- Your Excellency, The President and Chancellor of The University of Sierra Leone
- The Hon. Vice President
- The Chief Minister
- The Pro Chancellor
- The Hon. Minister of Technical and Higher Education
- Other Ministers of Government
- The Deputy Minister of Technical and Higher Education
- Honourable Members of Parliament
- Your Worship, the Mayor of the Municipality of Freetown
- Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corp
- Chairman, Tertiary Education Commission
- Members of the Conference of Vice-Chancellors and Principals
- 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
- Our Honoured guests
- Alumni of the University of Sierra Leone
- Academic and Administrative Staff of the University
- Continuing Students
- Members of the Press
- Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Today, the stage is again set for another University Congregation for the purpose of conferring degrees and other academic awards to deserving graduands who have worked so hard over the years to achieve their dream. As a University, we are all here gathered not only to confer degrees, certificates and other awards but to also celebrate with the graduands, their parents and loved ones in realizing this remarkable achievement.
This year, Fourah Bay College which is one of the three (3) constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone just celebrated its 193rd anniversary since its establishment. This goes to show how far we have come in shaping our history and the future of our nation in terms of academic pursuits. With the establishment of IPAM in 1980 and the College of Medicine in 1988 as part of the University of Sierra Leone, we have succeeded over the years in contributing to the required workforce of this nation.
In last year’s congregation ceremony, I highlighted some of the challenges of the University and the measures my administration had put in place to address those challenges some of which include; obsolete teaching and learning methods, poor ICT facilities, Human Resource matters, general infrastructure for an ideal teaching and learning environment, increase in students’ numbers, financing the operations of the University, to name but a few.
I wish to inform this house of congregation that attempts have been made to address some of those challenges.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, it is no secret that as I speak, Government is the primary source of funding for the University, and the current economic trends have put a lot of financial pressure on government in its commitment to meet all of the University’s demand on a timely basis.
The University has therefore embarked on a number of activities that would compliment government’s efforts in providing alternative sources of income for its operations.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, one of the first steps we have undertaken as a University, is the setting up of the University Business Centre. In my address to the house of congregation last year, I mentioned the Business Centre and the processes we had embarked on for its establishment. Today, I am happy to report that the Minister of Technical and Higher Education on Tuesday 21st January, 2020 commissioned and officially opened the University of Sierra Leone Business Centre at the Faculty of Nursing, Lightfoot Boston Street. The Business has two other outlets at Fourah Bay College and IPAM, which are now open and running. The outlets are open to students, Alumni and the general public. The university has also intensified its fund raising drive amongst alumni and other partners both locally and internationally.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the Theme for this year’s congregation is “Education towards Entrepreneurship”. Hence, the university has reached out to a number of its partners to assist in the review of its curricula in order to make our teachings and mentorship more relevant to the needs of society. A number of departments have been merged and some courses radically reviewed. All in a bid to tailor our programmes towards Entrepreneurship.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, in our determination to pursue the path of using education towards entrepreneurship, the University through
the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture is in the process of establishing a “Centre for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship” to enable students to be engaged in real life industry-driven research and development projects geared towards proffering realistic solutions to the problems of our society. Our students will also be trained using hands-on experience in collaboration with selected industries and companies that would be certified by the University.
Also, the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture and the Maastricht School of Management in Netherlands have been awarded a grant under the NUFFIC Orange Knowledge Grant of the Netherlands Government to conduct training programmes on Strengthening Youth Entrepreneurship in Sierra Leone. The strategy is to first obtain a core of trained faculty members in the area of entrepreneurship, and that cascade the training to the students in the Faculty.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, Internship periods for our students will soon be extended from 3 months to one year during which the students will be working with industries and companies under the direct supervision of faculty staff and industry/company supervisors.
Short courses to incorporate the necessary skills and training for middle level manpower will shortly be introduced in most of our faculties in order to build the capacity of our youths and empower them to become entrepreneurs.
