The tears of Fourah Bay College – The University of Sierra Leone – Part Two

Dr. Denis M Sandy

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 December 2015

FBC 201502

Let me now take the discussion to another level in this second part of ‘Tears of FBC’. Anyone doubting the power of a pen, especially in the discussion of a national issue, must have a rethink.

This is because after the publication of Part One of this article, the event that followed can be described as scurry; for in the Monday December 7, 2015 edition of Awoko Newspaper, an advert was placed on Page 10 by the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) of the government of Sierra Leone, for the rehabilitation of FBC. Not bad.

But this was simply a nervous reaction by the PIU that is headed by Sorie Manbay Kanu. They were so confused by the facts of the article and the momentum it has generated that, the Project Manager totally forgot to append his signature on the advert.

This is the very first time I have seen such an anomaly. The simple impression the PIU wants to give the general public, is that they are doing something.

But why do they have to wait all this while for an article to be published about the poor state of the College, before advertising the tender for works to be carried out.

I always explain to students in my Project Planning and Management class, that the Project Manager (PM) is the leader of the team, and must be very effective in communicating the stages of a project for the understanding of the stakeholders and public, especially for very sensitive ones.

Interestingly, the closing date for the receipt of Bids to carry out works at the College is next year, 22nd March, 2016. This simply implies that after five years of initiating the project, it is only now that tender for bids has been advertised.

This ‘push-me-ar-start’ situation or knee-jerk reaction by MDAs responsible for project implementation in the country, is another factor responsible for the underdevelopment of Sierra Leone.

Would readers please calculate or estimate when the project will actually commence, and by indication when it will be successfully completed?

There are nine stages in the purchasing and procurement cycle for project implementation, and the invitation for bids is the third Stage. So when the bids are received by the end of March next year, the other six stages will follow: Select bidders, award contract, advance payment, monitor performance, final payment and review of performance.

Put simply, this Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) Project, is not going to commence until June 2016; and by which time, another generation of students would have lost out again, and the battered image of FBC will continue.

And don’t be surprised when this project stalls, as we enter the electioneering period of 2017. In the end and with my strong project management background, FBC’s rehabilitation under BADEA will not be complete until 2019/20, because of the gargantuan task ahead.

The ten hostels are currently skeletal structures. There are no plumbing and electrical connections, let alone beds. They have been completely vandalized and looted.

FBC 201503Students have not had access to accommodation facilities at FBC since October 2011, and this is likely to continue until October 2020. And the earliest they may have access would be sometime in the 2019 and 2020 academic year.

In other words, for ten years, accommodation facilities for students at FBC will be “zero”; and when this “zero” is added to the other already “zeros” students are grappling with, the situation becomes more grotesque.

For the students, lecturers and administration, this is heart-rending. But for the students in particular, this is terribly painful.

During this estimated ten year period of no access to accommodation, some graduated students would have gone to pursue and accomplish their Masters and Doctoral studies. And FBC’s rehabilitation under BADEA will still be on the trail.

Now, consider the poor conditions of the college infrastructure – Administrative Building, Arts Building, Library, Chemistry Building, Mathematics Building and Maths Theatre, Physics Theatre, Engineering Department, Biological Sciences, Geology Department, Wilson Theatre, Kennedy Building, Strasser King Building, Extra Mural Studies, Mary Kingsley Auditorium, University House, and even the Hospital, etc,  – then you will agree that “e nor funny at all” (This is not at all funny).

FBC 201504This project is really a herculean task. This is why state or institutional infrastructure of whatever kind in Sierra Leone, especially buildings, should not be allowed to deteriorate over time.

There should always be a constant or standby budget set aside by the Government, for rehabilitation and renovation (independent of external intervention), over a certain period of time. “But look watin dey happen now with FBC”.

I still want to reiterate that FBC’s rehabilitation – especially the hostel facilities, could be undertaken without BADEA’s intervention, and with the exception of the possible solutions I advanced in my previous piece.

I have also formulated a credible business proposal for this. If this business proposal is judged not to be plausible in anyone’s eyes, then I am ready to put forward my letter of termination of service from the university and resign honorably.

But if it makes sense after presentation soon, then it should be implemented right away for the benefit of the college, our current students and future generations to follow.

At this juncture, I will patiently wait for my Sierra Leonean brothers and sisters to arrive from Overseas for the Xmas holidays for further deliberation on this issue.

FBC is the only institution that is holding us together in this country, and we should not really allow external players to fix this deteriorating situation for us.

We are gradually getting there, but one thing is certain – I will not rest my pen until FBC’s rehabilitation is taken very seriously by all of us, including the government; and also until the much awaited estate rehabilitation and road reconstruction commence immediately.

On this road reconstruction – from Kortright, heading towards the bridge in particular, it has been reliably learnt that the EU who are the major financier of the road construction of the Leicester to Kortright road, have met its own obligation in 2011/12, based on the understanding arrived at with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA).

