The Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) is a household name that many want to associate with, regardless of where they are in Sierra Leone. It is a unique resource!

As one of the three constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone (Fourah Bay College and College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences being the other two), it has, since its founding in 1980, left trails in its path and still continues to do so in remarkable ways.

It is not just in numbers that it is leading (over 10,000 students nationwide) but it is also ahead in terms of its responsive curricula and short course offerings . And all of these success stories are achieved by a staff  whose professional lives are characterized by dedication, hard work and humility. From the Tower Hill base to established sites of Makeni, Kono, Kenema, Bo, and to coming ones at Bureh Town, Lungi and Pujehun, IPAM has continued to expand nationwide and reach out with quality and marketable courses.

But how are all these sites held together? Apart from its annual visits, management recently toured the country and visited the various campuses in order to be acquainted with their clients, see how their learning and teaching are progressing and to know their challenges, if any. Warden of Students, Donald Mackay, and University of Sierra Leone Public Relations Officer, Munda Rogers, led the team.

At Makeni, Northern Sierra Leone, the team interacted with the students at Makama Campus where it encouraged them to work hard, and resolve their issues as and when they emerge.

Margaret Sheriff Bangura, Makeni Focal Person discussing with Donald Mackay 

Focal Person of the Campus, Margaret Sheriff Bangura, who has been in the post since 2014, said they have a student population of 235, to whom IPAM is bringing quality education and fresh motivation. She said students were longing for mainstream courses and programs, which IPAM has now brought to their doorstep.

“IPAM is a local name now and students are longing to be a part of it,” she said. “Lecturers come from Freetown to augment those that we have here. There is no compromise here in terms of standards. We have no record of exam malpractice. In fact, student numbers are increasing, and the Administration is doing their best to cater for every one of them.”

Makama Campus has 16 lecturers, and it offers various courses that include banking and finance, procurement and supply, and information technology among many others. “At the moment the campus is at rented property, but we have secured a three-and-half town lot piece of land in the centre of Makeni, at Ropolon Road, which we finished paying for earlier this year,” added Margaret Sheriff Bangura.

One of the lecturers, Victor Koroma, said the Campus has challenges but the students are cooperating very well. Class Rep Mohamed Lamin Bakar and his deputy Bangalie A Mansaray said their classes are held in convenient facilities, lectures are great, and they appreciate the administration of IPAM.

At Kono Campus which is located at Koquima, three miles from the Capital Koidu City, is an equal set of optimistic students and staff. Donald Mackay gave them the warm greetings from the Freetown campus, and urged them to work hard. “Please take your studies seriously,” he told the students. “We are also here to know your constraints, which we will forward to Management in Freetown.” PRO Munda Rogers added that he was happy to meet all and know that lectures are ongoing smoothly. “We are impressed,” he said warmly. “Please make use of the opportunities before you, as most people cannot access distant higher education which is why IPAM is here to serve you. Whatever time you spend here will profit you in the end. We appreciate you as our clients, and we are impressed with the performance of the tutors here.” He said the University took up this on-the-spot check to keep abreast with what is happening. He also appreciated the warm student-lecturer relationship. Kono Campus is headed by Rev Augustine C Kamara who said they have 52 students – 32 males and 20 females, and 9 lecturers.

He said the impact of the diploma programmes is great, but the absence of degree programmes is the greatest challenge for them in Kono, because students who want them are transferred to Makeni or Freetown.

Kono Focal person, Reverend Augustine C Kamara

The Institute has secured a 5-acre land to build its campus at Maiyor Village, Feiama chiefdom, 3 miles from Koidu. Chief Gaskin Sahr Sorboeh, who secured the land for them, said the process is on to finalise negotiations.

Some of the challenges of the students noted are the delay in receiving their acceptance letters, and the non-availability of degree programs. Another concern relates to online examinations, as Kono has no provision for such facilities.

Lecturer Aneto David Sebba said other challenges include no electricity, few white board markers and materials, few module materials. “Furthermore, the harmonization of questions across the board. Up till now we don’t have materials yet. [this isn’t quite clear as reported here]. Besides, there’s another university here, so students want a degree program in Kono, to properly serve our clients, otherwise we will lose our students to other institutions, which will not be good.”

IPAM Campus site at Kono

While at Kenema, Sallieu P. Bangura, Focal Person, said they have 200+ students, 12 lecturers, no projector, no light, but that every other thing is fine. “I came here in 2014, and took over substantvely in 2017,” he said.

Vandi Kamara, Class Rep for Year II said their challenges are that they do not have a permanent structure, no student ID cards, and that advertisement about IPAM should be increased, while the transferring of Year 3 students to Freetown is a challenge, especially as some of them are coming from Kailahun.

                                                                         Students in class

Concluding the trip at Bo, the team was welcomed by Nelson Quee, Administrative Assistant. Quee said the Bo Campus has 12 Lecturers and 500 students. Their concerns were similar to those in Kenema.

The visiting team admonished the staff and students to keep being interested in their studies. PRO Munda Rogers remarked that information has filtered unto the Secretariat about cultism going on at the Bo Campus. “The Chancellor is very much against it,” he said. “We are here to prepare the human resource base of our country, not to destroy it. Cultism should be abolished in our institutions. The repercussions of cultism are grave; we want to abolish it completely. Good results are what are needed for you.

Staff of IPAM and USL pose for a group picture in Bo

Eat very well. Sleep very well. Study very well. Adhere to your timetable, and pass all your exams. Otherwise, what’s the essence of your being here?”

The Team was assured that no cult activities would be tolerated. Elizabeth J Tucker, a Year 2 student, gave the vote of thanks. She pleaded about their exams, which has been harmonized nationwide. “But the questions our lecturers submit are not considered, so we have trouble in answering questions,” she said. “Let us also harmonise the lecturers. Once in a while the principal lecturers should come to the provinces and see what the agent lecturers are doing, so that they can see whether there’s harmonization. Most students are workers, so letting them to continue their courses in Freetown is a challenge. Consider having everything here, please.”

“All your concerns will be submitted to Management,” said Donald Mackay. “Your commitment to paying fees is also essential, which is what I have told the students in all the campuses we have visited. I wish you well.”