John Baimba Sesay
10 February 2013
Outgoing Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Abubakarr Multi-Kamara, today met and spoke to a gathering of Sierra Leonean students studying in China.
He said that there are three politically significant values, which can be instilled in Sierra Leone’s educational system, and retain their relevance regardless of the political party in power.
Multi-Kamara spoke on Sunday, 10th February, whilst delivering a keynote address at the start of a five day long Annual Convention, by the Sierra Leone Students Union in China (SLSUC).
His address was centred on: “Educated Sierra Leoneans in Politics and in Society”
Speaking on ‘the three T’s of training in nationhood, which are: “Tolerance”, “Toil” and “Teamwork”, Ambassador Multi-Kamara said, tolerance is the most difficult of these three values to inculcate.
“For the majority of people it is fair to ask them to tolerate those who are different from them, as it is not as realistic to expect them to treat total strangers and total aliens meaningfully as brothers”.
And as such the critical issue for society therefore “is not how much brotherhood there is, but how much tolerance”.
“There is no special credit in being favourably disposed towards your brother. The real test comes when, in spite of being unable to regard a stranger as your brother, you still succeed in tolerating his unusual and different ways”.
Our society, he went on, needs to be governed by the liberal rules of the game as they permit competing views and competing interpretations of reality to survive, together in harmony and peaceful co-existence.
At the level of intellectual tolerance, he said, there is a good deal to be said for a system of education which puts a special premium on debating as an activity.
“The idea of getting schoolchildren to debate among themselves on a variety of fundamental issues has great potential as a teaching device to promote tolerance of different viewpoints.”
“The training here springs from exposure to radically polarized viewpoints. Every school in Sierra Leone must do its best to have a vigorous literary and debating society.”
He suggested further that such debates must be combined with the idea of inviting controversial speakers to address current affairs societies and answer student challenges.
Speaking on the imperative of “Toil”, he informed that this is subject to cultural variations, saying, attitude to work conditioned those cultural factors.
“Some writers have claimed that in traditional Africa everyone was a worker- ‘a worker’ not just as distinct from ‘loiterer’ or ‘idler’. They see work in traditional Africa as a factor balancing African hospitality.”
“But this tradition of hospitality and support for one’s kinsmen could all easily result in parasitism. The role of the modern school in dealing with such scale of values might vary according to the dominant orientation of the government in power.”
At the governmental level, he referred to the leadership of President Ernest Koroma as one that is inclined to foster and encourage the ethic of self-improvement, “since the government is committed to the goal of creating an indigenous entrepreneurial culture and private enterprise.”
On The third “T” – training in nationhood, which he referred to as “Teamwork”, the Ambassador said it is important that there should be opportunities for teamwork at all levels of education.
He said that this should range from encouraging basket ball and soccer to encouragement of student political societies and social organizations – as opposed to the variants of organized cultism!
“Extra-curricular activities are also experiences of being socially engaged and intellectually committed”.
Relating education to politics and society, Ambassador Multi-Kamara said both affect each other in quite thoughtful ways: “Political life and the political system in our country are in turn affected by the educational process”.
“The quality and exposure of Sierra Leoneans who find their way to responsible political leadership positions, the kind of political values which activate policy and behavior, the class structure in our society, the system of occupational recognition of service and reward system, are all factors deeply influenced by the educational system of a country.”
Sierra Leone, he said, has come a long way, as “we have demonstrated that we are an example of a consolidating democracy and one of the safest and most peaceful societies in the world. We conducted the first multi-tier elections in our history…”
Those elections he said were monitored by national and international observers, making the polls the most transparent in our country’s history.
“Four elections were conducted on the same day, making the process the most complex electoral exercise in our nation since independence; we paid for most of it ourselves; we organized it ourselves, and we did it peacefully, fairly and transparently.”
“And the process, from registration to announcement of results has been acclaimed as meeting international standards of free and fair elections.”
He encouraged students to promote an active conversation on the challenges that continue to elude Sierra Leone’s nation building effort, the inculcation of the rules of national integration being one of the most potent.
“Africa is confronted with ethnic pluralism and cultural diversity, Sierra Leone being no exception.”
Speaking earlier, the Head of Chancery at the Embassy – Paul Minah, spoke of the strategic role that China plays in Sierra Leone’s socio-economic development.
As the world’s second largest economy and the largest exporter of manufactured goods, China, Paul Minah said, continues to play a leading role in international trade especially across Africa, to which Sierra Leone is no exception.
“From the viewpoint of trade relations, economic and technical cooperation, to exchanges and cooperation in the fields of culture, education and health, there have been positive ties between the two countries, since the establishment of diplomatic ties in the early 1971”, said Minah.
He went on to tell the students that; “The Sino-Sierra Leone cooperation of mutual benefit started in1984. Since then it has been making serious progress as could be seen in the people-to-people exchange visits, especially at the level of government officials.”
The good friendship with the People’s Republic of China especially within the framework of the Sierra Leone-China relationship, according to Paul Minah has always been strengthened.
He emphasized that; “This friendship could not be better positioned at a time like this, when we take into account the crucial role proudly played by Sierra Leone in enabling China enter the UN Security Council, at a time when most countries would not know how China will be today.”
He called on students to work towards fostering such a great relationship, by making “use of the knowledge you are gaining here when you shall have completed your studies and see how the friendship between these two countries could continue to grow.”
Statement was also made by outgoing President of the Student Union Executive, Alphajor A. Bah. The session was chaired by Alimamy A. Kargbo who commended the role of the embassy in student’s activities in China.
This year’s convention was attended by over 65 Sierra Leonean students from across China, pursuing different fields of studies ranging from International Relations, Agriculture and Food Security, Engineering, Medicine to Communication Technology. The event comes to an end on the 13th February.
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