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Nov 28, 2013, 17:00
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Sixty years ago, a Catholic Institution was founded in Bo. The intention of the founding fathers, the Catholic Church was to create a veritable centre of learning that will produce students who will contribute meaningfully to the development of Sierra Leone and the spiritual growth of the Catholic Church. Sixty years hence the school continues to achieve its objectives, though it has been caught up in the social and economic vicissitudes in which our country has been mired.


Old students trooped to Bo last week to celebrate the diamond jubilee of this great school. CKC is a school that has produced students who are actively participating in all spheres of life in Sierra Leone. Five out of the seven heads of the science departments at FBC are CKC alumni. The school can boast of top class engineers, doctors, lawyers and people in other professions servings at home and abroad.


The speech day and prize giving ceremony was chaired by an illustrious old boy, Professor Gbamanja, with Dr Kandeh Yumkella as the guest speaker. Former Vice President Solomon Berewa, a Foundation Student of the school and its first graduate, who spoke at the fundraising dinner was enthused about what CKC had done for him. The rigorous education and discipline that was meted out to him by the Catholic priests who manned the school had prepared him well for later life.That he had risen to the second highest position in the land was due in no small measure to CKC. Dr Yumkella spoke of the role CKC had played in shaping his life- "I firmly believe that one must have a strong sense of responsibility and a commitment to a set of core values in order to achieve success.  CKC taught me to have a sense of responsibility at a very early age", he said.

The week-long celebrations culminated in a Church service and march past- which was more or less a carnival through the streets of Bo.


Celebrations apart, the reality is that a school which once prided itself as the premier science institution in the provinces now has a decrepit laboratory and an infrastructure that is bursting at the seams. The two shift system has not only resulted in students going to class at odd hours, but also resulted in lower contact hours. A significant proportion of the teachers still remain unpaid at the end of the month as they have not been "verified". This is a familiar litany in nearly all schools now. It is not therefore surprising that the thrust of the old boys' efforts has been on trying to maintain standards in the light of a national decline in educational standards. CKC has a vibrant alumni association, COBA with large overseas branches in the US and UK. The vibrant President, John Bosco Kaikai has overseen projects related to improving the school infrastructure and providing educational and other materials for the school.


The old students have rallied round and contributed generously. The project for building extra classrooms and fencing the compound was launched at the anniversary dinner. The Alumni association always rises up to the challenges of the day. When I was president of the association in the early 90s the challenge was late payment of teachers' salaries which prompted us to set up a revolving salary scheme. We have had an illustrious group of presidents from Solomon Berewa to Charles Margai to John Aruna, J.B. Vandy Dauda, Sam Stevens, Sam Macarthy, and Dr Kakpindi Soyei, to name few.


The vibrancy of our overseas branches is second to none, and perhaps what is even more surprising is the ardent role played by Old girls (even though the Association in a sexist way is still an "Old boys Association"). The UK Branch was ably represented by Kankay Hubbard, whilst old girls like Sia Matturi Josiah continue to play a leading role in the US Branch. There are old students in these Braches who will give an arm and a leg for CKC-people like Anthony Sheriff come to mind.

A surprising fact about CKC though is the active participation of its alumni in politics. I do not wish to needlessly pursue this angle, as an alumni Association should really be about the camaraderie amongst its membership and their joint commitment to the furtherance of the ideals of the school. I agree entirely with my friend and fellow alumnus Charlie Hughes when he warned in an article "This college has outstanding representatives at the helm of every scientific field around the world today..........In our obsession with politics we totally forget about the global citizens that the school has produced for this country. I do not by any means desire to denigrate political achievement. But it is only acceptable if we put education first. And it is well and good if educational achievement props a politician's political achievement." I must however beg Charlie to veer a little towards the political as it did portend to dominate the celebrations-thankfully it didn't.

Sometimes as has been seen from the Solomon Berewa vs Charles Margai saga, "brother has been pitched against brother". If rumours are to be believed, there may be as many as four alumni in the next SLPP Presidential aspirant race-one more than the last time! (I am still in the process of trying to confirm their names). But what makes a school, more renowned for its prowess in the sciences produce an inordinately large number of old students who have a bent for politics. Perhaps a quote from Dr. Yumkella's speech attempts to answer this question:  "With a strong sense of Responsibility, a sense of Proportion, commitment to Partnerships, a readiness to serve others, commitment to Hard Work, a solid Education, and unwavering Faith in the Power of the Almighty are the keys to success and prosperity for you and me."Perhaps it is this "readiness to serve others... and unwavering faith in the power of the almighty" that is spurring them on. Belief in divine power is central to the CKC ethos as exemplified in a quote from Robert Boyle in the hallway leading to the lab: "I should be much better content to see you ignore the mystery of nature than deny the author of it".


The interest in politics is not only restricted to national politics but also to local politics. Both Mayor Harold tucker of Bo and District Council Chairman of Kailahun, Alex Bhonapha are CKC alumni. The Chief Administrator of the Bo City Council and most of his staff are CKC alumni. The foundation group of the PMDC had a group of mainly "young turks" who were CKC alumni. Most of them still continue to play active roles in the national political landscape-Former Ministers Dr Soccoh Kabia, Steve Ngaujia, John Saad and current Minister Arrow Bockarie as well as the equally political Aggrey Aruna, who at that time believed in Charles Margai's "message" are members of this group. Incidentally, Charles Margai was "Missing in Action".


The oft asked question before the celebrations was whether Dr Yumkella was going to make some declaration of sorts. They need not have worried. His speech was measured and apt for the occasion-CKC boys are probably too smart to call a spade a spade.Whatever else one may want to read from his speech could best be explained by the biblical maxim "He that has ears to hear, let him hear". We did have time to hobnob with each other during the reunion night and it was good to see most of these political figures I have mentioned, Kandeh Yumkella and fellow alumni reminisce and wax nostalgic about their time at school without so much as a whiff of politics.  Kandeh reminded me about how he used to sweep under my bed (he was in the second form when I was in sixth form). I retorted that he may never be willing to sweep under my bed again-nar big man now!


CKC has also been gradually achieving its objective of contributing to the spiritual growth of the Catholic Church. About 36 of the Catholic Priests produced since the indigenisation of the Church are CKC alumni.


I rather like Dr Sylvester Yankuba's appreciation of what the Catholic Church did for CKC in a recent speech in London-"Foremost, it goes without saying that, any accrued CKC legacies are ultimately owed to the Catholic missionary "Congregatio Sancti Spiritus" Priests (or "Holy Ghost Fathers") - mostly from Ireland - who, all those years ago, went over to Sierra Leone and there endeavoured to help make the lot of Sierra Leoneans a better one by setting up schools such as CKC.  Clearly, therefore, I am sure you will all agree that those priests truly deserve both our unqualified gratitude and our most hearty plaudits!"


I also rather like Dr. Yankuba's advice to fellow alumni: "To end then, I will contend that, as well as preserving our ethos, values and achievements, only by also preserving the physical fabric as well as the infrastructure of CKC continually, can we vouchsafe the preservation of its tripartite heritage of Enlightenment, Philanthropy and Leadership."


Let us continue to preserve our enlightenment, philantrophy and leadership as old Boys and Girls of the school-values that were taught us by Father Corbett, Father Lambe, Father Curran, Gabriel Amara and all those Principals and teachers who helped shape us for the future.


Adveniat regnum tuum.


Ponder my thoughts.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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