CHANCELLOR’S SPEECH APRIL 2022
The Honourable Minister of Technical and Higher Education
Other Ministers of Government here present
Honourable Members of Parliament
My Lord Chief Justice and Members of the Judiciary
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
Members of the University of Sierra Leone Court and Senate
Members of Court and Senate of other Universities here present
The Vice Chancellor and Principal, University of Sierra Leone
Members of the Academic, Management and Ancillary Staff of the University of Sierra Leone
Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen
All protocols observed
On behalf of the University of Sierra Leone Community, let me warmly welcome you all to this year’s House of Congregation, which is my first congregation in my capacity as the non-President Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone. My address to this House of Congregation will dwell on what I have captioned ‘the immediate concerns of the University of Sierra Leone’. These concerns come in four thematic areas, namely:
- Lack of a deep and sustainable source of independent funding
- Academic integrity
- Corporate Governance, and
- Public perception and legitimacy
Let me share my thoughts with you on the issue of lack of a deep and sustainable source of independent funding. The University of Sierra Leone being a public university, is primarily funded by the Government. The Universities Act, 2021 no doubt makes provision regarding the sources of funding for all public universities. That does not however preclude the university from sourcing funding from other organisations or develop any other funding model that would assist the University in funding its operations.
One such alternative source of funding is through an endowment fund, a vehicle used by most universities in the developed world. I would like to use this occasion to put forward the idea of a University of Sierra Leone Endowment Fund, whereby all graduates of the constituent colleges of the University would contribute a certain amount either on a yearly basis or under specific schemes.
The introduction and maintenance of an endowment fund has been of tremendous help in augmenting the financial capacity of so many renowned universities around the world.
The University of Sierra Leone is a brand name which we should leverage upon. Its constituent campuses are brand names within and outside of Sierra Leone. The first of its campuses, Fourah Bay College is the oldest Western Style College in Africa south of the Sahara. Fourah Bay College (FBC) is blessed with thousands of graduates and many renowned and well placed individuals have gone through its portals. The same is true of the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), and of the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS). If we (all alumni) can commit ourselves to creating and maintaining an Endowment Fund of the University of Sierra Leone or through Endowment Funds of its constituent campuses, the University will become financially bouyant enough to effectively fund its programmes and activities. If we ensure that this initiative takes off and works, in as short a period as two years, I believe we would have enough resources to address a good number of our activities requiring financial support. If we are to achieve this feat, it would require the full and unshakeable cooperation of the Alumni Associations of the respective campuses.
Distinguished Guests, Members of the University,
Another area of concern to me is Academic integrity. This requires lecturers, students, and all other members of the academic community to act responsibly, with honesty and fairness in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities. This has always been contentious. However need to do more as we constantly seek to better our best. Within the area of academic integrity are the following sub themes which require careful consideration:
- Student intake – efforts must be made to ensure that the number of students admitted is proportionate to the available resources and facilities. Serious thoughts should be given to improving our facilities (infrastructure and equipment) in each campus every year in a bid to cope with the ever increasing student population.
- Tuition processes – i.e. maintaining a robust delivery method of lectures and ensure that lecturers fulfill their teaching appointments. We must also augment the systems in place to regularly update our courses to meet global trends in university education.
- Conduct of examinations – Ensure that all exams are conducted in an environment free from all forms of examination malpractice mindful of the fact the future of these students are in responsible hands.
- Credibility of examination results – The processes and procedures surrounding the conduct of examinations will determine the credibility of the examination results. We must ensure that a candidate who has been awarded an ‘A’ deserves that grade. There are times when a student’s performance does not reflect the grade awarded. Doubts then begin to appear in the minds of others thereby bringing the credibility of the results into question.
- Peer perception – How do our peers perceive us? Peers in country and those outside of the country. Their perceptions of us could determine our place/ our ranking in the world.
