Name Fourah Bay’s “Block I” Milton Margai Hall of Residence!
APPEAL TO THE CHANCELLOR, THE VICE CHANCELLOR, SENATE AND COLLEGE COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SIERRA LEONE ABOUT: BLOCK ‘I’, THE UNNAMED STUDENT HOSTEL AT FOURAH BAY COLLEGE, MOUNT AUREOL.
NAME IT ‘MILTON MARGAI HALL OF RESIDENCE’.
Recent alumni visitors to Mount Aureol will notice a new (but old) student hostel on the right side of the Davidson Nicol Hall of Residence, a three storey building facing the East End of Freetown, without a real name.
In the last three years, I have been visiting Mount Aureol, and going down the men’s hostels, I noticed this hostel whose construction actually started in 1971 but said to be completed in the 90s. I asked the students I spoke with the name of the new hostel, and they told me “Block I”. What is “Block I”? I asked the students. They told me that was just the name. Well having lived as a student myself in that university campus on the hill for some years, I began to ponder within myself what “Block I” meant, given the fact that the four older student hostels were all named after personalities with connection to the nation and the college. Block “I” did not seem to make sense to me: I asked myself, why not go back to history and search for a worthy name, a name devoid of politics, a name connected with the college. There are heroes connected with Fourah Bay College to be considered for honour. The name I came up with after my research, is that of the first Protectorate Alumnus , Sir Milton Margai.
In my opinion there is need for all those connected with Fourah Bay College to start considering re-naming “Block I,” and the name I personally consider most deserving is the first Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai, and I have reasons for this nomination. First and foremost, Sir Milton Margai was the very first Protectorate student to graduate from Fourah Bay College in 1921. Of course the naming of the old hostels the Davidson Nicol, Bai Bureh, Solomon Caulker, and Lati Hyde hostels was all done during the administration of the first Sierra Leonean Principal Dr Davidson Nicol and the naming of those residences was done in 1964. But any alumnus may ask the question, “Why name a hostel on Mount Aureol after a Vice Principal (Solomon Caulker) an officer not in charge?
Rev Solomon Caulker was a lecturer of Philosophy at the college and was only appointed Vice Principal to the last expatriate Principal Rev James J. Grant in 1958. By the time Dr. Davidson Nicol took over the principal-ship of the college, Rev Solomon Caulker was only two years as VP. But Dr. Nicol was a very thoughtful university administrator. When the decision was taken to name the newly constructed hostels in 1964, he actually recommended to the Senate the name of his Vice-Principal for consideration: The reason for Dr Nicol’s recommendation was that Rev Solomon Caulker lost his life in a plane crash in Dakar in August 29, 1960 as he was returning from Israel after attending an international conference on Science at which he represented Fourah Bay College. Dr Nicol took over the principal-ship barely two months when Rev Solomon Caulker met his untimely death. For this reason he believed Rev Solomon Caulker’s name must be “in memoriam” at Mount Aureol to one of the newly built Halls of Residence. He met his death in the service of Fourah Bay College.
Another argument worthy of consideration is that of Samuel Ajayi Crowther. In terms of fame, no one is more famous in the history of Fourah Bay College than that of this Yoruba student. Not only was he the first of the six foundation students of the college (alphabetically listed) in 1827, but Crowther went to become the first graduate from Nigeria from Fourah Bay College; the first Black man to gain employment at the college as a lecturer in Latin and Greek, and also acted as Principal for three terms 1837, 1844, and 1848. He also became the first Black African to be ordained Bishop of the Anglican Church for the Niger Delta area. So we can see reason for honouring him, not only for being a foundation student, but also for all the other reasons outlined.
Further, Mrs Lati Hyde Forster is not only the first female admission and graduate from the college in 1949, she is also the first Creole woman to graduate from the former colony of Sierra leone, and therefore giving her name to the female hostel is in place.
Similarly Sir Milton Margai was not only the first male graduate from the former Protectorate of Sierra Leone in 1921, but also the first Mende man graduate from Fourah Bay College, and this aspect of the college history must be narrated for the powers that be to see reason for this proposal, especially when there is a building standing lofty on the hill without a name.
Sir Milton Margai was an inspiration to all persons from the Provinces today and if accepted, it will be one of the most fitting memorials to the late leader in the campus of his Alma Mater. I believe his name was probably not considered at the time because he was in power, and naming a landmark after any leader still in power is overtly a display of sycophancy. It takes years for historians to assess and evaluate a leader’s performance while in office before such leader can be considered for any such memorial. It would be senseless or even preposterous to just give a name because someone was in office irrespective of his performance and legacy, otherwise this country would have been full of former presidents, army rulers and the like.
