Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 April 2022:
The value and importance of education cannot be overstated. Among the many values, education helps us become better versions of ourselves. It is something no one can take away from you if and when it is rightly acquired. But if the recent saga involving Dominion Christian University (DCU) is any indication, then this version is a poor reflection of ourselves.
“On March 16, 2022, the Higher Education Commission (TEC) said in a press release that the institution was “not accredited to operate in Sierra Leone” and ordered them to cancel the handover ceremony award scheduled for March 26. The DCU refuted the TEC claim and said it is globally recognized and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and the West Zone Rural District Council (Cokorioko. Net-. April 4, 2022).
So if “the university was warned by the TEC on March 16 to cancel its scheduled awards ceremony, and if the DCU, by implication, defied the directive of the nation’s highest education authority and organized ceremony on April 2 this year, you wonder where the University had the audacity and temerity to flaunt President Bio’s flagship arm of its “Free Quality Education”.
But first, we need to ask a few questions to get a sense of the whole mess. When did the TEC realize that “the institution is” not accredited to operate in Sierra Leone? “. Why didn’t the institution stop working until the day before the awards ceremony? If the university was warned against holding its awards ceremony a month early, why did it ignore the TEC and go ahead in defiance of the warning.
Perhaps the answer may lie in the names of some of its graduates at the time. There is a saying that goes “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid that the branch will break, for its trust is not on the branch but on its own wings”. Just as if a blind man threatens to stone you, he may have already stepped on this stone.
Here is the list of so-called illustrious DCU graduates:
Since the saga broke, we’ve heard from big names, including Inspector General of Police Ambrose Michael Sovula, mentioned in the alleged scam. Hey, I said “presumed”. According to Cocorioko.net, “After seeing the video of Dominion Christian University Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ezekiel Bangura awarding fake doctoral degrees to their students, the IG, Mr. Sovula (Picture below)who is himself an accomplice and guilty of the academic fraud initiated by Dominion Christian University, ordered the arrest of Dr. Ezekiel Bangura and was apprehended by the police for conferring unrecognized doctorates on their graduates” (Cocorioko.net , April 3, 2022).
But we would be mistaken if we believed that the scams only started in recent years. After a decade of civil war, which saw our education system come to a halt, there has been a mad rush by governments and individuals to resuscitate our seriously comatose education system. This has seen the proliferation of educational institutions throughout the country. Many of them came with resounding names like Oxford Academy, Cambridge Institute, etc. For obvious reasons, these names carry unspoken and unproven connotations of excellence by virtue of association.
Unfortunately, these so-called academies were not only run as private institutions by private citizens, but could operate unchecked and unchecked. They have functioned as primary, secondary and second chance WASSCE and BECCE opportunities.
We all know that, like hospitals, and anything with the adjective “private” connotes excellence. The steps that followed these institutions brought exorbitant costs to struggling parents, who not only considered these institutions good value for money, but became identity cards for their own social status in their various communities; “na private school me pikin dae go”. Public and government schools have become the refuge of the poor and destitute.
Have these institutions been subject to any standards or requirements from our governments? If so, was there a system to ensure regular inspection of schools like in my day? When you consider the speed at which these institutions came into existence, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all you needed to create one was an unfinished building and a collection of school dropouts to run.
So where was the Ministry of Education all this time and over the years? Where was the TEC while Dominion Christian University (DCU) was operating, and according to the TEC, under false pretences? Has anyone, or some people, closed their eyes, because they had the unique opportunity to be called “Doctors”?
If Inspector General Ambrose Michael Sovula…sorry Dr. Sovula, the highest personification of law and order in the land is allegedly the beneficiary of such a supposedly illegal institution, what hope do we mere mortals have of to avoid the clutches of such an elaborate plan? I repeat, why didn’t the TEC shut down this alleged den of deception until the day of its graduation ceremony?
In all fairness, the Tertiary Education Committee (TEC) and all who have a solemn duty to educate the next generation have failed the people of Sierra Leone, largely. Have all those responsible for facilitating, promoting and ensuring President Bio’s flagship policy and promise of free quality education failed the government and its people? It is obvious that the education provided by the DCU was not “free”. Given its current situation, even the quality of education is now under scrutiny.
But the debacle surrounding the DCU might just be the tip of the iceberg. This should serve as a wake up call. Despite the stain this has cast on our international reputation, it has taken a chainsaw through President Bio’s “FREE QUALITY EDUCATION” campaign. Education might be free, but would it be of quality, when such institutions bring denigration to our overall national education system?
Has the DCU, like many others, brought education into disrepute in Sierra Leone? There have been situations involving unscrupulous teachers, lecturers, students involved in corrupt practices like “leaks” and all sorts. But this one goes even further.
What makes this question painfully nauseating is the fact that Freetown, Sierra Leone was once known as the “Athens of Africa”. Fourah Bay College, a public university founded on February 18, 1827, is not only the oldest but the first Western-style university built in West Africa. It became known as the “Athens of Africa” because students including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Cote d’Ivorians, etc. and many more came to pursue their higher education in Freetown during the colonial era, thanks to many excellent schools in and around Freetown. To see such a discredited pedigree is simply shameful and self-defeating.
So what should President Bio and his government do to stop (pardon the pun) the situation?
Reports indicate that arrests have already taken place, including that of Dominion Christian University Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ezekiel Bangura. Is it too little, too late for the damage it has done to our reputation as a nation? The issue made headlines on BBC Focus on Africa and has since made headlines and columns in the tabloids. It chewed up considerable data in WhatsApp groups. This problem did not start with the Bio government. However, if credibility is to be restored and if the reputation of President Bio’s hallmark vision of not only free but QAULITY education is to be maintained, should the Ministry of Education and indeed the government put a scalpel in the guts of this problem? Should it require full disinfection of the entire system? Sierra Leoneans need positive and restorative action to repair the damage done to our education system. The domino effect of the saga involving Dominion Christian University is considerable and must be treated with all the seriousness it deserves.
This is not only DCU, but all works, and in particular private educational institutions. The problem goes deeper, deeper, and long before the advent of the DCU. And that’s bigger than what we see happening with DCU. President Bio owes it to our young generation and to generations to come. If for nothing else, he owes it to his own heritage.
The TEC owes the public an explanation as to why it took so long to get DCU to book. You can bet your bottom dollar that Dr. Sovula would happily help the culprits brought to justice. Some people spent endless hours with their feet submerged in buckets of cold water to get their basic qualifications. Others moved to the Botanical Garden (FBC) and chewed lots of kola nuts, drank buckets of coffee and denied sleep, just to get their hard-earned education.; thanks to “Ngor Ngayba”.
At this rate, I’m tempted to have a few initials after my name. Dr. Abdulai Mansaray seems to sound good. What is the current rate? Remember to turn off the lights when you leave the room.