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Salone Students Union convention kicks off with a bang in Beijing

Salone Students Union convention kicks off with a bang in Beijing

It was a total display of intellectual prowess on Thursday, 26th January, at the conference hall of the Sierra Leone Embassy in Beijing- China, when, over 40 Sierra Leonean students studying in various universities in China, converged for this year’s Students Union Convention, a yearly event that brings Sierra Leonean students from various universities across China, together and also often used by students as a platform to reflect on their past.

In his welcome statement, Alphajor Bah, Chairman for the ceremony spoke of the interest that Sierra Leonean students in China have shown in the activities of the Students Union, which, he said, was demonstrated by the huge turnout of students for the convention. He called on colleague students to look at their strength and also try to examine their weaknesses and explore the opportunities they have, in contributing to national development.  He expressed optimism that the “union will grow from strength to strength…” but cautioned on the need for colleagues to focus on the positive aspect of the convention.

Hamza Bangura, Vice President of  the Student Union, spoke of the readiness of Sierra Leone to move forward and that as students, they are ready to make Sierra Leone a paradise.

The theme for this year’s convention is “Collaborative Approach to revitalize Higher Education in Sierra Leone”

Presenting a paper on the theme, Dr. Phillip Kargbo, Secondary Secretary in the Embassy said “to revitalize higher education in Sierra Leone, there should be collaborative effort in securing quality education…”  Education, Dr. Kargbo said, has once again emerged at the top of the development agenda in Africa especially for Sierra Leone and that basic education is seen as a major factor for the reduction of poverty. “The recognition of the critical role of higher education in building the knowledge economy by the World Bank and other international for an organized under the World Conference on Higher Education (WHCE) has put higher education as one of the primary agendas of development.”

He also highlighted factors responsible for the low level of higher education performance in Sierra Leone “and among could be brain drain, quality and relevant education among others, and unless these areas are addressed in collaborative efforts with both the government and the people of Sierra Leone including you students present here, it becomes difficult to ascribe a good ranking to higher education in Sierra Leone…” he said.

In wanting to use a collaborative approach to revitalize higher education in Sierra Leone especially noting the challenge of brain drain, Dr. Kargbo said, there should be strategies to contain the out migration of talent. Such strategies, he said,  include, but are not limited to institutional autonomy, working conditions, salaries and benefits, opportunities for intellectual engagement and professional development at the institutional level; launching and/or strengthening joint degree programs; creating conducive condition for permanent or temporary repatriation of members of the Diaspora…”

There is a long-term solution, which he said, however lies in ensuring rapid economic growth and improving the livelihood of people, creating a democratic society wherein individual liberties are guaranteed, and ensuring peace and stability. Students, he therefore said, are expected not only to focus on their welfare but also to have direction on what is happening back home, as according to him “student’s contribution towards the development of Sierra Leone means a lot… and  as intellectuals you are expected to have a performing role especially in the President’s idea of “Agenda for Change …”

David Gbenjen, First Secretary in the Embassy, delivering the keynote address on behalf of the Acting Head of Mission, elaborated on the need for unity and respect among students, saying, their gathering for another convention in Beijing should enable them reflect on the past and as such “the convention will bring better understanding among students…”

On the diplomatic front, he stated that since Sierra Leone and China entered into diplomatic relations in 1971, such ties have continued to grow yearly. In 2011/2012, he aid, a total of 26 Sierra Leonean students arrived in China for different courses and that as of date, a total of 950 Sierra Leoneans have graduated from different fields of studies from Chinese Universities.

Speaking on government’s effort in meeting the needs of students in China, Gbenjen said, the government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Education has been very supportive of students studying in China as they [students] have always received their allowances on time and that shipment facilities for students returning home have always been ensured by government.

The convention comes to an end on the 28th of January with the election of new Executive members to run the affairs of the union for the next one year.

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