Also the Indian Government is offering scholarships to suitably qualified Sierra Leoneans to pursue either short courses or undergraduate programme online. Computers and other ICT equipment for the computer labs and Multimedia rooms will be provided by the government of India for the online courses that will soon be mounted in the University of Sierra Leone.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the University of Sierra Leone and UNIDO have also entered into a formal agreement to partner on the establishment of a Quality Management Systems (QMS) training aimed at building the capacity of Sierra Leonean institutions to develop and establish Quality Management Systems. Participants for the programme will be enrolled on an internationally accredited Quality Assurance course aimed at establishing a team of expert on Quality Management Systems. Courses at certificate, undergraduate and postgraduate levels will be offered making University of Sierra Leone the first institution in West Africa adequately resourced to run such programmes.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, infrastructural development is an ongoing process in the University of Sierra Leone. As the number of students in the various campuses keeps increasing, so also has the University been making frantic strides to cope with the students’ numbers in terms of space, and providing necessary teaching and learning materials.
At the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, action has been taken to complete the expansion and renovation of two lecture halls in the Faculty of Nursing at Lightfoot Boston Street. The refurbishment of the Nurses’ Hostel, which has been neglected for almost ten (10) years, is near completion. We have also renovated the teaching blocks at Kossoh Town, Connaught Hospital, PCMH and Ola During Children’s Hospital. The perimeter fencing at Kossoh Town is now complete. All these renovations and expansions at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences were funded by internally generated revenue by the College.
At Fourah Bay College, under the BADEA Project, the rehabilitation of the hostels, staff quarters, classrooms and laboratory is almost completed. A number of new structures were also constructed under this project. Buildings not covered under
BADEA Project are also being rehabilitated by the college administration using internally generated revenue.
At IPAM, the Administration continues its engagement with FEMAB under the supervision of the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education and the Ministry of Finance for the construction of a residential campus at Bureh town.
PARTNERSHIPS AND RESEARCH
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, partnerships are an essential component for the development and visibility of any university. Faculty members in the constituent colleges have partnered and collaborated with other institutions around the world in the areas of teaching and research.
Staff of the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) for example, are currently working with international partners including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, King’s College London, Oxford University, King’s Sierra Leone Partnership, Queen Margaret University, Berlin University, Boston College (USA), University of Leeds, and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. There are currently over ten (10) ongoing research projects in the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences including four (4) on Clinical trials (2 on Malaria and 2 on Ebola), 2 on biomedical research (both on Lassa Fever) and 6 on Health Systems strengthening and capacity building.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, I am pleased to inform this house of congregation that one of the vaccines that the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences investigated with the U.S. Centre for Disease Control has now been approved and licensed by the FDA in the United States and the European Medicine Authority.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, with the current threat of the Conoravirus across the world, the College of Medicine and Allied Sciences is now in discussions with its partners to design studies that would complement the efforts of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to understand the pathogenesis and better management of the disease.
At Fourah Bay College, the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources is introducing postgraduate diploma and Master of Science programmes in Water Resources Engineering and Management.
With a grant from the UK Royal Academy of Engineering, the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture is also working in partnership with Njala University, Imperial College London and two other West Africa Universities in Senegal
Cote D’Ivoire to produce engineers with the skills and knowledge required to meet the needs of our industries and tackle local challenges.
The Faculty of Engineering and Architecture is also partnering with the All Nations University College in Ghana for the establishment of an amateur satellite ground station at Fourah Bay College to train students in satellite communication operations. The College Administration has applied to NATCOM for the necessary licenses and permits for the establishment of the said station.
UNIVERSITY OF SIERRA LEONE RESEARCH CENTRE – KAMBIA
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the College of Medicine and Allied Sciences is completing the Ebola vaccine trial project in Kambia in collaboration with the London School of Tropical Medicine and other partners. All the equipment used during this project will be handed over to COMAHS and are currently housed in prefabricated structures. The University of Sierra Leone together with the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education is engaging the Ministry of Lands for the acquisition of a parcel of Land in Kambia for the construction of permanent structures to house these equipments. Upon completion, the facility will become a University of Sierra Leone Research Centre, Kambia site for research and future clinical trials.
GRANTS MANAGEMENT OFFICE
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the University of Sierra Leone is finalizing the process of the establishment of a Grants management office that will be responsible for coordinating the application and management of all grants in the university. This office shall be headed by a Director who will be supported by a Grants Manager and other relevant staff. The office will work with all potential and substantive grant holders in the University of Sierra Leone for the efficient administration and management of all grants from the time of application for the grant to the time of report writing at the end of the project.
