Bockarie Kargbo: Sierra Leone Actor and Commercial Model
Bockarie Kargbo is a 29-year-old Fashion, Commercial Model and Actor from Bo Town Sierra Leone currently residing in Johannesburg South Africa. With a burning passion for performing arts and modelling, he decided to join 33 and Me Talent Agency in July 2021 and immediately fell in love with the craft. He soon blew away the team at 33 and Me with his talent, dedication and willingness to learn and apply knowledge.
While in Freetown he studied at Bluecrest College (SL) where he obtained his diploma in Network Engineering in 2014. What motivated him was the fact that he could change his story, and create a future of which he could be proud. Bockarie is also very passionate about fitness and taking care of physical strength and endurance and is an avid Tennis player, Coaching young people and creating an awareness and love for the sport he so enjoys playing.
His biggest inspiration in life is his friend and mentor Dr Onyeka Nwelue, who is Lecturer at Oxford University, and a Book Writer and Film Maker. Bockarie believes in facing fears, which will allow him to speak with crowds and teach others how to be brave in the face of adversity.
In 2021 Mr Kargbo auditioned for the International ARTS Talent Showcase, Africa’s largest talent convention where he obtained an award for the Best Commercial Male Model and he earned himself a spot to showcase Infront of the world’s prestigious and international celebrities such as Nate Butler – Jnr Casting Director for Steve Harvey Show, A&R for X-Factor America and a Singer that has sold over 52 million copies at last count. Blaze Johnson – The Voice of America, Rhavynn Drummer – Executive Casting Director for Tyler Perry Studios, AMDA and IMTA Representative Joey Hunter – The President of Ford Models in New York City for the past 30 years. He represented his country very well after he obtained a $60,000 scholarship from AMDA the largest performing arts academy in the world. Even though the scholarship was for his presence on stage as a model he dreams about a career in acting and is currently hard at work honing the skills acquired to polish his talent. He will be jetting off to America in July 2022 where he will be representing his country in front of more than 250 agents, managers, record labels, etc…
He has also been on several TV commercials like VISA, GLO cell and GoTV which were shown all over Africa. This boosted his self-confidence and credibility within the industry in Africa. He is adamant about showcasing his skills in becoming a well-known Actor. Currently, he is studying Computer Science at the University of the People in America and is hoping to achieve a First World education to be able to apply knowledge gained to help the people of his nation in understanding and apply technology effectively. He came from a place with few opportunities and to be able to make it to America motivates him to work even harder physically, emotionally and mentally.
To be chosen to represent himself and his country in America is a dream come true for him and the people that believe in him. His biggest role model is his loving mother Abie Kargbo. A strong woman that he has never seen giving up in life even when things got tough, she stands strong and is a strong believer in equality rights. A people person, and a formidable woman that always smiles and stays positive
It didn’t take long for the political honeymoon to end. Ernest Bai Koroma, the self-styled All People’s Congress (APC) fake Jihadist, whose rogue contracts on behalf of the state are still creating more economic problems for the government of his successor (Julius Maada Bio) in addressing its social contract mandate, but Bio is now being accused of dividing the nation by putting his very narrow “Paopa” team’s interest ahead of national interest. It seems he can’t sell difficult policy choices, much less take them.
Whatever you may think of the propagated merits of an increase in blocking leakages and the enforcement of the Single Treasury Account, the more important question all this raises is about the quality of contemporary political leadership in Sierra Leone and how it can address the intractable problems of bread and butter issues in the lives of the suffering majority.
If we scan the national political horizon, it is difficult to spot anyone that might be described as an unambiguously great leader.
Perhaps the last person to fit this bill was the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Few people would argue that he was quintessentially the right man for his times. More than that, he was able to shape them in ways that not even his much less gifted successor (Ernest Bai Koroma) was entirely able to undo.
It is not only in what is still rather patronisingly known as the “Paopa New Direction” that effective leadership is in short supply, though. On the contrary, the All People’s Congress (APC), National Grand Coalition (NGC) and Coalition For Change (C4C) political parties have – rather tragically – become bywords for dysfunction and an inability to exhibit a nationalistic sense of purpose to currently resolve the pressing economic and social crises we are experiencing as a country. Effective collective leadership is an especially difficult and rare form of the genre and one that is currently conspicuous by its absence.
But even if we set the bar of expectation somewhat lower and simply measure the current Bio’s government political leadership style against a national benchmark, they still seem to fall short of the supposedly lofty standards of late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The conventional wisdom has rapidly become that the Ahmad Tejan Kabba government provided Sierra Leone’s gold standard for ambitious, necessary reforms that were skillfully executed for his government and his successor.
Even if we put to one side the possibility that this retrospective judgement doesn’t easily map onto the often-turbulent politics and economics of the period, was there something about 1996-2007 and the larger structural transformation that was occurring in an increasingly global economy that made the policy challenges and possible responses clearer and more pressing?
Do those very same market-oriented, “neoliberal” reforms make the challenge of governing more difficult for the Bio administration that’s allegedly in total malice with national cohesion?
It has become a cliché to observe that “globalisation” has undermined the autonomy of nationally based political actors and empowered highly mobile market forces. The impact – and potential danger – of such changes can be seen in the rise of highly liquid financial capital and its potential to wreak havoc on the so-called real economy.
The inability – or the unwillingness of politicians like Bio to tax and regulate such activities effectively or equitably with specific respect to fiscal discipline is one of the more distinctive features of the contemporary national economy. It is a failure of political imagination and purpose as it manifests the implacable logic of technological change or financial innovation.
How would any national leader cope in such circumstances? What would the prospects for international co-operation be?
The pessimists probably have the best answers to such questions. It is simply that most “Paopa” politicians seem perennially unable to transcend their narrow interests to the national interest, but that even a national agenda is becoming harder to pursue. “Paopa” political rulers are entirely to blame for this.
