Category Archives: WOMEN

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Salone Cabinet Ministers: Are they STAKEHOLDERS or STICK-HOLDERS?

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In a recent post on social media, one group of Sierra Leoneans who had scheduled a meeting for dialogue on social issues were criticized for inviting cabinet ministers and other unelected officials. Some of the ministers invited were widely viewed … Continue reading

ACC Arrests Teachers and Students for Alleged Examination Fraud: WAEC Finds the Perfect Scapegoats

It is by no coincidence that having been in the hot sits recently about corrupt practices, the Sierra Leone branch of the West African Examination Council (WAEC), with the help of the country’s “corruption czar” Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), has now found the perfect scapegoats to divert negative attention from the agency.

It is unfortunate that instead of truly looking into WAEC malpractices that are dumbing down generations and hurting the entire education system in the country, the ACC, as usual, has stepped in to pick on the little fish in order to shield and protect the big fish in the pond.

Just a few weeks ago, during the National Primary School Examinations (NPSE), exam questionnaires were being re-used because there were not enough printed for the number of students who showed up to take the exam. Instead of each student receiving a clean exam questionnaire, they had to take turns; one set of students waits for the other to complete the exam so they could use the questionnaires.

When WAEC was confronted with this issue, the agency and its partner, the Ministry of Education, went on the defensive on every media outlet that would give them the time.

WAEC officials were claiming to have been instructed by the Ministry of Education to administer the exam to each and every student who shows up on the day of the exam, with no exceptions. According to WAEC, this meant that students did not have to be on the registration roster to be allowed to take the exam.

This argument is totally contradictory to the WAEC requirement that students who take national and sub-regional exams must pre-register weeks or months before the exams. Exam questionnaires and other materials are then ordered by WAEC based on the number of students who register for each exam. This is the logical procedure.

However, WAEC Sierra Leone claims to have ordered exam questionnaires based on the number of students who registered for the NPSE. The agency even claims to have ordered a surplus number of questionnaires for the exam. But, according to WAEC, school officials, especially from rural school districts, had failed to register their students accordingly. And that those unregistered students showed up for the exam anyway.

STUDENTS IN A PRIMARY CLASSROOM

Thus, WAEC blames the shortage of questionnaires on thousands of unregistered students showing up on the day of the exam. And because of their agreement with the Ministry not to turn any child away on exam day, WAEC officials claim they had no choice but to re-use exam questionnaires to accommodate the influx of unregistered exam takers.

We find this to be a very crafty excuse, which in our view, is WAEC’s and the Ministry’s way of dodging responsibility for their failings. So the truth will never be known about why WAEC did not have enough exam materials; worst of all, WAEC officials have no incentive to correct their malpractices because they could always put the blame on others.

It is sad that corrupt agencies and their officials have mouthpieces that speak for them in the media, spread their nefarious falsehoods, which we find very insulting to the people’s intelligence. Conversely, the people on whom all the blames are being dumped have no mouthpieces to speak for them.

ACC alleges to have arrested teachers and students in response to a ” a tip off.” That the teachers had acted as “examiners” during the exam and were marking the exams when they were arrested. Our questions:

  • Should this tip-off have gone to ACC or WAEC officials for action?
  • Why are teachers who are “Examiners” also marking exams?
  • Do WAEC officials supervise the examiners and markers?
  • Why are teachers who act as “examiners” also allowed to mark those exams?
  • Who does it benefit when “perpetrators” are so dramatically arrested by ACC?
  • When did cheating on exams become an arrestable offence in Sierra Leone?

We believe that the so-called tip-off was nothing but a concerted effort to find scapegoats in order to allay negative attention that has been swirling over WAEC recently. These arrests also show that WAEC and the Ministry of Education are not intending to do what it takes to clean up their malpractices. The same people they are failing to serve, the students and teachers of Sierra Leone, to whom they provide no resource support, are the same people they prey on as scapegoats to cover up their corruption.

ACC further alleges that the teachers were found marking exams in a secret location where students had been invited to retake the exam upon paying a fee the teachers charged.

This shows a fundamental flaw in WAEC’s practices. As the agency that administers all exams, it should actively supervise all exams and examiners, in order to maintain integrity of their agency, the exams and the education system. Can WAEC explain…

  • Why teachers who act as examiners are the same who mark the exams?
  • Were the “said teachers” marking the exams outside the proper protocol?
  • Why are WAEC officials not being arrested for not properly supervising exam marking?

ACC apparently “raided” the location where the teachers had been marking the exams and claim to have found five students retaking the exam at the time of their arrest. This is a very illogical strategy and warrants many questions:

  • How does this dramatic raid impact all the exams that were being marked in that location?
  • Were there any WAEC officials at the location where exams were being marked?
  • What was found in the raid that amounted to the arrestable offense?

ACC officials further claim to have arrested the landlord of the premises along with the teachers and students and are keeping them in custody as the investigations ensue.

