The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) in collaboration with the Center for Memory and Reparations in celebrating the more than two decades of peace, has declared January 18th as National Reconciliation Day as recommended by the Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The event took place on Wednesday 18th January at the Civil War Memorial in Robis Lungi, Kaffu Bullum Chiefdom.
According to the Principal of the Center for Memory and Reparation Joseph Keifala (Esq), the TRC completed its work in 2004 and submitted its reports, including recommendations, to the Government of Sierra Leone.
He said among the recommendations there is a call for the Government of Sierra Leone to formally declare January 18 as National Civic Consultation, Education and Commemoration Day and to lead activities that promote peace and cohesion in Sierra Leone, greater citizen participation in public service delivery and policy formulation processes especially research.
“National Civic Consultation, Education and Commemoration Day could serve as a day of service, reflection, dialogue, and the promotion of peace and cohesion by celebrating the things that unite us as a people, and create the platform to discuss needs for inclusive growth. The goal is that no one should be left out of development processes,” he said.
Children were specific targets of armed groups during the Sierra Leonean civil war, many used as child combatants and sex slaves – which is why the TRC made specific recommendations for the protection of children in Sierra Leone and to make its report and recommendations a pertinent part of the educational system. As it stated, “children were singled out for some of the most brutal violations of human rights recorded in the conflict.” The TRC therefore recommended the “widest possible dissemination” of its reports and their incorporation into secondary schools.
The Government of Sierra Leone has prioritized human capital development, thus undertaking investments to increase the future productivity of the country’s children. Bi-directional appreciation of such investment is needed to maximize returns. Therefore, National Civic Consultation, Education and Commemoration Day is a civic engagement day in secondary schools, facilitating an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society.
He said some years ago, he founded the Center for Memory and Reparation to facilitate the healing process started by the TRC, noting that the rationale is that many people still struggle to survive in psychological battlefields of their minds where the trauma of war rages on.
“We are grateful to MBSSE for seeing the value of the past as a light house towards the future. Sierra Leoneans have a saying, if you don’t know where you are going, remember where you came from. We must always remember where we have been in order to move forward together, avoid the errors of our past and embrace the good deeds that nourish our cohesion and cultural existence.
The Deputy Minister ll of Basic and Senior Secondary Education Madam Mamusu Massaquio said MBSSE will ensure January 18 becomes a day of National Service and Civic Education in Schools across the country, adding that children are particularly affected by the 11 years civil war in the country which is why the TRC placed special emphasis on educating children for better citizenship.
“In terms of TRC recommendations pertaining to children’s education, the Government of President Maada Bio has done above and beyond TRC recommendations of only Free Primary Education, but also extended it to free pre-primary and secondary education,” she said.
She said the Radival Inclusion policy is also ensuring that no child, especially pregnant girls, is denied his/her fundamental rights to education, adding that the government is also providing Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) scholarships to encourage more girls to acquire tertiary education in those areas.
In delivering the keynote address on behalf of the vice President, the Resident Minister North-West Alhaji Alpha Kanu said Sierra Leoneans were all affected by those eleven years of conflict, directly or indirectly, noting that the country was ruined to the extent that even after two decades of peace, Sierra Leoneans are still at the foundation level of rebuilding the country.
“We have gathered here 21 years later to renew that vow to maintain a peaceful Sierra Leone. In remembering, therefore, we commit to never again take up arms against each other – no matter our disagreements,” he said.
The event was attended by members of the diplomatic community, civil society organizations, pupils and school heads in Lungi among others.
The Resident Minister North-West performed the Lighting of the Flame of Peace, Unveiling of Memorial Plaque and touring of the civil war Memorial.