The debate around the cancellation instead of renegotiation of the proposed Mamamah Airport for Lungi bridge increasingly demonstrates just how parochial “Paopa” politics remains and how politically difficult it can be for these types of politicians to try and promote difficult ideas to the benefit of the nation not the benefit of Western neo-colonial institutions and their interests.
Wrestling with tax policy to raise revenue for unproductive Presidential trips and dividing the nation with “Paopa” cultist ideas while pretending you are fighting corruption is not terribly exciting, nor is it likely to be the end of civilisation as we know it if the Bio government stuffs it up. We are fortunate that this is the greatest challenge our very few political leaders in this country currently face, and they must deal with it effectively.
The rainy season is here, and like most years, the village is expected to have abundant rains. Nature blessed Thampèreh with so many showers that even in the dry season, the village still experiences rainfall.
But the blessing has also been a major curse to the village. From floodings to mudslides and diarrhea outbreaks, the rains are often one of the biggest threats facing Thampèreh. Dark clouds bring panic and fear among citizens, and many hardly ever sleep until the skies are clear.
Unlike past seasons, this rainy season poses even bigger threats to the village. There has been an increase in environmental destruction across the village. From deforestation to pollution to sand mining and land grabbing, the danger of what lies ahead in the coming moon circles is sending shocking waves to the people. The village has seen how land grabbing in some of its green belts caused massive water shortages prompting the Painter to call for an investigation into the sale of land in those areas.
And even though the call is one of the boldest steps ever taken by the current Painter, it risks going unanswered. Many within his circle have already begun politicizing the move citing an “election season” as the wrong time to take such decisions. While elections come and go, climate change issues, the destruction of the village’s environment, and its impact on the people will be here to stay if nothing is done about them soon.
The impact of climate change is very evident in the village, with a high rise in temperatures from the blistering heat during the dry season to the recent record of violent storms right in the first moon circle of the start of the rainy season. With all the major problems facing the village, the last thing it would want to deal with is another man-made disaster.
The people of Thampèreh must act now, starting with taking bold steps devoid of politics and the fear of losing votes. Villagers must encourage and accept decisions by the Painter and other elected officials to reverse the impact of climate change and the destruction around us. It is time to support more grassroots initiatives working on environmental issues to take the lead in overcoming these challenges. Let us urge one another to plant more trees this rainy season. It is time we mobilize youth groups to carry out sensitizations and engage more people within their communities to clear drainages and waterways and minimize the chances of flooding.
This rainy season is going to be violent. It will be fierce and a threat to our national security. Let’s sound the alarm now and start taking action. The village does not have the resources or strength to deal with the disaster that would come with the rains this season. The only way to act is to prevent it from happening. And there’s no better time to start preparing than now. It is either we sound the alarm now and act or wait for the sounds of sirens from ambulances to remind us of what we could have done.
INTEGRITY AND LEADERSHIP in SIERRA LEONE: YOUR ASSESSMENT
Integrity Header-Andre IN EARLY 13th CENTURY FRANCE, Paris and the lands under the king’s direct rule were in a bad way. The powerful position of Provost of Paris was always given to the highest bidder, and this had led to blatant corruption, a breakdown in the criminal justice system, social anarchy, and an exodus of unhappy peasants and middle-class citizens. The economic consequences were disastrous. Then Louis IX came to the throne.
He stopped the sale of the provost’s position and made sure that men of ability and character were appointed to all official posts. Justice was made accessible to rich and poor alike, and those who broke the law were punished regardless of social status. Unreasonable taxes were removed, and the vibrancy of economic life was restored. Within a short time, people started returning to Paris, and it grew rapidly to become the foremost city in France.
Integrity – trust – ethics. That simple example reveals the inextricable link between integrity and leadership. Time and again, history shows that each is the measure and condition of the other.
Integrity is a word widely used but narrowly understood in Sierra Leone. Most people think of it as honesty, being as good as your word. Certainly, truthfulness is an aspect of integrity, but it only arises as a consequence of what integrity actually is. To integrate is to assimilate or make something a fully functional part of the whole, while disintegrate means breaking up, collapse, or fall apart. So integrity is unity, wholeness, completeness, harmony, and being everything someone or something is meant to be. It means having no inconsistencies or contradictions.
Consider the humble banjo – each part, body, vellum, neck, tuning pegs, and strings must function properly for the instrument to do what it is supposed to do. Any malfunction detracts from its integrity. And the same is true of the banjo player – being tone-deaf, injured, unpracticed, drunk, or simply uncooperative would compromise his integrity in that role and would, similarly, undermine the integrity of any group he would be a part of.
So integrity is ultimately the fulfilment of the promise implicit in the name we give to things. If I were a lawyer in Sierra Leone, I would have to fulfil the promise implicit in that term by having the necessary qualifications; the ongoing personal development, the high professional standards, the utmost respect for the law and the community I serve, and so on. Any corruption or distortion of those qualifications would undermine my integrity as a lawyer.
The moral dimension of integrity emerges naturally from this understanding. Human beings, as Aristotle said, are rational animals. The purpose of rational minds is to know the truth, and we know the truth and the goodness of things by knowing their meaning and purpose, just as we know what the majority of our current politicians and others in social positions of trust stand for. (Embezzlement)
We know, for example, that it is not good for a banjo to be used as a baseball bat. And we know, in the case of human beings, that it is not good for a person to be used as a slave or to be destroyed by drugs or allow people in social positions of trust to embezzle state resources and slip away with them. We are the only animals that can be held morally accountable for what we do because, through intellect, we know the truth and goodness, and freedom will let us choose between true and false and good and evil.