The question people in general, or historians, ask is “has a leader done something positively different from that of his predecessors that makes him standout?” if so what has he done to deserve a Memorial?
The best time to name a landmark is after a leader is either deceased or is out of office. Dr Margai in addition to being the first graduate from the former Protectorate, was also the first Medical doctor to graduate from University of Durham College of Medicine and the Liverpool University School of Tropical medicine; as the first FBC alumnus from the Protectorate and medical practitioner who served in eleven of the twelve districts of the country, his name deserves a place on Mount Aureol, especially when there is still an un-named student hostel up on the hill.
There are five student hostels with one without a name. It is never late to consider the name Milton Margai for Block I, especially as the hostel remains nameless to this day.
The fact is no Head of State can ever outdo Sir Milton’s performance in this country. His multiple accomplishments include: The Bank of Sierra Leone, the House of Parliament on Tower Hill, the General Post Office (Salpost), all three edifices donated to this country by Israel. Some critics might say Sir Milton is already adequately “in memoriam” in many landmarks in this country. The critics may be right, nothing happens without a reason. Now let me throw light on the reasons for this:
In 1961, Sir Milton appealed for funding to build a School for the Blind in Freetown. He personally purchased the piece of land along Wilkinson Road and when he got the grant construction started and the school was initially named Sierra Leone School for the Blind. It was only after his death that the school management with the approval of the Ministry of Education, re-named it Sir Milton Margai School for the Blind. What leader in the history of Sierra Leone has ever considered help for the handicapped? For his humanitarian touch, he deserves the name for the Blind school.
In 1960, Sir Milton concerned for the quality of education of the youths of this country, went on to purchase out of pocket, a parcel of land at Goderich Village for the construction of a Central Sixth Form College for the country. Work on this project was completed by 1962. But the original plan had to be shelved for some unforeseen and urgent reasons; the new Freetown Teachers’ Training College on Tower Hill, which came into being following the separation of the Teacher Training Department from Fourah Bay College, was desperate for a permanent home of its own. Government was unable to find a site to build the new college. Consequently, the government decided to relocate the Tower Hill College to the new buildings in Goderich. In 1962, the Teachers College was transferred to Goderich and became the Freetown Teachers Training College. It was only after Sir Milton’s death in April 1964 that the College Council under the Chairmanship of the Late Rev. Harry Sawyerr of Fourah Bay College (1962-1969), in appreciation of his efforts in Education, that the College Council decided to name it Milton Margai Teachers Training College.
In Bo town at the far end of Ngalu Road, Sir Milton started a Children’s Chesire Home to coincide with the Queen’s visit to Bo (the 1962 Royal Visit Year) and this home was initially called “The Bo Chesire Home”. This name was later changed after his death in 1964, to” Sir Milton Margai Chesire Home”.
He never campaigned either covertly or overtly for any of these landmarks in his lifetime as they were all posthumous honours. The leader must learn to do his work and exit the stage and leave the evaluation of his performance to posterity.
I have come up with this idea of a name because of the existence of an un-named hostel on Mount Aureol and given the unchallenged fact of him being the first Protectorate man to earn a university degree from Fourah Bay College, it is only fitting and appropriate for this proposal be put under very active consideration for re-nomination of “Block I”.
A leader who served his nation with the best of intentions and with no ambition for acquiring wealth or construction of personal multiple houses all over the place, Sir Milton’s honesty is impeccable. No one can point at a single home in Freetown said to be property of Sir Milton, not even sure he had a personal home in Moyamba or Gbamgbatoke his ancestral home. He has always lived at the Lodge at Hill Station.
Such a leader as Sir Milton Margai deserves every honour and admiration in this country. He really used his position to provide this nation with all its essential needs viz, The Sierra Leone Parliament on Tower Hill, The General Post Office, The Bank of Sierra Leone, and many educational institutions.
Indeed Sir Milton Margai was a true Father of the Nation, not only for being first Prime Minister, but left behind him the essential needs a new nation state needs. What a great humanitarian with concern for the handicapped. Let me therefore earnestly make this appeal to the authorities on Mount Aureol to give active consideration for the renaming of this student Hall of Residence, “Block I” as the MILTON MARGAI HALL OF RESIDENCE.
By Anthony Karim Kamara of Canada.
The author will appreciate and welcome constructive contributions and comments from readers on this posting.
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