- The Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone
- The Hon. Minister of Technical and Higher Education or his Representative
- Other Ministers of Government
- Your Excellences, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corp
- Members of Parliament here present
- The Deputy Vice Chancellors of Fourah Bay College, The Institute of Public Administration and Management, and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences
- The Chairman, Tertiary Education Commission
- Representatives of other Agencies, Departments and Directorates
- Representatives of Local Government Authorities
- Members of the Conference of Vice-Chancellors and Principals
- Partners of the University of Sierra Leone
- Our Honoured guests
- Alumni of the University of Sierra Leone
- Academic and Administrative Staff
- Continuing Students
- Members of the Press
- Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure, as Vice Chancellor and Principal to deliver the annual congregation address in respect of another incredible crop of graduands who have for the past four years or more, worked so hard and have successfully fulfilled all the University requirements for the conferment of degrees and other academic awards.
This is indeed a time of excitement and fulfilment for the graduands. It is also a rewarding moment for the parents/guardians who provided the financial and moral support to their sons and daughters; and a glorious occasion for the academic staff who provided the necessary training to the graduands.
Before I proceed, I would like you all to join me in welcoming our new Chancellor of the University in the person of Dr. J. Sanpha Koroma. Since the establishment of the University of Sierra Leone, the Office of the President of Sierra Leone has always held the position and honour of the Chancellor of the University. Under the new 2021 Universities Act which was recently enacted, following consultations and in the wisdom of His Excellency the President, Brig-General (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio, the roles and the responsibilities of Chancellor have now been passed on, in the words of the Act, to “a Sierra Leonean with proven record of high moral rectitude and integrity, sound academic background and a distinguished career in academia, the professions, business, religion or traditional rulership…”. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, everyone who has worked with or has encountered Dr. J. Sanpha Koroma, would know that he is one quintessential personality that unquestionably meets that description. Mr. Chancellor Sir, on behalf of the University, I wish to most heartily welcome you to this occasion.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of Congregation, I am happy to inform you that in the next three days, the University will be conferring degrees and other awards to graduands ranging from higher degrees to undergraduate degrees, and diplomas from the three Campuses of the University; namely Fourah Bay College, the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, it is a known historical fact that Fourah Bay College, one of the constituent colleges of the University was established in 1827 as an affiliate Institution to Durham University at a time when the student numbers were relatively small and there were adequate resources to cater for the needs of students as well as the staff and infrastructure.
Today, the situation is completely different because the University of Sierra Leone has not only long attained full university status on its own but continues to attract large numbers of students from across the globe. Changing times have presented new challenges that require innovative ideas, strategic planning and interventions.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, cognizant of this reality, my Administration embarked on transformational interventions and operational innovations which are all geared towards addressing the University’s needs and responding to the obvious challenges.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, kindly permit me to briefly highlight some of the activities my Administration has undertaken during the period under review:
Quality Assurance, Strategic planning and Management have always been a major challenge for tertiary institutions. Mindful of this reality, my administration in 2019 decided to transform the University Research and Development Centre (URDC) to a Quality Assurance and Strategic Planning Directorate. With this new development, this Directorate provides improvement-driven ideas on the development and implementation of strategic planning, quality assurance and reporting frame work. It is also responsible for University planning, coordinating and maintaining the university’s relationships with internal and external stake holders 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 learning framework including the conduct of examinations, courses offered and academic research.
This Directorate in addition to its various positive activities has facilitated linkages between the University and reputable organizations. One such linkage is the UNIDO Project in which the Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance Directorate is working with UNIDO to develop National Quality Assurance Training programmes to be hosted and run by the University. The initiative is the first of its kind in the country and USL could potentially be a Quality Assurance Training provider for other countries in the sub-region.
HUMAN RESOURCE AND CAPACITY BUILDING
Capacity building remains the cornerstone of our existence as a university because the capacity of our staff determines the quality of our products. Mr. Chancellor, members of the House of Congregation, the University of Sierra Leone is partnering with several institutions for our staff to pursue PhD programmes. Positive responses have been received from a number of these institutions including the Kwame Nkrumah University of Sciences and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, the Gannan Normal University in the Peoples’ Republic of China and the University of Ghana. The Ministry of Technical and Higher Education is also regularly providing the University with available opportunities for postgraduate training to complement the University’s efforts to build the capacity of its staff.