Moreover, we are social animals who only find fulfilment in relationships with other people – so our integrity demands that we seek harmony rather than discord among Sierra Leoneans and other fellow human beings. Philosopher Alasdair McIntyre emphasises that we are “dependent, rational animals” who develop self-knowledge only through relationships. This makes honesty indispensable in ensuring we avoid our people in social positions of trust self-deception and the many psychological deformities that flow from it.
Of course, the lie is at the heart of human misery and is inextricably bound up with the violence endemic in society. That is why honesty is so important as an aspect of integrity.
Sadly, the lack of personal and corporate integrity in contemporary Sierra Leone is a clear sign of an absence of leadership. When we see it, we all recognise leadership, and we define reality, not some convenient personal fancy. But, again, we need to define our terms, and the definition of leadership is also problematic. Many academics in Sierra Leone today suggest no clear definition of leadership, but how can they then discuss it or issue proclamations on how to practice it?
Leadership arose with the need for justice, which means much more than the narrow legal concept the word evokes in most people’s minds. Justice is giving each person what is due to them. And for all the well-meaning efforts of modern thinkers like John Rawls, the definition of justice provided by Plato remains the most cogent.
Despite the cacophony of cant from ideologues, what is due to each person is less controversial than many suppose. Classical philosophy and modern science agree that human fulfilment requires freedom to be the best one can be, education in the sense of a constantly expanding knowledge of the world and the growth of virtuous character, security of person and possessions, and the support of benevolent relationships and community.
Justice in this sense would promote a society in which all people were inspired and enabled to achieve their full potential, working in harmony to achieve the best for the whole community. And isn’t this precisely what leaders should strive for in, say, a football team, an orchestra, or the workplace? Any stifling of potential in an individual amount to degrading the group’s potential, the company, or the nation.
This recalls the ancient and enduring conundrum of the One and the Many. Which takes precedence – the individual or the group? Integrity and justice emphasise the natural symbiosis. The flourishing of the one is dependent on the flourishing of the many, just as the flourishing of the many depends on the flourishing of the one.
Interestingly, our understanding of justice aligns with our definition of integrity. Managers and politicians in Sierra Leone who reject this, preferring the Machiavellian expedients of intimidation, deceit, and exploitation, are not leaders, but misleaders, people of the lie, the enemies of integrity and justice. And together, integrity and justice make plain what leadership is – inspiring people to be the best they can be in working together for the good of all.
Inspiring people to be the best they can be in working together for the good of all demands, by definition, vision and virtue in a leader. Vision looks to a better future in which the good of all is achieved, while virtue – practical wisdom, courage, self-control, justice, faith, hope, and love – equips the leader for the challenge.
In the final analysis, integrity and leadership are inseparable; in fact, leadership is integrity in action, upholding justice, inspiring harmony, and seeking fulfilment – for all people because each of us is potential in search of fulfilment.
I don’t want to talk today about the village of Thampèreh and its many problems. Thampèreh can wait.
Today I want to talk about Sierra Leone and the hurtful lies told by those we trusted to lead us. I want to talk about the repeated lies turning into insults.
Sierra Leoneans are not asking for much. They are not saying their government should fix all the problems in four years. The people want the government to improve the necessities.
And if you can’t, be honest about it.
Many Sierra Leoneans understand the impact of Covid-19 on the supply chain and the global economy. Many people know how the Russia-Ukraine war disrupted the supply of certain goods and commodities. They also know how other countries have at least found ways to mitigate the impact of Covid and the Russia-Ukraine war on their people. But this is not about comparing what other countries have done or didn’t do.
Last month, a pregnant woman and her child died in Kamakwie. She died while giving birth at the government hospital. Her husband, Ibrahim, is an Okada rider. He was at work when his wife went into labour. The family tried calling Ibrahim to inform him about his wife, but his phone was off the whole day. He had taken his phone to a telecenter to charge while he “hustles” to feed his family. Ibrahim found out about the death of his wife hours after she passed away.
How do you explain your maternal and child mortality rate reduction and your 24/7 rural electrification project to Ibrahim? You even mentioned his town as one of the places you have provided electricity. But Ibrahim had only seen poles lying on the side of the streets and depended on a telecenter to charge his phone. He couldn’t be with his wife in her last moments for the lack of electricity. Still, you look directly in his eyes and tell him you provided him and his people 24 hours of uninterrupted electricity.
Two weeks ago, a young businessman had a terrible accident on his way to Makeni from Freetown. He died on the spot. The family took his body to the government hospital in Makeni. But there was no electricity, and the standby generator had problems. The family had to travel with the body to Connaught hospital in Freetown and had it kept at the morgue there. Imagine what the family had to go through. Just hours after losing their loved one, the system forced them to sit beside the body, look at their dead loved one for hours, and travel for miles to the city to preserve the body before burial.
How do you explain your 24 hours uninterrupted rural electrification to this family?
Mr F.A.T is a teacher at the Bureh Secondary School in Mange Bureh. FAT taught for over twenty (20) years. All he knows is teaching mathematics and trying to make a difference in the lives of his students. He even dedicated his weekends to helping students with extra classes because the only thing he knows how to do is teach and transfer knowledge to his students. But lately, each time FAT picks up his radio to listen to the news; he hears the government talk about increased investment in the education sector. The government talks about the amount of money spent on providing training for teachers. He heard about an increase in salaries for teachers. But that increase didn’t reflect on his salary. FAT and his colleagues decide to protest the salary increase. Instead, the minister of education tells FAT and his colleagues that they should be grateful for receiving salaries because they are unqualified and untrained teachers. Throughout Mr FAT’s twenty-plus years of teaching, he was considered a qualified teacher. Now his qualification is questioned because he asked for an increase in his salary. They tell him that his salary matches his qualification, a grade one teacher. But no one asked whether his teaching responsibilities were limited to a grade one teacher or exceeded that. And some say what the minister’s assistant receives as a monthly salary is equivalent to the monthly salary of at least fifty (50) teachers.
