Water Minister’s visit reveals persistent valve tampering in Aberdeen community

0
53

Minister of Water Resources, Engineer Philip Karimu Lansana, has said that a three-pronged  approach including community partnership is needed to be put in place to solve the issue of inadequate water supply to the Aberdeen community in the West of Freetown.

The Minister led a tour of the Aberdeen community on Thursday, 2nd June, 2022 to assess the water supply situation and come up with measures to resolve the issue of poor water supply to some sections of the community.

Minister Lansana was accompanied by senior officials of the Ministry of Water Resources, a cross section of management staff of the Guma Valley Water Company, Hon. Mohamed Rahman Sheriff-Coker, Councilor Ahmed Karim Bangura and other stakeholders in the Aberdeen community.

The Minister, who spoke with this medium following the tour, said that he was invited by Hon. Sheriff Coker and other stakeholders to get first-hand information about the water supply situation in the Aberdeen community.

Mr.  Lansana said that community members should partner with Guma to monitor the valve regulation activities to ensure that valves are opened and closed at the scheduled times. “Valves that were supposed to be opened at Nylander, Kincardine and Ibo Streets were closed resulting in residents not receiving water supply for days and weeks on end; the moment we opened the valves, water started flowing again as you can see for yourselves”, he noted.

Additionally, he informed that a new water supply pipe line will be laid from the Aberdeen Bridge to solve the situation at Crab Town and that Guma will have to acquire a piece of land at Susu village for the construction of a Service Tank and Booster Pumping Station to effectively end the water challenges in the community.

Speaking at the ceremony, Hon. Mohamed Rahman Sheriff Coker said that some of his constituents have been crying a lot over the issue of poor water supply to sections of the Aberdeen community. He observed that the issue of valve tampering by locals have become persistent thereby causing many residents to suffer unnecessarily. “Action will be taken to inform residents to protect the valves and ensure that only authorized persons from Guma can access them”, he asserted.

The Acting Managing Director of Guma Valley Water Company, Engineer  Francis Lahai said that what they  have come to realize at Aberdeen today is that people are not getting water supply as they are supposed to because some mischievous people are shutting down the valves and sending the water to some other parts of the community. He observed that there was need to have more patrols and monitoring to ensure people get their fair share of water supply during the valve regulation times.

Mr. Lahai further stated that water supply is available but people are just manipulating with the valves to put Guma Valley in a bad light. He concluded by saying that Guma will put in place further measures to secure the valves and continue with the main extension activities it started last year to improve on the water supply access in the community.   

During the tour of the Aberdeen community, the Minister visited Susu Village, Aberdeen Community Primary School, Crab Town, Cape Road, Nylander, Kincardine, and Ibo Streets.

ACC arrests Proprietor and school pupils for examination malpractice

The Scorpion Squad of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), has on Thursday, 2nd. June, 2022, executed a search and arrested the Proprietor of the Moses Academy International School, Mr. Ibrahim Turay and eleven candidates writing the West African School Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) at the No. 8 Turay Drive, Deep-eye Water private residence of the proprietor.

The Scorpion Squad acted on intelligence report that the said pupils were writing the Mathematics examination at the said residence with the aid of a student of Njala University.

The Njala University student was solving the mathematics problems for the candidates who were in plain clothes instead of the uniform of the school they were registered to take the examinations under.

The elite ACC team arrested the proprietor of the school and the eleven candidates writing the examination inside the building after a standoff that was meant to prevent the ACC from gaining access into the building.

The proprietor of the school and the eleven WASSCE candidates are helping the ACC with the investigations.

This development came in spite of the several warnings issued by the ACC for members of the public, especially candidates for public examinations, examiners, invigilators, school authorities and teachers to desist from such acts of examination malpractices.

President Bio meets Sierra Leonean medical students in Kenya

His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has met with a cross section of Sierra Leonean medical students in Kenya during his state visit in the country, and encouraged them to return home after their studies.

The students are specialising in different courses in Nairobi, mainly as Obstetricians, Gynecologists, Pediatricians, Pediatric Surgeons, Orthopedic Surgeons, Ophthalmology, Dermatologists, and others being trained in Atomic Energy.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, the team leader for Sierra Leonean medical students in Kenya and other East African countries, Dr. David Jalloh, thanked President Julius Maada Bio for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet them, saying that they were happy and thankful to his government for the increase in the annual budget to the health sector.

