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Public Schools in Sierra Leone Gasping for Life Support
Joy M. Hathaway
I am doing a research paper on the educational system of West Africa. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1985 to 1988 in the village of Magburaka, Kohlifa Chiefdom, in the Norther Province. I worked as an industrial arts instructor at the Technical Institute.
I have spend the last 25 years watching and reading about the deteriorization of Sierra Leone and was qutie concerned about the edcuational system while stationed in country. I think there are many reasons why the public school system is suffering. Some of the reasons may be politcal; however, I think most of it stems from cultural practices. Sierra Leone has diverse tribal and cutural practices that work against the education of the nation's children. Most of the children are born in regions where the parents and extended famiies may speak two or three different tribal languages, none of which are written languages. As the children reach the age of about four or five years old, they are taught the Lingua Franca (Krio) and from there, if they are able to attend a pubic school, are taught to speak and read English. Under normal circumstances, the ability to communicate and speak several languages is advantageous. Unfortunately, the language of commerce in today's global market is English. Their tribal languages are not spoken outside of the country and in many cases not spoken outside of their remote villages.
One of the cultural practices is teaching the boys and girls how to steal. Looking from the outside in, Western cultures teach children it is wrong to steal. The attitude of Sierra Leonean youths is steal from your neighbor because as long as you don't get caught you are not a "Tiefman." That practice alone dooms the country to regressive govenmental funding of the pubic school system. Many of the educational projects funded through NGOs never came to fruition because of rampant stealing of the materials and money sent to rebuild the schools. I believe the only way to change the system is to stop teaching the children how to steal from one another, promoting nationwide cooperation and universal brother/sisterhood.
Sierra Leone is a beautiful country. It is rich in natural resources, which, when marketed in the proper way, will help bring Sierra Leone into the 21st century.