Mariama lives in Waterloo. She and her friends attempted sitting her WASSCE three times but didn’t make it. Mariama is a smart girl. Even her teachers consider her among the smartest in her class. But each time she sat to her WASSCE, she got back poor results. The West African Examination Council has lost control of the regional exams, especially for Sierra Leone. A criminal syndicate of WASSCE results sellers has taken over the examination system. So, even when some students work hard, this cartel makes it difficult to pass if they don’t pay extra money. Last year, Mariama and her friends decided to use the syndicate. They each paid Le500,000 to have the cartel take the exams on their behalf. Even though they all went into the exam halls and had question papers given to them, a syndicate member sat in a room somewhere and filled their answer sheets. Mariama and six other students from her neighbourhood “passed” their WASSCE last year.
Will Mariama and her friends be included in the data among students who passed their WASSCE last year? Are they part of the increase in the number of passes due to the Free Quality Education program?
Last year, through the ministry of finance, the government announced a 25% salary increase for most civil servants, including the audit service, Statistics Sierra Leone, and the Anti-Corruption Commission. Since that announcement, many of the staff at the ACC are yet to see an increase in their salaries. President Bio reiterated the salary increase in his Labor Day speech. The ACC staff raised the issue with their bosses, including the commissioner himself, but they got nothing. The ACC recently began sending messages threatening to punish any staff if they continue to raise the salary issue. Even when the money is meant for increasing staff salaries, the ACC said it would use the funds to expand its office by hiring more people. Many of the faces for the new roles are either relatives or girlfriends of senior ACC officials.
How do we expect the institution responsible for fighting corruption to effectively do its job if it isn’t accountable to its staff?
Increased investment in agriculture, but who benefits?
In its efforts to tackle food security in the country and its lack of access to arable land, the United Arab Emirates turns to Sierra Leone for land. UAE signs an agreement with the government of Sierra Leone and leases hectares of land to grow vegetables and fruits. UAE invests millions of dollars in its agriculture projects. It buys farming machines from China and the Middle East and ships them to Sierra Leone. It buys fertiliser from Morocco for its farms in Sierra Leone. After months of farming, the UAE harvests and ships ALL its produce to feed its people.
But the government of Sierra Leone included this “investment” in its annual report and considered it an increase in agriculture investment in the country. While UAE feeds its people with the harvest, the Sierra Leone government provides its people with the data on the tons of vegetables and fruits harvested from such farms.
There are nearly a dozen of such agreements in Sierra Leone. The government continues to boast about such agreements as part of its efforts to attract foreign investment. But none of the products is sold locally, and local employment is low because the farming is mechanised.
Even local entrepreneurs are often encouraged to “package” their products well to attract European or the “global” markets. And we continue to fill our local markets with imported goods from China and other Asian countries. We run to Vietnam to sign MoU to import rice. We import everything, including toothpicks and cotton buds, while criticising those who use a clean broomstick to remove the bits of food lodged between their teeth and those who use a neat feather to clean their ears. We argue about our need to export more and praise those who sell their products in European and Middle Eastern markets for “breaking” into foreign markets but turn back and call local farmers unpatriotic for taking their goods to Guinea and Liberia to sell.
It is time we reconsider our message to our people. Maybe it is time we encourage farmers to package their produce for local consumption. Maybe, we should turn our markets to those citizens who will never walk into a supermarket to shop. We can only afford to export our food if we have enough to eat at home. And the only investments we should consider increased investment in agriculture are those farms that would make us food sufficient.
And what’s up with this constant talk about this Lungi bridge?
Where is President Bio getting the courage to continue talking about the bridge when it’s not even a near possibility and priority? Doesn’t the President know that the only way to attract foreign investment is to strengthen the local economy through local initiatives? What sober-minded investor will put billions of US dollars in a country where you still can’t provide electricity and water for your people? And instead of looking for investment in the energy and water sector, you crave for the longest bridge in Africa in the darkest country on the continent? Ok Roi des Ponts, continue de rêver.
While the government continues to lie about improving the economy, the massive cost of running businesses in Sierra Leone forces several local businesses to shut down operations. It has caused others to cut the number of staff and their salaries.
It is expected that each time President Bio reads a speech filled with lies, people raise the issue of his speechwriters not doing him justice and leading him to read lies. While this might be true, the real injustice is the lies the President repeatedly tells the people of Sierra Leone. The speechwriters understand the President; they know his attitude and the things that would massage his ego. They write the things he likes. Four years ago, the President began telling lies, and no speechwriter was fired. Like Donald Trump, President Bio’s speechwriters often give him to read what he wants to hear, not what the people of Sierra Leone need to know about the work of their government. And they won’t mind giving him lies to read, even if those lies insult the people.
SIERRA LEONE LEADERS AND MISLEADERS: Time For Some Straight Talking
Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.
–Duc de la Rochefoucauld
Leadership models can be very hard to find in a country that hardly produces heroes but liars, bootlickers and sycophants. Thomas More, beheaded on the orders of Henry VIII in 1535, is today criticised for worldliness and ambition. However, flawed and fallible like the rest of us, he nevertheless died for a principle that was as important then as it is now: power should not be abused.
Who was the leader, Henry or Thomas More? Today, the Machiavellian Henry is remembered for six wives and a frequently wielded axe; More, by contrast, he still inspires people across the political spectrum because he refused to accept that the king could do as he pleased, and that wrong could be made right through legislation. The implications for leaders today are compelling.
Understanding leadership begins with definition, which is problematic given the clutter of opinions. Consider three well-known definitions:
“Leadership inevitably requires using power to influence the thoughts and actions of other people.”
Leadership is provided “by enabling, by teaching, by coaching, and by helping people to excel.”
Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.”
