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RIFTS Foundation Club launched at IAMTECH main campus

7 October 2015 at 19:35 | 1305 views

Special Report

Dr. Christiana Thorpe (seen in photo on the right with IAMTECH Principal Dr. Lauretta Will Sillah), a female education advocate and founder of the RIFTS Foundation has called on younger college students to reach down into their inner spirit and bring out their God-given talents and skills.

Dr. Thorpe, 66, was making an emotional appeal to students as a female national leader. She called on the younger generation to capture the baton she was passing down, adding that time was running out.

She said she was overwhelmed by the fantastic progress of the IAMTECH RIFTS Club. With inspiring speeches,a skit, dancing and a donation, the RIFTS Foundation Club, founded by Dr. Christiana Thorpe, was launched at the Institute of Advanced Management and Technology (IAMTECH) main campus in Kissy, on Tuesday, September 1st. 2015.

RIFTS is an acronym for Reach In For The Stars. The not-for-profit charitable Trust was founded primarily to provide a support base for female university students in Sierra Leone who are often victims of predatory sexual blackmail by some university lecturers using grades as a bait or a form of blackmail. The RIFTS Club has been launched at seven other tertiary institution campuses around the country.

The program commenced with Christian and Muslim prayers. Chaired by the Registrar, Dr. Victor Suma (Rev. Fr.) there were several statements by various institutional representatives from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Tertiary Education Commission, and the president of RIFTS Foundation, Mr. Ambrose Thorpe.

The welcome address was delivered by Mrs. Fatmata Binta Kamara who introduced the IAMTECH RIFTS Club which according to her, was started with the support of the IAMTECH administration on July 25, 2014. She highlighted the impact on female students including counseling services to enhance their academic potential which leads to national development. She then asked the RIFTS CLUB members to stand up, and thanked the Founder, Dr. Christiana Thorpe.. She said they looked forward to all the support they can get.

An IAMTECH Lecturer and Dean of the School of Technology, Mr. Sulaiman Koroma spoke on behalf of the faculty and staff. He started by appreciating and welcoming RIFTS on campus. He shared the statistics and the 20 year history of an IAMTECH that has never had the problem of sexual harassment on campus.

He said at IAMTECH he was a witness to the cultural dimension that over 20 years, they have been managed by iron lady, Dr. Abie Paula Kamara, former principal and Founder. That was due to her style of caring, modest and quality of life which helped maintain their integrity as a school. The goal has been to develop programs and to fill the scarcity of skilled Sierra Leoneans in the workforce.

Koroma explained how they had been closely monitored in the process of training and lecturing to produce products for Sierra Leone’s middle level manpower, which was the reason the modules were designed to meaningfully match the market needs to avoid mismatch, so that our graduates would be professionally integrated into the workforce.

He said statistics had shown that IAMTECH has contributed a lot in girl-child education. The majority of IAMTECH students are females, with a 7-3 ratio against male students.

"Integrity has been closely monitored with a decent relationship with our students," he said.

Dean Koroma emphasized that IAMTECH has been well managed and they have been taught to respect both their male and female students.The same idea has been passed on to the current dynamic, charismatic principal Dr. Lauretta Sillah.

He boasted about the good image of staff-female student relationship which will continue along with capacity building. He reminded the audience of Sierra Leone’s aging workforce population and talent scaricity as well as lack of skills.

" IAMTECH will continue to position and to cater for the future in training and addressing Sierra Leone’s shortage of talented workforce, " Koroma promised..

The IT Dean boasted that IAMTECH’s female graduates can handle any managerial roles.The Mining students are being trained at Lunsar 70% being females participating in Mining, others are being trained in Business Management courses and the products could be found in the the Banking industry, parastatals and all other industries in Sierra Leone.

Mohamed Sesay, who represented the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, (MEST) brought greetings on behalf of the Minister and assured the audience that MEST is always happy to identify with RIFTS and the dignity and education of the girl-child.

According to Sesay, the MEST concentrates on girl-child education and RIFTS is advocating a chronic problem which is rampant everywhere, that of sexual harassment, sex for grades, but nobody has ever touched it.

" Now, we are going to tackle this problem," he pointed out. He added that it was about male lecturers harassing female students, and vice versa, female lecturers harassing male students.

He said the number of the IAMTECH RIFTS club members was very impressive, and he invited the male students to join the Club as well in case they too became victims. He concluded with advice and warning for students to avoid unannounced lecturer visits or unannounced student visitation.

"Don’t give in to the pressure of any lecturer inviting you off campus," he told the largely female students. He informed the audience that he was no stranger at IAMTEC as he was once a lecturer there.