Dr. Jalloh further commended the government for the ongoing construction of a modern Pediatric Health Village in Kerry Town, saying that the completion of such an edifice will improve the health sector of the country. 

He also thanked the government for giving international scholarships to some of their colleagues, assuring that after their studies they will all return to serve their country.

“On behalf of my colleagues, I want to thank you, Mr. President. May God continue to guide and protect you. Thank you very much,” Dr Jalloh concluded.

In a short remark, President Dr. Julius Maada Bio thanked the Sierra Leonean medical students in Kenya, saying that it was always good to meet his fellow compatriots whenever he was in another country. He urged them to be ambassadors in their countries of studies, adding that education would be the only way through which Sierra Leone could be transformed.

“Thank you very much for coming. I hope that after your studies you will return home to help strengthen the health sector. Thank you very much,” President Bio concluded.

Education Minister visits Blind school

How many times have parents visited their kids’ schools this year? When last did you speak to your child’s teacher? People often ask about government monitoring schools but aren’t the best school monitors the parents themselves?

I have a question or maybe it’s a favour-can I ask every parent or guardian to call or visit their child’s/ward’s school at least once between now and the end of the school year? And then promise to do it every term? I promise you, it is the best thing you can do.

Has your school held a Parent Teacher Meeting this year? Not yet? Why can’t you demand one? Really, have we thought about the Transformative power of parents’ involvement in schools? Are you in your child’s school WhatsApp group? How about the PTA group of the class your child is in? If you are in one, please tell us how you engage or what you think.

Anyway, today was an awesome day. I visited the renovations at Blind School being done by a philanthropist after the fire incident and popped in to speak to the kids during lunch. Then I dropped in on my friends at National School for the Deaf. All the kids say they see me around (I have no idea where :))

Yes, we have some 170 school quality assurance officers plus a couple other hundred or so other kinds of monitors and officers but that’s still not enough. I want you, yes you the parent or guardian to be my school monitor number 1.

Enjoy 40 secs of my visit to deaf school. It’s fun… try it! Ps- we hosted a national consultation with all stakeholders today about Transforming Education Summit but that deserves it’s own post Pps- I then co-Chair our Transforming Education Summit Advisory Group meeting with DSG Amina Mohamed and that deserves its own post too.

Education Minister on Public Education: Empathy, Empathy and Empathy

I love meeting people and engaging them on any and everything. My work as a politician requires me to engage people but being authentic and empathetic isn’t a common thing people expect. Yet, I try to make this the norm in my engagements.

It is no secret that currently, the most important thing ongoing in the education sector in Sierra Leone is the Trade Group Negotiations Council meetings – teachers want improved working conditions or they’ll strike.

Look, I am aware some people want me to fail as a way to prove their own biases that I am not a good leader. Others want my team to fail because they want it to affect our government and our successful FQSE program. And then there’s the reality on the ground as experienced by our fellow citizens in the world and in Sierra Leone. Teachers want and deserve more.

People have released all kinds of audios, written all kinds of things and made all kinds of inciting remarks to keep teachers out of the classrooms.

They have pitted me and my team against the SLTU, then the SLTU and the TSM, then us and the TSM…

But in all of this, in order for our children to not suffer and to improve the conditions and quality of teachers, teaching and the teaching profession, we’ve kept our eyes on the ball. We’ve kept negotiating. We’ve kept working hard and we’ve kept talking.

As we continue to negotiate and meet on common ground, we must remember our shared humanity and our commitments to the future of our children and this nation.

In spite of what has been said, I had fruitful discussions with the Chair and Secretary of the Teacher Solidarity Movement today after the Trade Group Meeting. It was a beautiful moment as senior members of the SLTU (including my former teacher who is now my employee and school principal) facilitated the conversations (I note they were all women). They bridged our differences and misunderstandings. But most importantly, we agreed that yes things are hard for most teachers (which has been their primary message), and that the negotiating document addresses fundamental issues of the profession and we will all work to protect the interests of teachers. We’ve all maintained those things but I suppose the lack of empathy and communication among the parties made it hard for us to see this in the first place.

