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Sunday, August 9, 2020

University of Sierra Leone: Will Fourah Bay College Rise again?

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In the 2005 Universities Act, the three institutions were merged to become the University of Sierra Leone. The one hundred and eighty six and more year-old institution (FBC) was established by the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) to, on the one hand, train primary and secondary school teachers as a means to spread Western education to Sierra Leone and beyond; and on the other, to train missionaries who spread Christianity in Sierra Leone and West Africa. The corner stone of FBC was laid in Regent, a small community near Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. A composite of problems including funds and housing facilities were responsible for the relocation of the institution to Cline Town in the west end of Freetown until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939-1945. FBC was again moved to Mabang, a rural community in Moyamba District, Southern Sierra Leone, during war.  As a result of the relative significance of FBC in West Africa, the institution was moved to its Regent site at Mount Aureole where the colonial administration built structures that stood the test of time for about one thousand students. Between 1827-1876, FBC was a non-degree granting institution. During that period, it awarded diplomas and teacher training certificates until when it awarded degrees to the class of 1876 after affiliation with Durham University. During the next 84 years (1876-1960), FBC became a renowned tertiary institution and the most productive years when the institution attracted lecturers from India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom who earned terminal degrees from British universities and were hired to teach a variety of courses at FBC, University of Sierra Leone (USL).

The history of FBC cannot be complete with the following dates; 1827-1875 non degrees granting era; 1876-1960 affiliated with Durham University i.e. graduates were awarded Durham degrees; 1960-1967 granted Royal Charter; 1967-1972 federal system: FBC and N’jala University College became USL. In 1972 Njala University College became an autonomous institution i.e. a full-fledged university. Presently FBC has about six institutes namely; Institute of Adult Education; Institution of African Study; Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography; Institute of Population Study, Institute of Library and Archives Studies and Mass Communications; and Institute of Early Childhood Care and Education. In addition, FBC has the following faculties: Faculty of Arts; Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences; Faculty of Social Sciences and Law. Each of the aforementioned has a number of degree granting departments. Borrowing from President Ernest Bai Koroma inaugural address on Friday 22nd February 2013, he said: “My government will do more for education. We are building and equipping vocation al and technical center, we are paying for almost all public examinations in the country; and we have increased subventions to universities more than ever before.” Was the President’s address a magical incantation that was trying to blindfold Sierra Leoneans and attract the hearts and minds of his dignitaries?

Worsen as the situation remains, since President Koroma took over as Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone from 2007 to date, no new structure has ever been erected at FBC, nor has any furniture being bought. Instead students continue to suffer on daily basis not only for transportation to catch up for lectures but lecturers find it difficult to deliver because the working environment is still unfavorable. This is the case every academic year because there has never been an academic year that lecturers have not embarked on a sit-down strike for what they called backlogs.

Also, the Physics lecture room needs restoration.  Indeed the general condition of the lecture rooms is not conducive to qualify FBC as a learning institution.  Faculty flats near Kortright house, students’ hostels, which are nothing good to write home about, and the entire environment are in dire need of foreign investment because FBC campus deserves immediate facelift. The roof of the buildings that contain mathematics lecture room, Faculty of Engineering classroom and offices need complete renovation.

The question that keeps nagging one’s mind is: will FBC ever rise again?  Interesting to note that lip service and empty promises such as “my government will do more for education”, have contributed to further deteriorate the structures and deepened the crisis.

It is very unfortunate that the one-time Athens of British West Africa and the reservoir of knowledge for Sub-Saharan Africans, FBC, is not among the top 100 universities in Africa.  How is it possible for the nation to rise again to repeat its history of greatness in terms of education?

At FBC, students are today paying for Development Fee; Two Hundred Thousand Leones (Le 300, 000) for Acceptance of Offer; Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Leones for Pre-Admission Medical (Le250, 000); and One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Leones (Le150, 000) for medical.

Over the years, as a student at FBC, I paid for Caution Fee which was to be refunded at the end of every academic year as long as no damage was done by me.  Today the Caution Fee has been omitted and replaced with Pre-Admission Medical whilst students are still paying Medical fees.  It is disgusting to reveal that students paid for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) when the facility is not provided by the University administration.  Thus has been the reason why many of us graduated without a single touch of a computer keyboard, not alone its mouse.

The reason why many Sierra Leoneans including the old Fourahbites are skeptical in terms of reformative growth at FBC is because the institution itself lacks transformative leaders to hugely import development up there. It is not just about the political will, but developmentally oriented leader (s) like Professor Ekundayo Thompson, current Principal of IPAM. Go to IPAM and see the massive structure under Prof. Thompson’s leadership.

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