The Importance of Culture from the perspective of Poro Socieety

francis-portraitCulture and tradition is practiced in every region of the world, of which Africa is no exception. But what is amazing is that the belief pattern varies according to ethnicity and region. African tradition and religion-culture is an integral component of the African gradation school system that is been taught based on ethnicity and regional believe. Although there are variations in the practice, the core objective is that it serves as a basis for early childhood development and sets the standard for administrative and governing structures, especially for determining ascendency to power and enforcement of laws.  Although culture in every region of the world served as a core that ignite a value of unity and humanity in its members; however, the practice are not the same based on ethnic and region and Africa is a continent with over 33 countries with more than 350 different tribes each with  its own culture. With this in mind, this work will be more focused on the poro society cultural practice in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Poro is a male culture widely practiced among the Mende, Kissi, Lorma, Gola, Vai, Kpelle and Gbandi ethnic group in the West African sub-region. It’s an African traditional gradation school system that primarily focuses on training young men with the skill of administration, farming, hunting, fishing, caring and love. The teachers in this school don’t teach from a written manuscript instead, they orally present their lessons and the new initiates are expected to memorize.  All teachers of this school are very retentive and new initiates are graded based on their oral presentation and retentiveness. It’s a culture that teaches it members to be brave, truthful and secretive but to remain respectful to authorities and caring for humanity. The practice of poro society doesn’t involve in anyway a ritual of sacrificing human life.

But like all other cultural practices in the world, the practice of poro society has both advantages and disadvantages.  This has over the past 75-100 years kept the poro society intact and admirable among its members.

  1. Advantages of the practice of poro society include:
    • Build social network among members
    • Skill development in the area of domestic management
    • Submission to authorities and respect for each other
    • Fast thinking and retentiveness
    • Security mindedness-curious to know about who is around and what is happening around
    • Members are mostly active listeners and less talkers
    • Speaking the truth is a matter of must
    • Makes decision making easy and timely
    • Confidentiality and early self-actualization; taking on of early responsibilities
  2. Disadvantages of the practice of poro include:
    • Segregation-non initiates are in most cases not consulted and invited for meetings
    • Culture of secrecy-don’t want to discuss any issues with people who don’t have any major role to play in the planning  and execution processes of the issues
    • Reduction of one’s power-submissiveness to authorities

The combination of both the advantages and disadvantages has over the years kept the poro society sacred and has also helped to keep laws and order and stability in the society. Continue reading

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Sociology and Anthropology STudenst Association posed for group photo

In a quest to spread the message of change , transformation, transparency and integrity, the Accountability Lab in the 35th anniversary celebration of the Sociology and Anthropology Students Association (SASA) at the University of Liberia. The event was marked by a parade and conference that brought together over 300 hundred participants, including members of the University of Liberia administration, SASA department staff and instructors, students and other invited guests.

Sociology is one of the largest departments at the University of Liberia.  As a nation emerging from 14 years of civil war, the study of human relations can play a critical role in post-conflict reconstruction. The theme of the SASA convocation was “Nonviolence is imperative for a peaceful society”.  The program touched on several themes:

  1. Think Developmentally. The growth of a nation begins with its people. A major way for Liberia to develop is when the students of the University of Liberia start to live by its motto“ Lux En Tenebris” which means “Light in Darkness”. One of the best ways to develop a country is to develop the minds of the citizens so that they can take ownership of their country.

In his remarks Mr. Yealue challenged  SASA members to take the lead in transforming the social patterns of Liberia in a direction that brings about social change, economic transformation, social cohesion, nationalism, and a sense of belonging.  He concluding by noting that the Accountability Lab is always eager to engage potential partners.

  1. Career Contribution: Sociology and Anthropology played a vital role in allowing us to understand our society. The change we want to see doesn’t come from those above, rather it starts from us. The field of study of Sociology must serve as a true light of change in our various communities.
  2. Reason leads to Action: When the leadership of SASA was asked about their contributions to the theme of the event, several key points were observed:
  • SASA serves a peer advisory role, helping students understand course offerings and make the most of their formal education opportunities.
  • Students at the University of Liberia frequently resort to violent actions to obtain results that they desire.  This forum will provide a key first step in promoting a culture of accountability that reduces violent extremism on campus.
  • The consequences of Liberia’s civil war are acutely felt by today’s students.  SASA does not wish to follow in the steps of our predecessors by ignoring societal problems, rather SASA wishes to take the lead in setting a non-violent agenda for Liberia. an
  1. Collective effort: For a nation to be develop, citizens must have a sense of nationalism, patriotism and belonging. All of these qualities are developed by a strong education and understanding of human society.  The change we need requires contributions from all.
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