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The responsibility now is with SLRA for the thorough resurfacing of this stretch of road. But the Authority seems to be recalcitrant on this.

It is therefore the responsibility of the Academic Staff Association (ASA) Executive of FBC to hold discussions with Officers of SLRA and the EU, to shed more light on the agreement and understanding relating to this FBC road reconstruction.

This is the only way I can contribute towards the revival and resuscitation of this institution that has made most of us the persons we are today.

I am not going to budge on this. Please watch out for Part 3 of Tears from FBC in 2016.

Meanwhile, I wish all Sierra Leoneans including those coming for holidays, a happy Xmas and a refreshing New Year 2016.

Please keep praying (even if you are not a Christian or Muslim) for Fourah Bay College, because “e sick bad wan ooooo”.

Two weeks ago, Part One of this article was published both in our local tabloids and by the Sierra Leone Telegraph in the UK. Globally, the overall response has been very encouraging as I have received calls and e-mails from far away as Australia, America, Germany, London, France, China and even from our neighboring Liberia.

The discussions on Whatsapp and over the Internet have been fantastic. In all of these, the message is very clear – “we need to do something for the only institution for which Sierra Leone is known worldwide.”

A big thanks to all the editors of Awoko, Global Times, Independent Observer, and News Watch, for providing space for  my article.

Also, people like Barrister Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai of the Society For Democratic Initiative; Abdul Rashid Thomas of the Sierra Leone Telegraph in the UK, for their support. A big thank you also to a very respectable elder and statesperson, who personally called me from Germany to discuss this issue further.

About the author:

Dr. Denis M Sandy is a lecturer in the Department of Economics and Commerce at Fourah Bay College, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

4 Comments

  1. Until recently, Dr Sandy was a cabinet minister in the Koroma led government. He was the minister of lands. If I have the opportunity, I would like to ask him what he did to protect the FBC lands that have been grabbed recklessly, since the APC returned to power in 2007?

    Whilst serving as a cabinet minister, Dr. Sandy was resident at his FBC quarters. Everyday that Dr Sandy left and returned to his resident, he saw what was going on at FBC, and how the infrastructures were deteriorating.

    What did he do or say during the cabinet meetings he attended as a Minister on the deplorable plights of the college he was schooled at, and had worked for prior to him be appointed cabinet minister?

    • For the records Sir – I was minister of lands from March 2009 to December 2010 and during this period, not a piece of FBC land was encroached upon, let alone grabbed.

      I had an outstanding performance record whilst in the Lands Ministry and I will catalogue them for your attention later. FBC was booming during this period and there was no serious sign of deterioration as students were occupying their hostels, etc.

      The problem started when this BADEA funded project was introduced in 2011, by which time I was no longer a cabinet Minister. Please find time to come around so that you can talk to people and know the facts well. Students were driven out of campus in the 2011/12 Academic Year, with the impression that BADEA was going to start the next moment.

      Let’s try to understand national issues and stop politicising them. Please read my article properly again. Merry Xmas

      Dr Sandy

  2. Politics is at the heart of the college deterioration. I would think APC does not prioritize education. The APC’s political reward system is never about capacity and competence, but core loyalty to the party.

    And for FBC in particular, there is this constant mindset from the political elites of the APC that haven a running and fully functioning hostel with such savvy students around is merely asking for trouble. The APC has never and does not trust the student body to be on their side, particularly when their governing style is poor.

    The old APC thinking and the years of student protests always take center stage in their decision making process for FBC.

    We can also fault the college administration for not doing their job. By the way, do we have the right calibre of Principal and other administrators with the right skills and vision for the job, or are these appointees by the government who do not even have the vision and competences to make things happen?

    Where is the private sector in all of this, and where are our philanthropists who have always stood by the government when it matters the most?

    And where are the former students of FBC? Most of us former old students are truly missing in action. All old FBC students have to come around not just on this project, but keeping the Alumni effective.

    There is a Facebook page for the FBC Alumni: please go on the page and register to be a member: https://www.facebook.com/FourayBayCollegeAlumniAssociation

    Dr Sandy, keep the fire burning, and make this a fight to have the FBC Rehabilitated and maintained.

  3. Thank you Dr Sandy for highlighting Fourah Bay College Issue with such a vigour. One wouldn’t have imagined our government would so neglect the most prestigious learning institution which had made a name for itself and a brilliant history for our nation, to end up in such shameful condition.

    This is another evidence of how Sierra Leone governments have woefully failed the people.

    We can see historical buildings and places like Connaught hospital, Cottage, King jimmy to name a few, are left to decay without repairs and refurbishment; not to speak of building new ones.

    All Sierra Leoneans must join Dr sandy to speak out in unison. And this time, to put pressure on the government and get them to take the issue of neglect of our national heritage most seriously.

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