Principal of Njala University, Prof. Abu Sesay, told the Parliamentary Committee on Education last Friday 19 July that the leading university presently in Sierra Leone is grossly under-funded, and requested for this to be reconsidered against the next budget.
Prof Sesay told the Committee which was on a working visit to educational institutions in the south and east, and northern region of Sierra Leone that NU was allocated Le29 billion Leones ($675, 000) in the 2013 Budget, which is not enough.
“It is why our constraints are so many – our science and teaching labs are below standard; our equipment are poor; we have inadequate library facilities; poorly stocked computer labs; inadequate infrastructure and classrooms, including offices; and inadequate staff accommodation quarters.”
On top of all that are backlogs and drawbacks of salaries, and if that is not addressed, there is the possibility that NU may have to drop some of its workforce, and a drop down on some of its utilities.
“In fact we had the unhelful situation where some good people had to leave because we don’t have the money to keep them here. We made appeals and had hoped we would be considered in the supplementary budget that was passed recently by Parliament, but there was nothing in it for NU. We are begging people to come on board and help us. People indeed want to come and work at NU. We are going through a lot; my staff is working with a lot of commitment; I was at the University of Botswana, where I was earning a lot of money compared to here but this is our nation.”
In spite of these constraints however, Prof. Abu Sesay said NU is rising.
“In Sierra Leone, we are number one, and we rank very high in Africa and the world – the fact is this is a competitive world and I say, let’s compete so that the nation benefits.”
The benefits are indeed many, the Committee conceded, because for NU to rise again to this level after 15 years of neglect and wanton destruction during the war years, is indeed a marvel.
Today, NU stands as an institution whose vision is to be an outstanding world class centre of learning, scholarship and community service (it received recently an award in India to that effect.”
“Yes, NU is number one in Sierra Leone,” Prof. Abu Sesay went on. “Our position came out of commitment and hard work; and our mission is to provide good people, people who can go and perform; our major goals are quality research, execellence teaching, intensify research productivity, to become a major driver in socio-economic.
“Today, our strategic objective is to establish international partnership, strengthen staff capacity, provide relevant and high quality programs, and create a conducivie learning environment for all our students.
“Our future lies in partnering with international universities – currently, our partners are the University of Illinois, University of Guelph, Canada, University of Toronto, etc.”
Looking back, since 1964 when NU was founded, and in 2005 when it became an auotnomous university, there is a lot to be proud about, including some of its illustrious alumni, among them Dr Monty Jones – co winner of the World Food Prize in 2004; Kandeh Yumkella, current UNIDO boss; Hon Alimamy P Koroma, Minister of Works and Infrastructure; IB Kargbo, Special Adviser to President Koroma, etc.
Courses today include agricutlture, education, environmental sciences, technology, forestry and horticulture, social sciences, community health science, and a school of post graduate studies. There are three campuses – one at Bo Town, another at Mokondie, and a third in Freetown. At Mokondie which is the main campus, everything has been rebuilt to standard with everything including ICT – there’s 16 hours of power supply; staff accommodation under construction although work has stopped because the contractor has not received his money.
“The point is, every staff ought to have quarters here for effective work. We need really need help in that regard. We have built a university guest house and the money we get from it we have invested it in building other wings at the guest house. We have renovated both the male and female hostels, including those for the postgraduates.
“We have bought an inter-campus bus and another that shuttles between Mokondie and Bo campuses. We have also bought a V-sat for internet connectivity.”
However the road that leads from the highway into the main campus is in bad shape – this, Prof Abu Sesay says, is because of lack of funds and requests from the Committee to help in advocating for them for such funds to be released by the necessary authorities.
Looking ahead, NU is set to establish potential partners from Liberia to Oklahoma to Canada. Plus, improvement on the present new programs on agri-business, the two-year remedial English course, a third-year course on enterpreneurship; the cross breeding with calves, chickens, goats, and fish; and there is also the oil palm clonal garden, and processing technology.”
Chairman of the Education Committee, Hon Muluku Sulaiman was taken aback with admiration and wondered what more did the learned professor had to say.
“The Committee appreciates all these developments, appreciates the warm welcome. It must be said that all this job was done under difficult conditions, and that makes it more commendable; it is wonderful to see the transformation NU has gone through; the face of NU has changed, and this is against the background of constraints – Mr Vice Chancellor, you and your team have done a wonderful job here; we are here to see what constraints you are going through and report back accordingly; support to the university is key; because the quality it produces is what the nation becomes; we thank the leadership in everyway.”
Deputy Chairman Hon Dr. Roland Kargbo, an alumnus of NU, said he is exhilirated about the rapid growth and transformation he has seen around. He encouraged the staff to keep on the good work.
Hon Habib Bakarr Munda said he wants to thank the Principal and staff, and the Education Committee for the opportunity to see NU; please go on and seek the facilitation of the payment of contractors fee; I want to one day be a staff of this University. I will encourage Committee members to stand by NU for housing, and see to it that this under-funding for them ends.
Hon Moiwai Momoh submitted that NU is one of the places Sierra Leoneans used to neglect – this should no more be the case: education should now be the topmost priority. We will try very hard to take your message to Parliament and the nation; no, Fourah Bay College would not be annoyed but you should know that it is our lecturers there who have been skillfully brought over here to make this success, so the success is all ours. Please continue to fight to be at the top.
Hon PC Joseph Alie Kavura Kongomoh II said he is impressed beyond measure.
“I am defending NU because it belongs to me and my people – all you have done is impressive; we don’t have the power to help you out as a Committee; but we will report back accordingly; we thank you so much. I am hesistating to say what I want to say because I am neutral. However, we have to be very grateful to the current leadership of the nation for the help he has given to this university. Former President Kabbah has done his part; now this present leader is also doing his best to bring education on course.”
Hon Umar Paran T arawally said NU is producing more courses, while FBC is producing Chinese courses, FBC that has been there for ages, they should come to NU and learn their good work instead of learning old courses that have no relevance to today’s society.
“For your contractors please ensure that they carry on the work and please ask the banks to pre-finance these projects before they get to a worse state. I will take this issue to the Works Committee, to ensure that the road from Taiama-Njala is considered as a priority.”
In conclusion, the Committee said where there is no leadership, the people perish; there is leadership at NU, and that leadership ought to be commended.
A staff of NU – Dr. Bashiru Mohamed Koroma, Dean of Environmental Sciences – said even though the university is faced with much constraints, yet they are thinking ahead to rekindle more zeal among each other. He requested for help in having environmentally friendly laboratories.
Vote of thanks was made by Dr. Adlyn O. Johnson, Acting Senior Deputy Registrar.
“Thank you for being here, we are delighted to receive you. NU has a lot to offer. We know you are going to push our agenda. We all love our country, and NU is for all of us. Our appeal to you is please don’t forget about NU. Please make sure that our constraints are met; NU is doing a very important work. Make sure our monies are increased so that we don’t run away from the educational field, so that education can move forward instead. Help us to make to move forward…help us make sure NU stays ahead. We thank you.”
The visit was climaxed with a tour around the campus and the different laboratories and clonal facilities.
The committee on a tour
One of the cloned pigs – 1yr 6months
One of the chicken keeps
Prof. Abu Sesay
Chairman – Hon Muluku Sisay, and Deputy Chairman, Hon Dr. Roland Foday Kargbo
Committee being addressed by Prof. Abu Sesay