The Sierra Leone Web





Today, the events of history are repeating themselves in Bo. On 13th September 1905, Paramount Chiefs from all over the then Protectorate, met here, a few hundred yards from where we are now assembled. The meeting took place under the auspices of the Governor of the then Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone, Sir Lesley Probyn.

It was at that meeting that the foundation of this School was laid and as we have heard, it was done in accordance with the traditions and culture of the country which involved the pouring of libation, a flour ceremony and the sacrifice of live cows accompanied by the usual feasting and dancing. The school itself was formally established a year later and that is why we are here today in 2006 to commemorate the centenary of that unique event.

I did not have the privilege of attending Bo School, nor the privilege of membership of that great fraternity called OBBA. You can say it was my loss. I am only an honorary member. Therefore I would like to thank the organizers for the privilege accorded me to speak at this centenary celebration. I can assure you that if ever I have the opportunity of retaking the Common Entrance examination and of re-entering a secondary school in this country, I will certainly choose St Edwards Secondary School and the Bo Government Secondary School, in that order.

Bo School or Bo Government School is a unique educational institution. Historically, it is known as the first and only school in the country founded specially for the sons and nominees of Paramount Chiefs. This creates the impression of an elitist and exclusive institution whose doors are closed to all but a privileged few. However, that was not the intention of the founders. We should acknowledge the fact that one of the underlying objectives of Sir Lesley Probyn, Governor of the then Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone, and other founders of Bo School, was to create an institution that would symbolize the change in attitude towards education that was needed at that particular point in time. The idea was to enrich traditional authority and citizenship.

As our own celebrated educationalist, the late Doyle Sumner (or D.L. Sumner) observed, the purpose of a school for the sons of chiefs was not only to give the future rulers of the people a cultural education, but to give them training in the duties of citizenship and a sense of their obligations to the community. As he saw it, if the natural leaders of the people "do not rise to the intellectual level of the other members of the community, sooner or later the educated class will break down the traditional authority." In this regard, may I recommend that present pupils of Bo School and for that matter pupils and students of other schools and colleges in the country, read D.L. Sumner's Education in Sierra Leone. Although it was published forty-three years ago, it is still one of the most authoritative studies, in a single volume, on the history of education in this country.

The founders of Bo School also wanted to establish a model non-denominational educational institution under the proprietorship of the Government. This, incidentally, was also the idea behind the establishment of the Government Model School and the Prince of Wales School in Freetown. As we all know, religious institutions were the pioneers and leaders in the development of education at all levels. They were the proprietors of the so-called "mission schools". The Church Missionary Society (CMS) Grammar School had been established in 1845, and the Annie Walsh Memorial in 1849; the Wesleyan Methodist established the Methodist Boys High School and Methodist Girls High School in 1874 and 1880 respectively; the Catholics had established the St. Joseph's in 1886 and my own alma mater, the St. Edward's in 1922, while the United Brethren in Christ (UBC) Mission established the Harford School for Girls in 1900, and the Albert Academy in 1904.

The establishment of Bo School became a turning point in the development of education not only in the Protectorate but also in the country as a whole. While recognizing the important role of the missionary schools and the need for cooperation with them, Government became more deeply involved in education policy and management. One advantage was, and has been the enhancement of diversity and accessibility in the education system. For instance, it is interesting to recall that many of the foundation pupils of the school were almost full-grown adolescents. They came from various tribal groups and from all parts of the then Protectorate. In effect, Bo School or Bo Government School as it were, opened the door to individuals who were perhaps considered too old to enter a post-primary school.

Bo school has come a long way. For years it struggled to transform itself from a post-primary to a fully accredited secondary school. Although it was a Government school and therefore expected to have relatively more resources than most mission schools, for a considerable length of time it had to cope with persistent infrastructural and curriculum problems. This notwithstanding the responsibility for Bo School has been borne wholly by the Government of Sierra Leone to this day. Another aspect is that it has remained a wholly boarding school for boys even today. Late Paramount Chief R.B.S. Coker of Jimmi Gbagbo, an old boy of the school, articulated many of these problems in a forthright speech to the first Protectorate Assembly in 1946 on the occasion of the Protectorate Jubilee celebration here in Bo.

However, looking back over the past one hundred years and in spite of the effects of the vicissitudes of nation-building, Bo School has not only survived, it has left an indelible mark in the annals of education in Sierra Leone. Today, we can say with pride that Bo School succeeded in fulfilling the objectives of its founders. It enhanced the ability of our traditional leaders, Paramount Chiefs, to serve their communities, including their effective representation in the pre-independence Protectorate Assembly, an advisory body in provincial matters to the British colonial administration. They were equally equipped to represent their communities in the Legislative Council. For instance, until the promulgation of the 1947 Constitution virtually all the Paramount Chiefs representing the Protectorate in the Legislative Council were Old Bo School Boys.

Since independence, Bo School has continued to produce leaders in various fields at both the community, regional and national levels. Old Bo Boys have distinguished themselves in the public and private sectors. Indeed, the school has been in the forefront of the training of young people for responsibilities of citizenship.

