Address by the Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone
Address by the Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, at the 2009 University Congregation Adjai Crowther Ampitheatre, Fourah Bay College, Mount Aureol, Freetown on Saturday 12 December, 2009Mr. Vice President Mr. Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Court Mr. Speaker of Parliament Honorable Chief Justice Deputy Chairman of Court Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal Mr. Minister of Education Honourable Ministers of Government Honourable Members of Parliament His Worship the Mayor of the Municipality of Freetown Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic/Consular Corps Members of Court and Senate Staff, Students, Graduands Distinguished Guests Parents and Guardians Ladies and Gentlemen:
- I am happy to be here once more to confer Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees to students graduating from the University of Sierra Leone in this 2009 Congregation. Graduation ceremonies give us the opportunity to acknowledge the achievement of the University administration, academic staff and students in providing the nation with much needed human- resources for implementing our development objectives and priorities. It is also a time to recognize the sacrifices of parents, guardians and others whose support enabled the students to conclude their studies. This year’s ceremony is no exception.
- Let me now congratulate the new officers of the University on their appointments. My Pro Chancellor, Dr Raymond S. Kamara, the Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof Jonas Redwood-Sawyerr , the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Fourah Bay College, Prof Thomas Yormah, the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Institute of Public Administration and Management, Prof Ekundayo Thompson and the Acting Dean of Campus, College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, Dr Bailah Leigh. I also wish to thank their predecessors: Prof Aiah Gbakima, former Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof J. Redwood-Sawyerr, former DVC Fourah Bay College, Prof Sahr Gevao, former DVC COMAHS and Dr Claudius Bart-Williams, former Dean of Campus IPAM. You tool up office at the inception of the new Universities Act of 2005 with its many challenges in terms of procedures and new structures. You steered the management to its present position as pioneers, when a number of the organizational arrangements stipulated in the Act were tested. We trust that you will continue to serve the University when called upon to do so in your various capacities and we wish you well in your several endeavours.
- Mr. Vice Chancellor and Principal, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: The title of my address this morning is, “The University as the Centre of Excellence for the Development of Science and Technology”. I have chosen this topic because the time has come for our Universities and Institutions of higher learning to reposition themselves in the development, adaptation and application of science and technology for the economic transformation of our country. In this regard, it is important that we as a nation find an effective link between science and technology and the day-to-day functioning of our economy and our society. Our education system docs not adequately respond to the specific growing needs of our country or to global needs in general. Our tertiary institutions continue to produce a large proportion of graduates who are not immediately employable, while many sectors of the economy lack trained personnel to meet their manpower demands. As such, we have created a large population of unemployed graduates especially among the youths.
- Mr Vice Chancellor and Principal, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: I am determined to change this. I want us to review our education systems including the curricula and syllabi. We must integrate science and technology into the national development planning process. To this effect, we are already creating an institutional framework that will promote science and technology in the country. While recognizing the importance of the other disciplines, institutions such as the University of Sierra Leone should, be re-oriented to serve as Centres of Excellence for Science and Technology Education. They must become the Think Tanks and focal points for research and generation of scientific knowledge and research findings which should be transmitted to the public and private sectors for utilization.
- Mr Vice Chancellor and Principal, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let us make education relevant to the aspirations of our people. Our people aspire to a country with abundant food, good roads, uninterrupted power supply, good health services, and quality education. My call unto this University is to join us in a partnership to realize these aspirations. Come on board, come on with your creativity, your science, your knowledge. The University of Sierra Leone was established for the purpose of empowering our people with the skills and attitudes necessary for developing our nation. Live up to this ideal; rekilidle the spirit of service that is at the heart of every great University; fulfil the hope that got the poor man and woman to sacrifice their meager income to get you educated.
- The University of Sierra Leone has a responsibility to address and help solve the many challenges facing the nation and indeed those that face the region and the wider world community. The Government recognizes the partnerships that have been established between the University and various arms of government in training and professional development especially in the introduction of the Postgraduate Diploma in Mines Management in partnership with the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, the Prof. Gbamanja Commission in reviewing performance at the WASSCE and related issues and the institutional structures for the training of students and trainers in tle oil and gas industry as well as mining engineering.
- It is evident that the University of Sierra Leone operates in an environment of constant change, particularly in the area of social and scientific development, and communication technology. The University must be prepared to adapt to these changes if it is to survive. I pledge myself to be part of that process of institutional change and development.
- Mr. Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal, Ladies and Gentlemen, Universities no longer have monopolies on knowledge. The rapid changes in new technologies and strategic developments have revolutionized education as we have known it. A new breed of learners has emerged – learners who want to access all the information they need from anywhere, at any time, and for any subject. The model of education, where learners spent considerable time in front of a lecturer is fast disappearing.
- The University will need to create new learning communities and spaces in which connectivity is the key to individual development and academic success. The University of Sierra Leone must be at the forefront of developments in this process of digital scholarship.