Zaleznik’s definition matches Henry VIII, while Feiner’s would not fit Napoleon. Kotter’s thoughtful contribution might apply to either of those rulers and others. Yet, there are many workplaces where vision, alignment, and inspiration draw commitment from people whose interests are after that violated on the altar of expediency. That is not leadership; it is misleadership.
In leadership development, “To mislead” is the opposite of “to lead”, and the dictionary defines ‘to mislead’ as “to deceive, or to misrepresent reality”; in other words, to lie. If it is true that “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality to oneself and others”, as leaders are challenged to do hundreds of times each day, then to seek personal advantage through dishonesty as most of our people in social positions of trust are doing here in Sierra Leone cannot be leadership.
Leadership stands or falls on personal integrity. We should not even distinguish between good and bad leaders; we should simply distinguish between leadership and misleadership. This approach enables us to understand the concept of leadership more profoundly.
Ironically, Peter Drucker once claimed that Hitler, Mao and Stalin were the only great leaders of the twentieth century. The reality is that quite apart from the misery and destruction wrought by these men, their so-called utopias proved ephemeral. Significantly, Drucker also said that leaders had to have followers. Hitler, Mao and Stalin never had followers – they only had the bribed, the broken, the beguiled, and the bad. Coercion, intimidation, and exploitation are antithetical to leadership.
Teddy Roosevelt believed America “wouldn’t be a good place for anyone unless it was a good place for everyone”. His dictum encapsulates the essence of true leadership: respect for the dignity of all people and the honest dealings that exemplify that respect. This is what is lacking in Sierra Leone after 61 years of independence for the selected few that continue to unleash massive poverty in the lives of the majority.
In the light of these insights, the following definition seems to afford a better understanding of what Sierra Leone should aim for in leadership development:
Leadership inspires people to be the best they can be in mutual pursuit of a better life for all.”
Human imperfection means that no one could ever be the perfect leader in every situation, but we are all capable of instances of great leadership; leadership development is about multiplying those instances. History reveals few true leaders in Sierra Leone, my greatest grandfather Bai Bureh, Joxon Smith, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah etc., but the unrecorded history of ordinary people would reveal many, particularly among parents and teachers.
Leading is less about skills and ability than about attitude and character. Skills and abilities are essential but not sufficient: they can be misused or left unused. Attitudes and character are dynamic qualities determined by personal choice. Sound judgment in one crisis does not preclude the possibility of failure in another. Leadership happens in the present moment and depends on wisdom and character there and then.
Asked to identify the qualities they admire most in leaders, the culturally-diverse participants on my programme always respond the same: integrity, honesty, respect, wisdom, confidence, compassion, vision, courage, perseverance, fairness, humility and self-control. What they all admire are, in the final analysis, the essential qualities of leadership. That’s why self-leadership has to be the first step.
What do young people in Sierra Leone need from the free quality education to survive
Youth development in Sierra Leone has traditionally been viewed as a parallel (and separate) track to education. Our educational reform discourse has erroneously focused on bifurcated debates over achievement vs. opportunity gaps, equity vs. excellence, academics vs. non-academics skills, and college vs. career readiness; rather than focusing on all aspects of learning and development as complementary components to each other. A new report, from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework, calls attention to the need to integrate the knowledge of youth development and education in order to help young people succeed as adults.
The Sierra Leone government must understand that youth development does not happen in isolation. Decades of research, from John Dewey, James Coleman, to Urie Bronfenbrenner, all suggest that context matters and that young people’s development is influenced and impacted by both internal and external environments. In particular, the obstacles young people face in following a successful path to adulthood vary greatly by contextual factors such as poverty and the resources available in their communities.
Thus, as the new developmental framework notes, our definition of young people’s success in Sierra Leone needs to become more inclusive — “that young people can fulfil individual goals and have the agency and competencies to influence the world around them.
The framework asks us to recognise the congruence among diverse learning experiences across settings as critical stepping stones in “helping young people develop an awareness of themselves and of the wide range of options before them, competencies to pursue those options, and the ability to make good future choices for their lives as engaged citizens in the world”.
The framework is consistent with the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Guideposts for Success, which notes that all youth need:
a) access to high-quality standards-based education regardless of setting;
b) information about career options and exposure to the world of work, including structured internships;
c) opportunities to develop social, civic, and leadership skills;
d) strong connections with caring adults;
e) access to safe places to interact with their peers; and
f) support services to allow them to become independent adults.
From the framework report, it’s clear that for young people in Sierra Leone to get the support they deserve, adult beliefs, as well as the systems that guide practice working with young people, need to be reimagined so that youth development and education are seen as inextricably connected. Especially in the era of accountability and standardised assessments, the framework report notes that it is critical that we rethink the systems of practice, focusing attention on building learning organisations where adults and young people can learn, reflect, and grow in safe spaces that encourage continuous development and improvement.
For example, too often we see learning as an isolated experience; however, multi-disciplinary research tells us that young people need to make meaning of their experiences in what Jenny Nagaoka, lead author of the framework, calls the action-reflection cycle of a developmental experience. An action-reflection cycle provides young people with space to both experience a new opportunity and reflects on it in meaningful ways:
Have they enjoyed this new experience?
What aspects did they like or not like, and why?
Did this new experience help them understand a topic or an issue in a deeper way and connect with past experiences?
The action-reflection cycle allows young people to build agency, an integrated identity of who they are today and who they want to be, and to acquire new knowledge, skills, mindsets, and values.
Young people are continuously developing and learning. Thus, they benefit from access to wide-ranging learning opportunities and an array of supports, including strong, authentic relationships with both peers and adults. Young people deserve a holistic approach to learning and development, one that helps prepare them to succeed in college, career, and life. And, for that, we need to take collective responsibility to design and nurture intentional learning spaces where young people feel safe to learn and explore as they develop. As the framework concludes:
“It means asking practitioners to question their own beliefs about what is possible and rethink how they work with young people on a day-to-day basis. It means asking policymakers to focus on a bigger picture and broader set of outcomes and to consider policies that would support the efforts of practitioners in developing our young people. It means asking researchers to provide accessible, meaningful, and actionable answers to core questions of policy and practice. It means asking families to understand the needs of their children and work with the institutions they cross every day so that these needs are met. It means asking for change within existing institutions and structures while also asking what new institutions and structures might better serve our vision”.
