By Fadda Bakish
The Saint Francis Secondary School held its 64th annual Speech Day and Prize Giving Ceremony over the weekend at the school’s compound in Makeni City. Held on the theme “Education for sustainable economic prosperity”, the event brought together the Old Makeni Franciscans Association (OMFA), local authorities, parents as well as well-wishers that appreciate the remarkable progress made by the school over the years.
The event was chaired by a prominent politician and an Old Franciscan, Dr. Richard Konteh (The Unifier), who remarked that the recipient of prizes should continue to do well and those without prizes should work harder for recognition. Education, he said should be in their lifestyle and the way they impact society. “There is a need to invest more in education,” he said and continued by thanking the Catholic faith for supporting and nurturing education in the country over the years.
Dr. Konteh thanked the two principals for continuously raising the school’s banner high and also commened the outgoing president of OMFA for a job well done in three years. “Franciscans should know that they are friends and brothers and so elections must not divide them,” he advised those contesting the OMFA elections.
One of the speakers, Dr. Denis Luseni, spoke on ‘the role of Alumni Associations in promoting national development.
He revealed that Alumnus must be part of a national team bent on resolving challenges in agriculture, manufacturing, climate change, etc. “We must not be over-dependent on donors. But we must be seen aligning our vision with that of the country. We must build a well-educated and enlightened society,” he said and advised that they must place themselves in good positions of trust. Dr. Luseni frowned at examination malpractice, which is caused by a lack of discipline but advised that students must put on a positive mental attitude. “We must develop an action plan that should be documented for action. Let us channel our energy to a common vision and plan well to bring our country to where it should be. We must mentor our students with career development and provide funds for scholarships by opening a scholarship scheme to provide partial and full scholarships,” he advised and stated that alumni must help students with learning materials.
Bishop Nathallio Paganelli, one of the School Proprietors, encourages all to strive to serve each other for a better society. ”The strength of a school is to work as a team to have a better academic atmosphere,” he said and requested for the government to provide the required support, such as the annual school subsidies, which they have not received. “We need the subsidies to develop the pupils,” he added and lamented that they have to seek for funding elsewhere to further the school’s activities.
Bishop Paganelli encouraged the Alumni Association to work as a team. “There is big political division in the country. Which is not good for development. We have religious tolerance, which must be copied and implemented. Sierra Leone is not a poor country. We have lots of natural resources but the people are poor,” he observed and continued by advising the new executive to work towards having good laboratories to prepare students. “I am grateful to the Ministry of Education for providing school materials,” he said.
Giving the Principal’s Report for the 2021-2022 academic year, Ezekiel Thulla Junior, said the school has had a successful academic year despite a few hiccups. “We are happy to return the school to a single shift system and have a newly dug borehole water facility. The school received teaching and learning materials. Another consignment of lab materials was received in September also,” he reported and furthered that they are challenged with trained and qualified teachers in some specialized areas of study, there is an unpredictable pattern of payment of subsidy by the government, and they are challenged with raising funds to pay teachers, not on the government payroll. The Principal referred to his teachers as being superstars over the years.
One of the School’s Old Boys, Alpha Timbo, who happens to be the current Labour Minister, thanked the school authorities for transforming the school from a low-performing institution to a performing one. He encouraged parents to see Saint Francis as a school they can rely on to transform their children. He entreated pupils to take their work seriously and assured them that the Old Boys will continue to support the school.
The Police Local Unit Commander in Makeni City, John Tunday, whilst giving a security update on drug abuse, said the police are fighting hard against illegal drugs, noting that they have dismissed and charged to court personnel found consuming and in possession of illegal drugs. He admonished parents to check their pupils, especially their rooms and those they associate with. “School authorities should keep their eyes on pupils and complain to them when they are seen in abnormal conditions,” the LUC said and continued that students should make sure they are proud of themselves always. “Say no to drugs if you want to succeed in life. Don’t allow others to give you drugs rather they should give you school materials or scholarships. Let us join hands to stop this mayhem in our society,” he said.
The outgoing OMFA President, Joe Hassan Kalokoh, stated in his final speech after three years of a successful journey that it has been a busy tenure of office, which he further described as eventful and challenging. He paid tribute to the diaspora chapter and all those who supported him throughout his tenure of Office. Kalokoh thanked his team for providing support to his administration and admonished all to work for the development and benefit of the school.
The Keynote Speaker, Professor Joe A. Turay, Vice Chancellor University of Makeni called for the need to bring about a Sierra Leone that enhances sustainable development. All past and present agendas, he said should help to transform the nation into a Sweet Sierra Leone. “The Education sector plan recently launched should take the nation to sustainable development. Access to education has increased but the biggest challenge is the quality and relevance of education that should be revisited,” he said and advised that there is a need to recruit, retrain and support excellent educators; reduce gender disparities in the education sector; provide a safe, healthy and conducive learning environment for all; and increase the use of data and technology in the management of education. “These will help in bringing about sustainable economic prosperity to the nation. We must educate to bring about the sweet Sierra Leone that is economically diversified and food self-sufficient,” the Guest Speaker said.