One of the fire brands of the opposition SLPP who survived the 2007 political hurricane against the then ruling party to be re-elected into parliament Constituency 13 in the Kenema District, Dr. Bernadette Lahai has spoken out. A native of Yomboma village in the Lower Bambara Chiefdom, Hon Dr. Lahai started her schooling at the Independent Primary School in Tongo Field. She then proceeded to the Holy Rosary Secondary School, Pujehun in the Southern Province. After a successful O’ Levels, she went for her advanced sixth form certificate at the Christ the King’s College in Bo.
|Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai
In her mid twenties, Hon. Bernadette Lahai gained admission into the Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Geography and Sociology. A grateful student she was, she returned to her alma-mater, Christ the King College upon graduation where she taught for two academic years. She was later re-admitted to Fourah College to pursue her Post-Graduate Diploma in Education to become a professional teacher. In her quest for knowledge, she proceeded to Njala University College for a Masters Degree in Agricultural Extension and Rural Development. For her exemplary academic performance, it pleased the University authorities to appoint her as a Research Assistant at the Institute of Agricultural Research of the college in which capacity she diligently served for few years.
Thereafter, Hon Lahai secured a four-year British scholarship from the University of Reading to embark on a PHD program in Agricultural Extension and Rural Development. She returned home in 1998 to help in the development of the country. This took the dynamic academia back to the Institute of Agricultural Research as a full time lecturer. . with the Sierra Leone Vision 2025 Project, a UNDP/Ministry of Development initiative.
In 2002, Honourable Bernadette Lahai was elected Member of Parliament and has been in that position since then. Her conviction to forgo lucrative callings for politics was to advance the cause of women as according to her if more women were to be in politics, a few must sacrifice, leave their cozy jobs, and go into it for the development of the nation, which she said would also serve as an inspiration for other women to join the political bandwagon.
As women constitute 51% of the country’s population, Hon. Bernadette Lahai entered politics to project the image of women as their political representation since over the years was nothing to write home about. She is of the opinion that in order to change such a situation, one area to make an impact is for women to be part of the legislature to improve on their status vis-à-vis budgetary provision, gender advocacy, law reforms etc.
A strong advocate for social justice, her inspiration to become an MP was to help address the issue of social injustice among women.
Honourable Bernadette Lahai has made numerous contributions towards the development of Sierra Leone as she has oft times represented the country at international level.
ACHIEVEMENTS AS MP
Honourable Bernadette Lahai said notwithstanding the challenges she faces as a female MP, she has in collaboration with other female MPs championed the promulgation of a lot of Bills that are gender sensitive in nature. She also pointed out that within her tenure as an MP she has undertaken developmental projects with assistance from NGOs and the government in his constituency, like the construction of schools, health centers and community Court Barrays. In her tireless effort to better the lives of her constituents she has empowered women with the provision of several cassava grating machines, not to mention the numerous assistance she continues to render to lots of students of the Eastern Polytechnique in Kenema in the form of scholarships, teaching and learning materials.
In the area of agriculture, she periodically provides seed rice to community farming organizations to help them plant improved varieties.
NEEDS OF CONSTITUENTS
In spite of the fact that the Lower Bambara and Malegohun Chiefdoms suffered a great deal of damage during the rebel war, her constituency remains a very important area in the country in terms of agriculture and mining. Honourable Bernadette Lahai continues to make frantic efforts to bring her constituency back to its former glory as relentless rehabilitation works have targeted schools, health centers several other social infrastructural facilities destroyed by the war, though according to her, more is needed to be done. Hence, as a Member of Parliament, she is embarking on advocacy with the government, NGOs and even mobilization of the local people to utilize natural resources.
ON PRESENT STATE OF AFFAIRS
On the present state of affairs in the country, Hon. Bernadette Lahai stated it is no secret that things are not rosy, the price of fuel, basic food stuffs and other essential commodities are high. The present government, she said, is explaining it as a global issue; stating that when it happened in the regime of the SLPP it was also a global issue and not a political issue. She added that the SLPP by then went beyond looking at the problem as a global one but tried to see how the problem was to be addressed locally in a bid to control the situation. She intimated that we should not use this global food crisis as an excuse but to find possible solutions to tackle the problem.
ON ATTITUDINAL CHANGE
She lauds President Koroma’s attitudinal change concept as very important. As she put it, ‘it is the sum total of one’s inclination towards an idea, a way, a belief,’ as they develop over a long period of time through socialization, the family, educational institutions, religious institutions and work places. As a politician cum educationist, Dr. Lahai said attitudinal development is not a crash programme. She said some of the ways by which attitudes can be changed are through indoctrination, persuasion, and education. The citizenry, according to Hon. Lahai should be convinced that they have something to reap if they are to change their attitude. "The state has the responsibility of providing the citizenry with basic social needs if they are to be patriotic", Hon. Bernadette Lahai noted. She also stated that the people of this country will not buy the idea of change of attitude if those that are preaching the concept are not seen changing their attitudes, adding that each and every citizen of this country, including the President and his party members need to change their attitudes to state governance.
HER MESSAGE TO GOVERNMENT
"Sierra Leone has a lot of potentials with all the natural resources to develop herself. My message is that we must use all the resources we have; we should not concentrate on the human resource from just one area. Sierra Leone has developed a lot of human resources over the years across the region and a lot of money and time have been spent in developing the human resource base. Any government that comes must be able and willing to use all available human resources for economic efficiency. If you come and you just ignore the already existing human resource base because they are not from your own region or political party, it is a waste of the country’s hard earned money. You don’t have time and money to start training people, so use those people who are already in the government to bring changes. If you find them wanting, then there are always administrative rules and procedures to follow. But you cannot just ignore a good number of proficient and qualified workers by unilaterally sacking them or indefinitely sending them on leave. If this country is to forge ahead we need to be politically tolerant, use all available human resources, no matter one’s political affiliation," she concluded.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.