By Dr. Yusuf Bangura
Francis Amadu Bangura passed away on 7 June, 2021. We called him Mr. Francis. We received the news of his death with deep shock, sadness and disbelief, even though he was much advanced in age and not in good health in the latter part of his life. It was as if part of our childhood history had been taken away.
Mr. Francis was raised by our parents and we related to him as an elder brother. He was great fun to be with when we were growing up. He was calm, soft-spoken, intelligent, disciplined and generous, and loved to play with children. When he left our household to pursue his career as a teacher, we always looked forward to his visits to hear stories about his life, people he interacted with and places he visited or read about.
Mr. Francis could have taught in any school in Freetown, but chose to work in the provinces and improve the knowledge base and life chances of rural children. He was an active teacher for 51 years (1957-2008) in the Catholic Mission schools in Songo, Musaia, Kabala, Lunsar, Bumban and Kamabai, his last posting, where he spent 38 years and headed the school. Sierra Leone has been missing the quality of education that this breed of early post-colonial teachers provided, especially in rural areas.
As a little boy, I saw Mr. Francis as a fount of wisdom. I benefited immensely from his knowledge of nursery rhymes, short stories, civic events and places around the world. He taught us the nursery rhyme “Bright summer days are gone”, which I sang for my children when they were kids, and I now sing for my two grandchildren. Raised in Europe, my children and grandchildren appreciate better than we did the sadness of losing bright summer days.
Mr. Francis was always very smart, clean shaven and well dressed. One thing I clearly remember as a child was his hair, which had a unique glow and a sharp part on the left side (*lin gun* in Krio), and which he took great care to groom. I loved sitting on his lap and playing with his stylish hair.
Our parents were very fond of him. Our mother did not give birth during the first fifteen years of her marriage, so young Mr. Francis was very dear to her and our father. I recall when in 1963 I took the Selective Entrance Examination for admission into secondary school, our father promised to gift me his bicycle if I passed the examination. When I informed him that I was successful and asked for the bike he told me that he had given it to Mr. Francis because Freetown’s streets were dangerous for young cyclists. I was disappointed but felt the bike would be more useful to Mr. Francis in his rural environment.
As a teacher, Mr. Francis had a bagful of stories and jokes. There was always a moral angle to his stories. I would like to recount one of the motivational ones he told us when we were kids: Once upon a time, there were two little boys in a village who were each given a chicken to raise. One of the boys ignored his chicken and did not feed it regularly. It was very thin. The other boy was very conscientious—he fed his chicken every day and it grew very big. One day there was an announcement that someone was visiting the village to buy chickens. The boy who did not take care of his chicken panicked and started feeding his chicken a lot of food to make it grow. The other boy was calm and stuck to his routine of feeding his chicken the same amount of food he had been feeding it. It was still very big. The thin chicken could not grow despite the huge amount of food it was given. When the buyer arrived at the village he only bought the big chicken. The boy with the thin chicken was disappointed and cried the whole day.
The moral of the story is working consistently always pays. We should not wait until the last minute before we start to work on a project. Through this story and many others, Mr. Francis taught me the values of hard work, perseverance and consistency.
Mr. Francis was a devout Christian and family man. He was blessed with five grown children (Martin Momoh, John Morlai, Alice Kadiatu, Lawrence Alimamy and Michael Lansana), 22 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. His lovely wife, Mrs. Ballay Bangura, predeceased him in December 2017.
We will miss Mr. Francis greatly. On behalf of the Bangura family, we wish him a blissful rest in eternity.
Dr. Yusuf Bangura, ex-Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria academic delivered this on behalf of the Bangura Family at a Church service in honour of the deceased