There is a famous Liberian saying that reminds me of my colleague, friend and cousin the – Hon. Edison T. Vanii Gbana, whom I simply called TV. As we often say when hard times strike: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do”. So it was with TV and me –we survived the hard times of St. Philip’s School at Bendaja, where jiggers infested our feet and bedbugs sucked our blood through the masts we slept on as beds on mud floors. Such was the condition we lived with for the five years in our quest for western education /civilization. Tougher yet are the next two years we spent at St. Andrew’s in Mbaloma – on Mbaloma mission.
At Mbaloma, we made cassava farms and helped local rice farmers make their farms; and yet, we ate cassava meals three times a day, seven days a week: with the exception of the Lord’s Day (Sunday), on which day we were fed with rice only during lunch time; breakfast and dinner were cassava meals. The last five years that TV and I spent on St. John’s mission, though not without their own peculiar tough times, were in a way an introduction to Civilization 101.
By now it should be clear that TV and I went through the same experiences in search of ‘civilization’. Together with two other cousins –Big Gbana for him and Sayan Gapi for me – we were recruited to St. Philip’s School, in fulfillment of the agreement between the local readers and the missionaries that established the school. Unfortunately, those two other did not make it to the end with TV and me. And so the two of us made it through, from 1944 at Bendaja through 1955 at St. John’s in Robertsport; when we both obtained our high school diplomas. From this time on we went our separate ways in search of higher education – he to Cuttington College & Divinity School (now Cuttington University); and I into the world of work, and later to the University of Liberia.
Meanwhile, even the terrors of our erstwhile national conflict did not daunt the desire in this man to administer educational institutions. For upon migrating from Kakata to Monrovia, he became Principal of the A.ME.Zion Academy, situated on lower Benson Street, Monrovia. He served here from 1994 to 2003. During this period, his colleagues of the National Association of Liberia School Principals, under the auspices of the WAEC, elected him National President. This post exposed Prof.Gbana, at several educational forums in Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Prof Edison T. Vaanii Gbana served so ably at these conferences that he earned membership on the following WAEC committees:
- The Liberian Administrative and Finance Committee,
- The Liberia National Committee,
- The National Examinations Committee, and,
- The International Final Award Committee.
Prof Gbana also earned the Best School Administrator Award from the Association of Liberia Professional Organization (ALPO). The graduating class of MAEU Zion Academy in 1999 also conferred upon him Principal of the Century Award.
When finally peace and sanity began to return to Liberia in 2003, Hon. Edison T. Vaanii Gbana Weighed in the political arena and became President of the Grand Cape Mount Humanitarian and Peace Committee, a well a Treasurer of the Grand Cape Mount Development Association. Subsequently Hon. Gbana was elected to represent his County as the Civic Society Representative on the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), where he served ably as Chairman of the NTLA’s Committee on Education. Then, to, as a career educator, he gained the admiration of his colleagues; many of whom sought his advice on civil matters.
The Hon. Prof Edison T. Vaanii Gbana was a great educator, a displinarian and provider for the family. We will all miss his warmth of love and affection. Goodbye daddy, brother, uncle, grandpa, cousin and friend. We will take good care of your wife/widow of 49 years.
And thus it was that the pathway to further learning – the sojourn to Civilization – for my cousin, colleague and brother (the only son of Mr. Siaffa Mbavai Gbana and Madam Bendu Dazamgbo Gbana) was served. Indeed, that union was blessed only with two children, TV and his surviving sister, Miatta (Tata) Gbana. Consequent to his matriculation to Cuttington University, TV graduated from that institution with the degree of Bachelor of Science (B.S.C) in secondary education. Subsequently, he entered public service an assignment as classroom teacher at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Kakata, Margibi County. After serving three years at BWI the former late Edison T. Vaanii Gbana was granted a USAID Scholarship to study in the United States at the then State College of Iowa (now the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls); from whence he earned the Master of Arts (M.A) degree in education, with emphasis in Business Education. While at Iowa, the deceased was held in high esteem by his fellow African students who elected him to the post of Vice President of the African Students Organization.
Upon completion of his courses at State College of Iowa in Cedar Falls Iowa, our father, brother, uncle, cousin and friend returned to BWI in 1965 and worked as Director of the Business Education Program up to 1973. During this time also he worked with the Prairie View (USA) Team which had a contract with the Government of Liberia to develop and implement the BWI curriculum. In this time also, our father was joined in holy matrimony (on December 23 1965) to our mother, Miss Fanny T. Harvey. Later, Edison T. Vaanii Gbana was transferred at the Bureau of Budget in Monrovia, Republic of Liberia as the Administrative and Technical Assistant to the Direct of the Budget, R.L.
Additionally, he served as oversight person over several Ministries, at which time he personally handled the budget of the Chief Executive, the Bureau of the Budget and the Corruption Bureau.
But perhaps the longest and most notable post our husband, father, uncle, brother, cousin, colleague and friend held was that of Principal of St. Augustine Episcopal School in Kakata, Margibi County. He served here for 14 consecutive years; until that school and the whole nation were disrupted and thrown into disarray by our infamous catastrophe of 1989-1990. It was here (at St. Augustine’s) that the name Edison Gbana became a house-hold commodity to many Liberians; for from here he raised a great family; and a great number of Liberia’s young people were trained. As one speaks of his demise, many of those will ask, “You mean Prof Gbana?” Yes, Prof Gbana is dead!
Goodbye, TV, we both have been strong fighters along life’s way; I had only hoped you would stick around a little bit longer, even as the whole country fights another ugly enemy-the EBOLA VIRUS. But the Almighty’s decree must be fulfilled. And so goodbye, my friend and brother. May He receive you in his bosom! Amen!