Illiteracy and Eduction have always had obscured interpretations in most parts of the developing world because of the beliefs and perceptions that have been attached to the meaning of education.
For this to be clearly understood ,it is necessary ,on that the onset there is clear perception of what both literacy and education mean.Also it is clear a clear scope of what both are is established.This ,of course brings into question a very important issue of the role,efficacy and relevance of a particular type education to any specific social gorup.
By and large education ,on its universal scope ,is present in every social group and comes in different context knowlege acqusition and skills development.
To address the issue of ducation and literacy in Sierra leone,Ill start by admonishing Mr Bakuyu Conteh that as a public figure he has to be very must be economical and technical relevant with his words.
Next he recognise that literacy and illiteracy are both owrds pertaining to ability to speak ,write and understand a language and not sign posts of what education is. So he must take cognisance of certain facts that there are parts of he developing world that use their lingua franca to teach and provide learning for their human resource.
first and foremost minister Bakuyu Conteh must take cognisance of the fact that education is taking place all the time in the life of every living human from conception and only ends,may be, at the point of death.I have said may be becuase we are not absolutely certain about what happens in the beyond or hereafter.
Now therefore ,if we are to examine the statement from an informed point of view,then minister Bakuyu Conteh needs to review his statement and make a public
disclaimer to the Northenr peole of the Republic of Sierra Leone for his stereotypal statement which may be stastistically correct but is sociologicaly wrong,and can be interpreted in some quarters as a politically insulting statement.
This article ,as a matter of fact is discussing this issue on two parameters. It is meant to point out the conceptual fallacy and to admonish that public servants must be cautious with and in making statements that can have unforeseen effects on the psychology of society and hence on peace and progress.
It is a truism that man has and uses the energy of intellect that is the mind.
In his publication on the primus relevance of the mind, James Allen states “The aphorism, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he,” not only embraces the whole of a man’s being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life. A man is literally what he thinks,his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”
In essence our perceptions have a lot to do with shaping first our belief stystem and next how we create and shape our living environment to be.
Our words must always be part of the energy field to create and provide for development by the manner it is interpreted by other minds. Thus, whatever we say must not be one to create an energy of reverse effect on the minds of energy domain of others. This is what religions have preached but we have failed to understand.
The power of the word! in the Christian faith it said that “in the beginning was the word” meaning that creation comes from the power of thoughts as it is manifested either by action of expression. in the Islamic faith it is said that Allah commended the Holy Prophet Muhammad “Ikra!” meaning that he must use the ‘power of word’ to recite!
on both levels he word takes prominence in the creation of the key to creation, which is, knowledge. hence, to create and instigate any physical manifest of human activity one must always take the primus essence of the word and its use into consideration. Therefore, it can motive or discourage and even dissuade.
So, if the Minister is saying anything connected to or concerning education it must be put in a very educated manner for its meaning not to be misconstrued by any quarter that the education planned is going to affect.
I believe he said what he said in and with good faith and intentions, yet he must, as a public servant and policy maker be careful of his use of words. He must have done some research to find out why the demographic differences in percentage of educated in sierra Leone.
It is incumbent on every public person to be effective and precise in whatever they say or do as part of the processes of Peace Management taking into consideration the role of words in enhancing the process which sociologically is one going on at al times in every society or social group.
However to assist the Minister ,the fact of the demographic distribution of education and inequalities of the North are informed by historical factors dating back to the much widely unknown history of Sierra Leone beginning from the commencement of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade which records show was started on the shores of Sierra Leone by a common sea buccaneer later to be knighted ,Sir John Hawkins who became “became the first slave-ship captain to bring Africans to the Americas. Hawkins was a religious gentleman who insisted that his crew “serve God daily” and “love another”. His ship, called “the good ship Jesus,” left the shores of his native England for Afrika in October 1562. He arrived at Sierra Leone, and in a short time he had three hundred blacks in his possession. Hawkins claimed to have acquired them “partly by sword and partly by other means.”
It is also reported that “Early in his career, he led an expedition in which he violently captured 300 Africans in Sierra Leone and transported them to Spanish plantations in the Americas. There he traded them for pearls, hides, and sugar. His missions were so lucrative that Queen Elizabeth I sponsored his subsequent journeys and provided ships, supplies and guns. She also gave him a unique coat of arms bearing a bound slave.
