By Mohamed Barrie
A group of returned migrants within the framework of the Migrant as Messengers (MaM) Project in Sierra Leone have initiated a new venture-‘Inter School Debate’. This program was designed to promote awareness raising campaign in schools and local communities in Port Loko town, Northern part of the country.
The event, which is a novelty featured four leading schools within the town ship. The objective according to MaM volunteers is to raise awareness among Senior Secondary pupils’ teachers and the community. Pupils between 18 and above are believed to be amongst the most vulnerable and represent a fertile and attractive target and ground for traffickers. Port Loko situated close to borderline -is at the exit point to Guinea. And as such it offers easy access for smugglers and traffickers. Consequently, pupils that fall victims can easily be ferried across the borders using either the main exit or the plethora of routes within the border to start their irregular migration/Temple Run journey. It is said to have become a main hub and point of exit generally used by youths and their traffickers.
The schools selected for the debate were: Movement of Faith (MOF), Roman Catholic Senior, Secondary School, Islamic Senior Secondary School and Schlenkar Secondary School.
The debate had topics on issues that are envisaged to provide information on regular and irregular migration. This venture is hoped to bring out the perspective or the understanding of pupils about irregular migration. Also, the debate offered a platform on which pupils argued and counter argued on the pros and cons about Temple Run in the presence of other schools and community members.
Prior to the commencement of the debate, two sessions were held on the 19th and 20th of April, to review proposed topics and ascertain preparedness of pupils.
A cross section of pupils from Schlenkar, MOF, and Islamic
Each school was represented by 2 teachers, 4 debaters, and 20 pupils constituting part of the audience. The judges came from the District Education Office and the Teaching Service Commission- (two per unit and four in all).
The debate itself on the 21st of April 2021 was a fiery, and hotly contested. The first schools to take the podium were Movement of Faith (MOF) and Roman Catholic Secondary School on the topic, ‘Temple run is a necessary risk to success for young people in Sierra Leone, do you agree or disagree’.
MOF emerged as winner of this first debate scoring 185 points, seconded by Roman Catholic Sec School with 183 points. The other debate was between Islamic Secondary School and Schlenkar Secondary School on the topic, ’The family and Community are responsible for the high rate of temple run among young Sierra Leoneans, do you agree or disagree’. In this debate, Schlenkar emerged winner with 236 point and Islamic Secondary School scored 232.
Victorious Schlenkar with their Plaque alongside Marian Pleasant Kargbo an Activist.
Both Movement of Faith and Schlenkar Secondary school who emerged as winners of the groups qualified for the finals.
The Final was a tight contest; highly competitive, exchanges between the debaters, points and counter points sent pupils in feats of shouting. The applause, cheering, and ovation from the audience of pupils, teachers, and other onlookers in the DICOVERC Hall was deafening.
At the end, Schlenkar Senior Secondary School won with 314 points whilst Movement of Faith trailed behind with 194 points.
Schlenkar received the winner’s plaque, runners up plaque went to MOF, and Islamic Senior School and Roman Catholic also received a plaque. The debate shed light on the many views held by pupils, teachers, and other members of the community. This event was a useful mechanism to raise awareness among school pupils. The convergence of different schools to debate on various topics on Irregular migration was a novelty in which pupils and teachers of the various schools shared their understanding on irregular migration- ‘Temple Run’.
That inter-school debate in Port Loko became an eye opener and replicating it in schools in other regions, districts and towns within the country will considerably contribute to behavioral change and possibly minimize irregular migration.