Fake Degrees and the Future of the Free Quality Education Program
The free education program launched by Thampèreh’s current Painter is already failing, and, sadly, the same administration that brought the initiative is the biggest contributor to its failure. And one might wonder why lead your flagship program to the ruins just like that.
When the current Palm Tree government launched the free quality education initiative, many questioned its timeliness and the lack of proper planning before its implementation. The administration argued that, as a nation, we’re never fully prepared to kickstart initiatives like this and that “we must leapfrog” to get to where we want to be.
Shortly after its launch, the people of Thampèreh saw a sort of commitment to this initiative as the government increased the nation’s spending on education and allocated more resources to the sector. The spending saw the construction of more schools, increased teachers’ salaries, and provided more training for them. It created a “radical inclusion” scheme that saw an increase in girls’ education and the disabled.
While these are great strives, there are still significant challenges, including overcrowded classrooms, teachers compelling parents to spend even more on education due to the delays, and sometimes the lack of delivery of urgently needed materials for teachers to adequately do their work. And despite the huge budget allocation, quality is also missing in the education provided in most schools and among pupils.
The much bigger problem is the level of dishonesty in dealing with many of the issues surrounding the village’s Free Quality Education. In almost all instances, the Painter is credited for Thampèreh’s positive impact on education in the last forty-eight moon circles but fails to take responsibility for the areas in which his administration failed. Often, the administration blames underperformance by schools on either the teachers, pupils, or parents while taking full credit for, say, a high number of passes nationwide. The Painter and his education Carpenters believe the pathway to a better education system has been set forth, and many of the missing qualities are caused by the beneficiaries – pupils, teachers, and parents, (and other times critiques who don’t want to see the good in this administration).
In addition to the dishonesty, the government also has actions that undermine any possible success of the Free Quality Education. There are several utterances by Dataman, the village’s Carpenter of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education, tying any possible future of Thampèreh’s education to the Painter and making it seem like his contribution to improving the education system is for the Painter and not the village. Despite being a fine Carpenter who has, in some ways, contributed to building better foundations in the education sector, Dataman has already ruled himself out of the possibility of or his willingness to work with any other Painter to continue his current work aside from working with the current Painter. From discussions on radio stations, television, and social media, Dataman has stated several times that Thampèreh’s only hope for a better education system is through the current Painter. Without him, Dataman believes everything will head back to its ruins. This already feels like the Painter and Dataman holding villagers as hostages on education. It’s like there’s no plan for villagers to fully own the program or determine its future together. Everything about the FQE has been tied to the Painter and his Dataman. Instead of the “how do we make the FQE better, how do we sustain it and move it together as a village,” Dataman’s biggest sell is “vote for the Painter if you want your education program to succeed.” What happens if the Painter loses elections? Or what happens if (Astagfurlai aka God forbid) the Painter dies? Then the FQE dies with him? Is there a secret about the FQE’s rollout and implementation that only the Painter knows? Is the Painter and his Datman afraid the villagers will find out something about the program if the Painter loses power?
And what happens if villagers decide to vote him for a second term? Will he ask for a third in other to keep the program running? Then a fourth and a fifth term? Will he be Thampèreh’s lifetime Painter?
Then there is the administration’s silence on the recent fake PhD scandal in Thampèreh, which revealed the lack of seriousness by the Painter’s government in ensuring the village progresses towards achieving quality education and reclaiming its past glory.
For a Painter who prides himself as a champion of quality education yet filled his administration with fake degree holders, and even when caught, he remains silent about it, goes to show that he doesn’t care about putting quality in Thampèreh’s education. Like the overcrowded classrooms and the worrying performance of students in public exams, the Painter craves more for quantity and would therefore endorse fake degree holders if the data shows an increase in the number of people holding Masters, PhDs, and other degrees since he took office.
It is one thing not to crosscheck people’s qualifications when they apply for jobs or get appointed to hold public offices; it is another to remain silent and do nothing about allegations of fake degree holders serving in some of the country’s top and most important institutions.
But through his silence, the Painter is also sending a message.
The silence is the Painter’s direct message to the thousands of students across Thampèreh, telling them to not worry about working hard in school and if they end up getting caught for buying fake results, that he, the Painter, has their backs. It is a message telling pupils to pretend to their parents that they are going to school, and as long they return home with a result, even if it’s fake, their parents and society will accept them.
The Painter’s direct message to parents is that they can buy their children’s way into obtaining any degree of their choice if they have the money to pay. It is a direct message to teachers and school administrators that they can continue extorting money from students and parents and give them certificates they don’t work for or deserve.
Above all, it is a message to the nation that morality and hard work no longer matter, and what counts is money and buying your way through education. The Painter is saying to the villagers that it is okay for citizens to purchase fake titles and still hold top positions like the village’s Inspector General of Police, and the clerk of the People’s House. And even when obtaining those fake qualifications has directly impacted the village’s growth, the Painter is saying it is still okay not to dismiss people or hold them accountable for their role in pulling the village backwards.
The Free Quality Education Program and Thampèreh’s Economy
Thampèreh rushed its Free Quality Education program. Its immediate rollout and implementation caused a massive strain on the village’s economy. And despite the enormous funds generated from donors and education partner institutions to sustain it, the free education program is one of several factors pushing villagers into abject poverty.
Education isn’t free, and free education is expensive.
To implement a free education program such as that of Thampèreh means the village must have an economy strong enough to roll it out and sustain it.
