2020/2021 CONGREGATION SPEECH

PROFESSOR FODAY SAHR

VICE HANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL

UNIVERSITY OF SIERRA LEONE

  • Your Excellency the President of The Republic of Sierra Leone and Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone
  • The Hon. Vice President of The Republic of Sierra Leone
  • The Chief Minister
  • The Hon. Minister of Technical and Higher Education or his Representative
  • The Pro Chancellor
  • Other Ministers of Government
  • Deputy Ministers of Government
  • Chairman, Tertiary Education Commission
  • Members of the Conference of Vice-Chancellors and Principals
  • Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corp
  • The Deputy Vice Chancellors of Fourah Bay College, The Institute of Public Administration and Management, and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences
  • Representatives of other Agencies, Departments and Directorates
  • Representatives of Local Government Authorities
  • Partners of the University of Sierra Leone
  • Alumni of the University of Sierra Leone
  • Academic and Administrative Staff of the University
  • Our Honoured guests
  • Continuing Students
  • Graduands
  • Members of the Press
  • Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

We are here again today to share the excitement of another Congregation ceremony and to perform the solemn task of conferring degrees and other academic awards to deserving graduands who have dedicated time and energy to their academic work over the years and have attained the benchmark for recognition, and for such enviable awards. Nothing can be more gratifying to the University as well as to the students and their parents, than when after years of academic turbulence and other challenges, we all heartily assembled together with parents, guardians and loved ones, to celebrate the fruits of our labour and to grasp the cherished moment we have always worked and hoped for.

This year’s congregation ceremony should have been held earlier than now. But we are all aware of how the Corona virus pandemic seriously disrupted academic activities not only in Sierra Leone but the world at large. It should not therefore come to you as a surprise that in compliance with health safety protocols, we have decided to organize three separate ceremonies to be held here at the Fourah Bay College Amphitheatre in what we have described as Congregation week, starting today 13th March 2021 with the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences and to be concluded on 15th March, 2021 with Fourah Bay College.

In spite of the disruption brought about by the Corona Virus pandemic and other challenges, the University worked very hard to ensure that the academic year was not lost and that the 2020/2021 academic year starts in October 2021.

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, as usual, the University continues to perform its mandatory functions; which are, Teaching, Research, and Community service.

It is in partial fulfillment of this mandate that we have successfully trained graduands including high level Managers, Engineers, Architects, Lawyers, Business Administrators, Financial Administrators, Accountants, IT specialists, Doctors, Pharmacists, Nurses, other health care professionals and many more.  The difference we have made in their lives and the positive impact we hope that difference will have in their lives and society as a whole, represent a true picture of our goal as a University.

The path to this glorious moment has been rough and tough and even though the University was bereft of all what it needed, we were able to rise up to the challenges and to produce this set of graduands upon whom degrees and other  academic awards would today be conferred.

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the University of Sierra Leone has undergone transformation in terms of innovation and has also made significant improvements in almost every area of its operations in the last couple of years. I mentioned some of the innovations and achievements in my two previous Congregation speeches.

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, I crave your indulgence so as to highlight some of the new areas or activities we have embarked upon during the period under review most of which are geared towards supporting the Free Quality Education Programme of Your Excellency.  That is why the Theme for this year’s Congregation is titled: “Higher Education Support to Sierra Leone’s Free Quality Education” 

QUALITY ASSURANCE/PLANNING

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, when I assumed office as Vice Chancellor and Principal, I established the Quality Assurance and Strategic Planning Directorate. I was aware that Quality Assurance and planning are the bedrock of any functional system because they serve as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that seek to provide quality controls and ensure confidence in our internal management as well as meeting public expectations. The Quality Assurance & Planning Directorate has largely undertaken robust inspection and monitoring of our academic programmes and other activities in order to identify challenging areas and to provide the necessary solutions for effective delivery of services.

Some of the activities the Directorate has undertaken include but not limited to the following:

In  2019/2020  academic  year,  much  of  the  focus  of  the  directorate  was  on  academic

audits  including:  examining  learning,  teaching  and  student  support  systems,  and

processes  and  activities  aimed  at  redefining  and  improving  standards.  The  directorate

enabled  and  supported  actions  to  harmonise  assessment  processes,  reviewed

assessment malpractices and policy, reviewed programme curricula, assessed academic

workload, audited   teaching  facilities,  made  reconnaissance tours of  college  extramural

projects  and  IPAM  Exit  Verification.  Other  activities  included  administrative  audits  and

investigations (e.g. Procurement of IPAM Customised Laptops).