This is another fundamental flaw in the WAEC system. Is there no standard rule on where exams could be marked? In this case, the landlord is being dragged into the case to make it more dramatic. If WAEC has rules and regulations on where exams can be conducted, then it must also have rules and regulations on where those exams can be marked and under whose supervision.

If there are such rules, then it should be standard procedure for exams that are not conducted and marked under prescribed  procedures be systematically rejected by WAEC. This would reduce the incentive and opportunity for corruption.

ACC claims to have made the arrest as a move to improve the integrity of the education system. This could not be farther from the truth.

We argue that the arrests were part of the ACC’s modus operandi. Whenever a government institution, official or some other big fish is caught red handed in corrupt practices, such as WAEC has been caught recently, the ACC makes a dramatic arrest of a scapegoat, which puts the issue on the back burner of public discussions and life goes on. Meanwhile, the real criminals continue their shady activities in even more reprehensible ways.

A TYPICAL PRIMARY SCHOOL CLASSROOM

The issue of rich and influential people using their wealth and power to give unfair advantages to their not-so-bright sons, daughters, nieces and nephews, is an age old problem in Sierra Leone. This has robbed many bright people of their rights to quality education and loss of many other benefits that are supposed to be based on merit. University scholarships and study abroad scholarships have always been funneled to students with social and political connections, regardless of their academic standings.

ACC does not help the children and youth of Sierra Leone by helping WAEC shift blame onto teachers and students, who may or may not be innocent. It would serve the education system better if WAEC would systematically condemn exams that are conducted or marked outside of proper procedures. This would reduce the incentive for fraud and eliminate opportunities for rogue teachers to sell exams.

Mama Salone is by no means condoning fraud or malpractices by faculty and staff in the school systems of Sierra Leone. We believe that there should be a consistent and systematic process of exposing and expelling faculty and staff who are found to be involved in fraudulent activities in the schools.

 

Dramatically arresting teachers and students is not the solution!

 

News sources:

AWOKO Sierra Leone News

Sierra Leone Telegraph

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WAKE UP SALONE YOUTH: YOU ARE BEING “KICKED NOT STUMBLED OVER” BY POLITICIANS

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General elections are slated to take place in Sierra Leone on March 7, 2018. The whole country is abuzz now with an onslaught of candidates crawling out of the woodwork. Several of the 2018 contenders are hoping to become standard-bearers … Continue reading

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709 Carat Gem On Bid in Sierra Leone

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A message for Hawa Kamara: Miss Universe, Sierra Leone 2016.

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You were given the cause to post a video in response to the pornographic video put out on social media to malign you. Keep smiling girl, it looks good on you!! Without seeing the maligning video, it is nonetheless obvious … Continue reading

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Giant Diamond Found in Sierra Leone: Jubilation or Tribulation?

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The biggest news out of Sierra Leone for the past couple of days has been the discovery of a giant diamond, which the Sierra Leone State House describes as a  706 carat diamond. This precious stone was found by a … Continue reading

Zainab Kamara: Crippled NOT Disabled

By Fatima Babih

Having been in Sierra Leone for the past four weeks, wearing various proverbial hats, one of them as President of the Ansarul Alumni Association, my secondary school Alma mater. In this capacity, I had to visit a few of the many schools that are managed by our school’s Mission around the country.

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By mid last week, I had visited schools in Bo (South), Kono (East) and Freetown (West). Next on my list was a school in a town called Mile 91 (North). This is the town where Zainab Kamara lives. She is the crippled woman whose video story went viral a couple of weeks earlier. Since then, women on my DIAMONDS Women’s whatsapp forum had sent me messages encouraging me to look for her while in Sierra Leone. After finally being able to watch the video, I too grew interest in seeing her, but did not quite know how.

On Thursday, October 13, 2016, the day of my visit to the school in Mile 91, I toured with the vice principal, spoke to an assembly of students, and to faculty and administrators, as I do on all my visits. At the end of my tour, I asked whether anyone could show me where the famous Zainab Kamara lives in this town. I was then told that one of her daughters is a student at this very school. What a Blessing! I was then given permission to see her.

Shortly after, a beautiful, pleasant and neatly dressed young lady came to greet me. Hawanatu and I had a nice brief discussion, as she had to return to class. She assured me her mother and siblings are doing well. I asked whether she needed school fees, she informed me that she has been given a scholarship by an NGO, One Girl Salone. She explained that this organization has paid her tuition for the year, provided her with books, uniform and other school supplies.

I then encouraged her to make good use of this scholarship and any other opportunities she gets, to stay in school, study hard and make her mother proud by becoming a professional woman in the future. I made this shy 15-year-old blush in the presence of her vice principal when I asked her to promise not to get involved with men or get pregnant like most girls are doing these days. She promised me she would not and would stay and finish school.