Has this been hard? Yes.

Am I concerned about the effect it has on children and the many gains we’ve made? Absolutely.

But what I also am is hopeful.

I am hopeful that the technical teams of SLTU, MBSSE, MoF and the rest of government working hard to arrive at a favorable agreement will do so. I am confident that the excellent Chair of the Negotiations Pa-Momo will get us to the crossing line and we will have a blue print technical agreement for Sierra Leone and the World.

What I am most grateful for is the growth opportunity and the opportunity to practice more Empathy by all. Shout out to all the amazing men and women at our various institutions working day and night to improve these agreement terms!

NEW reacts on 2021 Mid-Term Population and Housing Census

The National Elections Watch (NEW) has consistently raised concerns about the flawed nature of the 2022 Mid-Term Census project conducted by the government of Sierra Leone.

In their press release dated 26th July 2020, NEW questioned the lack of inclusivity of ‘all voices and opinions (political groups, civil society etc.) in the census a critical feature of democratic governance.

The press release further highlighted issues around the ‘ever-growing trends of government actions that keep casting shadows of doubt on critical governance events and processes and how such actions set a negative tone to future works’. The Government’s unwavering prioritization of a Mid-Term Census at the height of a health pandemic (COVID19) was particularly concerning. 

“In another press release dated 26th October 2020, NEW noted that while it agreed with, HE ‘the President on the value a census brings to national development, NEW believes that the reasons for such a process must be transparent and clearly communicated to the nation’. NEW in the same press release stated that ‘the outcome of a Mid-Term census to be held in April 2021 (after postponement) will not be available for public use till sometime in 2022 when we shall be holding Local Council Elections and General Elections in 2023.

This presupposes the fact that the outcome of this census will not add any value to the development planning of this government as espoused by the President in his proclamation and no government will re-focus its Development Plans in the 4th year and yield the desired results when all attention would be shifted to campaigns’.

Unfortunately, the required communication and consultation needed to build consensus among actors were never properly sought, before, during, and after the counting. Besides, there were widespread protests by some opposition political parties, including (at the eve of the census) the withdrawal of funding and technical support by the World Bank; a number of citizens equally raised concerns that even though they were willing to be counted during the exercise, they never saw an enumerator” according to the press release.

“Unsurprisingly, the Provisional Result published by Stats-SL falls squarely within the concerns raised by NEW from the beginning. Relative to the 2015 Population and Housing Census, the 2021 Mid-Term Census, the population in some districts in the northern and western regions dropped drastically while districts in the south and east had unprecedented population increases, raising questions on sharp regional variations. While we acknowledge populations can change over time, the gravity of the change within such a short period is hard to understand.

In Bombali for instance, a district which had a population of 606,544 in the 2015 census, dropped to 387,236, representing a 36% reduction in the district’s population. Port Loko which had a population 615,376 in 2015 dropped to 528,038, representing a 14% decline in population. NEW however notes that after the 2015 Population and Housing Census, Karene, a new district was created drawing population from Bombali and Port Loko District. The Western Area Urban, which had a population of 1,055,964 in the 2015 census, dropped to 606,701, representing a 43% drop. This is especially striking, given the accepted fact that Freetown continues to see an influx of new settlements almost daily.

 NEW notes that Western Area Urban (Freetown) had a Voter Registration (adults 18 years and above) of 606,939 in 2017, while the 2021 Mid-Term Census Results indicated a population 606,701 (citizens and non-citizens). It is difficult to understand how the new population of Freetown in 2021 is less than the registered voters in 2017. This analysis draws attention to the fact that around half of the population, which is typically considered to be under the age of 18, is not accounted for.   

Conversely, in Bo, a district which had a population of 575,478 in 2015 increased to 756,975 in the 2021 Mid-Term Census, indicating a 32% increase. In Bonthe District, which had a population of 200,781, increased to 297,561 representing a 48% increase. In addition, Kenema District which had a population of 609, 891 in 2015 also increased to 772,472 representing a 27% increase.   

