Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in Sierra Leone, Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has described herself as the “Chief Social Worker” in her country. She was addressing a jampacked to overflowing Mary Kingsley Auditorium at Fourah Bay College (FBC) on Tuesday March 28th 2017. As Guest Speaker for the annual celebrations of the Social Work Society of Social Work Department of the college, she spoke on the theme: “The Importance of Social Workers in Sierra Leone.”
According to Hon. Dr. Blyden, a lack of an effective social work force led to war in 1991 and also led to unprecedented spread of Ebola in 2014. She said, in 1991, because Sierra Leone hadn’t any active social work force, rebel leader Foday Sankoh made use of disgruntled citizens especially youths whom felt deprived and disconnected from the social system by then. She cited that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Sierra Leone stated that young people took arms because they hadn’t anyway of channeling their grievances. She said if social workers had been serving, they would have helped channel the grievances of youths and offered alternative referral pathways.
Honourable Blyden further delved into the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Sokoma and Kpondu villages in remote part of Kailahun District. She said because of non-existent social service workers in that area of the country, Kpondu recorded 25 deaths in three weeks without any alarm being raised. She said Sokoma village and its environs also recorded dozens of deaths in a very short period of time. She therefore stressed that had there been a vibrant social work force in that part of the country, social workers would have picked up the strange high rate of death in Kpondu and Sokoma, and as a result, that would have been brought to the knowledge of the government for earlier prompt actions.
As a result, to loud applause, she told students of the FBC Social Work Society (Sow So) to prepare to be led by her to go to the most remote parts of the county in sacred service. She vowed that as the Chief Social Worker in Sierra Leone, she would ensure that the importance of what the students are studying is recognized by the Government of Sierra Leone. She said “I am going to lead the way so that this country understands the importance of social workers and social work.”
Hundreds and Hundreds of jubilant students were seen jumping up and down along the aisle, stamping their feet and clapping their hands as they cheered the “Chief Social Worker of Sierra Leone”. In perfect tandem and great oratory, the Minister did not disappoint her audience.
“We are social workers and our service in this country is no less important than any other profession! So, put on your boots and gear up your rain kits as we are going out into the field to serve this country,” were the words that finally sent the auditorium wild as students screamed in ecstasy that they were quite ready to follow the minister into the field right away. They rose in standing ovation as if they were there and then ready to gear up and follow the eloquent lady.
Head of Social Work Department FBC, Professor Alfred Abioseh Jarrett expressed his confidence in the leadership of Hon. Dr. Blyden whom he first met whilst she was in America during the civil war period. Professor Jarrett recalled the active role played in the United States of America by the now Hon. Minister in ensuring that peace is fully restored in Sierra Leone. He said she worked hard for peace during efforts to end the civil war. The Professor said “Hon. Dr. Blyden is younger than me but let me confess that since the time she was in America to now, she has always been my mentor.”
It was a very beautiful event organized under leadership of Mr. Sahid Conteh, the President of the Social Work Society on campus.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.