Reverend Olu Menjay, Principal and Chief Administrative Officer of Ricks Institute, recently led a group of 29 students and personnel of the institute on a six-day educational and cultural excursion to Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Those who made the trip, according to a dispatch from Dr. Menjay in Freetown, consisted of 20 students and nine staff.
Ricks Institute, Dr. Menjay said, believes that learning is easier when a child sees, touches and feels, thus making the excursion essential.
He said, when the group arrived in Sierra Leone on Thursday, March 24, they met with the Vice President, Dr. Victor Foh at his residence in Freetown.
Dr. Foh told the Ricks visitors that the strength in Sierra Leone’s growth is religious tolerance, adding that Liberia and Sierra Leone have a lot in common. “Our two countries share similar stories,” he told the visitors outlining several historical factors.
In response, Dr. Menjay reminded Dr. Foh that education at Ricks Institute goes beyond the traditional “brick and wall” classroom, adding, “We believe that the lives of our students who are participating in this excursion will never remain the same.”
Also present at that meeting was former Sierra Leonean head of state, Captain Valentine Strasser, the former Minister of Works, the son of the late Chief Samuel Hinga Norman, and other dignitaries of the Sierra Leonean society.
Chief Norman was a Sierra Leonean politician from the Mende tribe, who founded and led the country’s Civil Defense Forces, commonly known as the Kamajors during that country’s brutal civil war. The Kamajors supported the government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah against the Revolutionary United Front led by Foday Sankoh. On March 7, 2003, Chief Norman was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He died on February 22, 2007 in Dakar, Senegal, while undergoing medical treatment.
On the second day of the excursion, the team met with the Chief Administrator of the St. John Maroon Church, a historical religious establishment associated with the slave trade.
The team later visited and observed worship at the central Mosque of Sierra Leone where the Chief Imam commented that that there is no senseless peace, but senseless war.
“It helps a lot for faith groups to coexist peacefully as no society can progress in the midst of confusion,” the Imam told the student visitors.
The team then visited Forah Bay College and later paid homage at the grave of Edward Wilmot Blyden, a self-taught genius, born in the West Indies, who lived in Liberia and taught at the then Liberia College. Blyden contributed land to Ricks Institute in Virginia, outside Monrovia.
On Saturday, March 26, the team took a two hour boat ride to the Bunce Island, an infamous slave fortress built to process and market slaves for shipment to America and other parts of the world.
The team later met at the residence of the president of the Sierra Leone Baptist Convention where they fellowshipped with their Baptist counterparts.
On Sunday, the team worshiped with the Regent Road Baptist Church, the oldest Baptist Church in West Africa, established by early Baptist settlers in Freetown.
Rev. Menjay preached the Easter sermon.
The team afterwards visited the Sierra Leone Peace and Cultural Museum, described as an outstanding and amiable treasure that gives a chronological account of Sierra Leone’s history before and after Independence on April 27, 1961.
The Ricks visitors then passed by the famous Special UN Court that tried Charles Taylor. The day was punctuated with a grand dinner at the residence of Vice President Foh.
At dinner, the team met the Liberian Ambassador to Sierra Leone and the former Sierra Leone Ambassador to Liberia.
Ricks Institute, established 1887 by the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention, is a learning and faith community high school located in Virginia, Liberia.