ENTITLED: FOR THY PRODIGAL YOUTH.
CHAPTER 1. I Picked up the inspiration of youth activism from childhood.Dad's typewriter was perhaps the first technology I may have known and fiddled around with, long before I used radios, analogue phones, mobile phones, palm-pilot computers, desktops and laptops and lots more. That may have formed the precocious urge of my transitioning to the use of new educational technologies to make a difference in the world.
Indeed, when I began to understand the world around me as a child, I could always now recall with so much nostalgia. It's as if I am still hearing my father's type-writer audibly drumming on padded papers sandwiched with transparent fragile ink-carbon papers that were neatly producing what the computers and printers now could quickly imitate and do. The second papers from the Carbon copy were brighter inky blue or purple, sometimes interspersed with a slight glow of red that lined the edges of the words or sentences.
Those were the formative years of my first exposure to that technology of typewriting keys. I seldom knew those early exposures will be so instrumental to turning my life around and so many around me, as Charley Hapner says about me "all who come within the universe of his indomitable spirit".In those days, in the early 80's My father did not use a spellchecker, as we do now, though he used a huge Oxford Advanced dictionary which he brought to Sierra Leone from London during his studies and this book was sometimes consulted for unfamiliar words.
The old-fashioned type-writers, had no such facilities, and so Dad relied on his knack for knowing words and spellings. He will with such dexterousness and carefulness lay them neatly on the typewriter papers laced with fine ribbon inks. In spite of those seeming old-fashioned ways of printing and writing, Dad's letters and memos were tidy, clean and neat and I must say, well-written. From time to time, when he relied on his own instincts and assurance of the words and sentences he typed, he could fall into the trap of typos and spelling mistakes and so blot out a few spelling errors with a stand-by T-Pex, and glide the typewriter over the white blotted spot to reaffirm the correct words and in so doing correct the spelling errors or typos.
Now as I reflect those years, it seemed as though the sound of the type-writer keeps coming back drumming and comes dinning into my ears from a far, far away distance. The sound that comes from dad's shorthand typing skills seem to fade in my mind gradually just as I used to hear the strokes thump and rickety away into a halt when Papa comes to the tail end of his Executive letters or memos on behalf of the District Officer.As a Clerk in the District Office, Dad's official duties were laborious and it made him have to keep a typewriter home to continue some of the unfinished work. I later came to understand and realize that those finely formal letters that dad worked so hard to produce had the pedigrees of Post-Colonial Governance. The formal, often serious tone of the letters he typed out for his boss the district Officer differentiated the nature of that office from others. From its highly sounded note and spark of formality, to the bright blue colors from the key strokes on the ribbons, it was all part of the overall effort of the British Colonial Government to provide a highly efficient system whereby the recognition of the powers of local governance through the District Office and its institutions were shown. For many years, Dad was part of the inner circle of the district governance and rose steadily from a Clerk to a Higher Executive Officer. He was part of the entourage of the District Office visiting many chiefdoms and local authorities and communities in Sierra Leone. As a Civil Servant in the District Office, his fluency in a multiplicity of local languages and dialects positioned him to take on active roles in local communities whilst often finding himself ensconced in a position, where he was obliged to be serving or doubling as an interpreter for the local District Officer and the chiefdoms they visited.
His memories from visiting those local communities left me with awe and admiration of the way of life of our people. Dad came home from these 'treks' as he fondly calls them, with vivid memories of the warmth of the local people, the many colorful traditional masque dances, the gifts of chickens, goats and sheep, and locally grown food, and his were memories awash with our rich and intricate cultures, the illuminating modesty of the people and the vibrancy, pump and majesty, and authorities of local rulers or paramount chiefs. These powers of the chiefs were mostly softened by the District officers who oversee these communities and helped to solve many of the disputes.I will coil in my little brown-armed chair, which was laced with a nice clothing chair-case from mum's hand-work and her long hours or weeks of knitting, sometimes months of dexterous embroidery and knitting, skills which mum passed on to my sisters.
As a child, I was a allotted to my own chair, the size of which seem to grow smaller as I got older and taller; And as I came of age, I had to abandon that sitting position. But for many years as a kid that sitting position in the living room gave me the favorable advantage to watch papa type and neatly pack his papers into a file that he has labeled. It's like being provided a preferential front sit at a major sporting, theatre or music event. I was positioned to sit comfortably in a way that I could face the small squared desktop-styled TV set, with elongated antennas that flashes in black and white motion pictures. My elder brothers Anthony and Augustine (of blessed memory), will try to adjust the Antennas by stretching the two long flexible legs of the thin Antennas, by flinging it into different directions, and adjusting the TV antennas from various sides until the TV pictures will stop tweaking and remain stable with the evening's favorite Television show. I will often watch the process getting the TV working like a kind of ritual, and it will take a couple of minutes, sometimes longer than anticipated, until it comes on. My excitement to see the screen becomes stable was only effaced if I dose away to sleep before my brothers could achieve that feat.
As I grew older, even before my early teens, I became the home's constant TV operator, taking charge of a task once self-imposed by my elder brothers upon their own shoulders, and doing it with such a convenient ease and demonstrated patience.