- Post-graduation Prospects – Are we preparing our graduates for the world of work? How relevant is the knowledge and skills we pass on to our students. If at the end of four or five years of training our students have to roam the streets searching for jobs and in addition to that, the skills they have acquired do not equip them sufficiently to be self-employed, then there is need for introspection of our courses and our biases.
Governance – This refers to how the university is managed and borders on the following:
- Management Structure – The University of Sierra Leone comprises Fourah Bay College, Institute of Public Administration and Management and College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences. Each of these campuses is headed by a Deputy Vice Chancellor who reports to the Vice Chancellor and Principal. The Vice Chancellor and Principal as provided for by the Universities Act, 2021 is the chief administrative and academic head of the university and is also the vote controller.
- Financial Accountability – In our bid to better our services, we would augment mechanisms already in place for effective financial management of scarce resources; continue to ensure that officers with the responsibility to manage funds of the University are accountable for whatever transactions they undertake on behalf of the University. The University is financially challenged and therefore must continue to utilise prudent financial management system in its operations. Financial accountability is key to sustainable growth.
- Information Access and Management – Information access and management are very crucial to any organization’s growth. It is therefore very pertinent that we develop an information system that would regularly and constantly provide the relevant information necessary to advance the mission and vision of the University. It is worth noting that the University of Sierra Leone has migrated its activities to the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education portal which is built for all activities from admission to publication of final results, submission of grades and many more. It is my hope that this university website is regularly updated and is accessible to the general public.
- Management/Academic interface – Both the Academic and Management staff work together to ensure smooth service delivery by the University.
- Physical facilities (Accommodation) – The University is currently constrained with physical facilities, but as part of its governance system, it commits itself to upgrading its physical facilities including staff quarters, classroom spaces, laboratories and student hostels as we seek to make conditions of service for staff conducive and the teaching and learning environment as comfortable as possible.
- Staff – Staff of the University must be very committed and dedicated to duty. This is very critical in shaping the minds of our young population who will take over the mantle of state in the near future. We must not lose sight of the fact that the future of these students have been entrusted in our care. As lecturers/mentors, we have trained and nurtured these graduands over a period of four or five years and we have on behalf of the University of Sierra Leone advised ourselves of their worthiness to be awarded the degrees, diplomas and certificates they are now about to receive. This presupposes that due diligence was carried out in the discharge of our duties and that their performance in the wider world would match their respective degrees.
- Students – Let me first of all congratulate you on the successful completion of your courses. For those graduating with a first degree, this is the first step of a long journey ahead. Let this achievement serve as a motivation to bigger challenges ahead. You are now leaving the doors of the University for the World of work. You are ambassadors of the University of Sierra Leone as you contribute to nation building. Therefore I urge you to go into the world and represent the University of Sierra Leone well. Best wishes in your future endeavours.
Public Perception and Legitimacy – As a University, we are to portray an image that would create a positive opinion in the minds of the populace. The University of Sierra Leone has always been held in high esteem both nationally and internationally. Until the 1980s, the University of Sierra Leone attracted students from many countries in Africa. Nationally, it has always been the first choice of all qualified applicants. We must continue to maintain the high ideals that have always characterized the academic landscape of the University of Sierra Leone. When the populace holds the belief that the University of Sierra Leone still conducts its activities with very high standards and are convinced that the best can be achieved from this university, then the legitimacy of the University is enhanced.
Honourable Ministers, Members of the Academic Community
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I cannot end this address without giving special thanks to His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio for his insight and deep courage to change the process of conferring degrees to successful graduates by changing the legislation governing the University of Sierra Leone to provide for its leadership by a non-politician.
On that score, and on behalf of my family and well-wishers, I thank the President most profoundly for according me the distinct honour of appointment as the First Non-Presidential Chancellor.
While assuring him and you all of my commitment to faithfully discharge that mandate, I pray that God grants me both the ability and sincerity to effectively discharge the attendant responsibilities.
Finally, I also thank both the Academic and Management Staff of the University for their continued and sustained contribution to the development of the University.
Best wishes and good luck.
I thank you all for your attention.