Category Archives: Leadership

NonRoaring Lionesses of Salone: The silence of women perpetuates their marginalization

Lionesses roar to mark their territory, call their cubs and send messages to would-be attackers. In other words, lionesses roar to communicate their stance and prowess to those within and outside their environment.

Not the lionesses in the pride of Mama Salone; women in Sierra Leone continue to silently endure marginalization, as one leader hands the country over to another.

As advocates and activists for girls and women in Mama Salone, one of the main factors we attribute to women’s silence and reluctance to call out injustices against their lot, is the society’s heavy-handedness in treating women who attempt to speak out and voice their stance on women’s issues.

Photo Source: Animalia-Life

Photo source: Animalia-Life.Club

If you are a Sierra Leonean who has not recently been called ‘imprudent, impatient and unrealistic,’ then you have not criticized President Bio’s slow pace to appoint women; which is in utter disregard for his campaign promise to bring change for women.

Every time the topic of Mr. Bio’s shortfall in appointing women comes up, ‘self-appointed defense ministers’ would quickly attack you, throwing at you all the words in the dictionary that describe you as ‘irrational,’ especially by people whose friends or family members are appointed.

The main justification usually given is that Mr. Bio’s government is too new to be assessed. But Mr. Bio, whose inauguration took place on May 12, 2018, has not put off appointing his political, financial and familial sponsors and supporters to key positions; including his friends, wives of his friends and friends of his wife.

Mr. Bio (Right) and his predecessor Mr. Koroma (left)

Mr. Bio (Right) and his predecessor Mr. Koroma (left)

Recently, we have seen many newspapers and social media postings, by disgruntled members of Mr. Bio’s Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) members, who have been complaining about Mr. Bio’s disregard for many of the active members of his party. Mr. Bio is allegedly not on speaking terms with some of the top officials of his party after his victory. Advocates have been urging him to consider appointing some of them.

Mr. Bio campaigned on a promise of a New Direction; however, there is nothing new about the direction of his appointment pattern for women. His predecessors appointed women to cabinet position on similar patterns. Mr. Bio is disregarding even the women in his party, who were the grassroots lifeblood for his victory.

Nonetheless, discord between Mr. Bio and his party is not our concern, as we are focused on women’s situation. We bring this issue up, however, to illustrate how other segments of society freely speak up when they believe they have been slighted, and how they advocate for their lot.

Not the marginalized women of Sierra Leone. There are hardly any newspaper or social media postings complaining about Mr. Bio’s scorn of women in his appointments; nor are there any concerted effort to push for women’s appointments generally.

Taking Mr. Bio’s pattern of appointment as a sign, he has so far failed to show his commitment to being the change he wants to see for women. With his colossal failure to set the right pace for women through his appointments, it is now up to women of Salone to take proactive democratic actions to change Mr. Bio’s not so new direction.

Otherwise, for the next five years, women will remain voiceless and continue to languish, in a country best known for high illiteracy among women, high rate of teen pregnancy, high rate of maternal and infant mortalities and the lowest representation of women in government, leadership, and non-agricultural labor force.

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President Bio Appoints 12 Men and 2 Women to Cabinet

Sierra Leone’s new President, Julius Maada Bio, has started appointing members of his cabinet. As promised, Mama Salone is paying close attention to the gender mix of this administration. The Press Release indicates that more appointments will be following soon.

Meanwhile, out of 14 appointments, only 2 are women, so far. Since this is just the beginning, we are hoping that Mr. Bio will do better than his predecessor, Mr. Koroma of the opposition APC party, whose first full cabinet of 21 members consisted of only 3 women.

Even though this is just the beginning for President Bio, and we do want to remain positive, we cannot help but feel that 2 out of 14 is not an impressive start.

President Ahmed Tejan Kabba of the SLPP, who was replaced by the APC President Koroma, was not much of a friend to women in his appointments either. His first full cabinet of 25 members consisted of only 2 women. Pathetic!

Is President Bio heading down the same path as his predecessors of both parties in his cabinet appointments? Is he going to change this misogynistic trend in the cabinet and administrative appointments by Sierra Leone presidents?

Time will tel!

 

An Open Letter to Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio: Our Nation is a Half-Baked Cake Without Women’s Contribution

Contributed by Fatima (Wahab) Babih

Photo credit: nairaland.com

Congratulations Your Excellency, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, on becoming president of the Republic of Sierra Leone!

