8 February 2013
Very recently it has been made known to members of the public that there are plans afoot to convert the site of the Annie Walsh Memorial School on Kissy road, Freetown, into a market place.
When I first heard this utterly ludicrous idea, I had to suppress a gasp, because I could not believe that anyone sane would think up something so totally crass and worthless.
If this were true and that there are those in high office who are considering such an action, I would implore them to think very carefully about the damage such an action might wreak on the education of girls in Sierra Leone.
Such an action would without any doubt demonstrate their scant regard for and lack of commitment to education in general and education of girls in particular.
The Annie Walsh Memorial School is a school steeped in history, culture and tradition.
It is the oldest secondary school for girls in West Africa and has educated thousands in Sierra Leone and beyond, in the 200 years or so that it has existed.
The school, since its inception – circa 1849, has been part of our nation’s history and integral to our cultural heritage in Freetown.
Some of the buildings within the school compound have existed since the 1850’s or so, and must be protected as listed buildings, because of their importance to the history of our country and region.
To demolish them for the purpose of building a market, seems totally unnecessary and downright destructive.
In truth, if we are showing respect for the rich cultural heritage that the school symbolises, these buildings should be properly maintained, upgraded and renovated.
It may also have escaped the attention of those who are planning such a destructive move, that education of girls in Sierra Leone remains a very serious challenge.
I would want to encourage those in power to direct and concentrate their efforts on rising to these serious challenges that we have, in providing education for our youthful population – both boys and girls.
In addition, the school’s position just at the tip of the east end of Freetown, provides it a unique opportunity to educate girls from all over the city and beyond.
The wider problem of congestion and overcrowding in the city of Freetown certainly needs to be tackled, but the Annie Walsh School needn’t become a casualty of those considerations.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph will be launching a campaign to sensitise the British government and others about this appalling and disgraceful decision.
It really makes you wonder about the calibre of people, in whose hands so much power has been entrusted.
It must not be the gift of those in power, nor a presidential decree, to wipe away the precious memories of the many distinguished citizens that have passed through the gates of those buildings, to become icons of our nation’s history.
The president should hang his head in shame and rethink his decision, because, the destruction of a tribe’s heritage, may be perceived as a slippery and steady slope towards ethnic cleansing.
Does president Koroma need that credential?
A brief history of Annie Walsh Memorial School:
In 1816, the Anglican Church Missionary Society opened a small private school for girls in the mountainside village of Charlotte in Sierra Leone with only eight students on the roll.
The school began with a vision to educate and train young African girls in pursuit of excellence in all areas, including high academic performance, sound discipline and a solid Christian foundation.
Annie Walsh, for whom the school is named, was a young English girl whose dream was to work in Africa as a missionary.
Sadly, she died in a tragic accident before fulfilling her dream. Her parents established the Annie Walsh Memorial Fund which was added to monies collected by the Christian Missionary Society of the Anglican Church and used to erect the first school buildings.
In 1865, the school moved to its present location in Freetown on Kissy Road, and was formally named the Annie Walsh Memorial School in 1878.
The School’s Mission
“To train young African girls in pursuit of excellence in all areas, including high academic performance, sound discipline and a solid Christian foundation.”
Academic excellence has been one of the major thrusts of the School over the years. For example, the following ‘firsts’ in the country are products of the school:
The first girl to gain the full Cambridge School Certificate in West Africa (1928) was Ethel Thomas (Ashwood).
The first female Bachelor of Arts from Fourah Bay College was Lati Hyde-Forster.
The first female Medical Doctor was Irene Wellesley-Cole (Ighodaro).
The first female Barrister-at-Law was Stella Thomas (Marke).
The first female Astronautical Engineer was Estelle Coker (Eke).
Most value judgements and sense of priorities of the current Bio government continue to not impress as being in Sierra Leone’s national interests!