What's Missing in the Debate Over Annie Walsh Memorial School?

Baltimore, MD 2/13/2013--Just over eighty days since Ernest Koroma was re-elected and sworn in for the second term as the president of Sierra Leone, an article appeared in Awoko bearing the headline, "For the construction of a Modern Market Annie Walsh School to relocate." In the article, by Samuel John, John presented evidence of a divide between the president's State House and the proprietors of Annie Walsh Memorial School, one of the oldest in West Africa.

According to John, the letter written by Secretary to the President E.B. Osho-Coker to the proprietor of the school, the lord bishop of Freetown and the north, proposed the relocation of the school from Kissy Road  for the construction of a modern market.

“[A]s you are no doubt aware, when the Annie Walsh Memorial School (AWMS) moved to its present location on Kissy Road, Freetown in 1865, the environment was ideally suitable for a school that pursued excellence in all areas including high academic performance, sound discipline and a solid Christian foundation.
However, the passage of time, has witnessed a massive growth in the city’s population and concomitant expansion of trading activities eastwards, the area occupied by the school has become an unsuitable environment for the pursuit of academic excellence. As Government intensifies its efforts at waste management, improvement of road safety and decongestion through “Operation WID” the compelling need for relocation of the AWMS to a more ideal site has been identified.
The selection of the site will be at the behest of the proprietors of the AWMS and arrangements will be concluded with Government for acquisition of the land and construction of the new school. The land vacated at Kissy Road will then be utilized for the construction of a modern market to be occupied by traders that are being removed from the streets of Freetown.
His Excellency the President, has instructed me to bring this proposal to your attention, so that it can be initially considered by the Church and School authorities. Please be informed that His Excellency looks forward to a favourable consideration of the proposal contained herein,” the letter concluded.

John went on to say that Bishop Lynch’s first reaction to the letter, dated 29th January 2013, was to write the secretary of the Improvement Relocation Committee of the Annie Walsh Memorial Old Girls Association (AWOGA). In his letter, he stated,

“I hasten to bring this letter received on 30th January 2013 from the Secretary to the President to your notice, for a speedy consideration of the proposal contained in the document. Kindly advise me, so that I can respond appropriately alongside our proposal for privatization."

Via email, prominent alumnae of the Annie Walsh Memorial School Old Girls Association (AWOGA) said:

Twenty-one representatives of the Relocation and Development Committees, AWOGA executive members, and the principal of the Senior School, acting principal, Junior School, and a past principal had an audience with The Lord Bishop Rev. Julius O. P. Lynch (proprietor of the school) during the morning of 8th February, 2013.

"The visit was in connection with the letter received from the Bishop and the Office of the President with regards to relocation of the school and the proposal to build a modern market at our present site," the e-mail said. They also went on to say that the AWMS Relocation Committee— Mrs. Lulu Wright (coordinator), Mrs. Faustina Thomas (chairperson) and Mrs. Marcella Jones (secretary)— had produced a position paper in reaction to the proposal from the office of the president. This was presented to the lord bishop, according to the e-mail.

Extracts from the position paper included the recommendations that:

1. The current location is preserved as a historic landmark; because Sierra Leone has a responsibility to preserve listed property in keeping with the United Nations general convention concerning the protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage sites.

2. The current site remain in the education arena and that the Government of Sierra Leone should consider an alternative site for the construction of the modern market. "That  the proprietor and alumnae had envisaged  the present site would be used as a vocational/technical /adult educational center for girls and women in particular to win them away from street trading and equip them for a higher standard of life."

More to come...


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