Political interference subverting the will of the Board of Prince of Wales School is wrong

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:

7 Comments

  1. P.O.W is a creole establishment and a conservative school. This administration is a pure Krio establishment. I remember I applied to attend my fourth year in P.O.W; my application was denied because I came from a school out of Freetown. what a discrimination. I was rejected.

  2. You must remember that Sierra Leone is now in the unforgiving grips of a criminal cabal. These are the meanest and cruellest kinds of people that you will ever come across. Since the days of Independence they have been known to be wicked stealthy prowlers with dubious and despicable intentions. Countless terrified people have testified under oath to seeing them secretly following unsuspecting people quietly at night and then hide near their houses waiting for a chance to rob, steal, harm or even kill the innocent for that which belongs rightfully to them. That is the main reason folks, why Old-boy Siaka Stevens unleashed “HELL FIRE” on them.(lol)

    Indeed, the cruellest and the meanest men among us that are totally deaf, dumb and blind to the despair of others are now holding firmly onto the reins of power. Who would have thought or even rightly guessed that these tribalistic land grabbing opportunists will unscrupulously switch gears into overdrive strictly for the evil purposes of enhancing their underhanded thieving ways and insatiable appetites for riches and power. A den of thieves is what State House has become – they stole power, stole Krio peoples lands, robbed our nations coffers dry, snatched the integrity and good name of innocent people by accusing them of corruption and now they are trying to impose their “ASHAWO LEVEL” educated henchman on the innocent, diligent, promising students of Prince of Wales.(lol)To hell with them first!

  3. Now is not the time to sit on the fence. We have to condemn the actions of Bio’s government on the land grab issues facing the Krio community in the Freetown peninsula. Last week Bio was encouraging African-Americans and giving them passports to come back to their ancestral home. The hypocrisy of it all, is not lost on us in the know. Since coming to power, his government has singled out the Krio community for collective punishment by dispossessing them of their lands and selling it to the highest foreign bidders. The Krio community feels under siege. We should as a nation condemn this discrimination. Failure to do so, we are unwittingly becoming the party of oppressors against one of our communities that have done such a lot for our country.

    It is one thing when two tribes are engaged in a fight. Usually the elders and government will step in and diffuse the situation. But quite a different thing, when a tribe is faced with the wrath of the government that is supposed to protect them. Who do the Krio community turn for protection, when your own government is hell bent on alienating you? The worst part, you as a community are powerless to do anything about it. Even the church or religious leaders have stayed silent. In the long run Bio’s actions will cause instability in our country. Today it is the Krio community, tomorrow it will be the Fulanis, Limbas, Temene, Mende. These people are just in government to make money for themselves and families. If you think your property is safe under Bio, think again.

  4. I think there is more to this story than meets the eye. Why should the Government be criticized for interfering into the affairs of a school that is owned by the government? The university of Sierra Leone and Njala university are public universities where Vice-Chancellors are appointed by the President of Sierra Leone in his capacity as Chancellor of these universities. How come we have never heard any complaints about the process of appointing the principals of these universities?

    Upon thorough analysis of the arguments contained in this story, one can be tempted to deduce that it is the Creoles that are discriminating against Mr. Francis Gegbai, a man from the provinces, and not the other way round. Also, if Mr. Gegbai was appointed to the staff of Prince of wales in 2012, then why should the SLPP government be blamed for the man’s presence at the school? It should be known that Prince of Wales is not the only government-owned school in Sierra Leone. There are two government-owned schools in the North, three in the South and one in the East. I am an alumni of one these schools and for all that I know, the government of Sierra Leone has always had a free hand in intervening in the affairs of government-owned schools.

  5. Bottom line, give BO School what belongs to BO School and Prince of Wales School what belongs to Prince of Wales School. Period! We will never allow reckless and irresponsible moves by any Bio SLPP kakistocracy operatives or corrupt individuals at the helm of this kakistocracy to encroach on the lands of any School in the country or disenfranchise the Creoles. That is not going to happen. That I can assure everyone.

    The days of talking about the protectorate and the colony are gone and is now history. I have been saying it all along, that the present government, which of course is the Bio SLPP kakistocracy, is the most corrupt in our country’s history. We will know the truth when their butts are kicked out of power in 2023. By the way, all lands dished out by this corrupt regime under the present ungentlemanly Minister of Lands must be reviewed after we win in 2023. Beware all those engaged in grabbing state and people’s legitimate lands.

    You will have to cough them out. I don’t believe anything coming out of the mouth of any Bio SLPP kakistocracy operative. Let us wait and see if the Minister is serious about what he is saying. God help the Prince of Wales Board of Governors to choose the next Principal without the interference of unscrupulous and wayward political operatives. God bless the Prince of Wales school.

  6. “Exemplary leaders don’t impose their vision of the future on people. They awaken dreams, breathe life into them and around the belief that people can achieve something grand” written by Dave Rothacker. From Prince of Wales to local chieftaincy, and from head of local public bodies to anywhere, Bio’s government think they can influence things, parachuting or inserting individuals of their choice have no bounds.

    Since taking office it has become the norm rather than the exception. Tribalism in all its ugly glory. If you think the Prince of Wales incident is isolated incidence, you are mistaken. I recall not long ago the local Fula tribal Headman in one part of the country was imposed on the people, despite the locals having the candidates of their choice. Bio’s people have other ideas. Bio’s government is behaving like the latter day British colonial authorities. And since we have little of the Bia Bureh’s or Mammy Yoko’s, we tend to put up with this abuse of state power.

    Local opinions are completely ignored and in some cases crushed under the wheels of Bio’s power grab mentality. It is either my way or the highway. The net effect of such actions is not sustainable in any democratic dispensation. The will of the people should be respected. What happens in Prince of Wales school, matters to the rest of the country. Today it is the school, next time will be Bio refusing to concede elections. We have to apply the broken glass theory. Punish people for minor offences, then they will think twice to graduate to higher crimes of misdemeanours.

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