The focus for the current academic year (2021) is on short term (annual)  Colleges and

Secretariat  strategic  planning  taking  into  cognizance  the  current  situation,  website

update/upgrade (academic programmes), progressing actions relating to assessment and

malpractice policies, academic workloads audit findings, staff capacity building (including

pedagogy),  strengthening  management  oversight  (e.g.  staff  supervision  &  appraisals,

implementation of internal audit recommendations, Deans/HoD responsibilities, etc.). We

hope to also intensify our engagement with students through their governance bodies and

class reps.

QA  Officers  will  be  the  focal  points  for  colleges  and  a  member  of  the  team  will  be

designated to coordinate Secretariat activities

In  2019/2020  academic  year,  much  of  the  focus  of  the  directorate  was  on  academic

audits  including:  examining  learning,  teaching  and  student  support  systems,  and

processes  and  activities  aimed  at  redefining  and  improving  standards.  The  directorate

enabled  and  supported  actions  to  harmonise  assessment  processes,  reviewed

assessment malpractices and policy, reviewed programme curricula, assessed academic

workload, audited   teaching  facilities,  made  reconnaissance tours of  college  extramural

projects  and  IPAM  Exit  Verification.  Other  activities  included  administrative  audits  and

investigations (e.g. Procurement of IPAM Customised Laptops).

The focus for the current academic year (2021) is on short term (annual)  Colleges and

Secretariat  strategic  planning  taking  into  cognizance  the  current  situation,  website

update/upgrade (academic programmes), progressing actions relating to assessment and

malpractice policies, academic workloads audit findings, staff capacity building (including

pedagogy),  strengthening  management  oversight  (e.g.  staff  supervision  &  appraisals,

implementation of internal audit recommendations, Deans/HoD responsibilities, etc.). We

hope to also intensify our engagement with students through their governance bodies and

class reps.

QA  Officers  will  be  the  focal  points  for  colleges  and  a  member  of  the  team  will  be

designated to coordinate Secretariat activities

In  2019/2020  academic  year,  much  of  the  focus  of  the  directorate  was  on  academic

audits  including:  examining  learning,  teaching  and  student  support  systems,  and

processes  and  activities  aimed  at  redefining  and  improving  standards.  The  directorate

enabled  and  supported  actions  to  harmonise  assessment  processes,  reviewed

assessment malpractices and policy, reviewed programme curricula, assessed academic

workload, audited   teaching  facilities,  made  reconnaissance tours of  college  extramural

projects  and  IPAM  Exit  Verification.  Other  activities  included  administrative  audits  and

investigations (e.g. Procurement of IPAM Customised Laptops).

The focus for the current academic year (2021) is on short term (annual)  Colleges and

Secretariat  strategic  planning  taking  into  cognizance  the  current  situation,  website

update/upgrade (academic programmes), progressing actions relating to assessment and

malpractice policies, academic workloads audit findings, staff capacity building (including

pedagogy),  strengthening  management  oversight  (e.g.  staff  supervision  &  appraisals,

implementation of internal audit recommendations, Deans/HoD responsibilities, etc.). We

hope to also intensify our engagement with students through their governance bodies and

class reps.

QA  Officers  will  be  the  focal  points  for  colleges  and  a  member  of  the  team  will  be

designated to coordinate Secretariat activities

In  2019/2020  academic  year,  much  of  the  focus  of  the  directorate  was  on  academic

audits  including:  examining  learning,  teaching  and  student  support  systems,  and

processes  and  activities  aimed  at  redefining  and  improving  standards.  The  directorate

enabled  and  supported  actions  to  harmonise  assessment  processes,  reviewed

assessment malpractices and policy, reviewed programme curricula, assessed academic

workload, audited   teaching  facilities,  made  reconnaissance tours of  college  extramural

projects  and  IPAM  Exit  Verification.  Other  activities  included  administrative  audits  and

investigations (e.g. Procurement of IPAM Customised Laptops).

The focus for the current academic year (2021) is on short term (annual)  Colleges and

Secretariat  strategic  planning  taking  into  cognizance  the  current  situation,  website

update/upgrade (academic programmes), progressing actions relating to assessment and

malpractice policies, academic workloads audit findings, staff capacity building (including

pedagogy),  strengthening  management  oversight  (e.g.  staff  supervision  &  appraisals,

implementation of internal audit recommendations, Deans/HoD responsibilities, etc.). We

hope to also intensify our engagement with students through their governance bodies and

class reps.