Therefore:

Consistent with our position in 2020, before the commencement of the census exercise, NEW is convinced that the Mid-Term Census despite any well-intended purposes, remains a flawed process and cannot be the basis for future planning and growth of Sierra Leone. Moreover, the process remains controversial, lacks inclusivity, and was ill-prepared for, as noted by a World Bank press statement dated 7th December 2021, which stated that ‘… several critical action points require further technical work to be satisfactorily addressed, including evaluation of the pilot census, the field operation plan for the enumeration, and ensuring enumerators are adequately trained. All these outstanding actions are necessary and must be addressed prior to commencing data collect ion to minimize the risk of inadequate and poor data quality. There is insufficient time between now and December 10, 2021 to satisfactorily address all pending actions’.

NEW further notes that the current status of the Mid-Term Census data defeats the purpose of the President’s proclamation of a Mid-Term Census designed ‘in order to help us plan properly, ensure equitable distribution of resources, and foster economic and social development’.  Based on this analysis, it is clear that such data is not reflective of the population of Sierra Leone and has the potential to further exacerbate the already tense ethnopolitical divisions. Using such results will have multiple, long-term implications and consequences for political processes and development interventions across the country.

Considering all these issues surrounding the Mid-Term Population and Housing Census results, NEW calls on the Government to revisit or completely declare the provisional results of the Mid-Term Census null and void and not to use this data for political and developmental purposes. NEW also welcomes the opportunity to discuss the way forward with the Government together with other stakeholders, including but not limited to representatives of civil society, media, independent experts, community and religious leaders, political parties, and the international community”.

The bad governance of Paopa, the 2021 midterm census as a case study

By Vickie Remoe

“Regarding the rate of population growth at the district levels, seven of the 14 districts grew at higher than 3.0 percent per annum in the 2004-2015 interdental period. These included the Western Rural Area (8.5 per cent), Koinadugu (3.9 per cent), Tonkolili (3.9 per cent), Pujehun (3.8 per cent) and Kono (3.7 per cent).”

The above is from a Statistics Sierra Leone and UNFPA report on the 2015 census published in 2017.

(Title: Sierra Leone 2015 Population and Housing Census. Thematic Report on

POPULATION STRUCTURE AND POPULATION DISTRIBUTION)

That 2017 report highlighted the seven fastest growing districts in Sierra Leone. The fastest growing district between 2004-2015 was the Western Area Rural District, followed by Koinadugu, Tonkolili, Pujehun, and Kono.

Kenema District was not among the seven fast growing districts. I was therefore surprised to see that five years later Kenema has more inhabitants than any other District.

2015 Kenema Population = 609,891  2021 Kenema Population = 772,472

According to the 2021 midterm census report there are  162,581 more people in Kenema today than in 2015. It has more people than Freetown Urban and Rural.

I’ve been to Kenema and it is one of my favorite places. Could someone who is a statistician please explain how the district was able to grow so fast in just five years?  Has there been a lot of migrant into Kenema because of an economic boom? Are people having more babies?

If you could help me make sense of this I would appreciate it. Also, after explaining that if you could also touch on Bo on the same issue because I’m curious how there are more people in Bo than in Freetown Urban and Rural.

(Source of Data for 2015 from Stat-SL. as seen on Page 7 of this 2017 UNFPA report.

WAEC exams and the shaming of the nation of Sierra Leone

By Isaac Massaquoi

If we miss this opportunity to clean up the conduct of our public exams and the process by which the WAEC office in Sierra Leone conducts them, we should simply put up our hands and surrender to the dark forces of corruption and unbridled criminality who for long have been attacking our national integrity system at its very foundation.

The last institution to allow itself to be taken over by the criminal underworld is WAEC given the importance of the certificates they offer to millions of Sierra Leoneans who end up in leadership positions in this country and abroad.

A suffocating blend of sophisticated criminal elements ably supported by some rogue WAEC staff, school authorities including teachers, and desperate parents and pupils is wreaking havoc on our education system. These groups have conspired to cheat at all public exams, particularly the Senior Secondary School exams, which open the way to universities. This is big money business in which the abuse of modern technology and barefaced criminal tactics are the main ingredients.

