Operating in a global environment that is increasingly dominated by huge challenges including the growing impacts of climate change, disabling cyber criminology, international terrorism and devastating pandemics, requires the dedication of diplomats with a flair and finesse for weaving the right connections and creating the necessary conditions for our national recognition on the international stage.

That is why in diplomacy “tea” is not just tea and “lunch” may taste on the tongue sharper than it may look to the eyes.

So when the Sierra Leone Deputy High Commissioner to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland stepped out for a working lunch with the Finnish ambassador, she was performing a duty draped in all the official density and smooth-flowing niceties of diplomatic interactions.

Mrs. Yvonne King-Odigboh was representing H. E. Dr. Morie Manyeh, the Sierra Leone mission in the United Kingdom and accredited countries (which includes Finland), and of course the people and Government of Sierra Leone.

Finland is a country of just over 5 million people. Perched on the northernmost part of Europe Finland has, four times in a row, been ranked by the United Nations World Happiness Report as “the happiest country in the world”. Quite an accolade!

The secret behind the country’s rapid rise and tremendous overflow of joy?
Education is what has enabled innovations and ensured a strong and growing economy that has catapulted Finland from one of the poorest European nations (just a few decades ago) to one of the most developed. It is a country that is now globally rated amongst the top few in competitiveness, by the World Economic Forum.

Before the introduction of Free Education for All, the educational system in Finland was deeply unequal and required parents to pay fees for their children’s schooling. Although the debate around infusing equality into the system was fierce yet the Finns ultimately realised and firmly embraced the fact that EDUCATION FOR ALL is one key tool for general equalisation and national modernisation. So in their darkest of days the Finns grabbed the opportunity to educate their nation and secure the future. That yesterday’s dream for a better future has become their today’s concrete reality!

So as the Sierra Leone High Commission toils to further strengthen its working relations with friendly countries like England and Finland, it should be obvious that when adept representatives like our Deputy High Commissioner Mrs. Yvonne King-Odigboh goes out on a working- lunch engagement she would not just be drinking tea but would be talking TOURISM, HEALTHCARE, THE ENVIRONMENT with a special focus on that fundamental ingredient that continues to make Finland “the happiest country in the world”- EDUCATION!