QA  Officers  will  be  the  focal  points  for  colleges  and  a  member  of  the  team  will  be

designated to coordinate Secretariat activities

DEVELOPING POLICIES TO ENSURE GREATER ACCESS TO UNIVERSITY EDUCATION AND HARMONIZING THE STUDENTS’ ASSESSMENT PROCESSES

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, one of the main goals of the Free Quality Education is to ensure greater access to education at all levels including the University. With that in mind, the University of Sierra Leone in addition to the usual teaching and learning process, has put together a team to map out strategies and resources required to set up e-learning labs on all three campuses (FBC, IPAM and COMAHS) for lecturers to develop online teaching materials and deliver lectures in real-time to students on-line. Training will be provided for lecturers in e-learning delivery and assessment. The distance learning programme will be a blend of online teaching and face-to-face teaching in the provinces as appropriate. Online teaching is already in progress in the University of Sierra Leone and in fact, the Division of Educational Studies and the Institute of Public Administration and Management are putting modalities in place for distance education to accommodate candidates who cannot fit into the normal system.

Additionally, the University has engaged all the Campuses to harmonize and standardize the students’ assessment processes, policies and guidelines to ensure best practice across the University.

GENERAL UNIVERSITY CURRICULA REVIEW AND THE INTRODUCTION OF NEW PROGRAMMES

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, in line with the above, since June 2020, there has been a review of the University curricula for most of our programmes with the aim of eliminating unnecessary modules while ensuring that the quality of courses offered and the course contents meet international standards and the expectations of potential employers.

The University of Sierra Leone has also identified a number of new courses that can be developed  so that more applicants will be attracted to the teaching professions especially for subjects like Mathematics, English Language, French, Physics, Chemistry for which teachers are currently in short supply.

ACADEMIC WORKLOAD AUDIT

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the University is in the  process of conducting an academic workload audit with a view to determining and guiding the process of staff recruitment and the actual staff and equipment required for the smooth running of the University. This exercise has so far yielded enormous dividends by not only addressing human resource needs but has also resulted in huge financial savings for the University.

ENHANCING UNIVERSITY LECTURERS’ TEACHING SKILLS AND CAPACITY BUILDING

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the University is currently working  to develop a 6-8 week pedagogy course that will be mandatory and to be held regularly for lecturers, especially those who are highly qualified but have not received formal teacher training at the University level. This is an invaluable approach since pedagogical skills can improve the quality of teaching and the way students learn.

CAPACITY BUILDING

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, building the capacity of our staff has always been among our priorities. We are mindful of the fact that the quality of our products can best be determined by the capacity of the lecturers who train them. Apart from encouraging our staff to continue to embark on research and publications, the University is also supporting its staff to undertake training for higher degrees.

A good number of our staff have also benefitted, from various training programmes both locally and internationally. Some of these training programmes are supported through our Partnerships with reputable institutions worldwide.

 INFRASTRUCTURAL/DEVELOPMENTAL PROJECTS

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the exponential growth in student numbers over the years has seriously challenged our available infrastructure. To respond to this challenge, a number of infrastructural development projects have either been recently completed or are ongoing across the University:

FOURAH BAY COLLEGE

  1. The Construction of a large lecture hall to accommodate about 800 students per session with toilets and a store is ongoing.
  2. The construction of the Adult Education Building is ongoing.
  3. The Extension of the existing College Hospital to accommodate a lab and toilet facilities is almost completed.
  4. The Disability Friendly Centre has been modified to incorporate a ramped access for use by disabled students.
  5. The Rehabilitation of the FBC Resource Centre to provide ICT facilities for students has been completed.
  6. The INSLICS unfinished building at the Tree Planting Axis of the College boundary has been handed over to HDF Limited for the construction work to continue.
  7. The BADEA Project was completed on the 31st of December 2020, including the Water Treatment Plant.
  8. Fourah Bay College has recovered almost all its properties/lands in the provinces for Extra Mural Activities.

COMAHS

 The College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences is currently constructing a mini Amphitheatre at the Faculty of Nursing, Lightfoot Boston Street, Freetown for academic as well as extra-curricular activities.

The College has also completed the renovation of all its facilities at Kossoh town, Faculty of Nursing, Wallace Johnson Street, and at the PCMH.

IPAM

At the Institute of Public Administration and Management, the College Bureh Town residential campus development process for which the sod was turned some two years ago, has stalled during the year under review because of some fiscal arrangement challenges amongst the various partners in the project. These challenges are however being gradually addressed.

RESEARCH AND RESEARCH PROJECTS

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, as usual, the University of Sierra Leone has been undertaking a good number of research and research projects. Most of these research projects are being jointly conducted with reputable universities or institutions across the globe.  I am happy to report that all of them are tailored towards our national needs and aspirations.