Thampèreh’s possible Painters are good at writing some of the most attractive and promising manifestos. Even though these manifestos may look good, political parties draft them out of the need to appease voters and are not research-based to understand the implications of any proposed policies and programs.
For a village that depends mostly on donor funding, loans, and grants to carry out its major programs such as in health, education, energy, and other sectors, it is economic suicide to roll out a free program like this without any plan to generate domestic revenue and strengthen other sectors.
Education currently takes up the biggest space in the village’s budget. For a village that produces almost nothing and hardly ever exports commodities, this budget allocation caused a massive strain on other sectors. Funds that were meant to serve as a backup to provide subsidies in case of the rising prices of commodities have been pumped into education, thereby pushing citizens to extreme poverty.
Apart from taking up 22% of the village’s budget, the program continues to receive more funding from the Kingdom Group Bank and other partners. Instead of strengthening existing structures, officials heading the program increased their spending by creating more offices and secretariats that are headed by family members and friends.
And even when it is supposedly free, most parents say a chunk of their earnings still goes toward educating their children. The lack of proper preparation caused the system to either delay or insufficiently provided the support needed in most schools. Administrators had to devise other ways to generate funds from parents to run their schools. This is coupled with the massive corruption in schools due to the poor management of the village’s education system.
Then there is the use of data as the yardstick for the impact of the FQE program.
Like Tony Blair said, “when you make decisions for millions, you need to always think about those affected as individual people, not statistics.”
Dataman is currently piloting the free education program. His biggest obsession is data, and even when villagers point out some of the lapses that might cause the program to fail, his response has always been “… but this is what the data says.” This is problematic in so many ways. Data doesn’t speak for people; instead, it speaks for institutions. And because institutions often provide statistics that put them in a better spotlight, the measure of the FQE’s success should be its impact on the individual people it is meant to serve.
Dataman must have a keen and genuine interest in people, actual people, and not just data or numbers. He must begin to concern himself with the impact of the FQE on every citizen, the individual people, and not how it brings changes to the numbers or data he so badly craves for. Even when dehumanization isn’t deliberate, using mere numbers or data to represent the impact or progress made on people rather than focusing on their individual stories and how their lives have changed by the FQE, in many ways, is inhumane to the children who just want to go to school and have a better life. And to the teachers whose only dream is to transfer knowledge to children and breed the future leaders of this village.
It is better to have one child access quality education with a better future than to provide poor education to ten children and change numbers with almost no prospect of a better future. The village cannot run its education system like a polygamous home where most fathers would prefer to have as many children as possible because they are not sure which of the children would benefit them. Instead of having that type of gambling, the focus should be to have lesser children and progress from there.
Therefore, instead of flooding classrooms causing overcrowding, or building new structures without properly refurbishing existing ones, the program should have first strengthened existing systems and built on that success because data will only make education attractive to donors. The children of Thampèreh must see the program’s impact on other children around them before feeling attracted to it.
And villagers must begin to look at or ask where all the funding is going and whether it is funding the children and schools or funding corruption.
Let’s face it. Everyone is mad in Thampèreh. It sounds funny, but it’s true. The village has a problem with madness, and many have admitted this several times in the presence of friends, relatives, and even in public.
And if you are from Thampèreh and reading this now, you are also mad. Or you were mad at some point in your life. Not true?
What about that day in school when you told your classmate, “Ar go show you say ar crase pass you” after he tore your notebook? Or what about that time when your friend or brother accused you of something you didn’t do, and you replied, “nor mix me pan u crase”? Felt like you have a different type of madness.
Whether different or identical, people manifest their madness in several different ways, and that has been okay. But a few moons ago, Thampèreh’s recent most famous crase man, Blacka, was in hot water. It appeared he stepped on the wrong toes, and someone thought it was time to show him who was madder.
Even though his arrest’s circumstances have been sketchy, rumours have it that he insulted the village’s Painter. And when one of his aides informed him about Blacka’s insults, the Painter immediately said, “ar go show Blacka say ar crase pass arm” and ordered his arrest.
Another theory is that the case was an isolated one, and it was the judge who said he would show Blacka who’s madder after Blacka sealed his lips with his fingers and refused to speak up in court.
The competition to prove “Udat crase pass e kompin” in Thampèreh is getting interesting so much that the courts, through its injustice system, don’t want to be left behind.
The ministry of health and sanitation recently refurbished the former Kissy Crase yard and transformed it into a decent psychiatric facility to provide services on mental health and its related illnesses. It is an important step in the village’s efforts to curb mental health problems, provide decent treatment to patients and move away from the old ways of locking up and chaining patients in prison-like rooms.
But the village’s police and courts believe the Kissy Psychiatric Teaching Hospital isn’t good enough, and the wisest thing to do is to send all certified crase men and women to prison for corrective purposes. Because that’s how you show a mad man Udat crase pass e kompin.
61 YEARS of SIERRA LEONE INDEPENDENCE - NO FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR THE MAJORITY
When we celebrate Independence Day every year on the 27th of April, we must not feel proud of how Sierra Leone achieved its Independence. The story of how Sierra Leone attained Independence is not epic in itself, revolving around self-centred people that lacked sacrifice for the nation and a passion for genuine positive change in the lives of all nationals. An example of their actions was to immediately kill patriots within the independence team that disagreed with their extremely dangerous idea of marginalising the majority after Independence to enrich their greedy desires and plunge fellow nationals’ lives into continuous death and destruction. (Real patriots that were committed to the cause of effecting genuine positive change were eliminated from the so-called system)
If being Independence and having leaders means effecting peaceful, positive change to impact the lives of the majority as per national resources and move their lives out of the past and current miserable standard of living; then it’s comfortable for us to say Sierra Leone isn’t an Independence State and we have No true leader in Sierra Leone, but clean rogues parading around looted wealth as rulers at the expense of the majority since the day our political exploiters went to our former Colonial Masters and asked for independence.