Mama Salone Blog wishes to express our utmost respect for you and sincere support of your leadership. May the Almighty bless our nation with abundant Peace. May He guide and protect you every step of the way. And May He guide your leadership decisions as you rule our beloved country in the next five years or beyond!!

Mama Salone Blog may not be on the band wagon with many of our compatriots whose way of showing patriotism is by glorifying you, before you even get the chance to tackle the smallest of our national issues. Rest assured, however, that Mama Salone Blog will commend you whenever your performance deserves it.

Mr. President, as the election dust settles, and the reality of governing a nation with dire challenges sets in, we hereby take this opportunity to call your attention to girls’ and women’s issues in our beloved country.

Mr. President, as you well know, a little over half of our country’s population is female (51%). But majority (63%) of this better half of the nation is illiterate and absent in the non-agricultural labor force and national governance.

This means that you have inherited a nation in which a huge percentage of its vital human capital is unable to contribute meaningfully to the development of our nation.

You are also no stranger to the fact that women in our country are perishing every day in the performance of the most natural of their human function in society, childbirth.

Our maternal mortality rate is so high (1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births) that our country has been labeled by international media as the worst place in the world to be a pregnant woman.

You are also aware, Mr. President, that the majority of our girls (over 60%) do not complete senior secondary school, that a high number of our adolescent girls (68%) succumb to early pregnancy, and that a high number of pregnant adolescent girls are dying in childbirth (40% of maternal deaths in the country).

To make matters worst, a huge number of our girls (52%) are married before the age of 18.

From the perspective of Mama Salone Blog, these problems are tantamount to national crisis, no less devastating to the nation than disease outbreaks and natural disasters.

Mr. President, would you eat a half-baked cake?

 

Given its current deplorable condition, if our country were a cake, Mr. President, it would be a half-baked cake because of the incapacity of women to fully partake in its development, due to the systemic gender discrimination in our society.

As we are sure you would not eat a half-baked cake, so is our assurance that there could never be true socioeconomic progress for Sierra Leone, until girls and women attain equal opportunity to develop their capacity and fully contribute in nation-building.

In Mama Salone Blog’s view, the gravest crime committed by your predecessors, (both APC & SLPP administrations), is their neglect of issues affecting girls and women in our country.

Your predecessors failed girls and women woefully; they did not treat women’s issues as national priorities. Instead, your predecessors paid lip service by enacting toothless laws and policy instruments that were never effected. At the end of the day, your predecessors left women and girls in worse conditions than they found them.

As you can see Mr. President, the majority of girls and women in our country have endured a dreadful existence for decades, due to actions and inaction of your predecessors.

But make no mistakes, Mr. President, our Salone women are some of the most intelligent, resourceful, capable and resilient human beings you could ever find anywhere in the world. With beauty and grace to boost!

We are quite sure you will agree with us, especially since you know very well that you could not have won this election without the massive effort of women. Even though the surface of your campaign was male dominated, we all know that women were the grassroots foot soldiers that maintained the lifeline of your campaign. Not even illiteracy could stand in their way.

Mr. President, girls and women are not asking for charity or handout from you or anyone else. All they need from you is to level the playing field, by empowering them through education, healthcare and equal chances in national governance.

Mr. President, it is a moral imperative for you to shift the paradigm for women in Sierra Leone, so that our national cake could be fully baked for all to enjoy.

We believe in the honor system; therefore, Mr. President, we are putting our trust in your words, as expressed during your campaign and in your Manifesto (New Direction). We know that you have the ability to right many of the wrongs your processors inflicted on girls and women in our country. We have faith in your willingness to make good on your promise to take, not only the nation, but the trajectory of girls and women of Sierra Leone in a “New Direction.”

On this note, Mr. President, Mama Salone Blog will, henceforth, pay close attention to your decisions, actions, inaction, and general treatment of socioeconomic, civil, political, and other relevant issues pertaining to the welfare and empowerment of girls and women in the Land That We Love.

Once more, Congratulations president bio!

May the Almighty guide you and

may he bless Sierra Leone!!

 

References

Maternal deaths in Sierra Leone

Girls out of school in Sierra Leone 

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SALONE ELECTIONS 2018:THE MAKING OF A DEMIGOD

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Regardless of who wins the March 27, 2018 presidential runoff in Sierra Leone (Salone), a demigod will be sworn in on inauguration day. After spending five weeks in Salone and observing activities at the height the 2018 election campaign season, … Continue reading

Gallery

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

This gallery contains 3 photos.

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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709 Carat Gem On Bid in Sierra Leone