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Limkokwing University Saga: SLPP must tread cautiously

Limkokwing University Saga: SLPP must tread cautiously

By now many of us would have familiarized ourselves with the Anti Corruption Commission report on late Dr. Minkailu Bah (former minister of Education, Science, and Technology) and the Limkokwing University (Sierra Leone chapter). We may have read how he singlehandedly entered into a deal with the university for its establishment in Sierra Leone (flouting due processes) and eventually committing the government with the responsibility of providing a space for the construction of its main campus and to a great financial burden of providing a scholarship for 1,200 students per anon. He could go on to submitt a document stating the number of students to receive the grant-in-aid to the then financial secretary  without indicating the cost estimate for the benefit of parliament who should debate its structure when presented in the national budget. It came out that a single student offering a bachelor’s degree programme would receive a grant-in-aid worth up to US$ 3,000; while Diploma students were paid for USD$ 2,500 (triple the amount offered to students across public universities).

Even after granting an Executive Clearance to settle payment of financial obligations for the academic year of 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 of up to twenty two billion Leones (Le 22,000,000,000), the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) still has to pay an outstanding financial obligations worth up to thirty three billion Leones (Le 33,000,000,000) for the academic year 2018/2019. Reasons for delay of payment?: Well,”…fiscal challenges and the unfairness of incurring such liability for few students when compared to other students on government grants-in-aid in various Universities” (Thomas A. R., 2020– Sierra Leone Telegraph).

Critics Perspectives:

Several critics have called for a complete shutdown of the programme. They argue that the scholarship is costly (relative to cost of grant-in-aid across public universities in the country); and that its beneficiaries are mostly relatives or supporters of the previous administration, which to them is unfair. Call that pork barrel politics.

Of course their claims are critical. But we I assure you we stand to lose woefully if we choose to end it abruptly rather than renegotiating terms. As the legal pundits would advise: a man dies with his indictments. So we should be careful lest innocent Sierra Leonean youths pay the price. The primary suspect in all this saga (former education minister) is gone to a place of no return. His indictments die with him. Hence, we should renegotiate terms to arrive at a win-win solution.

The money spent is not refundable and in fact we are obliged to fulfil payment to the college for the remainder. Education is the flagship programme of this administration. We cannot deny the need for education to promote sustainable development (sustainable as in people-driven development). If we don’t educate our youths, we would end relegating them to mere consumers (rather than producers).

I am sure no one would reject an opportunity to study in a prestigious university on a scholarship opportunity. The youths are not the ones who created the system, in fact they are victims of corrupt system. The system is such that you tend to lose hope in any genuine progress making you believe that the only way to survive is to affiliate with a political party. The abuse and misuse of positions are not new and it’s ongoing. We needn’t target its victims, but the perpetrators. The youths of this country are almost hopeless and among the most underemployed.

A Way Out:

Like I earlier on advised, government should fund already enrolled Sierra Leonean students for one more academic year just so that everyone would gain be certified. New intake/admission (on grant-in-aid basis) should seize; those in year one should be graduated with a certificate; those in year two with diploma; qualifying students  awarded Higher National Diploma; and finalists be awarded with bachelor’s degree. Without these papers, a good number of them (especially those without capital to start their own businesses) would have trouble securing a job. They end up becoming retarded and frustrated dropouts. Deviants are born; self-esteem is dampened; and mental health problems (out of frustration after hopes were raised) are bound to occur. And it will cost society more to tackle these results.

Another way to address this issue of unfair treatment is making these set of students sign a memorandum of agreement to serve the nation (as volunteers) for a stipulated period of time after graduation (especially those with HND and bachelor’s degree). Similar programmes are designed for youths in other countries; and the results are fantastic. The volunteers will have the chance to gain first hand knowledge on practical problem solving (regarding their discipline of study) whilst contributing to community development.

I would also recommend that GoSL design similar programmes across public institutions and employ these graduates (especially those with degrees) to transfer the knowledge gained (since some of the programmes offered by the institution are new and critical to the job market). This way we can add value into our curricula whilst at the same time invest in the human capital development of the nation for a prosperous nation.

We all have one Sierra Leone to call home. We should not commit the same folly our forefathers and fathers committed. We should learn to take advantage of opportunities that will move this country. Instead of punishing the deprived victims (who are mostly relegated youths) we should emphasize on accountability and support the fight to end/curb corruption. 

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