Then I told her that I would like to enroll her into the DIAMONDS Girls Circle, a program of our nonprofit organization Girls LEAD Change, Inc., which works to help adolescent girls in disadvantaged communities combat negative societal trends, such as teenage pregnancy. Sierra Leone has one of the highest incidents of teenage pregnancy, even though many NGOs are offering scholarships to increase the number of girls in school, a high number of girls drop out of school daily due to pregnancy. Girls LEAD Change is trying to reverse this trend so that girls could reach their highest potential.

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I arrived and parked a distance away from Zainab’s place, as there is no auto road to her house. I sent word to her. She quickly appeared down the road to receive me; in the typical way a Sierra Leonean receives a long lost relative, very warm and welcoming. She invited me to her house and led the way. She offered me a sit and we talked like sisters. I was concerned about hers and her children’s health. She assured me there were no issues of chronic illnesses; except for occasional bouts with malaria and the common cold, they were all doing well.

We talked about the challenges she is facing with the small house in which she and her children live. She talked about Umaru Fofanah and others who were trying to help her with this issue. She introduced her two sons who had just returned from school, the boisterous and polite boys greeted me with big smiles.

I told Zainab I had just met her older daughter who attends one of my alma mater in town. I told her how the women in my organization and I felt it was important for me to meet her in person so we could have an ongoing relationship henceforth. Which she welcomed. I asked for her permission to enroll her daughter in our DIAMONS Girls program. She happily approved.

With Zainab on her porch

Zainab & Fatima

Of course, our discussion led to her famous garden. She gladly took me round, showing me the various fruits and vegetables she is growing. I asked whether she sells them. She told me she does not, that she shares her harvests with her family, friends and neighbors. She also said that thieves take a lot of them. She pointed to the banana tree near her kitchen, which had no fruits on it because thieves had plucked off the bunch the night before, probably to sell. These thieves are obviously able-bodied individuals with functioning legs, eyes, arms, etc., stealing what a crippled woman had labored to plant.

As we were saying our goodbyes and passing the garden near her house, I expressed admiration for the huge garden eggs. She asked if I liked garden eggs? I told her I did very much and was planning to buy some at the next junction on my way to Freetown. Right away she started plucking garden eggs for me. Before long, Zainab was sending me off with two small bags of garden eggs. Who is the “disabled” woman now? I do not think I could survive long if I had to maintain a garden in order to eat.

On my way to see her, I thought I was visiting a crippled “disabled” woman. After our visit, however, her physical deformity was no longer prominent in my thoughts about her. Instead, I remember a gracious hostess who infused me with the human spirit; she made every effort to make me feel comfortable in her home and did not want me to leave empty handed. At no moment during my visit did I feel that Zainab wanted anything from me. An epitome of the Sierra Leonean women I grew up with, she reminded me so much of my grandmother, MaBatu (Habibatu Swaray), God rests her soul, in whose home no guest slept hungry; regardless of what time they arrived.

Zainab is passionate about her garden, which serves not only to feed her family, but also as a way for her to give to others as best as she could. This amazing woman is a positive reminder that no matter our situation in life, we must strive to sustain ourselves and maintain our dignity as human beings by using whatever physical and mental ability with which we are endowed.

I therefore do not see Zainab Kamara as “disabled,” despite her crippled condition. Rather, I see her as “disadvantaged.”  A woman with no legs to walk with and no formal education, in a country where you are already at a disadvantage as a woman; the odds are stacked against Zainab and other women with physical and mental disabilities in Sierra Leone. There are no dignified provisions by her government and society, for her to maintain her household and raise her children. She has chosen to do so by using her hands, brain and God-given talent, to function in a society where people in her condition often become beggars in the streets.

Zainab's Kittens

Zainab’s Kittens

This phenomenal woman does not need handouts from us; instead, she needs us to lend a hand in helping her do better what she has already been doing to sustain her family.

To avoid duplication of efforts, we are supporting Umaru Fofanah’s lead in helping to secure financial resources for Zainab and her children. He is a reputable Sierra Leonean journalist and BBC reporter who has taken interest in Zainab’s story.  He has set up a trust fund for her in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. For now, we encourage members of our DIAMONDS Women’s forum, Mama Salone readers and the general public to please give Zainab a hand by donating to her trust funds.

Thank you in advance & May Almighty God Reward your Generosity!!

As time goes on, we will share information on other ways of helping and we welcome any ideas of how best we can support this dignified phenomenal woman, Zainab Kamara of Mile 91, Sierra Leone.

Here is the Trust Fund information culled from Umaru Fofanah’s Politico article:

Domestic Contributions:

Account Name:  Zainab Kamara Trust Fund

Account No.: 210-049-956-01

Union Trust Bank

Freetown, Sierra Leone

International Contributions:

Account No.: 210-049-956-01

Swift Code: UTBSSLFR

Intermediary Bank: Ghana International 

1 st Floor, 10 Old Broad Street

London EC2 N1DW

United Kingdom

Swift Code: GHIBGB2L 

Reference

http://www.politicosl.com/articles/make-her-walk-again-how-help-disabled-single-mother-four