With three major slavery expeditions in the 1560s, Hawkins prepared the path for the slave triangle between England, Africa and the New World. English goods were traded in West Africa, slaves were captured and trafficked on the notorious middle passage across the Atlantic, and cargo produced in the New World was transported back to England.
His four voyages to Sierra Leone between 1564 and 1569 took a total of 1200 Africans across the Atlantic to sell to the Spanish settlers in the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.”
The first people to be affected by this at were northerners who lived close to the estuaries of the Sierra Leone/Rokel river where Freetown now seats, with Bunce Island being the depot for collecting people captured inland and assembled at where Port Loko City is now situated.
Since that date the northerners developed an aversion for contacts with foreign Caucasian people. This coupled with the advent of Islam by the coming of Fulani and Manlike from the north, reinforced tis aversion and up to the early 60s, this attitude was normal for northerners. They even have a word for people who take people way from the Maninka word Koti which is used, with the same meaning, all over the Manlinke language group of west Africa.
As a matter of fact, the Church Missionary Society was to be opened at Port Loko by Reverend Schlenker who was missionary in the north during the early 19th century but ho met a lot of resistance due to mistrust by locals. Later the CMS opened what is today the Sierra lone Grammar school.
On the obverse side other parts of Sierra lone, including Tonkolili district which was less affected by the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade were fortunate to have encounter missionaries of the United Methodist Church, which by then was the United Brethren’s Church (UBC) which was also later known as the Evangelical United Brethren’s (EUB) Church. The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone started as United Brethren in Christ in 1855.
These missionaries came with the return of some slaves who had revolted on a slave ship, the Amistad close to Cuba and had drifted north to New York, led by the well-known Sengbeh Pieh and a Themne who died before they could get their redress in the US Courts and be repatriated to Sierra Leone. I am sure if that Themne man had not died the dynamics of demographics of education would have been different as that man would have been a factor to convince his people to trust western education providers at that time.
Further, education itself even started in the north at a time when the rest of Sierra Leone never though western education was to be a part of the Human Resource development processes. This happened with the coming of the Catholics at about the same time the Trans-atlantic slave trade started and at which time Sierra lone as we know it today was part of a larger but highly decentralised governance system known as the Koya Kingdom which came into existence around 1450.
The history of the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone can be traced back to 1510 A.D. when the first Portuguese missionaries arrived. They belonged to the missionary society known as the “Order of Christ” which was sponsored by Prince Henry the Navigator. Their apostolate lasted from 1604 to 1720. They were led by Fr. Balthasar Barreira, a Spanish Jesuit. He baptised a number of Sierra Leonean chiefs or “kings” as they were called by then.
Among them was Bai Farma II, king of the Temnes; and also king Torra and king Sesse, of the Sherbros. Fr. Barreira died in 1612 and was succeeded by Fr. Manuel Alvarez, who continued to work until 1617. He died in Lisbon in 1619. The last remaining Jesuit was an African by the name of Joseph. He lived on Mount Aureol and was credited with the establishment of a settlement in Kissy village where he preached the Gospel until his death in 1720.”
Bai Farama gave one of his sons to these priests after he had become Catholic and this boy was taken to Europe and educated up to university. He was Bai Farama from 1606 to 1630.
This was about the time of the start of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. So, when the slave trade started and with connivance of some local chiefs the trust between Europeans and the local population was lost and that informed on the late acceptance of western education or literacy.
Another factor is Islam. The people understanding that education as it is brought to them by foreigners, is about the three Rs, Reading Writing and Arithmetic, saw little need to take the strains to undertake another exercise of learning the same which Islam offered.
Finally, because of the independence of mind and self-reliance of most northern people they saw little need to use education as a channel for human resource development taking into consideration that they have traditional skills they can use, at their level to live their lives.
So, to say they are more illiterates in the north is a logical fallacy because there are many who read and write in the Arabic and do accounting etc in the same.
However given the fact that we have made little efforts to institute using our languages as medium of communication in the school as Ethiopia and much of east Africa does or even India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. we can find a way to get northerners to go to school ,free or otherwise by another pronouncement than to say they are illiterates. They can say same of anyone who does not read or write Arabic.