President Julius Maada Bio Presides over 2019 University Convocation, reiterates role of the Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone, Saturday 16 February 2019 – His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has addressed this year’s University Convocation and awarded degrees to graduands at the National Stadium in Freetown, while reiterating his role as Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone.

He told the over 2000 young people and aspiring professionals that he was delighted to be with them and to perform his statutory duty as provided for in The Universities Act of 2005, adding that that notwithstanding he was even more delighted to be there to witness them fulfil their dreams.
“I, therefore, congratulate each graduate, hardworking parents, siblings, extended family members, partners, and all loved ones for fulfilling your dreams. Congratulations. Let us give each one of you another round of applause,” he said.

The President recalled that nine months ago he said, in not so many words, that it was not the business of central government to govern the university, adding that universities should select their own leadership by taking into account that leadership’s respectability and standing within academia and its ability to be proactive and communicate effectively.

He urged the university leadership to be committed to efficiently managing and developing the university through a transformational strategic vision, overhauling institutional structures and processes in innovative but rational ways, introducing disciplined financial management and looking for new and sustainable funding streams.

“We will continue working on amending the Universities Act of 2005 and I will step down from the Chancellorship of the university once that is done. That is a commitment and I keep all my commitments. But in addition to the issue of selecting progressive and transformation leadership for the university, my government believes that the current funding model for the university is not sustainable and it does not assure access, quality, and continuous improvement.

“In the last eight months, my government has put in place the strong fundamentals for a disciplined and well-managed economy. We have streamlined revenue mobilisation. We continue to clamp down on corruption, waste, fraud and abuse. We are implementing growth-friendly and investor-friendly policies and processes. We have invested heavily in human capital development through free quality education at the basic and secondary school levels, quality healthcare and we are working hard on various food security initiatives. This is because we believe that human capital development promotes comprehensive national development. Our development partners and multilateral agencies have acknowledged and are supporting our robust progress toward building a resilient nation. We are determined to make Sierra Leone a better place for us all. PAOPA we will make Sierra Leone a better place,” he said. He further stated that with the fulfilment of those dreams, he was also hopeful of the beginning of a promise – the promise that tertiary education would generate a skilled workforce, a highly motivated entrepreneurial cohort and a crop of young people committed to national development.

“Among you today, I see teachers who will serve our free quality education. I see engineers who can construct roads, build bridges to ford our rivers or the assembly plants that will start local manufacturing and packaging or support mineral exploration and extraction. I see agro-business producers and extension workers. I see young entrepreneurs and innovators who will develop ICT penetration and deploy big data to develop the nation and make governance even more effective. I see doctors and nurses who will provide accessible and quality healthcare. I see food scientists, lawyers, social workers, policy-makers, soldiers, police…well, and even politicians.
“Above all else, I see promise – the promise that each of you will give abundantly of your individual talents to develop our nation, our Sierra Leone. We may no longer be the Athens of West Africa but we can become an incubator of new ideas, a hub of innovation, a driver of bold entrepreneurship and a centre of excellence. That is the new Sierra Leone that each of us must be committed to building. Let us be the change that we want to see in this land that we love, Sierra Leone,” he said.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, Brigadier General Professor Foday Sahr, said since its establishment the institution had been producing graduates who had excelled in various fields of endeavour, both locally and internationally. He, however, noted that in recent past, the University’s reputation, and its standing as an institution of academic excellence, suffered a serious setback when the quality of its products was called into question.

He also stated that the University had, over the years, experienced an exponential increase in the student population but lacking the requisite staff and basic facilities to accommodate the large number of students, noting that quality was therefore compromised for quantity when the focus shifted from delivering quality teaching to providing space for students.
He disclosed that his administration had started the process of reviewing curricula to ensure that they did not only train students to pass examinations but to also make them partners in national development, adding that the restructuring was in line with making their graduates find jobs easily or create jobs for themselves in order to make meaningful contribution to society.

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