John Baimba Sesay-CHINA
Just few days ago, the Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma, through the ministries of Education and Finance made payment of tens of millions of Leones for the handling and ocean freight of personal effects to Freetown of students that had completed their course of studies here in China. The payment is for the shipment of a 40ft container to Sierra Leone.
It should be noted, that prior to 2007, Government was providing a 20ft container to graduating students. The trend changed to 40ft by 2008-2009, immediately the current Government and President were elected into office. The same period saw an increase in students’ allowance from a paltry 500-600 dollars annually to 1,800 dollars per student. Though they always expect more, but students over the years have spoken highly of their appreciation of such a decision by Government.
Government, since 2008, continues to meet students’ needs even during the most difficult periods. For instance, during the ebola era, when the country needed resources, the Government ensured, that not only were students provided with their allowances, even personal effects got shipped, and those who were to arrive for their studies, came. That was a period when most countries could not open their doors to Sierra Leoneans.
The latest container payment is commendable. Students’ president in China, Saidu M. Sesay (Masters Candidate), sees it as “a clear manifestation of Government’s continued fulfillment of its commitment to students studying in China.”
The efforts by the Chinese to provide the country with more awards this year is also commendable, thanks to the strong ties of friendship between the two Republics, limited not just at the ambassadorial levels, but even at the level of people-to-people. A major reason for this strong relationship could not be unconnected to the special ties between the APC party and the China’s Socialist Party.
In fact, the relationship saw a decline after the NPRC military boys overthrew the APC in 1993, following the post Siaka Stevens era. Those special ties actually returned following the return to office of the APC under the leadership of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.
The prompt response by the Chinese in the Ebola fight, including their support to Sierra Leone’s Recovery Priorities speaks high of the over four decades of cooperation; the increase in number of scholarship to the country under the current leadership is demonstrative of the lasting ties especially at the political party level; the first half of 2016, saw hundreds of Sierra Leoneans visiting China on short term courses in agriculture, public health and local government
This year alone, forty-nine (49) deserving Sierra Leonean students have arrived in various universities for the 2016/2017 academic year, amongst them, seven (7) to pursue PhD courses in different fields, thirty-eight (38) for Masters and four (4) for undergraduate Bachelor courses. Of the 49, fifteen (15) females and two (2), out of the 15 females are pursing PhDs.
The students’ president, Sesay, in a statement, spoke of what is expected of the new students, and in my view, even continuing students. The need to remain focus and “pay key attention to your individual passports’ expiry dates including your study visas- ensure to contact the Union or Embassy not later than four (4) months prior to the expiration of your passport to facilitate speedy renewal in Sierra Leone but at your own expense” is timely. China, to quote the students’ president, “is not all bed of roses. In the midst of numerous privileges, facilities or opportunities in your various universities, cities or provinces, there are corresponding challenges. But be assured of light at the end of the tunnel- no doubt you will later acquire your respective degrees”
“When our thousands of Chinese students abroad return home,” Deng Xiaoping once said, “you will see how China will transform itself.” This is the generational challenge we all are faced with as young people including students abroad. Students are the vanguard for change and socio-economic development. They serve as a platform for future growth, but given their readiness to be part of that process. As young people, we can be the most active and vital force in society because young people “are the most eager to learn and the least conservative in their thinking.” Moa Zedong once said.
The challenges students/young people go through today are preparing them, for a better tomorrow for our country. The Government shall continue to do all it could to ensure they are catered for. What is therefore expected of them is to remain committed to their studies and at the end go home and contribute in whatever little way they could for the good of the country.
— with Philip Donald Kargbo.