I am satisfied with the utter outrage expressed by many Sierra Leoneans on social media about the disgraceful turn of events where from what we are now hearing from the police and other sources, some pupils decided to abandon their exams and stage an utterly senseless demonstration, attacking some public facilities and innocent people because the police broke up their criminal enterprise organized from a particular property in the general area of Oniel Street near Sierra Leone Muslim Brotherhood.

We also heard from video recordings some of the pupils saying the mathematics paper was too difficult. Some even threw it into the political by accusing President Bio of being behind the “difficult exams”. Nothing can be more ludicrous! So the man who brought Free Quality Education and is spending a huge amount from the annual budget to fix education, is the same man who told WAEC examiners to make the exams so difficult that pupils would fail en masse so pupils would have to repeat the same class three or four times? This is insanity!  

We were driving down the hill from Fourah Bay College in a rickety old Mazda car on that day and saw about dozens of pupils running in all directions, while a handful of others were pelting stones at a small number of police officers from the Operational Support Division who had apparently fired tear gas into the crowd of pupils that dispersed all over the place as we approached the gates of Muslim Brotherhood Secondary School.

I saw a girl of about 17 years  being carried out of the school compound by two men who laid here in front of a small carpentry shop just across the road. Another girl of the same age was being taken away by a soldier almost as if she was under arrest. Just as some onlookers became interested in this sweating soldier taking away a distraught and crying girl and started asking questions while advancing menacingly, the girl shouted out to alert the crowd that the soldier was in fact her father. They immediately backed off. The soldier did not say a word.

When we finally made our way to Model junction by the Hillside By-pass road, the scale of what had happened became very clear. The pupils thrashed the whole place and roadside hawkers and ordinary people going about their normal business were obviously very badly affected.

This is the time we must confront some uncomfortable truths about what is happening in our schools. And colleges I should add. I am in a position to know how far the University of Sierra Leone for example has come in dealing with attempts to cheat at exams. A lot of work has gone into that effort – like sacking some rogue lecturers who lost their sense of mission and fell prey to student bribery, using CCTV technology to support other measures in place now. All of that came out of a ruthless review of systems and procedures, the kind of which we understand WAEC is blocking even when offered by a credible and professional body like the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Maybe we should erect huge billboards all over Sierra Leone telling our younger ones that there is only one sure way of passing any exam – they must study hard. Yes study hard as opposed to spending hours looking for money and sitting in dark corners plotting on how to use smart phones to cheat. We are living in times when movies, social media chats and mindless ‘chilling’ – hanging around entertainment spots doing nothing are the normal. Close supervision of young people by parents in particular is non-existent these days as the struggle for basic survival has become a 24-hour thing.

Parents appear to be under so much pressure to see their children in university that they are sometimes ready to spend a whole month’s house maintenance money on sending their children to very dangerous examination study camps organized by schools all over the city. What is really being taught in those camps that cannot be taught in normal schools is something people don’t understand.

I am inclined to side with those who say all the brazen acts of cheating going on these days are planned in those camps and executed by rogue teachers and exams officials. I don’t know if civil liberty questions would come up but a government policy banning those camps will be in place as a warning shot announcing the government’s seriousness about destroying the criminal network around WAEC exams.

As a further sign that the nation would no longer accept cheating in public exams, those now arrested and detained should be swiftly prosecuted and jailed if found guilty. Any negotiated release of possible criminals to satisfy some interests will be resisted. In other words if this goes the way of the Aberdeen case, then the whole business of killing corruption in WAEC exams would descend into a farce of ignominious proportions.

We must also have a parliamentary debate on the issue because it is so serious now that cheating pupils have become so brave that they can come to the streets to challenge the forces of law and order. In that debate MPs must avoid the intemperate language of partisan politics to confront this evil as one nation. That debate should be carried live on all radio and TV stations throughout the country and the resolutions should implemented in a quick and unambiguous manner with the necessary resources provided.

WAEC Sierra Leone

We have to be honest with this organization: It is not in anybody’s interest to see WAEC fail. But today, their credibility is sinking and if they don’t act really fast they may hit the sea bed. And bringing them back to the surface might be so expensive and time-consuming that we may simply allow those who presided over this titanic mess to remain on the sea bed while we put together a new and credible leadership for this exams body. What’s the point of having an examinations body that nobody trusts and whose certificates universities even in the sub-region would reject?

