- By Foday Mark Kamara (Leoneboy)
The spirit of unionism among sierra leonean students has far gone to a location that no one can track its relevancies.
When I first gained admission to Fourah Bay College, my idea of Student unionism was that it is an association of students concerned with students’ rights and welfare, as that is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines it. Upon my entering into the University, I almost thought my dictionary had given me a wrong definition. This is because student Unions across the country, especially Fourah Bay College and other sister institutions,which I have knowledge of, are totally different from what I have learned from the dictionary.
Students’ unions have a long history in the UK, with the first having been established at St Andrew’s University in Scotland in 1864. Historically, they have tended to carry out a range of functions for their members including: organising social activities; providing support on a range of academic and welfare issues; representing students both individually and collectively; and campaigning on local and national issues. But the relative importance of these functions has differed over time in our country, and cultism is one of the reasons for this without hesitation.
Student Union at Fourah Bay College has been marked with Cult interest and this has forced skilled and intelligent students to stay away from the activities because they will never be recognized and included into activities as long as they are not members of the ruling cult.This is so, the case with The Kenema District Students’ Association FBC Chapter (KENDSA) which used to be a very vibrant association involving every student who hails from the Kenema District in their activities, but now sidelines people whose ideas differ from those of the executive members (who on many occasions are elected on cult line).
On many occasions intelligent students have been removed from Whatsapp forums where the affairs of the association are discussed simply because they have either written an article which contradicts cultism or have shared or supported the message of such article (I was removed long time ago for an article I wrote criticizing negative club activities on campus title “Fourah Bay College, the good, bad and the ugly” and recently a colleague was also removed for publication of a similar article titled ” Pondering”). They have seen criticizing cultism as an abomination as saying that “the Quran is a lie in Saudi Arabia.”
The most dangerous impact of what this plays are Kvetching and division during and after elections. As far as elections are concerned, you have to be a member of one cult or the other before you are voted in for any position in almost all of the associations with exception to the Christian and Islamic associations. As a result, people who can be the most suitable candidates stay away because it is clear they will not be voted until they join one cult or the other (either the black or the white).And most times clubs present candidates who are not fit for student representation but they have to be voted for by their members in order to defend their cult’s interest thereby putting square pegs in round holes. This usually has been the cause of the violence that happens during Student Union Government’s elections which caused the government to ban student union governance.
The impact on academic activities.
It is not a secret that many of those who have been caught in examination malpractices are members of one cult or the other as they go into competition to get their members the best results the wrong way. One of the ways they do campaign for new members is to tell them they will get you exam questions when it’s time for examinations(you may wonder how they will get the exam questions, but this is Sierra Leone(Anything can happen).And besides, some lecturers were members of cults whilst in university and still owe allegiance to those cults because of Covenants and oaths they subscribed to. Those who depend on this type of assistance always,end up coming out with results they don’t deserve or get struck on the way with references when those lecturers are not there to help.
As I try rounding up, let me not forget to advise my brothers and sisters sitting to the WASSCE exam and maybe entering University next year as they are already awaiting to initiate you, Be advised now that you will have to be told the following to lure you into joining them.
You will be told that it will help you secure a job as soon as you graduate, but the truth is you will not secure a job because you were a member of a cult as we have seen god fathers unemployed after many years of graduation,so I advise you stay focused on your studies and graduate with good results.
They will tell you, we want to make you a public speaker by training you but the fact here is you’re in university to be mentored by lecturers not club members
They will tell you that it will help you get the best result, but the Bible says “you should study to get thy self approved”.
They will also tell you that you will have the opportunity to socialize. True, but there are many social clubs in town which you can join and not bother yourself paying fees if joining social clubs is your aim.
They will tell you that you’re a material to lure you in joining them . Reader! Please beware that being an educational material doesn’t mean you have to join cult
Let me also talk to my colleagues enrolled in universities now and have not been initiated into any of the cults to please stay away and focus on the purpose for which they are paying fees. I will also not forget talking to various leaders of students’ Unions to forget about their cult interest and defend the interest of all those who fall within their mandate, and university administration will listen to them. I will ask that we enquire from UNIMAK and at least copy some things from them.