By J. Yanqui Zaza
Reliable sources say about one thousand seven hundreds plus Poro-boys between the ages of four years and upward, with their faces half-covered, calmly walked down the streets of Fessibu Town, Zorzor District, Lofa County on Monday, January 14, 2020. Yes, a glamorous and memorable program. The Poro-society graduation ceremony was witnessed by many Liberian government officials as well as the 2020 Lofa County senatorial candidates, etc. Some of the boys spent a little over one week, while other boys spent significant time to learn traditional cultural values of Lofa county, Liberia.
In less than one week, representatives of Gbanway young girls, a Town within Salayea District, I guess, jealous of the young boys of Fessibu Town, sent a clear message to the world that they too would embrace and become members of the rich culture. Subsequently, on Monday, January 21, 2020, the would-be-Sande-Society-girls, paraded the Town to celebrate the transfer of cultural and political power from the Poro-Society to the Sande-Society. They did not only danced in the streets, but sang songs of Sande-Society songs, which indicated that they will attend the Sande-Society as scheduled, advocates of pro-Sande society argued.
Okay, the public does not see any problem that should have prevented the boys from going into the Poro-Society school. However, why would girls want to attend a Sande Society School? Isn’t it alleged that it is the Society school that deprives young ladies of their sexual happiness? Even if the schools are not harmful, are they relevant? If not, why did so many Fessibu Town young boys go into a harmful environment? Are the parents responsible since, nowadays, they have limited influence over what young people want and/or don’t want? Most importantly, why are young girls from Gbanway Town happy to attend schools that are considered to deprive them of their happiness, according Liberian officials and experts of our international partners?
Is it because of peer pressure that the girls of the Town of Gbanway are embracing the idea of the Sande Society? For instance, many young boys in urban American cities embrace the idea to be incarcerated not because they love going into prison, but because they crave for respect from their peers. Therefore, they commit whatever crime, minor or serious crime, in order to go into prison. Or are the would-be-Sande-Society-girls resenting alien values (i.e., Western values), including but not limited to the luring of adolescents to the culture of gay-lesbians? Are adolescents turning away from the culture of gangsterism and barbarism? Are they beginning to realize that the cutthroat industry and/or the “Get-rich-quick mentality” does not deliver the beauty of life as Westerners propagate, etc.?
By the way, do any of the traditional societies offer alternatives to the values that are anti-education, anti-religion or anti-culture? Pro-traditional schools advocates say yes. They argue that some of the lessons that are common to society, which are taught and/or emphasized, include, the ability to identify the signs of danger (i.e., whether emanating from human or evolving from nature), the techniques used in travelling long distances, especially at night, to deliver messages or transport a sick or a dead relative. Most importantly, many of the Western schools do not teach and/or emphasize the ideas and/or purpose of discipline and/or give reason why individuals should suppress their interest in order to support community values, they do not encourage patience, and/or do not promote care, love, etc.
Certainly, our modern educational system has many advantages, and the positive results are countless. Therefore, on the periphery, it looks like the values of the traditional schools are inferior to the values of modern schools. However, if the values learnt from modern academic schools would provide solutions to many of our problems, why are there numerous problems in poor countries as well as in advanced countries?
For instance, educational school system in Liberia is not only limited to a few professional jobs, it also is not educating a significant number skilled workforce. Even, our own former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf admitted that the Liberian educational system was a mess. But I guess our Liberian leaders did not imagine that failing to educate is a recipe for economic problems.
For instance, had Liberia invested in public high schools within 42 towns in Zorzor District, a significant number of the 98 thousand residents would have become potential clients to borrow money from the closed-commercial bank (i.e., a branch of Echo-bank).The closure of bank in Grand Geddeh County, Lofa County, etc. is due to an educational policy that failed to train and educate its population.
Again, our leaders might not understand the link between disciplined, academically educated students and societal success. They are repeating the failed policy of not educating a significant number of rural citizens who could have become customers to commercial banks. If government allow traditional schools to instill discipline in our adolescents, many of them will become productive citizens, a recipe for prosperity.
Our International partners, instead of allowing traditional schools to teach discipline, prefer to close all traditional schools? Traditional schools, might be in a better position to address and minimize gangsterism, barbarism, “Get-rich-quick mentality,” anti-discipline, anti-religion, anti-culture, etc. Our modern educational system does not provide a remedy to any of these vices. Or, why not allow the two forms of educational system to operate collaboratively if the traditional schools can provide some remedies? This is especially important since the decision to close our traditional schools are based on uncommon clinical examinations and mere assumptions, rather than based on evidence-based facts, according to experts.
Better yet, should our governments review the cultures of other societies and search for a compromise? Is China’s cultural system a case to study? Sebastian Heilmann, for example, stated that school policies in the West are set by law and then carried out by civil servants. On the other hand, china’s policy implementation depends on cadres. They are given clear metrics and goals for achieving things and then told to go do them. In addition, Thomas Friedman, NY times columnist, also gave significant credit to the Chinese government for its ability to get things done quickly.
Further, Dambisa Moyo, an economist and recipient of the presidential Medal of Freedom, regards China as new idol for emerging economies.” Another admirer of the Chinese system is the Yale Law Professor, Ms. Amy Chua. She says Chinese mothers raise more accomplished, academically successful kids because they are more demanding and stricter than Western mothers are.” Are there similarities between the values of Chinese culture and the values taught at traditional schools? If yes, should our governments continue to accept the dictates of our International partners since they (international partners) might not understand why traditional schools prefer to suppress individuals’ values and promote the values of communities?
So, why is the government of Liberia, including the former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, opposing traditional schools that promote community interest over individual interest? The government announced that the government and traditional leaders have announced a shutdown of Liberia’s secret women’s society, the Sande, for an indefinite period of time. The announcement comes in the wake of reporting about the Sande’s ritual practice of female genital cutting.”
The closure is not based on verifiable evidence. This is because of the secrecy of the traditional schools and the trustfulness of the information from anti-traditional schools activists. For instance, “…much of the FGM prevalence data currently available is based on verbal surveys and self-reporting. Clinical examinations are uncommon, according to reports. The assumption is that women respond truthfully when asked about their FGM status and that they know the type and extent of FGM that was.”
In July 2003, at its second summit, the African Union, relying on assumption and uncommon clinical examinations, adopted the Maputo Protocol promoting women’s rights and calling for an end to FGM. Twenty-five countries, by December 2008, had ratified it. Predictably, many leaders of poor countries succumbed to the wishes of the International partners because they need economic assistance.
Okay, what is the interest of our International partners in advocating to close down traditional schools that provide remedies to many of societal vices? Many of our International partners are either de facto subsidiaries of big businesses (i.e., for example, the World Bank, which is owned by bond holders) and/or agents of big businesses.
What does big business want? Big business role in Africa and its exploitation is clear, according to Mr. Dillichi Maduako. He stated that “…when the British came they convinced us to denounce our beliefs and serve God…they stole…enslaved us in the name of showing us the one true God.” Well, guess what, it is only traditional schools that will institute measures that can prevent the introduction and institutionalization of gangsterism, barbarism, get-rich-quick mentality, anti-culture, anti-religion, anti-education through rigorous discipline.
The author, J. Yanqui Zaza, can be reached via email at: [email protected].