“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.”
Amílcar Cabral (1924 – 1973)

To be exact, my Africa is Liberia, is Sierra Leone, where I was born and where my ancestors are from. I would have loved to write you a piece of hope and the progress that’s measured by how well businesses are performing and how well the rich few eat. But my reality is based on the great need of the many, the community and how poorly they eat, if at all. By right, my Africa should be the leaders in Africa in terms of development, progress, arts and sciences. But the reality is far from this truth. The Athens of West Africa which produced so many of the early teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, native missionaries and administrators for the entire region is now a place where the paper our diplomas are printed on is worth more than the education received. This is where people buy their education from teachers, lecturers and professors who are willing accomplices, sometimes even the solicitors, of such an unholy enterprise. This is a place where lecturers don’t publish but copy published materials, then sell them to students as pamphlets. Our primary and secondary school students don’t have textbooks, but study from notes taken in class. How well these students take notes is a matter of grave concern.

This is the land where we used to speak the Queen’s English. We spoke better English than the English yet today college students and lecturers can barely speak correct English or write it. Today, college students pay people to write their dissertations and theses or cut and paste from online publications.

Asking primary, secondary school and college students to spell or pronounce simple words or do simple calculations is a difficult task. Today, if you speak English (not our language, but still the language of education and the textbooks we read), in public, people will say you are trying to be different, think you are better than them or scoff at you as being a showoff. How did we get to this state of affairs? There are two main reasons for this. First, as a result of the continued deteriorating economic situation, thousands of educators have left for greener pastures in the region, mainly to Gambia, Ghana, and
Nigeria, on the continent, and further afield. The wars didn’t help either as the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness led most of the remaining few to leave. There is certainly no discounting the hundreds of thousands more, potential educators and contributors to the development agenda, who left for the same reasons. Today, the lack of space at government schools to educate a growing population has led our governments to drop the standards on who could teach, where schools are situated, and the number of students per class. There is a school on every corner or backyard with barely any space for students to walk or play. Everybody is now an educator providing services meant to be in the purview of the government and qualified teachers trained in the science of teaching. The second reason for this state of emergency (as it truly is because we know from the Western experience and from countries like Botswana, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Ghana,Venezuela, and many more, that education is a way to lift people out of poverty and to aid in the development process) is that African governments don’t appreciate educators and do nothing to aid research. They fear that seasoned and dedicated educators and researchers will expose their shortcomings so they don’t encourage them. Since Fourah Bay College and the University of Liberia were founded in the early and mid-1800s in Freetown and Monrovia respectively, not much has been done in the way of more universities and colleges. For this reason, our students don’t have an interest in pursuing education, especially in the arts and social sciences. The ones who have such degrees work for nongovernmental agencies and international research organizations for a pittance instead of doing their social duties to teach and call our leaders to order by critiquing and exposing public inadequacies. Our children love their teachers. Here, teachers are truly revered. Sadly, we do not have enough qualified teachers. And where we do, they are so focused on earning a living wage that they sell grades to meet that need because they are not paid well. My Africa is a land of great wealth where the overwhelming majority is poor, poorly educated and susceptible to die from treatable diseases; a land where people dress and look good wearing secondhand clothes but with empty pockets and barely any food at home. It is a land of great ignorance, for the leaders like it so. A place where people would tell you that fruits can cause malaria and that cassava leaves can cause typhoid. This is a place where people are fearful of each other and believe that witches rule the day and night. My Africa is a place where people believe everything is a lie because they have been lied to for so long and live a life of lie where things are very bad but people pretend ‘it’s all good’. This is a land where unsanitary practices are not frowned upon, where people fall sick to diseases from such practices so much so that there are pharmacies on every corner, but you won’t find one pharmacist in sight. It is a land where, as children learn from their parents and community, we have learnt from our leaders that to be corrupt is the only way to move ahead here. If a man serves in public office and doesn’t come out rich at the end of his tenure, he is considered a fool: ‘The money was there for the taking but he didn’t take it!’ My Africa is the land where the rich exploit the poor and the poor exploit each other; a land where everything has a price, especially the law and education. It’s as if we are deaf, dumb and blind…

What do you call a rich nation
Where the overwhelming majority is poor
Poorly educated and susceptible to die from treatable diseases?
What do you call a nation of laws
Where the law is broken with impunity
By the same people entrusted to uphold and enforce the law?
What do you call a nation Known for lies and corruption
Where disorder is the order of the day
Where mobs dispense justice far away from the Temple (of Justice)?
What do you call a nation
Whose leaders make deals
With their pockets and stomachs in mind
While the needs and interests of the people take the backseat?
What do you call a nation
Where extractive deals are made
Where foreign companies get a larger percentage share than the country
Where land is leased to foreign countries
To grow food for their citizens
While landowners can’t feed theirs
And always seeking handouts to do so?
What do you call a nation
Where after 168 years of underdevelopment
Where after 168 years of successive governments of
Crooks, thieves, leeches, and fools
Keep voting in leaders cut from the same cloth?
What do you call a nation
Who doesn’t stand up to its leaders
Who don’t call them to order or book
Either through civil unrest, protest or the ballot box
Who sit down quietly
While being robbed in broad daylight?
What do you call a nation
Where people vote along tribal lines and not political platforms
Where political platforms are built on the backs of the people
And become castles in the sands of time?
What do you call a nation
Where effective public administrators (Broh)
Are forced out of office
By a miss-poorly-and-uneducated mob screaming for justice?
What do you call a nation
Where everything has a price
Where your rights can turn to wrong
If the price is right?
What do you call a nation
Where everybody wants to get rich
But hard work is not preached
Where everybody wants to go to America
“Or anywhere else but here”
And leave the work to be done here
In the hands of those responsible for our underdevelopment?
What do you call a nation
Where you can’t tell the difference
Between a pastor, imam, government minister, teacher, police officer and a thief?
What do you call a nation
Where the youth know more about sports
Sports heroes and celebrities
Where they know more about get-rich-quick schemes
Than they do about life, health, their condition, books and school work?
What do you call a nation
Where hope seems gone
Where the weak stay weak
And the strong and educated become pawns
In the hands of the rich few?
What do you call a nation
Where things are bad
Very bad
But the people pretend or live like ‘it’s all good’
Where one can fail an exam but pay a teacher or professor to pass
Where parents pay principals and teachers
To pass their children to higher grades although they failed to pass the lower ones?
What do you call a nation
Where teachers, police officers and other civil servants
Are paid a paltry sum not enough for a living wage
But are expected to do their work
While senators and representatives
Who don’t bring any development or jobs to their regions
Make an immoral sum when compared to the average citizen?
What do you call a nation
Where women head more households than men
But are mysteriously missing or underrepresented in public leadership and offices?

“Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you”…Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972)


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