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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