MEMORANDA OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU)
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of Congregation, the University of Sierra Leone, in addition to existing Memoranda, has between 2018 to date, signed over ten (10) new MoUs with other Universities and Institutions for cooperation in
education and development. Memoranda of Understanding have been signed with but not limited to the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) – to promote institutional exchange in teaching and research with Michigan State University, to promote staff and student exchange, with the University of The Gambia, to promote joint curricula development and staff exchange, with the Ahmadou Dieng University in Guinea (UAD), to promote students and staff exchange, with the Institut Superieur de l’Information et de la Communication (ISIC) in Guinea, also for students and staff exchange and collaborative research and publication; and the Institut Superieur des Arts de Guinee (ISAG), to promote scholarship and research; with the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), for the establishment of an innovation hub at IPAM to support and promote innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem for technical and higher education for university students.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of Congregation, these MoUs have not only been tried and tested and proven to be beneficial, but serve as a peer review mechanism and an evaluation tool to measure our progress in relation to other Universities. Through these cooperations, we share our experiences and information on how to confront challenges and deal with emerging issues.
Digital technologies arising from ICT are increasingly being recognized as a tool for facilitating not just education and human capital development, but one for achieving wider goals of socio-economic transformation and inclusive growth. My administration has placed significant emphasis on the use of digital technologies for administrative as well as academic purposes. The ICT development strategy of the University has three core elements:
- Increasing ICT infrastructure and access across all campuses
- Introduction of and use of ICT Systems for administrative and academic management processes
- Promoting IT capacity building for staff and students of the University.
- Broadband Infrastructure and Access
In 2015, the Government of Sierra Leone through the World Bank funded West Africa Regional Connectivity Infrastructure Project (WARCIP), supported the delivery of broadband internet connectivity to campuses of tertiary institutions across the country. The four campuses were listed as beneficiaries of this project. Four years on, the benefits and impact of these investments are yet to be fully achieved in terms of reliable and adequate broadband access on the campuses. This notwithstanding, my administration has launched a comprehensive programme to substantially scale up broadband access on all campuses of the constituent colleges from Mount Aureol to Tower Hill; from Kossoh Town to Connaught hospital and New England. It is anticipated that by the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year, there shall be adequate internet access in all offices, classrooms, libraries, hostels and outdoor areas of these campuses.
- ICT Systems for Administration and Academics
The purchase of computers and supply of broadband internet are necessary conditions for achieving digital transformation. However, an important element in such a transformation is the introduction of computer software systems to support key work processes. This drives efficiency, promotes transparency and ensures accountability in almost every are of work. Before the beginning of the 2019/20 academic year, my administration set itself the target to introduce software systems to support key work processes in the University. I am happy to report that as at now, all constituent colleges of the USL have web-based computer portals that are being used for multiple administrative and academic processes. The following are notable achievements made in what is anticipated to be a gradual digitisation process of the University:
- 100% of all undergraduate and post-graduate applications, were processed through online channels
- 90% students in the undergraduate and post-graduate curriculas in the University have digital records
- Starting this academic year, all continuous assessments, from homework to test and final examinations for 1st and 2nd year students shall be recorded in the web portal system.
- All student fees collected since the beginning of this academic year can now be viewed and analysed at the click of a button from the computer device of any official that is assigned with the appropriate access privilege.
The list of possibilities with digitisation goes on and on. But suffice to say at this time that the journey that has commenced will continue with sustained momentum until the USL reaches international benchmarks for use of ICT in its operations.
- Capacity Building for Staff
One of the challenges identified in the use of the computer systems introduced this academic year, is the slow adoption in performing various functions. This slow pace of adoption has been largely due to weak capacity of students as well as lecturers in the use of computers. In this regard, and to help build the human capital in digital technologies, the University shall be introducing extra-mural training programmes in the use of computers for lecturers and students across the campuses. The existing computer labs within the various colleges shall be used as training hubs for programmes ranging from use of basic office applications, to the web-based portal systems and other specialised software used in academic research. In this regard, the USL shall establish strategic partnerships between the IT Engineering Departments of the various colleges, the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation (DSTI) and local IT firms to roll-out these training programmes across the various campuses. The 5-year objective is to achieve 100% computer literacy for all lecturers and students of the University.
HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, having the requisite Human Capital is a key factor in providing the right quality of products for societal needs. Setting our records straight in terms of the size and quality of our personnel had always been a challenge. The university is near completion with the verification of all of our staff to determine the veracity of their academic credentials and their physical presence. We have already started taking action against those found wanting.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, capacity building remains the cornerstone of our existence as a university because the capacity of our
staff determines the quality of our products. Consequently, the University of Sierra Leone is either partnering or engaging other institutions for our staff to pursue Ph.D programmes. Positive responses have been received from a number of these institutions including the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, the Gannan Normal University in The People’s Republic of China and the Gerda Henkel Fellowship through the University of Ghana. The Ministry of Technical and Higher Education is also regularly providing the universities with available opportunities for post graduate training to complement the university’s efforts to build the capacity of its staff.
STRATEGIC PLANNING & QUALITY ASSURANCE
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, during the previous congregation, I mentioned Quality Assurance and Strategic Planning as one of the many challenges of the University. I am also happy to report that my administration has within the last twelve months, transformed the University Research and Development Centre (URDC) into a Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance Directorate. With this new development, the Directorate of Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance provides top notch improvement -driven ideas on the development and implementation of the strategic planning, quality assurance and reporting framework. It is also responsible for University planning, coordinating and maintaining the University’s relationships with internal and external stakeholders and also ensures compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements. This Directorate further ensures that quality assurance is embedded in all of the university’s practices and processes through its planning framework including the conduct of examinations and examination results, courses offered, lectures and academic research.
The Directorate has also commenced an academic quality audit to verify and
Validate the workload of academic staff, availability of learning resources and quality of teaching. The exercise has proved to be very useful in identifying areas of improvement and informing strategy for improving performance.
STUDENTS’ AFFAIR AND DISCIPLINE
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, Students’ Unionism is the platform through which students interact, discuss and proffer solutions to the challenges they face in the University. Responsible Students’ Unionism also compliments the efforts of the University Administration in arriving at solutions posed by challenges. It was against this backdrop that the ban on students’ Union activities which had been in force for eight (8) years was lifted by HE the President. SU elections have been conducted on the three Campuses and the students once again have successfully elected their Executives. It is now expected that a well structured and constructive line of communication will be opened between the students and the University Administration.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, the University of Sierra Leone continues to maintain a zero tolerance to examination malpractice. In all our major examination halls CCTV cameras have been installed to monitor the conduct of examinations. Reported cases of examination malpractices have been rigorously and judiciously investigated and appropriate disciplinary actions taken against both students and staff found wanting. The penalty for students ranging from rustication to dismissal, and for staff dismissal or termination.
With the enforcement of the exit verification of students before graduation, over 160 students were found to have entered IPAM with fake results four years ago. The names of these students have been published and the university will be launching a full investigation into the admission process of these students four years ago, and all those found wanting will be brought to book.
The installation of bio-metric registers has commenced across the University to monitor staff attendance and punctuality. The same biometric registers will be used for the registration of students for examination purposes.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, notwithstanding the successes I have highlighted, it obvious that that there are still challenges to be
surmounted. The IPAM Bureh Town Campus, the COMAHS Kossoh Town Campus and the University Secretariat Building at A. J. Momoh Street, stand out as major infrastructural challenges that require urgent funding. I will not bore Your Excellency and members of the house of Congregation by outlining all the challenges. The solution to the problems of the university is availability of funds. Let me hasten to state the university appreciates the many interventions Government has taken to help address the University’s financial challenges. We especially applaud Government’s effort in taking over the direct payment of University staff salaries. Although there are still challenges especially with the staff of COMAHS and the Associate Lecturers in the 3 (three) campus. This step by government has helped to put an end to strike actions by staff for the late or nonpayment of salaries by the university.
Let me now congratulate graduands who have successfully completed their courses of study and have reached the climax of their academic pursuit in this University. You came, you saw and today, you have conquered. You have been equipped with skills and knowledge required to create the necessary impact in your different communities and society. And as you are now ready to enter into the real world of work, I can only admonish you to go out there and change the world for the better. In the words of Carl Rogers, a famous American psychologist, “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn… and change.”
To you the parents and guardians of these graduands, I would like to join you in celebrating the success of your sons and daughters, and husbands and wives. It has been a long and arduous journey. But thankfully, this joyous moment marking their accomplishment has completely overshadowed those painful times characterized by stress, the fear of failure and financial constraint they went through.
On an ending note, I wish to once again congratulate all graduands and to thank all academic and administrative staff for your support and for all that you have done to make this day a success.
I thank you all.