In this regard, we recall with appreciation the sense of patriotism that many of the pupils and teachers of this school demonstrated during the rebel conflict in defence of their country.

I should also on this occasion pay tribute to the members of OBBA in various parts of the world who continue to support the physical and academic development of the school through fundraising and other activities. This gesture underscores my strong belief that partnership is the most important driving force for the economic and social development of our country - partnership between government and private institutions, partnership between government and friendly states and international organizations, and of course partnership between and among individual citizens of Sierra Leone. Bo School is a government secondary school. Its development is the primary responsibility of Government. However, let me say here that it behoves people who have passed through such great institutions as the Bo School, to bequeath legacies that will not only enhance the status of the school, but will also represent a fitting token of gratitude for what one has received from the institution.

I am made to understand that some former pupils, singly or collectively, have honoured this tradition by bequeathing the 4- classroom block, the School Library and the School Brass Band. I also hear that OBBA, as a body, will be putting up a fitting memorial to celebrate the school's centenary. This is good, but beyond this collective effort, eminently successful ex-pupils should also add to the Bo School patrimony through individual donations. For those who have received much, much more is expected from them. I throw this noble challenge to you OBBA men and I am sure, you will respond accordingly.

As we celebrate this landmark anniversary of the founding of the school, and as we congratulate ourselves for what we have achieved under difficult circumstances, we should rededicate ourselves to the ideals and principles that inspired the founding fathers of this great institution one hundred years ago this year.

We should regard ourselves as trustees of a heritage of education for citizenship, a heritage that we must preserve at all cost and pass on to the next generation.

The Bo Government Secondary School is no longer a school for the sons of chiefs, nor is it a school for children of any particular ethnic or regional group. Like other educational institutions, it is a school for all Sierra Leoneans.

Now, I have a short message for the present pupils. This is an occasion for celebration. It is also an opportunity for reflection. The saying that "Manners maketh man" is traced back to the 14th century. However, it is relevant today as it was when it was chosen as the motto of this school. It is relevant because it is centred on good behaviour and relationship with one another. Incidentally, it brings to mind good neighbourliness, honesty and self-esteem, three of the seven national core values that I have been advocating in recent years. I believe that the meaning of the motto is this: you can have all the education that Bo School and other institutions can offer. However, without good conduct, without respect for yourselves, and your fellow human beings, all that education would be meaningless.

We could begin by looking back on the 10 years of that most destructive war which sent us back more than 25 years. What lessons should be learnt from that experience and what measures should we take, what qualities should be inculcated in order to avoid a repetition of the horrible nightmare? Two years ago at the University of Sierra Leone congregation, I suggested "SEVEN CORE VALUES" for Sierra Leone as a means of raising the consciousness of Sierra Leoneans, as pillars on which national redemption, development and progress rest.

These include Resourcefulness, Excellence, Tolerance, Good Neighbourliness, Generosity, Honesty and Self-esteem. These are qualities which will make us stand out anywhere, anytime and which others would see in us and say, "yes, he must be a Sierra Leonean," and strive to emulate those characteristics. To these seven values I would like to add Loyalty and Patriotism. I am sure that these are values that past and present Boys of the School will readily emulate because they are integral parts of what you have been used to and practised in 'Manners Maketh Man'.

We must also take a critical review of that conflict and any other conflicts so that they are not perceived as the order of the day. We ought to strive to be objective and constructive in our utterances as well as in our criticism of others. When I mentioned patriotism and loyalty I was thinking of the kind that was demonstrated by boys of this school during the rebel conflict, who along with some of their teachers joined the Civil Defence Force in the defence of their country. That surely is worthy of emulation. The Europeans and the Americans have a diversity of race and politics, but when it comes to the defense of their nation they take a united stand; that is patriotism. In the English Common Law which we inherited at independence, it is perfectly legal for any citizen, or individual or group of people to take reasonable measures to save their lives and protect their property, particularly in the kind of environment that Sierra Leone was faced with.

This is consistent with section 13 of our Constitution which imposes a duty on every citizen not only to defend the State and render national service as may be required but also to render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order. Moreover, as President, it is my constitutional duty whenever a state of public emergency exists as it did during the period of the war, to take such measures which appear to me to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of maintaining and securing peace, order and good government in the country or any part of it. And this was precisely the role I played during the war. Therefore I cannot conclude this address without extending grateful thanks to all those who joined the Civil Defence Forces (CDF) to defend our country within the law.

The Bo School is the only institution where every tribe congregate in a boarding facility for a minimum of 5 years. As you eat, drink, think together, this provides an opportunity to build up a genuine and strong esprit de corps as One People in One Country - demonstrated by your salutations of Ngoh or Korto.

Our nation is still working hard to consolidate the doctrine of One People - One Country.

I would like to congratulate all present and past pupils, staff and friends of the Bo Government Secondary School on this landmark anniversary of the founding of the school. Let me also commend all those, here at home and abroad, who have been involved in the planning and organization of the centenary celebrations.

It gives me great pleasure to formally declare the commencement of the celebrations. I hope that all the events and activities throughout the year will be successful. Long Live the Bo Government Secondary School.

I thank you for your attention.