The University also has a road map for all lecturers to receive formal pedagogy training irrespective of their disciplines and qualifications at the beginning of each academic year. Several of such trainings have been conducted for academic and administrative staff and the Academic Staff Association of the University has been an important partner in this venture.
In 2020, five (5) staff from the department of Mass Communication graduated with PhD degrees locally and this year another six (6) are graduating with PhD degrees in various disciplines. Additionally, some of our colleagues were scored internally and assessed externally for promotion to the ranks of full Professors and Associate Professors. I am pleased to report that five (5) have been appointed to the rank of full Professors and three (3) promoted to the rank of Associate Professors. Thirteen others have been promoted to Senior Lecturers in various faculties.
INFRASTRUCTURAL NEEDS TO MEET THE EVER INCREASING STUDENT NUMBERS
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of Congregation the exponential growth in student numbers over the years has seriously challenged our infrastructural needs. During the period under review, the University has embarked on a number of infrastructural development projects with internally generated funds by the various campuses and some through the good will of well-meaning Sierra Leoneans. All these projects have either been recently completed or are ongoing:
- The Construction of a large lecture hall to accommodate over 800 students per session is ongoing.
- The Renovation of the Adult Education Building is ongoing
- The Extension of the existing College Hospital is complete
- Construction of a Disability Friendly Centre for use by disabled students is complete
- The Rehabilitation of the FBC Resource Centre to provide ICT facilities for students is complete
- Renovation of the INSLICS unfinished building at the Tree Planting Axis is ongoing.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the house of congregation, on behalf of the University, I wish to express gratitude to a Sierra Leonean and a proud alumnus of Fourah Bay College who has successfully constructed and donated a modern three-storey building complex, furnished with state-of-the-art equipment. The building has two auditoria each of which can accommodate about 170 students, six lecture rooms each accommodating up to 300 students, and a large lecture hall which can accommodate over 700 students. All the lecture rooms have smart boards and projectors for virtual teaching.
The building complex also has an office for the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, an office for the Alumni Association, and a canteen facility to serve staff and students. The Building has Wifi facility for which payment has been made for one year. Mr. Chancellor members of the house of congregation, that proud alumnus is no other person but Ing. Tunde Cole.
The University applauds this pioneering and illustrious gesture by Ing. Tunde-Cole and hopes this move will serve as a wake-up call to other Alumni of the University to come on board and contribute meaningfully to the growth of the University.
- The construction of a mini Amphitheatre at the Faculty of Nursing, Lightfoot Boston Street is ongoing
- The renovation of all COMAHS’ facilities at Kossoh town, Faculty of Nursing PCMH and Wallace Johnson Street is complete
- Renovation of the proposed USL Research Centre at Lamina Sankoh Street is complete and awaiting commissioning at the Faculty of Nursing at Lightfoot Boston Street.
- Additional classrooms have been constructed at the Faculty of Nursing at Lightfoot Boston Street.
- Completion of the Perimeter fence at the Kossoh Town Campus.
At IPAM, although the IPAM Bureh Town Project was stalled because of some fiscal challenges among the various partners, negotiations are underway with potential financial Institutions to revamp the Project. When completed, there is provision to accommodate over 3000 students amongst other facilities.
IMPROVING ICT CAPACITY
Establishment of an ICT Directorate
Mr. Chancellor, members of the house of congregation, when I assumed office as Vice Chancellor and Principal, I identified as crucial, the establishment of a reliable Information Technology and Communication Portal, for the development and transformation of the University of Sierra Leone.
Hence the USL ICT Portal was launched in May 2019, which handles students’ information and activities from application to graduation and post-graduation requests.
Prior to its launch and in preparation for the implementation of the project, USL recruited an ICT Director, a Web Master and other ICT Personnel for the various Campuses and other Units across the University.
A lot of training has been carried out for all staff of the University on the use of the Portal. The following are some of the specific activities the portal handles:
- Complete management of student application process
- Payment of fees
- Students’ registration
- Students’ attendance
- Platform for lecturers to upload lecture notes and students to submit assignments online
- Student mobile app now available on Google Play Store
- Online voting for students and staff. In fact, the 2021 IPAM Students’ Union Election was successfully conducted online.
