Salone News

New VC Unveils His Dreams

20 October 2005 at 18:03 | 593 views

Professor Aiah Gbakima is the new Vice Chancellor of the university of Sierra Leone. In this speech, his first major speech since his appointment, he provides a glimpse into his thought processes and his plans to tackle the huge problems the university faces.Many observers, mostly Sierra Leoneans, do not have problems with the core of the speech but are upset by Gbakima’s excessive praise of president Tejan Kabbah, a man they consider one of the worst leaders Sierra Leone has ever had.

WELCOME ADDRESS BY THE VICE CHANCELLOR

AND PRINCIPAL UNIVERSITY OF SIERRA LEONE

ON THE INAUGURATION OF THE

NEW UNIVERSITY SIERRA LEONE COURT

ON THURSDAY 14TH OCTOBER 2005

Your Excellency, President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone

Honorable Vice President

Minister of Education, Science and Technology

Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Court

Mr. Speaker of Parliament

Honourable Chief Justice

Honourable Justices

Honourable Ministers of Government

Honourable Ministers of Parliament

Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps

Members of Court and Senate

Vice Chancellor & Principal, Njala University

Deputy Vice Chancellors and Director of the various arms of the University of Sierra Leone and Njala University

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Today marks a very significant point in the history and evolution of University education in Sierra Leone. Some four decades ago our predecessors assembled in similar manner to inaugurate the University Court created by the 1972 University Act.

Sierra Leone has come to a point where co-operation is more beneficial, especially because successful economic and social relations are built on the premise of long-run permanence.

There is no denying that since becoming an independent state in 1961, Sierra Leone has done well in certain areas and miserably worse in others. For example education and other pillars of national development have severely suffered over the years.

University of Sierra Leone shoulders responsibility that extends beyond the traditional realm of academia or the more recent imperative of financial sustainability, but goes as far as making a definite and significant contribution to national development. My presentation today will project some thoughts on the need for proactive intervention and co-operation to sustain national development and on the University’s efforts in this respect.

It is indeed worthy to note that we in our own day and age have worked assiduously in the advancement of University education in Sierra Leone and our efforts are now being crowned by the opening and inauguration of a new court of the newly reconstituted University of Sierra Leone. We are most grateful to our Chancellor, His Excellency, President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah for his untiring efforts and unrivaled commitment to the cause of promoting University education in Sierra Leone which is fully demonstrated in his resolve to make University education more accessible nation-wide. The creation of two separate universities fully shows his Excellency’s priority consideration for University Education in Sierra Leone. Mr. Chancellor Sir, we are indeed grateful.

To the Chairman and Members of the search committee who worked tirelessly to make sure that we take a new course in making sure that those with the correct vision and mission for the new Universities are granted the opportunity to lead this once “Athens of Africa” in a new direction. I am sincerely thankful and grateful for your courage and wisdom. May God bless us all.

Personally, I am grateful to His Excellency, President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah for appointing me as the new Chief Executive Officer of the University of Sierra Leone. I will try to do my very best and I will try not to disappoint you Sir, and the nation.

Your Excellency, may I with your permission recognize some of our colleagues but not in any particular order - who have guided the University of Sierra Leone in their own ways and are here with us today: Professor & Mrs. Eldred Jones, Professor Modupe Williams, Professor Kosonike Koso-Thomas, Professor John Kamara, Professor Ibrahim Taqi, Professor Ernest Wright, Professor Harry Turay, Profesor Daniel Chaytor, Professor Strasser-King, our Pro-Chancellor & Chairman of Court, Professor Edward Rhodes, Dr. Sandy Bockarie, Professor A. M. Alghali, the current Vice Chancellor & Principal, Njala University. Colleagues, please let us hear from you because your opinions are valuable to the way forward for our Universities.

With your permission, Your Excellency Sir, permit me a little bit of time to say a few things I have noticed during my brisk 2 months in office and to comment on the way forward for this great institution of ours.

The University Court is the highest administrative body of the University. Its functions are very pertinent and vital for the healthy survival of the University. As members of Court therefore our responsibility calls for objectivity in our deliberations. We can bring innovations, which would benefit this University and University Education as a whole in Sierra Leone.

We will work together with our Sister Njala University to harmonize and consolidate the achievements made so far in University Education for the good of the nation, but this is far from the truth in majority of the cases in the Universities. Underdevelopment of Sierra Leone is as a result of the fact that a significant proportion of the popu! lation over the years grew accustomed to consuming without commensurately producing. This state of affairs, otherwise quite akin to robbery, is unjustifiable.

Other deep consideration is the rapid deterioration of the environment and the gradually weakening fabric of the University of Sierra Leone social relations; and the fact that short-term gratification takes precedence over longer-term survival considerations.

