Stories are as old as language, as old as the earliest societies. A few of the earliest stories even survive: those told in pictorial form on walls of cave in Lascaux, in France or in the Mpongweni Mountains in Lesotho. And others have come down to us in the world’s myths and folklore to which we now have access on the printed age. Storytelling is older than printing, older than writing, and the first stories to be set down on paper, papyrus or parchment were not the work of those authors but records of the oral traditions of past centuries. In Sierra Leone as it is in most African countries storytelling is an integral part of the country’s life although oral traditions have very largely yielded to the written word.
We learn as we live while we are children, young people and adults. Learning is not confined to the classroom alone: it can take place anywhere. Moral values and social norms, beliefs and codes have to be transmitted from generation to the next, whether modified or not. Informal learning settings are relevant and might be dominant even today when more formalized and specific institutions have partly taken over 홈타이.
While Sierra Leoneans guard themselves against their past both educationists and librarians see a lot in storytelling that could be used as foundation to orient and develop the young in the school system. There are many indications that an immense richness of traditional pedagogy in respect to the principles, contents, methods and institutional arrangements existed and still exist in Sierra Leone. Story tellers, their stories and songs, proverbs and riddles are still important assets and subjects for indigenous learning and education. Oral traditions do not only pass the mores and standards of a society. They set out to explain the world and behaviour of the people in it. Oral traditions offer accounts of how the world began and these creation myths are part also of the Holy Books of all the world’s long-established religions such as Christianity and Islam. Also explained in allegorical terms is all human behaviour in which good does not always triumph over evil.
Stories which do not depend on literature in turn do not depend on literacy. They can reach all of the community and their interactive quality is itself power, for it facilitates the functions of stories in social instruction, what Leeson (1985) called “passing on the country’s shared wisdom and values to the next generation.” Sadly there is a missing link in Sierra Leone as school going children are well acquainted with the stories of Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and Italy to cite a few examples but know very little about their traditional stories.
STORYTELLING IN SIERRA LEONE
Sierra Leone comprises sixteen (16) ethnic groups. The largest of these is the Mende found in the Southern and Eastern Provinces. Next to them in number is the Temne in the North. The third largest group is the Limba, also in the Northern Province, followed by the Kono in the Eastern Province. There’s also the Koranko in the North as well as the Yalunka, Loko, Soso, Madingo and Fula. On the coast, North and South are the Bullom and Sherbro followed by the much smaller groups of Krim, Vai and Gola, with the Kissi further inland in the Eastern Province. The Western Area, including Freetown, is more mixed in population, but is basically the home of the Creole group. In all these ethnic groups storytelling is common as part of their culture.