The only genuine Independence politicians and Sierra Leoneans at large can boast of is to have an intelligent economic development with a well-fed, healthy and literate population. As it stands, our past and current politicians are totally out of touch with this reality and concentrate on enriching themselves at the expense of the suffering majority.
Leadership is not a selection basket where a leader can say I have done this, so I must leave the rest. It’s a basket of scores of social problems which the leaders did aware of and entered into a social agreement with the people that he’s going to tackle the social challenges in the country. So Sierra Leone political rulers masquerading as leaders must stop shifting the goal post after being appointed by the people. After all, where’s the integrity when they behave in such a manner?
Where is the Independence and leadership from our appointed politicians and others occupying social positions of trust when the majority of our nationals continue to drown in the massive poverty you continue to inflict in their lives via your inadequate leadership qualities that only cater for the selected few at the expense of the majority? This isn’t about the President alone. It’s about everyone in a social position of trust exhibiting his nationalistic sense of purpose by using their leadership qualities for the good of all nationals to gain true independence that will walk us all out of the current politically well-orchestrated abject poverty inflicted against the majority. Sierra Leone is seriously suffering from leadership problems on all fronts.
All people deserve freedom. Yet, freedom is not just political or for the selected few who have teamed up to destroy the country. Real freedom is freedom from poverty, illiteracy, disease, addictions, environmental pollution, terror, crime, corruption and discrimination.
Sierra Leone’s poverty is rooted in an unfair economic system. Understanding Sierra Leone and understanding the whole context surrounding the crisis the country has been through before, in and after the eleven years of civil war, Ebola, and the COVID-19 global pandemic; is crucial to deciphering the problems of the country’s poverty. From the origins of colonisation to corruption, indirect tribal tensions, regional and ethnic issues, sycophancy, bootlicking, and selective justice. All are the impact of poor leadership.
Overall evidence suggests that the scale of poverty in Sierra Leone continues to worsen despite investments in poverty alleviation. In this analysis new approach to our politicians and other people in social positions of trust is suggested, based on lessons derived from past and current experience: since the independence till date, it has been clear that the majority of our political leaders and others in social positions of trust are totally dishonest or are lacking a well equipped participatory and environmentally sustainable growth strategy in their DNAs based on poverty alleviation, with the mobilisation to sincerely tackle the poverty they continue to inflict in our people at its core deliberately. This is evident in their actions toward the people of Sierra Leone; as our past and current political leaders and others in social positions of trust cannot genuinely assist in the design and implementation of salient strategies that will address the issues of the poverty they continue to create and sustain through their actions in our country.
FROM INDEPENDENCE TO INTERDEPENDENCE.
In today’s Sierra Leone, political freedom does not translate into financial independence for the majority, but only for the selected few plus bootlickers and sycophants dancing around the government. The order of the day has changed to interdependence. Political parties, economic injustice, regions, greed and status divide us. Still, when the borders in our hearts melt, Sierra Leone will attain real freedom; freedom from war, terror, manmade poverty, injustice, illiteracy, economic freedom and prejudices. Finding fake unity in diversity and moving together is the way ahead with the realisation that Sierra Leone is one.
We depend on others for almost everything. It is not possible to gain complete individual independence in the outside world. But internally, we can feel a sense of independence at the level of thoughts, feelings and emotions with correct leadership. Something Sierra Leone is truly lacking since its independence to date.
To usher in a real freedom, we need to take a multi-pronged approach. All facets of our social, political and spiritual systems need to be addressed.
GIVE THEM A DREAM
It is important to raise the self-esteem of our youth. Of course, we need to empower them academically and financially, but at the same time, we have to give them a vision. (This is what the current SLPP government of President Julius’ Maada Bio is lacking. Youth empowerment must not only come from the “Yes Sir faction” of President Bio and the few concreting the cracks within his system; it must cut across in a number of tangible ways from our political leaders and others in social positions of trust. And for the past, the APC government had nothing to write home about as far as youth empowerment was concerned. All their empowerment for youth was only in papers). People who have a vision or a dream usually do a lot to develop their societies. A person becomes motivated to do something, either to fulfil a need or realise a dream. Our youth should have a dream, a strong vision about the country, the State or the village. We must educate them, skill them, and enable them to build their future and realise their dreams. At least to stop the spreading of the current sycophantic acts around the present-day youth in Sierra Leone, thereby enabling them to positively use their youthfulness in sustainable economic growth and efficiently eradicate poverty in Sierra Leone.
SHOW THEM A NEW HIGH
Drug abuse and alcoholism are two of the major problems the country faces. (Our politicians are not particularly bordered about it at all). They ruin human lives and degrade a nation and its civilisation. Alcoholism is a key factor in poverty in Sierra Leone, as most of the earnings are spent on buying liquor. It also renders many unproductive. It is also the source of many heinous crimes in the country. Most stabbings and many other crimes happened under the influence of alcohol!
Spirituality and education are two powerful tools that can change Sierra Leone. Spiritual values will make our youth see a bigger meaning of life and seek alternatives kicks in life!
THE HAPPINESS EQUATION
We have to create a better Sierra Leone and a better society for our children and future generations with no sense of separation in terms of classes and leave this country (Sierra Leone) in a more prosperous state than it is right now. We should not leave behind a society that is suffering from fear, injustice, poor education and corruption, poor health facilities, poor electricity supply, and poor pipe-borne water. We have to take responsibility for strong, self-reliant Sierra Leone and upgrade the value for money in our national expenditures.
The time has come for us to wake up and take responsibility. Take out one hour every day for our society, your country, starting today. If you are busy on weekdays, take out time on the weekends. Dedicate time to society. It will not only do good for society but also give you a source of inner joy, unlimited happiness!
We can really be free when only we have a progressive society, and everyone is happy.