We need the business community, banks to compliment our effort and that of Government. We need to close the gap between the University of Sierra Leone and other key actors. Ours and Government employees come to work at 9:30 am and go home at 4:30 pm. They must and will be held accountable to an 8 hour work-day and a 40 hours work-week. Your Excellency Sir, we must change our attitude and be much more discipline. There is no recourse if we are to survive as a nation.

Your Excellency, much as we would at all times be ready to abide by government policies, we would also rely on Government to make the necessary adjustments to reflect an upward shift in the University’s yearly subvention in the light of increasing running cost. We are pleading with the Government to increase funding beyond the 30-35% yearly allocated in subventions. This increase financial support will enhance academic excellence, provide facilities to support excellence, and provide resources to support productivity.

For example, the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) is building a library and a lecture hall with faculty offices from their own funds. They need Government support to fund the second and third phases of these two buildings on the Jui campus. These facilities when completed will enable our medical students to use the library and attend lectures on site, instead of busing them to various sites all over Freetown. It will save time and resources.

If we are to achieve our goals the University would need substantial support from Government to attract a greater number of professors and senior lecturers with the capacity to retain them. Most faculties have a shortfall between 60-80-% due to attrition. We would need to update our libraries and laboratories, procure modern equipments to enhance teaching and training of students to be able to compete in the 21st century.

In our desire to achieve parity of esteem among sister Universities in the sub-region and internationally, we continue to plead with government for increase financial support.

To you who have been appointed as members of the Court of the University of Sierra Leone I would implore you to perform your roles diligently by being punctual and regular at meetings, by being focused and contribute meaningfully for the accomplishment of the vision and mission of the University. We need to take a more robust posture in addressing issues relating to the progress and welfare of the University of Sierra Leone.

Permit me Your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen to recall the glorious old days when Fourah Bay College used to be called the Athens of Africa. As a new University and a new Court let us face up to the challenge to be the engine that would bring about a dynamic change in this University. We should also commit ourselves to addressing the looming question of “what happened to the Athens of Africa”?

Having made our appeal to government, I must hasten to remind us all of quick wins - the things such as planning, commitments, hard work can be achieve without the need for a huge material resources. How many million dollars do we need to clean our dormitories and classrooms?

We as Sierra Leoneans should be ashamed of what we have not done measured against what we could do to move this great nation forward in addressing our very own problems. We are certainly blessed with unlimited amount of natural resources that we have not fully appreciated or explored. What a tragedy.

As we approach the 21st century when competitiveness is the order of the day, we are reminded daily of where we find ourselves in Sierra Leone. If we are to be competitive, then we need to invest in our future and that is in our children. Correct me if I am wrong, but the only way to compete in the world today is by producing University graduates who have had a strong liberal arts and science core education. Our University students and graduates must be functionally literate, must be able to put ideas into action to improve human conditions in Sierra Leone, Africa and the world, and must mold their educational experiences to solve the problems of Sierra Leone.

To achieve this, we promise to take academic programs to new levels of rigor and excellence and make the University of Sierra Leone student experience renowned for its special coherence, connectedness and depth of quality. The entrance requirements to all our programmes at the University of Sierra Leone will always go up and the bar will never come down. The prospective students must meet our requirements and the University will not lower her standards to accommodate weak students. The responsibility is that of students to meet, senior secondary schools to prepare them adequately, and for parents to instill discipline in their children to meet our entrance requirements. No nation, will appreciate an incompetent, unproductive and uncommitted work force for fear of future economic consequences.

Other strategic development plans of the University of Sierra Leone for the period 2005 - 2007 builds upon the role of the University within the challenges being faced by the country at this point in time. The strategic plans of the University of Sierra Leone focus on two important requirements for development namely:

To upgrade the intelligence and maturity of the population in general by providing quality education and excellence in research.

To provide much-needed technical expertise in growth areas. This can be achieved through closer links and collaboration between the Universities, International community and the business community with the goal of generating funds. The University of Sierra Leone should be positioned to aim for an increase in student numbers by attracting both foreign and domestic students. This is essential in an economy where human capital is the primary resource available and where there still exist significant mis-matches between the skills available and those required problems that can be tackled through better networking and information. These strategies will also increase the income generation capacity of the University

Of course, the actual implementation of measures towards attaining these goals is as important as the formulation of the goals themselves.

The University has the opportunity to prove itself as a leading institution in helping to transform the country into a modern, successful and sustainable economy. I therefore appeal to every key actor to participate in the development process of our noble institution - University of Sierra Leone.

May I on behalf of the University of Sierra Leone formally welcome His Excellency, the President and Chancellor, President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to the inauguration of the new University of Sierra Leone Court and to all of you who have honoured our invitation to make this day a memorable one.

I welcome you all and wish for us all success as we play our parts in the development of University Education in Sierra Leone while focusing on the millennium development goals (MDG) applicable to the Sierra Leone situation.

I thank you for your attention.

[Prof. Aiah Gbakima]

Phot Credit: Cocorioko.

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