The University has also been working towards establishing a University of Sierra Leone Research Centre that would make provision for junior researchers to ne mentored to senior colleagues and also to act as an outfit were external partners can work with the local counterparts for joint proposal writing an project management.   Accordingly, a University owned building at Lamina Sankoh Street is currently being renovated the Army Engineering Corps of the RSLAF and the project is almost 90% complete.

INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP HUB AT FBC

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub has been established at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at Fourah Bay College to enable students engage in real life industry driven research and development projects. This Innovation Hub will not only target engineering students, but also students from other faculties in the University for cross-disciplinary collaboration. I am delighted to report that the project is a joint venture of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture with the Sierra Leone Institute of Engineers and Engineers-for-Change SL.

Also, the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, in collaboration with the Maastricht School of Management, Netherlands is also in the process of establishing a platform for entrepreneurial training of our staff and students, and that has started with training-of-trainers. The strategy is to obtain a core of trained personnel in the area of entrepreneurship and then cascade the training down to the students in the Faculty.

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the UK Royal Academy of Engineering through its Higher Education Partnership will be establishing a water testing laboratory at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture for students, industry and staff to undertake water quality tests in order to create sustained links between the faculty and industry partners.

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences is also currently involved in needs based research activities at both national and international levels to ensure that it plays a continued role in the health system by rebuilding and strengthening socio-economic development nationally and internationally. Some of the major components of her research portfolio include the following:

RESEARCH FUNDING BODY
1.     Multi Stage Malaria Consortium Vaccine (MMCV) European Developing Countries Clinical Trial Programme (EDCTP)
2.     PREVAC UP EDCTP
3.     PREVAC, EBOVAC & EBOVAC 3 Innovative Medicines Initiatives (IMI) European Commission
4.     ARISE – Accountability & Health in Informal urban settlements Global Challenge Research fund (GCRF) UK
5.     RECAP-USL GCRF
6.     ICARIA Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation
7.     HWI-COVID-19 Medical Research Council (MRC)
8.     ReBUILD for Resilience DFID
9.     LARCOS (Lassa Fever in Guinea & S/Leone) Charit Universitacts/German Govt.
10.ASSET NIHR – National Institute for Health Research (UK)
11.Youth FORWARD NIHR
12.SISLE NIHR
13.HFRU – Health and Fragility Research Unit NIHR
14.ORDER-HC German  Government through Robert KocK Institute

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, academic staff members of the University are engaged in numerous and diverse research programmes. Some of these research activities have led not only to publications in reputable journals across the globe but have actual translated to the publication of books for local and international consumption.

In the Department of History and African Studies, a member of staff is researching the politicisation of disasters in Sierra Leone and another is researching the use of quarantine as an instrument for combating contagious diseases going back to the colonial period. In the same department, the Head of Department is finalising his research on: The role of religious beliefs and practices in influencing trust in the prevention and control measures prescribed during the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone.

IPAM

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, at the Institute of Public Administration and Management, three members of faculty published four peer reviewed text books indicated below:

  1. The Effect of Fiscal Policy on Private Investment in Sierra Leone           ( Sierra Leone Writers Series – SLWS) – Dr. Ezekiel K. Duramani-Lakkoh
  2. Sierra Leone Private Investment and Financial Sector Development Trends and Statistics (Universe USA)) – Dr. Ezekiel K. Duramani-Lakkoh
  • Sub-Saharan African Immigrants in United States: A Narrative Inquiry of the Assimilation Experience into Mainstream American Society ( SLWS) – Dr. Jesse Porter
  • English Language and Communication Skills – A Reference Guide For First Year College Students (SLWS) – Mrs. Michaela Dennison-George

These books were officially launched on 17th February, 2021.

 LINKAGES/PARTNERSHIPS

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, for over a year now, the University, through the Quality Assurance and Planning Directorate has been working with UNIDO to develop Quality Management Systems training courses. This collaboration is aimed at promoting and strengthening the quality awareness culture and practices in Sierra Leone. The Directorate and UNIDO are in the final stage of launching the first national university-led Quality Management Training (QMS) in Sierra Leone. The syllabus has been developed by UNIDO and its international partners with the hope that the project will cascade into the University of Sierra Leone starting with diploma and degree courses in Quality Management Systems in the near future.

OTHER PARTNERSHIPS DEVELOPED INCLUDE:

The Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at Fourah Bay College is in the process of forming a partnership with Pennsylvania State University to upgrade Architectural Engineering education and practice in the University of Sierra Leone.

