Address by Chancellor of Njala University H.E. Julius Maada Bio at 2018 Convocation

ADDRESS BY THE CHANCELLOR OF NJALA UNIVERSITY HIS EXCELLENCY
JULIUS MAADA BIO AT THE
2018 UNIVERSITY CONGREGATION AT THE BO MINI STADIUM, BO TOWN
ON SATURDAY, 9TH JUNE 2018

Mr. Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Mr. Pro Chancellor
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellors
Registrar
Deans of Schools
Heads of Department and the entire Njala and Bo communities
Ministers of Government
Honourable members of Parliament
Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic and Consular corps
His Lordship, the Mayor of the city of Bo
District Chairpersons and Councilors
Chiefs and Chiefdom Elders
Graduands
Parents and Friends
Members of the Fourth Estate
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my pleasure to be here for the first time as your President to confer Certificates, diplomas and Degrees to students graduating from this noble and great University.

I am humbled by the warm welcome accorded to me and my entourage on arrival in this great city of Bo and for this I want to profoundly thank the University community and the people of Bo city.

I am here today as the Chancellor of the Universities because I want to live within the ambits of the law as prescribed by the Universities Act of 2005. However, effective 2019 as I said before, as President, I will cease to be the Chancellor of the Universities in order to depoliticize the Universities. In the coming months, the Universities Act of 2005 will be reviewed to reflect this change.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, occasions like this all over the world give us the opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the University Administration, Academic staff and Students in harnessing the nations much needed human resource base for the implementation of our development aspirations and priorities.

This is also the time for us to recognize the huge sacrifices, parents, guardians, friends and helpful relatives have made in supporting our graduands to successfully conclude their academic work while in the University.

Mr. Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, let me congratulate you and your entire staff for assiduously working very hard to resolve the many challenges that the University has faced over the years. I congratulate every single one of your staff on all the campuses in Njala and Bo.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as I said in my address to Parliament on 10th May, 2018, “The New Direction recognizes that human development is both a means and an end to development. Human capital development covers improving education and developing skills, improving health care and protecting the poor and vulnerable population groups”. In this vein one cannot afford to neglect the role that the University can play to quickly and positively move this agenda forward.

It is therefore not a coincidence that I have chosen as a theme for my address this morning:

“Increasing access to quality Pre-primary, Primary, Secondary, Technical and Vocational Education and Training as well as University for sustainable development”

Before choosing this theme, I have for many years reflected on the reasons for the significant drop in the educational standards and the poor performance of our students across all levels of our educational system from primary school to University level. Sierra Leone is a small country with many higher institutions of learning, but there is so much duplication in the academic programmes offered that it is having a negative impact on our development agenda.

Furthermore, we cannot achieve quality education if we oversubscribe on admissions to the different Institutions of Higher Learning. I urge all institutions to admit only the number of students that you have facilities and resources to adequately support. It is unacceptable to have University Students sit on the floor during lectures and during examinations. It is also a human rights violation.

Therefore, it is imperative that if we must develop as a nation we must pay absolute attention not only to increase access to quality education but also to improve the standards of education. My Government has therefore committed to increase the budget allocation to education to a minimum 20% of the national budget. This is to demonstrate our commitment to education and to put education at the centre of development in Sierra Leone today.

Increasing access to education also means that our children have access to quality education from primary to senior secondary school. That is why in my address to Parliament, I stated that effective next academic year starting September 2018 my Government will introduce Free Education from primary to secondary school level. I am confident that this Free Education will give opportunity to children from more disadvantaged backgrounds to aspire for University.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, another area that is critical for the success of the New Direction in education is improving education governance. It therefore means that the University is better placed to be able to manage its resources well in a way that conforms to the needs of the nation for overall national development. My Government will therefore support the leadership of this University to ensure efficient management to make Njala University one of the best in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, the current funding system of our Universities is unsustainable. In addition to the Grants-In-Aid scheme, my Government will introduce a Students’ Loan Scheme which will provide loans to deserving students to access higher education. I must again reiterate here that the conditions at Njala University campuses are deplorable and require urgent action to improve the facilities.

The New Direction has therefore thought it necessary to create a separate Ministry of Technical And Higher Education that will solely focus on Technical and Higher Education. This new Ministry will provide the capable leadership to address all the problems and challenges faced by our Higher Education Institutions including Njala University.

Also, the pivotal steps in achieving quality education in Sierra Leone is making sure that all new institutions and new programmes abide by the Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC) regulations. No new institution of higher education and new programmes in existing institutions should be mounted without the approval and certification of the Tertiary Education Commission. In addition, those programmes that will be linked to professional bodies MUST be equally approved by such professional bodies before such programmes are mounted.

Distinguished Guests, an essential function of the University is to promote academic excellence to train the labour force of the country. This involves facilitating scholarly activities of teaching, learning and research, all geared towards adding value to the individual, the community and the entire nation. As I already said in Parliament, my Government intends to establish a “University system that must employ its own leadership as Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors with distinguished and proven records in higher education leadership and international clout and contacts with funding and research networks. “

Mr. Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, let me also commend the University for tailoring your programmes to the needs of our nation. However, the New Direction will focus on the teaching of entrepreneurship education and Science and technology which form the bedrock for the development of our economy.

My Government has therefore established a Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation to develop a framework for scientific research and to ensure that we can use science and technology to deliver development needs and aspirations of our people. The Directorate will be midwifed in the office of the President and shall work closely with the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education.

Mr. Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, also permit me to remind all of us in this country that the original purpose for establishing Njala University College, then as a constituent college of the University of Sierra Leone, was to promote Agriculture and Education. One area my Government intends to diversify the economy is through Agriculture. Therefore, I call on Njala University to play a critical role in supporting the overall goal of my Government’s Agricultural Policy which is geared towards the sustainable and diversified production of food on a scale enough to feed the growing population as well as providing gainful employment.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we need to praise those who have worked hard to maintain the impressive image of Njala University all over the world. The quality and quantity of products we demand from you and other Higher Institutions can only be obtained from well dedicated and hardworking personnel of the University. It is therefore our duty as parents, citizens and Government to give the University and its staff the utmost support and encouragement they need to do their work in an effective and efficient manner.

Mr. Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, let me now congratulate our graduands. You have now been equipped with knowledge, skills and techniques to face the challenges of our society, which you must help to contribute towards its development. You must regard yourselves as potential agents of positive change in the New Direction and hope you will leave up to our expectations.

Let me hasten to say, that you have today taken the bold step towards nation building with all its challenges and temptations that face all of us. You must demonstrate self-discipline and patriotism in the discharge of your duties. I call on all of you to be the shining example of disciplined leadership, professionalism and commitment to competent delivery in any work of life that you may find yourself.

Let this ceremony mark the beginning of a long process of academic exploration for your personal and national development. Remember that, our country needs your knowledge, skills and talents for the change and transformation that we want to see in Sierra Leone today.

Let me also congratulate the parents and guardians for a job well done to support your children through this arduous journey of studentship. Please allow them to grow quickly into their new lives before putting heavy demands on them. Starting life for most of them could be very difficult and they will need your continuous support.

Finally let me thank all of you, graduands, parents, guardians and all invited guests including our traditional leaders for gracing this occasion and contributing to the pomp and pride of academia.

I thank you all for your attention.

©Office of the Press Secretary, State House, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Image may contain: Bockari Stevens, standing and suit

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