The Magbaruka Arabic College on the Matotoka Highway in the Tonkolili District is on the brink of collapse as most of the college dormitories and other facilities are in a dilapidated state and grass has taken over the entire compound.
The college was the only one in the district. The war ravaged the area and then Kenyan UN Peaceful Keepers occupied the building and since then it has remained useless.
Patrick Kamara, a social worker from Students Partnership Worldwide said that the College was very useful in the area as people were moving from all parts of the country to attend it. He also said that there were scholarship programs for any Sierra Leonean.
Magburaka is one of the most under-developed districts in Sierra Leone as it lacks basic facilities such safe drinking water, electricity and good roads. In addition, the city does not have a Bank or a College.
“The Township of Magburaka is faced with deplorable roads and youth migration”
said James Conteh, a Social Worker.
“Petty trading, subsistence farming and the Magbass Sugar Plantation Company are the only source of livelihood for residents of the area. The gap between the rich and poor has stretched at an alarming rate.”
He blamed the government for the delay in reopening the College and the improvement of basic facilities in most of the area. He also called on the Government and NGOs to support the area.
Under -development and disease has gripped Magburuka and, nothing progressive has been done by relevant authorities and development partners to improve the living standards of the people as they continue to wallow in poverty.
The backwardness of the district has resulted to rapid migration of youths from villages and hamlets to major cities such as Freetown. This has made it a problem for Magburaka, as most parts of town is struggling to get laborers to work in the fields.
Residents are concerned over the absence of a college. The once acclaimed Magburuka Arabic Collage still lies in ruins and there are no training opportunities for vocational development.
Magburuka is riddled with potholes, abandoned buildings and poor sanitary conditions.
There is also lack of electricity and other meaningful developmental programmes.
Farmers in Magburuka are also unable to mechanize their farming and move toward commercial production.
They lack the knowledge and expertise on farming inputs coupled with inadequate tractors, an absence of storage facilities and drying floors, said the coordinator of United Youth Development Organization, Mohamed Tikay Conteh.
“Life is very difficult for youths in this area, as there is growing poverty and despair among the people because the central Government and its development partners have continued to neglect and marginalize the district from many developments,” he said.
Tikay Conteh also said that his organization has been struggling to get grants and moral support from the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA). They have submitted many project proposals to them and other NGOs, but many have yet to respond.
He also said that his organization has a membership of over 700 in all the chiefdoms in Tonkolili District. The organization works for the empowerment of youths and the provision of community needed facilities like toilets and wells.
The organization cultivated hundreds of acres of farmland but Tikay Conteh said that Government assistance has been minimal.
“Our most of members are illiterate and poor,” he said, which has also been a problem for the organization’s members when it come to getting government assistance.
Stakeholders in Magburuka also say that the area is filled with rapid underdevelopment. They said that residents cannot do much to alleviate their poverty, but Government and development partners need to intervene so as to improve the living standard of the people.
Magburuka and its surroundings are like ghost towns during the day as children and adults spend most of their time idling around or going to the fields. Though Makeni is closer to Magburuka, prices for basic commodities, such as rice, batteries and candles, have great disparities and imported goods are beyond the reach of the average man.
Cost recovery drugs at the Magburuka Government Hospital are also expensive, which has resulted in most patients turning to harmful traditional medicines since mainstream treatment is unaffordable.
“There are no employment opportunities for trained and qualified individuals wishing to return to the district to develop the area,” a youth from Magburuka, who didn’t want to be named, said.
Magburuka residents say that alumnus of the Magburuka Boys School and the Arabic College would help to drive meaningful development in the district as many of them are presently working in the Government, the private sector and with NGO’s. It is only hope that development will find its way to Magburuka to improve the living standard of the people.