- I will therefore encourage the authorities of the University to invest more in policies that will enable our learners to have more access to digital connectivity. We must explore avenues that will lower the cost of access to internet connectivity. Let every student be proficient in the use of computers and the World Wide Web on graduation. From health to education, sports, science, engineering, accounting, and the arts, computers and the World Wide Web are becoming core tools. A truly educated person must be able to use the computer.
- Â Mr. Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let us also produce graduates with multiple skills. In a fast changing world, persons with inflexible hard to adapt skills set are threatened species. Let us expand the spectrum of skills that every student gets. This is a critical imperative. This University must produce persons with the skills set and attitudes necessary for the growth of self and community. Graduates must not be a burden unto society. Graduates should not be part of the problem; rather they should be components of the solution. Successful universities do not produce graduates that add to the unemployment rate. Rather they produce persons whose creativity enhances the employment rate. It is therefore incumbent upon us, in providing education, to create entrepreneurial attitudes and mentalities. Every graduate should be a potential employer; a person with a can-do spirit; confident, optimistic, and resilient; dedicated to improving self and community. Let us produce students who constantly ask: ‘Am I still a burden to my family, my community and nation? Or am I helping to lighten the burden? Am I making it harder for the poor; or am I a vehicle for their upliftment and the glory of this land that we love?’
- The education and attitudes inculcated in this University should enable graduates to pose these questions. More important, the graduates of this university should be able to answer: ‘yes, I am part of the solution; yes, I am working for the greater glory of Sierra Leone; yes, I am good news for my country.’ I believe this is something that is achievable, if we improve the facilities that currently exist in the University.
- My government will do everything to assist the University. But you must also do your part of the bargain. Improve your relevance; apply best practice in your financial management, perfect your work ethics; strive to retain the best brains. In spite of the recurring global crisis, we, as a government, will endeavour to meet our part of the bargain.
- I would like to emphasise that it is essential that the University engages fully with the wider community and acts as the conscience of the society. The intellectual resources of the University must be made available beyond the confines of the campuses in a variety of different ways, and the University must be open to the contributions of its stakeholders. After all, ladies and gentlemen, this University is an asset of the entire nation, built with contributions made by ordinary Sierra Leoneans to serve the nation as a whole.
- The Strategic Plan for our University, though in draft form, has indicated that our University is poised to move a gear up and is indeed committed to meeting the needs of the economy and society. The University cannot achieve this alone. The draft Strategic Plan calls for all to join hands in preparing the next generation of leaders and moving the nation forward.
- The strategy calls for the creation of partnerships and linkages with commerce and industry, with government and civil society, with parents and the public at large. Each one of us must play a role in the development of our universities. I trust that we are all ready for the task.
- Mr. Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal, Parents and Guardians: I would now like to directly address the graduands. By your presence here today, it is evident that the University has done its part in shaping your academic and professional careers and hopefully your personalities. Your graduation today is an event of great importance to your parents and guardians. You have made your lecturers, parents and guardians and indeed the whole nation proud. You thus deserve our congratulations and best wishes. You are now going out into the world. It is a challenging world. What happens in your lives largely depends upon your own individual attitude to life.
- Also remember this: today is the beginning of your journey of delivering on the hope that your parents and guardians had in sending you to school. Before now others carried most of your burden. Now we must dismiss your dependency on Government, on your community, and your parents. Challenge yourselves to be innovative in your career paths. You must always think of what you need to do to succeed. But also refrain from those attitudes and behaviour that spell doom for yourselves, your parents, guardians and the nation. Stay away from corruption, drugs, and actions that increase your vulnerability to HW/AIDS and other diseases. This country, your parent. and guardians are pinning lots on hope on you. It is incumbent on you to stay the course of success that we are celebrating here today. My government has put in place measures to restrain and punish those who choose corruption and drugs as means to success. I believe you won’t go down that path. I have faith in you. All of us gathered here today put great store in your fortitude and enlightenment. Our country is moving forward in its fight against poverty and illiteracy. I want you to be partners in the solution of the nation’s problems and not part of the problems. Go out in the world with resilience and a determination to succeed.
- Let me also at this juncture call upon parents, guardians and every Sierra Leonean to support the education of women. My government is giving scholarships to female students studying the sciences in our universities. We are expanding on our current initiatives to improve the enrolment and retention rates of girls in schools. We cannot build our families, our communities and this nation without promoting the education of women. Our collective survival and development warrants the education of women. We have no choice. We must do it.
- Mr. Pro Chancellor, Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal, the Academic and Administrative Staff, Distinguished Guests, Graduands, Parents and Guardians, Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe you will agree with me that this has been yet another memorable graduation ceremony. I applaud your resilience, courage and determination. Together we will deliver on the aspirations of our people. Together we will rebuild this land that we love.
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