The next day Dad will do more typing from some of the left-over work load from his office. That is, he might put it off if he was not playing checkers or droughts with the favorite friends that were at close proximity to our home. Or he will be trying to sift through the deck to fix his 1960s Vinyl records into the record player (we fondly refer to as 'turn-table'). The Vinyl records and record player were amongst some of dad's most cherished memorabilia he bought in England during his one year of studies in the late 60s. It came in a mustard-yellow case. The vinyl records were kept neatly in plastic sleeps to protect them from moist, heat and odd temperature and were kept upright neatly on one side of the book shelves specifically demarcated for his Vinyl records. He will look at them one by one until he finds his favorite music. he inserts the Vinyl plate, and start to enjoy the needle hitting the groove. Once the sounds begin to boom from the speakers, dad will clip his fingers and dance in the center of the parlor and soon will be joined by my mum and other elders visiting. The speakers that amplified the sound from the recorder were all but a sophisticated set, but were very agreeable to the ear as it renders a soothing, realistic, authentic, lifelike sound that cannot be matched by even digital records. There were sounds that were recorded from local songs like ‘sweet mother’ but many sounds travelled a long way from popular artist in Ghana and Congo.
I tagged along my mother to school as a child in the Roman Catholic Primary School where she taught for many years. She may have had no nanny to look after me when she was gone to school and so preferred to bring me to her school. Then when I turned three, there was a story that I was enrolled into a class to get my first taste of school. This was an earlier advantage that may have profoundly impacted my educational growth.
I will love to activate my memories of activism, and where my leadership role all began. My activism which started in my teens during High School, later matured into some of the critical responses to the worst years of conflicts and violence particularly meted against children and youth affected by war.
Sierra Leone has lived through some of the worst years of civil crisis, and the lingering effects of the aftermath of its violence served as an open invitation to me and to many other young activists at the time to be plunged into voluntary services, which culminated into youthful enterprise.After several years attending one of the country's premier boarding High Schools initially for the purpose of providing education for the sons and nominees of chiefs, I was already super-nurtured in ‘The Bo Government School’, for not just the long academic fray, but also the need for being resilient and courageous in life in one’s quest to serve humanity. The Bo School was notable for its discipline and educational standards. It is a school that was well ensconced in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone by the British Colonial founders.
My boarding school dates back from 1906 when it’s colonial founders typically selected its original place in vast acres of land within the central township of Bo, and our boarding school soon became a part of the rich local culture and arose in the South of the country where it was accessible by students. My school became attractive to parents and families encouraging them to unfetter their children to travel all the way to the Southern Head District of Sierra Leone from many provincial districts and to send their children to spend several years attending a common school. Today, our school offers the country and the region a stable reference point for the success stories of men in all facets of life’s endeavors.
Our school’s location and proximity also encouraged access to the townships’ major facilities which brought an ease of access to social and entertainment venues. From the access to the township’s exclusive movie theaters of ‘Rio and Rex’ cinema theaters to the mini-shopping centers lining the Fenton Road, the general government hospitals and Ministries of government, to the Banks and postal facilities, the Bo School was centrally placed within reach of the comfort zones of much needed facilities.
Our school’s founders had the uncanny foresight to securing and acquiring such an imposing plot of land so that even the buzz from our neighbors could fade away immediately into the woods of ‘German field’ before it can actually reach an earshot of our school or distract the serenity of a clearly demarcated school campus. With such quiet ambiance of a school community, we had all it took to read serenely and not distracted by the external vibrations of an agile and boisterous city.These unique benefits and features that are associated with our school community provided great value to the pupils on campus. Indeed, our school community reflected these unique characters of being closer to Bo town and its people, and this speaks volumes of the quality of life Bo school equally offered to the township of Bo and makes the township feel a sense of community, pride in the area’s history especially at the time whenever school re-opens and the gates of the Boarding school is open, the boys enliven the township with great outreach programs of sports and cross country trips as part of regular weekend activities where students go jogging for leisure and respect for the environment, the elders of the town and the desire to exercise civic responsibility.
In that budding years of my childhood, I found myself at a very tender age of 10 upon the lap of this boarding school - ‘The Bo School’ where I enrolled to be thoroughly groomed with other early bloomers, young boys of my ilk, with fragile young bones to be put on fire. Here, I gained the firmness to face the practical realities of living with a diverse group of boys from even more diverse backgrounds, each one with their own idiosyncrasies. I coped with the diversity of language, dialect, linguistic background and regional diversity. Our school's diversity was not discriminatory and never estranging. However, it became my earliest preparations for the realities of diversity I will face and cope with in later years as I found meaning in life and during my many explores of my intervening years and in meeting so many different people around the world.
These ideals from my boarding school will later propel me into believing in the possibility of my dreams and to be conscious of that inner creativity and great self-esteem which can be used to empower many others. Apart from developing these courage to live the belief of my convictions, I discovered and developed at school that inner self to find the courage to give full meaning and expression to my potential so that I can be a leader of positive change. At the Bo School, I was also taught to live to first serve and I believed and followed and abound in this mission in life to be of service to humanity and of course in oneness and unity with others.
For my myriad alumni there, who are all too aware of what it means to have had an uninterrupted 7 years at a Boarding School such as The Bo School, they will regale you with stories of young boys being courageous to survive on a peel of ravaged grape fruits as a supplement for losing a day’s meal, or from mangoes picked up from behind the backyard of the dormitory away from the glare of school prefects, or the labyrinthine boarding school authorities. These efforts at survival were just a splinter of the many true stories of survival from boys after losing a day's meal that was indispensable to their survival.Several stories abound of true courage, perseverance and hope preserved by the boys of our school, but to sip even the tiniest drop of hope in the vast ocean of despair, was the hallmark of every Bo School Boy. We listened to that little hope that came whispering into our ears and became present in everything we did. The whispering sound of hope often came like the waves of the sea and quickly dashes back to its origin. The boys are left with the faith to overcome the overwhelming waves with many ways to get through it. Yes, we cling on every thread of hope; from the hope of getting a loaf of bread during breakfast at dawn, to the faith of waiting in the long queue for lunch at noon, and to the hope of sleeping on your tiny bed instead of underneath it.