There were also statements from representatives of MEST, Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and the president of RIFTS Foundation, Mr. Ambrose Thorpe

Both the TEC and RIFTS Foundation representatives gave their full support to IAMTECH on behalf of their respective organizations.

There was a short skit by the IAMTECH RIFTS Foundation members which depicted the whole vision of RIFTS. The members acted a scenario with a lecturer sexually harassing a student for grades.The student’s refusal led to her ending up with a failing grade while another student who accommodated the sex for grade passed with a distinction. The lecturer was investigated thoroughly. The principal gave the end of the story with the lecturer being expelled and jailed for blackmailing the student for sex.

Then followed the keynote address by the principal of IAMTECH, Dr. Lauretta Will Sillah. Dr. Sillah’s speech focused on the plight of female students and Sierra Leone women as a whole. She lamented the fact that life for women in Sierra Leone can be extremely precarious according to numerous international reports including one entitled: “Human Rights Abuses”. (www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220156.htm

The report listed consistent human rights abuses of Sierra Leone women including following:
Unemployment
Discrimination
Illiteracy effects
Domestic Violence
Wife Beating
Forced Sexual Intercourse
Rape
Lack of Justice
Death
Highest maternal mortality rates in the world

The female IAMTECH principal added that this was a national crisis.Though 55 % of the population of Sierra Leone is made up of women, yet most of them feel inferior and incompetent due to primitive traditional beliefs.

As a result of illiteracy and traditional views, these acts have been largely ineffective. As the saying goes “you cannot claim your rights if you do not know them.” It is against this somber backdrop that the Center for Women’s Empowerment was established at IAMTECH one year ago.

The principal clearly shared her vision which exactly matched that of RIFTS inadvertently. The Center which is now hosting this dynamic RIFTS Foundation, aims at utilizing training and empowerment to improve the holistic lives of women, especially our female students.

’ We’re addressing major challenges facing our ladies including their academic lives, domestic, personal, marital, parental responsibilities, financial and social aspect," Dr. Sillah said.

. According to Dr. Sillah, the conviction of Dr. Thorpe and the RIFTS Foundation, is for the socioeconomic development of Sierra Leone, as well as morality that will lead to more prosperity for a democratic country.

Therefore, the talents and voices of the nation’s women who happen to constitute the majority of the population, should be represented intellectually, politically , socially and economically, she maintained.

Dr. Sillah admonished her female students and other guests about self-empowerment through inner motivation as every woman is loaded with untouched potential of gifts, talents, and ability to excel, which is the vision of (RIFTS). She shared her own testimony of raising four sons while working a full time job and attending college, and that empowered women are bound to reach their fullest God-given potentials.

Dr. Sillah also lamented the plight of women who would not take advantage of their human rights. She shared reports from UNICEF that the majority of women felt that wife beating was justified for actions such as going out without telling a husband, neglecting their children, refusing sex, or burning food.

Women suspected of marital infidelity often were subjected to physical abuse. She also quoted a report from the US State Department website that says even though women have the right to vote, their husbands or other patriarchal figures were known to influence their decisions.

According to a report released by the U.S Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor entitled “Human Rights Practices-2006”, the rights of women in Sierra Leone are abused almost with impunity and ;domestic violence against women, especially wife beating and forced sexual intercourse is common. The police are unlikely to intervene in domestic disputes except in cases involving severe injury or death” http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2013/af/220156.htm.

Dr. Will concluded her keynote address by thanking Dr. Thorpe for her many years of fighting for the betterment of the Sierra Leonean female education and empowerment, and that she has just made her own female student education much easier with such a supporting platform as RIFTS Club at IAMTECH campus.

She again praised the awesome clean record of IAMTECH and vowed to upkeep and maintain that type of record by admonishing the students and warning any perpetrators, referring to the skit. She also welcomed the male students to join the club and highlighted some of the upcoming RIFTS Foundation support including empowerment programs, training and technical resources as well as internships, workshops and role model speakers on campus.

Dr. Michael Wundah, who has written 13 books including Dr. Christiana Thorpes’s biography, celebrated the RIFTS Founder Dr. Thorpe as a philanthropist who is not selfish.

He described her smile as brightening the room but with an underlying no-nonsense demeanor and a perfectionist by nature. He equally commended other Sierra Leonean educated female leaders including IAMTECH’s principal who eloquently described the chronic problem of sexual harassment plaguing the nation, which was also described vividly by all speakers including representatives from the MEST, TEC and RIFTS Foundation.

The program wrapped up with a vibrant dance to the late Miriam Makeba’s song about sexual harassment. The dance was lead by the RIFTS Foundation staff including the Founder, who was joined in the dance by the entire high table including the principal, Dr. Sillah, Dr. Wundah, Dr. Suma with style. It was a very vibrant, educational, motivational and entertaining moment at IAMTECH.

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