As a headmaster, he was sent to non-performing schools to change their performance (he was known to have been very strict). He co-authored a mathematics book which I loved and made me proud as a kid.
I remember that I was inspired that I had someone in my family who had worked in education and I would do extra math activities just to read his book. He was my hero.
Most importantly however, he was my namesake. David Solomon Moinina Lahai commonly known as DSM Lahai was a man known for his principles and his dedication to changing education wherever he went. He worked in all districts in Sierra Leone.
I am sure DSM Lahai’s journey influenced the career path of my own mother.
Your grandma’s first job was at the Ministry of Education as a daily wage secretary. On March 1st 1973, she joined the Ministry in a role that included typing and filing reports and letters, payment of staff, and general human resources (she refused to use the printing machine because it made one’s clothes dirty.
Nothing can ever mess with your grandma’s clothing and design). She took a transfer request to the Ministry of Education, Bo to continue as Secretary in 1983 where she retired in 2013 as a proud civil servant Clerk. (It does not pass on me that I joined the public service as Chief Innovation Officer while my mother retired as a clerk trained as a professional typist on a typewriter).
My mother, Elizabeth Sengeh, who you call Ngo Lizzy, retired from the Ministry with her values and principles intact just like her father. When asked to stay for another two years after turning in her request for retirement on the day of her birthday, she said no because she wanted to give others a chance to serve.
Your grandpa Paul and many of your uncles do have teaching certificates. Paul taught for years and I often meet leaders across the public sector who tell me how principled and strict he was (Paul is still a bit strict but it gives me joy to see he is more playful and silly with you). Nyaanina- you watched me get approved in Parliament and sworn in by the President of Sierra Leone as the youngest ever Education Minister of Sierra Leone (I think you slept for some of the latter).
Education is this Government’s flagship program taking about 22% of the government’s annual budget. Everyone knows the sector is challenging and some think I lack the experience needed.
So I have to go back to the advice I give you girls- to take responsibility, take leadership and to check in with your inner ability, strength and emotions. I did that today and here’s what I came up with.
I am not here to keep my job. I am here to do my job.
I happily accepted the challenge of H.E President Bio for me to become a Cabinet Minister of Basic and Secondary Education because I want
all learners (kids) to access the best resources, tools and capabilities for their learning and development;
all teachers to be equipped to provide the right resources that support and facilitate learning;
all administrators to provide a safe, healthy, welcoming, inclusive and enabling environment for learning and teaching; and all families and communities to support continuous learning and growth for all children at home and in society
This challenge is immense (there are 83,240 teachers and 2,660,628 students under my supervision according to the 2019 Annual School Census). And that is why I am looking forward to learning a lot.
And yes, I am looking to learn from children (yes, including you two and Kadija), teachers, and community leaders. My goal is to make the Ministry a place of learning, creativity and action. It is only through that curiosity as leaders that we can transform education for the children today and those unborn.
As I begin this new journey my children, I want you to know that there are many who will actively try to sabotage your dad. There are many who would rather your dad wasn’t excellent (and by extension that this government didn’t succeed.
It’s an ironic complexity that I still do not understand myself- love for one’s nation while willing its current leaders to fail). There are many who will say hateful, and incorrect things about me, my work and possibly you. You did not ask for this.
I am sorry but I do hope that we will continue to communicate clearly and openly with empathy. I know that together we (you girls and my new team that includes all current school children) have the grit, determination and perseverance to deliver on our vision. I know that you will always help me check in with my inner core about why I am here to serve- for the future of you children.
I feel ready for this tremendously hard work and I am so lucky to have you here by me as we take this new chapter of and for learning.
David Moinina Sengeh
Minister Of Basic and Senior Secondary Education at Government of Sierra Leone