With this book, the first volume in a series, I didn't presume to write anything of immense importance or of any outstanding nature. The intent was merely to share some of my personal experiences as a blind child growing up in an African village among people who believed that blindness was a curse, and then to relate details of my subsequent greatly expanded social contacts and opportunities, my studies, and some of my accomplishments.
I was born in Rogbom Sella, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, and I lost my sight between the ages of six and ten. But over the years, I went on to study first in Freetown, the nation's capital, then in both England and the United States, eventually earning a B.A. degree and two master's degrees, as well as rising quite high in civil service in my home country.
I fled Sierra Leone in May 1997 because of the bloody coup d'état there. I was fortunate enough to be evacuated by American Marines with the help of my younger brother, Bob, an American citizen.
This book has given me the opportunity to contrast my situation in early life to what I eventually became: a successful, respected, and productive member, not only of my local community, but also of the entire nation. This was made possible by the high education that I gained through hard work, determination, perseverance, and the help of many others, including my dear mother.
I am proud to say that I became a trailblazer for blind children in particular, and children and young persons with disabilities in general, in Sierra Leone. Hence the title, Lighting the Darkness.
My brother Bob passed away on January 1, 2009. I dedicate the book to his memory.
I was born in 1946 in a small village, Rogbom Sella, near Makeni in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Makeni is the economic center of the Northern Province and the capital of the Bombali District. It is also the headquarters of the Bombali Sheborah Chiefdom, to whose chieftaincy line I belong.
I started losing my sight when I was about six years old, and I lost it completely four years later, after unsuccessful eye surgery.
In May 1956, I became one of the first three pupils to be enrolled at the country's first school for blind children, the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Freetown, the nation's capital.
From the School for the Blind, I entered the Albert Academy, a secondary school primarily for boys, also in Freetown.
After graduating from secondary school, I taught briefly at the School for the Blind before entering Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, from where I graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History, thus becoming the country's first blind university graduate.
I then taught briefly at the Albert Academy before joining the Sierra Leone civil service in October 1972, in the then Ministry of Social Welfare, subsequently becoming the nation's first blind senior civil servant, attaining the position of Chief Social Development Officer—equivalent to Executive Director of Social Services—for the entire country.
In 1973, I won a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to study at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, for one year, starting in September of that year.
In 1980, I won a British Council fellowship to pursue graduate studies at the London School of Economics (LSE), University of London, from September of that year. I obtained a Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree in Social Planning from there in October 1982.
In May 2008, I obtained a Master of Arts (M.A.) Degree in Special Education and Human Development from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
I have done research in a number of areas, including "Attitudinal Ramifications of Rural Development in Sierra Leone," which I carried out partly at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and partly at home.
I have received several post-graduate diplomas and certificates as a result of participating in studies, seminars, workshops, etc., both at home and abroad.