WAEC should stop paying their examiners those ridiculous service fees and weed out the rogues from their ranks – both staff at headquarters and contractors. And this practice of pupils taking exams in their normal school classrooms must end immediately. We must return to what happened many years back when only schools with the requisite facilities were used as centers and pupils made to take their exams out of their schools.

I know the numbers are big now but we are facing a dangerous enemy within that is difficult to dislodge, but dislodge it we must. Many people are happy about Free Quality Education. Yes Free at the point of access, but in the course of achieving the Quality this government should never allow political expediency to compel them to compromise in their fight against the criminals in the system who, it appears, now have nowhere to run or hide.

As I was writing this piece the information was coming through about the horror show that the pupils acted out in a community around Waterloo. A day of shame indeed.

Madam Haja Fatou Modou extends congratulatory message to Queen Elizabeth 11 of England

By Hassan Bruz

Northern Bureau Chief

Sierra Leone News Agency [SLENA]

It is a moment of deep reflection of some of the fun memories of Madam Haja Fatou Modou – wife of Late Paramount Chief Alkali Modou 111 of Maforki Chiefdom in the North West District of Port Loko as she keeps watching the colourful ceremony marking the Platinum Jubilee of – Queen Elizabeth 11 on her Television Set. Madam Haja Fatou Modou is arguably the oldest woman in this part of the Country and factually one of oldest in Sierra Leone today. She is now very close to 90 years old with apparently a retentive memory. She seems to be very much conversant with almost all the history making events not only in the Chiefdom or District she resides, but has the brain to vividly recall most of the events that preceded the attainment of Sierra Leonean’s Independence.

This was deduced from a two-hour long interaction I had with her at her Port Loko Residence. She could not only stop at the fun – memory she had with her beloved husband – the late Paramount Chief Alkali Modou of the then Maforki Chiefdom, but also the fundamental role they played in the struggle for the attainment of Independence in Sierra Leone. ‘The Ceremony helps me to have a vivid reflection of the good old days when my Husband and I used to go to Nightclubs in Freetown from Port Loko and come back by midnight to sleep. Life was peacefully pleasant with no worries about Armed Robbers, Kidnappers and the series of Social and Economic Challenges Sierra Leoneans are currently exposed to’ –the old Woman recounts.

Madam Haja Fatou Modou made a special reference to the visit of Queen Elizabeth 11 to Sierra Leone during which they served host. ‘The Queen came here in Port Loko largely because Port Loko had all the basic amenities. This was the time it was nicknamed – the Black Man’s London. There was an uninterrupted Electricity Supply on a 24-hour basis, with Tarred Roads and functional Street Taps’. She said there is a Place that was named after the Queen called – ‘Queen Arena’.

Madam Fatou Modou said her husband was the only Paramount Chief in Sierra Leone to have been awarded with 3 Separate Medals by Queen Elizabeth 11. One of those Medals was for his Coronation as Paramount Chief, the other was for regarding him as ‘Member of the British Empire and the third was for serving host to the Queen when she visited Sierra Leone. My husband was Chairman of the National Construction Company – which was contracted for the construction of several key buildings in the Country including the Parliament of Sierra Leone, the Bank of Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Post and Communications and the Ministerial Buildings.

The face of the old woman beamed with a thread of smile when she pulled out a photo bearing images of Milton Margai, William Johnson, Sannessie Mustapha, her husband – Paramount Chief Alkali Modou 111 and few others as Members selected by the Governor to represent Sierra Leone in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 in the United Kingdom.  ‘Can you see my husband in his emasculate white dress and his Colleagues all set for a Dinner with the Queen. This other photo is that of the Duke of Kent when he came to grant Independence to Sierra Leone’ – Haja Fatou Modou observed satisfactorily. She made the observation on the commemoration of the Queens’ Platinum Jubilee as it is being celebrated in the United Kingdom. My son, allow me to conclude with a special congratulatory message and wishes of continued good health to Her Majesty – Queen Elizabeth 11. I wish one would have been strong enough to attend yet another historical Event.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here