Dying for the right to be educated in Sierra Leone – Alie Kabba Speaks

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 March 2017

As so often the case in Sierra Leone in the past twelve months, there is only one consistent voice of outrage in defence of the poor and oppressed people of Sierra Leone, whose lives are being cut short by those elected to serve them – either through corruption, neglect or the rampant abuse of power, including the use of lethal weapons.

That voice of opposition and reasoning is Alie Kabba. There has never been a crisis in the country that has not moved Alie Kabba to speak out, while other political leaders are far too busy feathering their own nests.

Once again, as people across the country mourn the death of a young student yesterday, after he was gunned down in cold blood by the police during student protests, Alie Kabba has raised his head from the parapet to voice out his deep resentment of injustice.

This is his reaction to yesterday’s gunning down of those defenseless students in Sierra Leone.

There is no doubt that Sierra Leoneans, across all political divides, are deeply disturbed at the tragic turn of events yesterday as students of Njala University protested the indefinite closure of their institution of higher leaning.

We are all rightly outraged and in a state of shock as news of dead and wounded student protesters emerged from clashes with the police.

My heart goes out to every single person who has been affected, in any way, by this brutal assault on basic freedoms.

No student deserves to be shot dead or wounded in the quest for education.

In spite of the deafening lip service that the current government constantly mouths out on “the importance of education”, it is heart-wrenching to see what is actually happening to our academic institutions.

A country that once prided itself as the flying flag on anything educational in Africa has now become a regional academic slob and a huge continental joke.

After months of running everywhere, from their campuses to government ministries and State House, in search of a sympathetic listening ear, students of Njala University decided to come out in public and cry a little louder, hoping for someone in government to notice the pain they have felt for so long.

But this should never have happened. Those students should be in their classrooms and research labs preparing for the future –  the future of our nation.

Our educational institutions should never be so callously starved of funds and left to crumble under the aegis of wanton criminal neglect.

University education is a crucial pillar of our national developmental structure. It is the building block out of which we should produce the enlightened and trained workforce to ignite the engine of sustainable development.

A few decades ago, we led mass student demonstrations against one-party dictatorship of Siaka Stevens to uphold the ideals of democracy and good governance.

Today, the students are protesting for their very survival – for the right to be students. Alas, the painful fact is that the greedy and corrupt political class has no priorities outside of personal accumulation of wealth.

It is worse than scandalous to see that a country that can boast of such a rich foundation of natural resources should still be crawling in such deplorable layers of deprivation.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans, the current student protest is not just “a dispute between students and the government.” It is a call for action on the things that should matter to everyone in the country.

I want to add my voice, in strong solidarity with all the suffering students of our nation, to call upon the government to address the long festering problems afflicting Njala University as an urgent national priority.

Government must pay Njala University staff their overdue salaries, release all detained protesters, and ensure that the students go back to classrooms that are safe and worthy of our lofty ideals. Anything less is an unacceptable travesty.

My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Mohamed Morlu, the young man whose name has now been added to the long list of victims who lost their lives for doing the right thing — protesting injustice and callous indifference to the plight of the vulnerable.

For them and future generations, let’s continue the forward march to build a Sierra Leone in which no one will have to die for the right to education.

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