- The Virtual Learning Labs have been established at FBC and IPAM for lecturers to deliver virtual lectures. The establishment of a third virtual learning Lab is underway at COMAHS for live streaming and for lecturers to upload their recorded lectures.
- Lecturers uploading their grades on line, Examination Boards validating results online and Exams office publishing results with students having direct access to their grades online.
- Library Management facilities – Through the Portal, students can order and return books from the Library.
- Online Examination – for some courses/modules, multiple choice questions can now be administered online to students.
- Human Resource Management – Staff recruitment and management of staff employment records.
REVIEW OF CURRICULA
Since June 2020, there has been a review of the University curricula for almost all programmes leading to the elimination of obsolete modules and introducing relevant ones. The University of Sierra Leone has also developed new programmes to meet the needs of the society including:
- Sc. (Hons) in Paediatrics and Neonatal nursing
- Sc. (Hons) in Medical and Surgical Nursing
- Sc. (Hons) in Midwifery & Obstetric Nursing
- Sc. (Hons) in Nursing Education
- Sc. (Hons) in Midwifery Education
- Sc. (Hons) In Critical Care Nursing
- Sc. (Hons) in Nursing Anesthesia
- SC in Procurement and Supply Chain Management
- Master in Supply Chain Management
- Sc. Financial Economics
- Masters in Financial Economics
- Master in Sustainability & Leadership
- Executive Master in Banking & Finance
FORGING NEW/STRENGTHENING EXISTING PARTNERSHIPS LOCALLY AND AT INTERNATIONAL LEVELS
Fourah Bay College is in partnership with a number of Institutions including Pennsylvania State University to upgrade Architectural Engineering Education and practice in the University of Sierra Leone; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana on Water Resources Engineering; Management and Climate Change with the university of Liberia; United Methodist Episcopal University in Liberia; University of the Gambia, and the Gullah Redemption Mission in the United States of America that seeks to strengthen historic links between Sierra Leone and the Gullah descendants.
The College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences has a growing number of active research and training collaborations with local and international partners including the following:
the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (SL)
the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) (Spain)
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK)
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK)
Oxford University (UK)
King’s College London (UK)
King’s Sierra Leone Partnership
Queen Margaret University (UK)
Berlin University (Germany)
Boston College (USA)
University of Leeds (UK)
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC – USA)
Tulane University (USA)
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Sierra Leone Postgraduate College of Health Specialties
The IPAM has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) with IPAM as the anchor. The two institutions have agreed to cooperate in the areas of knowledge and information sharing through workshops seminars, training, and collaboration in organizing exhibitions for local innovations; designing short and medium term programmes for local innovators and other areas of cooperation.
Another MoU has been signed with DSTI to collaborate on setting up an Innovation Hub/ Incubator for innovative and entrepreneurial projects.
IMPROVING USL RESEARCH PORTFOLIO AND
Mr. Chancellor, members of the house of congregation, the University of Sierra Leone has been undertaking several research projects in its constituent colleges which are being jointly conducted with reputable universities and institutions all tailored towards our national needs or aspirations.
At FBC an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub has been established at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture to enable students engage in real life industry-driven research and development projects geared towards proffering realistic solutions to everyday problems. This Innovation Hub will not only target engineering students, but also students from other faculties in the University for cross-disciplinary Collaboration.
Also in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, with support from the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, a well-equipped water quality laboratory for students and staff research is being established which will provide space for industries to improve water quality analysis and testing.
Mr. Chancellor, 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 continues to play a lead role in strengthening the health system of the country. The College currently has about 19 Research Projects including operational and Clinical Trials Research. I am happy to inform this house of congregation that two products investigated in this country in collaboration with COMAHS gained Emergency approval for use by the World Health Organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Guinea to control the recent Ebola outbreak in these two countries.
SOURCING ALTERNATIVE FUNDING FOR THE UNIVERSITY
Mr. Chancellor, members of the house of congregation, in 2019 the University established the Business Centre with branches in the different campuses to initially cater for the increased demand for students’ regalia. The Centre has now extended its range to products including stationery, computer accessories, cleaning materials and other student studying materials.
