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University of Makeni (Unimak) and partners train 76 paralegals in Sierra Leone

University of Makeni (Unimak) and partners train 76 paralegals in Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone, December 17, 2012 — 76 paralegals from 5 non-governmental organisations have benefitted from several 3 day trainings facilitated by the University of Makeni since the start of 2012.

With support from the the German Government through its implementing agency “German International Cooperation” (GIZ) and the global legal empowerment organisation NAMATI, the law department of the university provided training on essential paralegal skills and accountability in the health sector. The trainings took place in Makeni, Freetown and Bo. The participating organisations were Timap for Justice, Brac Sierra Leone, Access to Justice Law Centre, Methodist Church Sierra Leone and Justice and Peace Commission who together provide paralegal services across 33 locations in 8 districts and in the western Area. These organisations serve approximately 38% of the population of Sierra Leone.

The trainings are part of on-going efforts to develop institutional structures to support paralegal work especially in view of their role in the new national legal aid scheme. A key requirement for accreditation of paralegals according to the new legal aid law is completion of a ‘training course in the relevant field of study’ at an educational institution. Unimak has built up a reputation for delivering excellent, tailor-made short courses in a flexible manner and is currently the only educational institution formally accredited to offer courses in paralegal studies in Sierra Leone. On completion of a prescribed number of credit hours, paralegals will be certified by the university.

The initial trainings covered important topics relevant for paralegals. These included interview skills, case management, mediation, advocacy and navigating authorities as well as selected law subjects like criminal and contract law and Sierra Leone legal system.

During the final round of trainings in November, on accountability in the health sector, paralegals learnt about the structure of health service delivery in Sierra Leone, the legal and institutional frame work of the health sector, available oversight mechanisms, the free health care initiative and how to handle and address grievances of service users.

“I found the health accountability component of the trainings interesting and useful because it provided us with the knowledge and skills to effectively monitor the delivery of primary health services including  the free health care initiative”, said  Achmed Sesay, a lead paralegal at Brac Sierra Leone.

Unimak will, as soon as it is constituted, work closely with the Legal Aid Board to implement a solid regime of training and accreditation for paralegals in Sierra Leone to ensure appropriate standards of primary justice delivery.

Sonkita Conteh, Programme Director, Namati Sierra Leone

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