Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 October 2019:
The founder and chief strategist of Project 1808, Dr. Alhaji U N’jai, has announced that the annual Science and Leadership (SciLead) Festival, slated for January 9-11, 2020, will be held in Kabala, northern Sierra Leone.
The theme of next year’s festival is: ‘Ideas to Action – Building Entrepreneurship, Economic Freedom, and Sustainability’.
Speaking about the event, N’jai said: “It has been just wonderful to see the growth each year with the community as well as national recognition we are gaining. I feel a great sense of satisfaction from the community ownership, the active engagement of the young people in implementation, and in being able to sustain the program all these years.”
Dr. Alhaji U. N’jai, a Scientist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an Infectious Disease, Toxicology and Biological Sciences Associate Professor at Fourah Bay College and College of Medicine (COMAHS), University of Sierra Leone, is pleased with the strides and accomplishments of the program over the past years.
The goal of the annual festival organized by Project 1808 as the theme suggests is to nurture talents, build technical and leadership capability among young people and adults to solve their own problems, create entrepreneurships and job opportunities, and be competitive globally.
The organization is working towards enhancing economic freedom by promoting local ideas, build next generation of ethically minded transformational leaders, and mitigate corruption through servant leadership and technical excellence.
According to Dr. N’jai, Project 1808 – almost five years down the line in organizing the festival, has made significant impact. “We Dae Pan Di Journey” – “We are on the journey as they would say in Krio. I would say we have made good strides from where we started with barely no structures or huge funding. We have a good number of students in college.
“Our students are growing in technical depth and breadth as shown in them facilitating many of our workshops. Significantly, they are taking active ownership of the program by taking the lead in organizing the festival for the last two years. I am very happy about the direction we are heading. The future looks bright.”
Science and technology are fundamental to advancing quality of life in all societies. Translating ideas into practice in communities, requires effective and visionary leadership. The SciLead events have been successful over the years, through collaborative efforts and blend of international and national volunteers, facilitators and sponsors; and a huge number of Project 1808 students as well as other students and adults within and outside the community.
“This has been good over the years and we will like to maintain that high level of diversity. However, this year, we would like to plan better for the participants and reach as many schools as possible. So we will be inviting schools and asking them to send five to ten participants for the program. This way, we ensure we cover as much schools in the district and the country,” Dr. N’jai added.
Every year, the SciLead implements small but pointed and targeted activities that build science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEAM) and leadership capacity among students, youths, and adults in the community.
Facilitators work with small groups of students and adults on each day of the three-day session, helping them to explore the worlds and fields of biology, ecology, physics, chemistry, leadership, entrepreneurship and more.
In January 2019, over 500 students and community members attended this year’s festival in Kabala where they observed, experimented, and explored the various fields, through hands-on experiments and demonstrations.
Project 1808 anticipates the 2020 SciLead to be much bigger and fun packed – with arts, entertainment, more professional facilitators, and engagement with organizations. It hopes to amalgamate some stations to streamline the program and allow participants to spend more time at the stations.
“We hope to introduce new concepts and a call for innovations or inventions with prizes for best entries. Due to the large turn outs we have experienced in previous years, we want to initiate a registration process ahead of SciLead this time to better plan and manage for participants nationally,” Dr. N’jai disclosed.
Generally, Project 1808 is a non-profit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. It has long been involved in youth capacity building and community development in Sierra Leone, through a school-community – University partnership model.
Project 1808 currently supports the education and wellbeing of over 400 students in the Koinadugu District of Sierra Leone.
It provides scholarships, after-school classes, computer literacy programs, and leadership opportunities. The organization is also currently working on establishing a college in the district.