mater, I want to take the opportunity to salute Fourah Bay College on her 190th Anniversary, but more importantly the Church Missionary Society (CMS) without whose coming to Sierra Leone this country would never have had the dream of a University in this country. The CMS made us all today feel very proud of their accomplishments in Sierra Leone and West Africa in general. Fourah Bay College became the first effort at providing University education in all Africa South of the Sahara in 1827. Our thanks and appreciation also go to alumni in Nigeria for the funds they provided to sustain the College at a time it was near closure due to lack of funds and, last but by no means the least, my thanks to all members of the Anniversary Committee. Great job you guys have done for this pending Anniversary and wish the best of success. The sesquicentennial (150 years) celebrations of Fourah Bay College was observed with a historical lecture at the British Council by Professor Cyril Foray on October 26, 1977. The plans for this 190th Anniversary are even far more grandiose. Finally, I call upon all alumni in Freetown to be willing and cheerful participants in the pending alumni and alumnae procession to the St George’s Cathedral for the special Anniversary thanksgiving service. Be proud of your alma mater, Fourah Bay College and you’ll be glad you did.
Thank you all and may you be richly blessed. Let’s always remember our great motto, “NON SIBI, SED ALIIS”. Fourah Bay College is not only for Sierra Leoneans, but for other countries in the sub region and beyond.
To Fourah Bay College and all her alums, friends and well-wishers around the world I say a very happy Anniversary to all.
I now pause while looking forward to get news coverage from Freetown on this great celebration.
Anthony Karim Kamara Sr 1970-1974