The University is currently looking out for other avenues for expansion of its business and coordinating with its Alumni Association so that can play an integral role in fund raising for the University. Mr. Chancellor, members of the house of congregation, my administration has also set up a University Development Committee whose membership comprises University staff and Business Executives from the private sector. The primary objective of this committee is to find alternative sources of funding for the University.
The Committee has commenced initial engagement with the Private Sector with the possibility of establishing Public Private Partnerships with the University.
SPLITTING, MERGING AND CREATION OF NEW FACULTIES/DEPARTMENT
Mr. Chancellor, members of the house of congregation, the University carried out an academic workload audit which revealed significant gaps in the administration of academic faculties and departments. During the audit exercise, it was discovered that some faculties/departments were too large whereas others were comparatively too small. This had a significant impact on the quality of learning in terms of class sizes and Lecturer-Student ratios.
To address this concern, the University Administration has created new faculties in its constituent colleges viz:
- Faculty of Accounting and Financial Services
- Faculty of Leadership and Governance,
- Faculty of Business Intelligence and Entrepreneurship
- Faculty of Law
- Faculty of Economics and Development Studies
- Faculty of Communication, Media and Information Studies
- Faculty of Public Health and infectious diseases.
- Faculty of Medical Laboratory Sciences and Diagnostics.
- Faculty of Clinical Sciences has been renamed Faculty of Clinical Sciences and Dentistry. This is to meet the acute shortage of dentists in the country
- Faculty of Nursing has been renamed Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery with the faculty now admitting students directly from school to study for a degree in Midwifery.
BUILDING AN E-LEARNING INFRASTRUCTURE.
Mr. Chancellor, members of the house of congregation, the University of Sierra Leone has made significant progress with the customization of the MTHE Portal/New Learning Management System which is ready and being used as a learning platform for the 2021/22 academic year. Online masters’ programmes have been identified and the project group is now working on the mode of delivery of these courses.
The University has invested heavily in securing a dedicated building which has been furnished, equipped and provided with the requisite staff.
UNIVERSITY OF SIERRA LEONE YEARBOOK
Mr. Chancellor, members of the house of congregation, the University has initiated the printing of a University Yearbook that would contain brief information and photographs of graduating students and events on the academic activities in the University.
The Yearbook is intended to improve on the visibility of the University and to also serve as a historical reference book for graduating students, the University Authorities, parents, spouses, sponsors, potential employers, as well as other stakeholders.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, notwithstanding the successes I have highlighted, there are challenges that require serious attention; primary among which is finance. Mr. Chancellor Sir, the University unreservedly applauds government for taking over the payment of staff salaries, however challenges in meeting the payment of some staff salaries, allowances and ex-gratia still remain.
Furthermore, even though we have made progress in infrastructural development as earlier highlighted, the annual increase in prospective students’ numbers leaves much to be desired in terms of admission and accommodation. In all three campuses of the University, the story is the same.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation, there are many more challenges that still persist and the list of which I do not intend to bore you with here. However, these are challenges, we have all what it takes to conveniently surmount, if only we have the adequate financial resources we need.
In spite of this hurdle, our determination and forward march to transform the University by reclaiming its glorious past and maintaining its status as a premier university remains undaunted and a priority we must achieve.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, members of the House of Congregation I now wish to congratulate the graduands who have successfully completed their various courses of study and upon whom degrees are going to be conferred.
As a University, we have done our own part to equip you graduands with the skills and knowledge you require to create the necessary impact in your different communities and the country as a whole.
We are hopeful that as you are now about to enter the real world of work, your character and values will be reflective of this great University we are all proud of.
We have given all the necessary training and education to make your life in society meaningful. But in the words of Nora Ephron, “your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead”. So, it is now up to you to make the necessary difference.
I wish to thank you the parents, guardians and relatives who provided these graduands the much needed support. It has not been an easy ride but thankfully, your efforts over the years have yielded the desired results.
I therefore join you in celebrating the success of your sons and daughters. May all of you live to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
I wish to also thank all faculty and staff for your support and for making this great ceremony a success.
I thank you for listening.