This partnership move was facilitated by Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States of America, His Excellency, Ambassador Abou-Bakarr Sidique Wai.

The Faculty is also engaged in the following partnerships which are ongoing: partnership with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana on Water Resources Engineering, Management and Climate Change; with KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden on the development of teaching modules and research infrastructure on energy and integrated resource modeling; partnership with the University of Port Harcourt (UniPort), Nigeria on the commencement of a Petroleum Engineering programme in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture; and partnership with Imperial College London on upgrading engineering education and practice.

In a similar vein, the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences through its international partners is working on the establishment of a Faculty of Public Health and Infections Disease in order to respond to the Human Resource demands of the proposed Public Health Agency.  Also, plans are underway for the establishment of a Faculty of Dentistry so that the college can commence the training of Dentists locally.  Currently, only 2 Dentists are in the entire government service.

PROCUREMENT OF A UNIVERSITY MACE

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, my Administration had noted that the ornamental symbol of our academic authority and pride which is the MACE was originally meant only for Fourah Bay College. And that is the mace the entire University has been using since the founding of Fourah Bay College in 1827 and even when other Colleges including the  Institute of Public Administration and Management  and the  College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences had become part of the University in 1980 and 1988 respectively.

My Administration deemed it necessary that with the establishment of these two Colleges it is but prudent to have a MACE that is symbolically representative of all the Colleges of the University.

Consequently, a brand new University MACE has been procured from Turkey and I am happy to announce that Your Excellency’s procession was ushered in to this Amphitheatre and ceremony for the first time ever with the new University Mace as the symbol of your authority as Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone.

DONATIONS

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the University of Sierra Leone continues to benefit from the goodwill of its friends, partners and Alumni who have made a lot of donations that have gone a long way in meeting some of the university’s demands.

These donations include but not limited to the following:-

  • Donation of 500 desks and chairs by the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone
  • Solar lights to the various campuses by the Ministry of Energy

The University wishes to express its thanks and appreciation for these goodwill gestures and promises to utilize items donated for their intended purposes.

OBITUARIES

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of Congregation, during the period under review, the University lost some staff members including academic, administrative and clerical whose names cannot be individually mentioned here because of the numbers involved. At Fourah Bay College, we lost 13 staff members between 8th February 2020 and 30th December 2020. At the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences we lost 6 staff members including 5 medical doctors, and the institute of Public Administration and Management, we lost 1 staff.  These were staff members who contributed immensely in their own ways to the improvement of the University.  As we observe this ceremony, we wish to remember their contributions and to further console their loved one for the huge loss.

CHALLENGES

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, every organization or institution, however well managed or resourced, is bound to face challenges. And the University of Sierra Leone is no exception. Earlier, I mentioned the Corona virus pandemic and how it affected all of our operations. It disrupted our activities and academic calendar and in fact, at the height of the outbreak, lectures and all of our operations with the exception of few administration functions, came to a near complete halt.

This was further compounded by the University Academic Staff Association’s industrial action for improved conditions of service.

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation; the University of Sierra Leone is very much happy about the robust stance taken by your Excellency and Government in the fight against the pandemic to the extent that Sierra Leone is cited as a case study in its fight against the virus. Your leadership in the Covid19 fight significantly reduced the severe human suffering that is still experienced by other countries.

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, your Government’s timely intervention to resolve the issues surrounding the industrial action by the Academic staff is quite laudable. We are hopeful that with the actions taken by your Government, strike actions will become a thing of the past.

Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, as a University we are aware that there are challenges with the nation’s financial situation especially in the midst of the current pandemic. However public institutions depend largely on Government’s financial support for their sustainability. We are therefore hopeful that as the economic situation stabilizes, we shall continue to be on the government’s priority list in terms of support, knowing Your Excellency’s passion for education.

 GRADUANDS/PARENTS

At this point I would like to congratulate all the graduands who have successfully completed their courses of study and to thank the parents and Guardians who provided you with the necessary support throughout your academic journey up to this point of celebration. You have ascended a major rung in the ladder of success.

It is often said that every beginning has an end. But I would like to also add that, every end has a beginning. For most of you, today marks the end of your academic journey. Your degrees will soon be conferred which is an indication that you have been equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to go into the world and create the necessary impact. This is therefore the beginning of another journey. It is the real journey in which the knowledge and skills you have acquired in the past few years will be put to a test. The outcome of that test is what is going to really prove to the outside world what you actually gained from the University.

I therefore urge you to go in to the world and be true products and ambassadors of this great Institution we are all proud of. I wish you well and may the Almighty Lord always guide and protect you in all your undertakings.

I thank you all!!!