As a Sierra Leonean living thousands of miles away from home, I’m always on the lookout for news articles from the motherland. The yearning for a connection to what is familiar is strong and gets stronger as the years fly by. The 7+ years I’ve been in Canada is the longest stretch I’ve ever had in one country, Sierra Leone included, so I’m naturally eager to stay connected to my roots.
This desire for quality information means that I often spend hours on google looking for anything related to Sierra Leone or Sierra Leoneans. A positive development over the years is the increased number of websites dedicated to Sierra Leonean politics, music, travel etc. The unfortunate downside to this surge in online presence is the shocking lack of editorial quality in many of these websites especially those dedicated to news and current affairs.
I always like to point out the positives in most things related to my country but this is an issue that has bothered me for years. The articles are often barely understandable and given the grammar is at primary school level I often get too frustrated to read beyond a few lines. I’ve read some articles discussing legal issues, for example, which use contractual language that is incomprehensible to the average Sierra Leonean. Why would you write an article that is meant to inform the public and yet make it inaccessible by using words that barely anyone understands? Is it to justify your label as an educated man/woman?
Some journalists have chosen to act as nothing but outlets for political propaganda with no attempt at performing any analysis, their sole purpose being to smear opponents and throw degrading insults like a bunch of pre-teen, playground gangsters. Other outlets have articles that are so poorly written that if you don’t understand Krio, you would never figure out what they were talking about. The articles seem to have been literally translated from Krio to English.
I’d just like to go on a bit of a tangent here and tell you the story of Isatu “Fak Fak”, a story I heard a couple of days ago. A boy in Isatu’s class was causing some trouble at the back of the class but the teacher didn’t notice. Isatu decided to draw the teacher’s attention to the issue and so raised her hand and yelled.
“Teacher! Teacher! That boy is ‘fak, fakking’”
The story of Isatu “Fak Fak” just highlights the often blurred lines between Krio and English, what I like to refer to as the “Kringlish phenomenon”.This phenomenon has meant the average Sierra Leonean student’s grasp of English is worse than a Francophone West African’s grasp of French. The absence of a creole version of French in West Africa just proves the devastating effect of Krio on the English spoken in our country. (Note: To any non-Krio speakers, "Fak Fak" can hold several meanings in Krio. My best translation in the context of the story would be that it means to be Hyperactive)
I always laugh about this issue with my siblings, not because it’s amusing, but because it’s so sad and disappointing. You can only blame the individuals for so long before you are compelled to take a closer a look at the education system in the country. The primary, secondary and post-secondary institutions are crumbling and in desperate need of overhaul and renewal in terms of both the infrastructure and teaching methods. The rich pay for good private schools and the masses make do with the poor quality public schools. This is probably true for some western countries as well but the gap between public/private in Sierra Leone is just unacceptably large.
We are always so proud to have been referred to as the “Athens of West Africa”, a reference to our history of excellence in education but yet that just serves to show how far we’ve fallen. I’ve put together a few examples from recent articles to emphasise my point.
“Accolade must be given the late President Joseph Saidu Momoh for straight forwardly telling Sierra Leoneans that he failed his exams as he navigated the ship of state."
“It makes no disputation whatsoever that President Koroma has indeed demonstrated his willingness to issues of infrastructural concern.”
“Sierra Leoneans are reportedly fed up of lies preached them by state officials and have virtually attributed same as not having the traits of late President Momoh’s straight forward governance doctrine.”
“She furthered that she grudged no hatred and detestation for anyone including the unborn. That with unity, love and oneness it is sure Sierra Leone has a place in the next 50 years.”
“In spite of the fact that Afsatu Kabba was taken to the wells of the high courts to answer for believable corruption indictments, it is of the conviction of the electorates that the likes of Afsatu Kabba makes better in the swift and unrestraint development of Sierra Leone in the years to come.”
I must stress that I’m not raising this issue because I want to belittle Sierra Leoneans, I’m doing this because I’m fed up with being presented with mediocrity when I know we can do better. I’ve always refused to believe the current state of affairs is “good enough” just because it’s African. We cannot improve as individuals or as a society if we do not always insist on the best.
I’d like you to think of this rebuke as the cold water you splash on your face every morning to wake you up. It stings but it’s for your own good. I am not a journalist and I’m certain those at the top of the profession would have issues with my writing but is it too much to ask that our journalists use their media to inform rather than confuse us?