Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 January 2021:
First it was Minister of Lands – Dennis Sandy dispossessing the Krios of Freetown of their land – an illegal policy that continues to today. Then Sandy last month is believed to have turned his wrath on the Board of Governors of the Sierra Leone Grammar School, in an attempt to seize and hand over land belonging to the school to ruling SLPP party operatives. (Photo above: Prince Of Wales School – Classroom in Science Block after recent refurbishment).
Today, the Sierra Leone Telegraph has learnt that some senior members of the SLPP leadership
, including the vice president, the speaker of parliament and the secretary general of the ruling SLPP party, are behind attempts to overturn a decision of the Board of the Prince of Wales School in Freetown – not to appoint Mr Francis Gegbai – a ruling SLPP party patron as Principal of the school.
Many in Sierra Leone, especially in the Krio community are now feeling very wary, and of the view that there is a concerted and co-ordinated SLPP party policy, aimed at disenfranchising the Krios, in every sphere of public leadership and public life in favour of people from the south of the country – the ruling party’s political heartland.
So, what is going on at the Prince of Wales School?
Prince of Wales School is a government owned school, located in Kingtom – Freetown and founded in 1925 by the British. It is one of the best secondary schools in the country because of its excellent management by a dedicated Board of Governors, since it was established. (Photo below: Prince Of Wales School – lit up at night by recently installed solar lights. First school in Sierra Leone to have solar street lights installed on its grounds).
A few months ago, the school sadly lost its substantive Principal – Mr. Michael Augustine Bundor. A process was then put in place by the Ministry of Education and the Board of Governors to recruit and appoint a new Principal.
According to Mr Alpha Saidu Bangura who is a senior SLPP government official and himself a former pupil of the school (speaking in a recorded audio today – see below), the appointment of Mr. George Abiodun Lefevre who was an experienced senior teacher at the school, was fairly done by the Board of Governors to the satisfaction of the Chief Education Officer at the Ministry of Education.
Alpha Saidu said that after the interviewing of both candidates for the position of Principal – the majority of Governors voted for Mr. George Abiodun Lefevre. But the Principal of the Junior secondary school who was sitting at the recruitment meeting as secretary to the Board of Governors – and should never have voted because she did not have a voting right, gave a shocking 51 out of a possible total marks of 50 in favour of Gegbai.
This result was disallowed by the Board of Governors and the Ministry of Education who then demanded that the interview be conducted again. Lefevre proved to be the better candidate once again, and was declared the winner to the disgruntlement of Mr Francis Gegbai.
Mr. George Abiodun Lefevre was then recommended to the Ministry of Education by the Board of Governors, which was approved followed by an appointment letter handed to Lefevre.
But to the surprise of all right-thinking followers of this story, the Board has now been summoned by the ministry over a baseless allegation made by Gegbai, accusing the Board of unfairness.
Since the appointment of Mr Lefevre as Principal, there have been desperate moves by so called “powers from above” to delegitimise his appointment in favour of the Bo School and SLPP party patron – Francis Gegbai to the disappointment and annoyance of the Board of Governors, as well as old pupils of the school – both in Sierra Leone and abroad.
Members of the Old Princewaleans Association in Freetown are calling on all Princewaleans locally to meet at the school tomorrow Monday, 10th January for an event organised by staff, parents and students to welcome the new appointees and to thank the Board and government for the appointments.
When contacted for comment by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, Chairman of the Board of Governors – Dr. Walton Dayo Gilpin told the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph: “I believe that the report submitted to the Ministry and the submissions by the Ministry officials present at the meeting will speak the truth about the interview process. We followed due process and arrived at our decision for the selection of the Principal. I will await the meeting on Tuesday where we will present the whole picture to the Ministry and see the outcome. For now, I do not want to pre-empt. I believe we did the right thing.”
Basic Education Minister – Dr. David Sengeh has been quite vocal and clear about where he and his ministry stand on this vexing issue, regarding any suggestion that he may be supporting a political move to interfere and overturn the decision of the Board of Prince of Wales to appoint Mr George Lefevre.
This is what minister David Sengeh said on social media: “I am not the kind of Minister who hides behind his administrators. And certainly not for Prince of Wales Secondary School. I spent 6 years at Prince of Wales where I won class, school and national honors. I proudly represented the school in competitions throughout my time there. As an alum, I participated in several fundraising and idea generation efforts including establishing an innovation lab at the school and bringing several of its students abroad. I recommended students to attend international schools and facilitated trainings abroad for the Principal.
“As a professional I served on the Board of Prince of Wales when I returned to Sierra Leone prior to being a Minister. As Minister, I have visited Prince of Wales and continued to fly its flag everywhere I go. Prince of Wales is a Government school and as the person who leads the sector on behalf of Government, there’s nothing more important to me than to see a government school progress.
“I have stayed in active and direct touch with the Board of Governors- more than any other school. During the interviews of the substantive Principal, I actively did not pick up calls from several members of the Board because I wanted them to do their work. I refused to influence the process even if passively by listening.
“My administrators have done precisely what needs to be done at every stage expediently.
1. The MBSSE DD participated in the Board meetings and interviews
2. The Board Chair, in his capacity as Head of the Board sent the interview summary with a clear winner.
3. My CEO did her job by trusting the process and system and endorsing the report.
4. One of the candidates petitioned. As it should happen, we invited the Board to respond.
“So if folks want to engage on substantive matters they can. The thing they can’t do or waste their time doing is sending veil threats to me or my team. This is the #NewDirection and we follow due process. While the folks on the Board are humans and everyone will feel aggrieved if their candidates do not win, we won’t tolerate disruption. I personally won’t as a proud alum, a proud former Board member, as the Minister who is the proprietor of the school and a citizen wanting quality education. If we find foul play, we will overrule the earlier decision and start it again. So do not bring silliness towards me or my professionals. Thank you.”
This is what Alpha Saidu – a senior government official – himself a former Princewalean said:
So how did Francis Gegbai become involved in the affairs of Prince of Wales School in the first place?
According to research done by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, Francis Gegbai was transferred as an ordinary teacher from the Government Model Secondary School in Freetown to the POW Senior Secondary School in April 2012, under dubious circumstances following a disciplinary issue for which he was sent on leave.
A letter was then sent by the ministry of education to the Board of Prince of Wales for Gegbai to be made vice principal but the Board under the former Chairmanship of Dr Delwin Findley, refused because Mrs A Harris who had served the school for over a decade was already acting as Vice Principal and could not be removed for someone who knew little about the school and therefore had less experience.
But to the surprise of the Board and without their approval, before going on medical leave, the substantive principal – the late Mr Bundor appointed a caretaker team comprising of Mr Yillia and Mr Gegbai to assist Mrs Harris in managing the school.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has learnt that because of political connection, Mr. Gegbai is still receiving salary from the Government Model Secondary School voucher and not Prince of Wales Secondary School, whereas Mrs. A. Harris who has been acting as Vice Principal at Prince of Wales since 2012, only receives allowances and other remuneration as acting Vice Principal up to today.
President Bio may be committed to building a cohesive society but sadly there are a few bad apples – bigots in his SLPP party and government, whose tribalistic and nepotistic agenda will derail his efforts and plunge Sierra Leone into chaos.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph will be following this story and will report as we get any development.
This is the letter from the Education Permanent Secretary to the Board of Governors: