Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dr Yumkella's Inspirational Speech to Alumni, Students and Stakeholders of Christ the King's College (CKC) Bo.

CKC 60th Anniversary Celebrations 

Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella's Address to CKC Stakeholders
Dr. Yumkella Addressing CKC

Theme: Responsibility and Values 
Principal, Staff and Board of Governors, National President of COBA, His Excellency Former V. P. Solomon Berewa, Honorable Ministers, Traditional Rulers, Mr. Mayor,  Elders of Bo, Former Ministers, Members of the Clergy, Members of the 4th Estate, Parents, Students,All Protocols Observed.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I wish to express my deep gratitude to the Board of Governors, staff, students and the executive of COBA for inviting me to this 60th Anniversary celebration. I also had the opportunity to join you for the 50th Anniversary (when I was UNIDO Representative in Nigeria).

Today brings back a lot of memories such as my first day in the boarding home in 1971 at age 11; or the day I interrupted the prayer session in 1977 to mobilize the students to join national demonstrations under the No-College-No-School protest (started by the late Hindolo-Trye and others); I can recall the day in 1977 my late Uncle, Drissa Macua Yilla got up from his sick bed with his hunting gun and fired 2 shots in the air at the Clock-Tower location to protect his pharmacy and the TOT-Bar from being burnt down by thugs during the national elections, and two days later when Kaindeka led a group of youth from Jaboima to protect Sweet Bo from being burnt down by the same thugs. But the best memory of course is the day I summed up courage to propose to the most beautiful girl in Bo Town, one of the daughters of Bo, my wife Philomena Nicholas (daughter of Madam Nancy Nicholas, aka Mama Nicho, the former Mayor of Bo).
School Alumni

I was told that many people are curious about my speech. There are even speculations about what I may or may not say. Some even wonder why I would come to Bo for this event. In order to keep my commitment to COBA and get here in time for this event, I traveled 24 hours, through different flight connections, to be here for 48 hours. I did this because I owe a lot to CKC; more importantly, when I give my word, I stand by it. The bottom line is that I am here to celebrate with my kith and kin, I am here to inspire the young generation that they can be better than me and others before them. So I will speak from my heart about how CKC prepared me for my journey through life. The theme of my remarks is:

Responsibility and Values.
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. The teachers and Priests of the Holy Ghost Order shaped my values at the formative period of age 11-18 years (of course I had also received a lot of do(s) and don't(s) from my parents and the extended family). As the saying goes " It takes a village to raise a child". I will draw from my own personal journey in life to show how CKC gave me the tools, core foundation and sense of Responsibility and Values that have contributed to my few achievements during the past three decades
CKC Bo Town

Sense of Responsibility.
One of the turning points of my youth, was when charged with the privilege and responsibilities to serve as school monitor. My responsibilities at school included ringing bell as notification for change of classes, ringing the bell at boarding home to announce study time, play time, meal time, bed time etc. This meant by the early age of 12, I've been introduced to sense of responsibilities and to manage activities when things happened in the entire school at large. It also meant that I had to be more responsible and conscious of time than my peers, because if I am late then every body will be late. This also taught me discipline and personal sacrifice because I had to stop doing things I liked in order to be ahead of other students and ring the bell (I had to wake up at 6 am to ring the bell to wake up others at 6:30; I had to stop playing before others, I had to eat quickly ahead of others, I had to stop hanging-out ahead of others). In form three, I was put in charge of the dispensary in the Boarding Masters office. I had to clean the wounds of those with soccer injuries, to dispense WL-Laxative to those who had constipation from too much garri (till today I do not know why the medicine was called WL). This experience taught me humility and public service. The Priests were teaching me to "wash the feet of others". From then till I reached upper-six, I was a Prefect or Monitor for all sorts of things. So early in life CKC taught me Responsibility, Service and Humility. So discipline is the other requirement. Respect for law and order including the rule of law must be embedded in the young minds, and must be a golden thread in the fabric of society. But discipline begins at home, it is also institutionalized when those in authority respect and enforce the rule of law.

A sense of Proportion
In life, one must know ones limits. One must accept that as good as you are, there are others who are better, and to get ahead you must cooperate with others. There is a saying that goes like this, "Alone you can go FAST, but Together, we can go Far." CKC taught me to build partnerships and strategic alliances. When I was in form one, I was top of the class. But this was form 1B; then we went to form 2A to meet the brightest students. In the first term in form 2A, I was placed 7th in the end of term exam. Can you imagine from being top to being 7th. In fact, the man who was 1st continued to be first in class for the next 5 years. So I learnt that though I was smart, there were others who were far smarter, and if I had to be as good as them, I had to partner with them, study like them, and play like them. My friends coached me in mathematics, chemistry, and physics. I coached them on how to cram history, literature, bible knowledge and biology. I remember some students use to call me "photographic brain", because I could cram very well. To cut a long story short, My friend Sam was always first, Joseph was always second, and I was always comfortable at 3rd place. From Donald Bash-Taqui we learnt bravery and courage, to stand for what we believed. If you are in trouble you want Donald next to you. But the two of them showed me how to be analytical, they sharpened my numeracy, and helped me think hard and connect the dots. We were best of friends and in form six we slept in the same small room.
CKC's Iconic Crocodile

 A Readiness for Leadership
In 1977, when we got to lower-six, the teachers decided for the first time that the students should elect their senior prefect from a short-list of three nominees provided by the principal and staff. Three best friends, KKY, Sam and Joseph, sleeping in the same 8x8 room, had to compete, campaign and debate in front of the students. How can I compete against two guys who were smarter than me and always first and second in class. Wow, I was introduced to politics; I had to dig deep into myself and ask what is my competitive edge, why do I believe that I should lead the students? In the end, I won the elections. One year later, I had to join our friends in Bo school (Harry Selenga, Baba Musa Danjaji, Eric Jumu, J.B. Laggah, and others) to organize the Bo version of "No College-No School" demonstrations. I also became president of the the Bo United Nations Students Association (BUNSA).

God's Time is the Best
So my association with the United Nations started in 1977-78, at 17-18 years, when I was elected President of BUNSA. The Vice President was the senior prefect of the Bo school. You fast forward to 1989, when I desperately wanted to be a young professional in the UN and World Bank. I lobbied some people, but it did not happen. I went on to be Assistant to the Dean University of Illinois College of Agriculture, and then Assistant Professor at Michigan State. Well God's time is the best. In 1996 two decades later, I was called to join the UN at much higher level (a director level at age 36). I learnt another lesson, that one must always work hard, train properly and prepare oneself so that when the Almighty opens the door of opportunity, you can sprint through it to success. Remember I was a long distance runner for St John's Hall in athletics (400 meters, 800 meters and the mile); I know that to win in long distance competition, you train, you pace yourself and be ready for the dash at the finish line. When I ran for the election to the post of Director General, I was dismissed by my opponents because I was the youngest candidate and they said my country did not have international clout. Well, as I did for the senior prefect election, I ran a smart global campaign, focussing on my superior knowledge and practical experience within the UN; and I won by a landslide. So sometimes the Almighty might not answer your prayers immediately, he prepares you through detours and rough terrain; and then, Eureka! all factors suddenly come together easily and smoothly. Some call it luck, I call it Devine intervention having a date with solid preparation and hard work.

The Future
Mr. Principal, distinguished Alumni, Elders, ladies and gentlemen,What we do now, sometimes determines our future. The choices we will make in the next 3-4 years will determine the fate of our country (your fate), for the next two decades. We can be as poor as the Niger Delta, or we can be as wealthy as Dubai. I believe that the best way to predict the future is to create the future.

Many days and nights I ask myself and ponder over questions about our country Sierra Leone.In the abundance of our natural wealth that have been discovered over the past 8 years and provided by the Almighty for 6 million souls; in the presence of abundant open-source knowledge systems in this digital age, why must the next generation of Sierra Leoneans (our children and grand children) be poor, why should they be destitute, and why should they be ignorant? It was Bob Marley who said "In the Abundance of water, only the fool is thirsty".

 Are we pre-ordained to be poor? Why should another generation of Sierra Leoneans become economic refugees in London or New York? Our children and grand children deserve better. As a man who has defied the odds, worked hard to find a place on the global stage, I believe we can shape our destiny if we have some shared values and a strong sense of responsibility, coupled with determination to be amongst the best. 

Since we live in a globalized world, we must think global and act local. We must learn how others are creating wealth and spreading prosperity for their citizens and generations yet unborn. You the current students of CKC (the next generation of Sierra Leonean Leaders), and your parents as well, should understand that to make Sierra Leone a prosperous nation, to ensure that you do not continue to hug the bottom tier of the development ladder (as we have done for the past two and half decades), you must be ready to compete with other youth from other nations. Competitiveness of nations, and the prosperity of the citizens require knowledge, skills and a core set of values (a culture) that molds the people into a formidable professional cadre or productive labour force. It requires leadership that puts the interest of the common people first; it requires leadership that understands how private sector led-growth buttressed by smart macro-economic and trade policies can propel a nation to double digit growth and structural change.

We must embrace foreign direct investments and global strategic alliances for trade and technology cooperation. We must invest in functional literacy. Functional literacy rate refers to the percentage of literates imbued with enhanced adaptive capabilities to use modern technology and devices and to commercialize new knowledge. To this end, the future workforce should be empowered with adaptive thinking and skills to blend with and adapt to the rapidly changing facets of industrialization. Functional literacy rate facilitates creative and innovative thinking skills in order to remain dynamically relevant, to face the challenges in global market place, and to seize emerging opportunities.

 An Indian friend recently told me this story. At the Crystal Palace Industrial Exhibition in 1851, American goods were at the center of attraction. The surprised British industrial stakeholders, whose forefathers emerged as the pioneers of industrial revolution a century ago, went to the US to find out the reasons. They realized that the productive functional literacy rate in the US was higher than that of England. In the 1980s when Japanese goods successfully penetrated the European and North American markets, the surprised industrial magnates of the US, whose forefathers transformed a great agrarian economy into a mighty industrial power after the civil war, went to Japan to find that functional literacy rate in Japan was higher than that of the US.
School Campus

Over the past ten years I have supported the promotion of functional literacy in Sierra Leone. I encouraged UNIDO to build 11 growth centers in communities all over the country, with the largest one in Bo Town. Two years ago we started building the fisheries training institute (which the rebels had burnt down) at Ferry Junction; I am happy to say that in four weeks on December 18th the President will inaugurate the new fisheries training institute.

Today, on behalf of my family, I pledge to help establish the computer lab in CKC. In addition, we will provide 10 tuition scholarships for the school, one 4-year college tuition scholarship (to Njala University or Fourah Bay College) for the student with the best WASSE result. (He will be required to maintain a high Grade point average while in college). We will also make a contribution towards the new school block, and are willing to assist COBA to raise funds for its construction. 

Finally, I hope in the next couple of years I can join you on the ground to shape our country's future. Yes, I will be back in Salone in the near future. As I have always said, there are no red or green Sierra Leoneans. There are only one people with a common destiny, and a dream for a better tomorrow. I hope that all my stories todaywill convince you that you can compete and that you can be great. In fact, you must compete, otherwise we will all remain poor, begging for aid and help all the time. 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 the keys to success and prosperity for you and me.

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