Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 April 2022:
The value and importance of education cannot be overemphasised. Among the numerous values, education helps us become better versions of ourselves. It is one thing no one can take away from you if, and when acquired rightfully. But if the recent saga involving the Dominion Christian University (DCU) is anything to go by, then this version is a poor reflection of ourselves.
“On 16th March 2022, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) in a press release stated that the institution is “not accredited to operate in Sierra Leone “and directed them to cancel their planned award ceremony on 26th March. The DCU refuted the TEC’s claim and said that they are globally recognized and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Western Area Rural District Council (Cokorioko. Net-. April 4, 2022).
So, if the “university was warned by TEC on 16 March to cancel their planned award ceremony, and if the DCU by implication, defied the directive from the highest educational authority of the land and went ahead with the ceremony on April 2nd this year, you wonder where the University got the audacity and temerity to flaunt President Bio’s flagship arm of his “Free Quality Education” from.
But first, we need to ask a few questions for us to have some inkling about this whole mess. When did the TEC realise that “the institution is “not accredited to operate in Sierra Leone? “. Why was the institution not stopped from operating until the eve of their award ceremony? If the university was warned against conducting their award ceremony a month earlier, why did it ignore the TEC and went ahead in defiance of the warning.
Perhaps, the answer may lie in the names of some of its graduates of the day. There is a saying that “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings”. Just like if a blind man threatens to stone you, the possibility is that he’s already stepped on that stone.
This is the list of alleged illustrious graduates of the DCU:
Since the saga broke out, we’ve heard big names including the Inspector General of Police, Ambrose Michael Sovula mentioned in the alleged scam. Hey, I said “Alleged”. According to Cocorioko.net, “After seeing the video of Dominion Christian University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Ezekiel Bangura awarding fake PhD degrees to their students, the IG, Mr Sovula (Photo below), who himself is an accomplice and offender 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 to their graduates “(Cocorioko.net, April 3, 2022).
But we would be deceiving ourselves if we believe that scams only started in the last few years. After the decade long civil war, which saw our educational system grind to a halt, there was a mad rush by governments and individuals to resuscitate our badly comatose educational system. This saw the mushrooming of educational institutions throughout the country. Many of them came with high sounding names like Oxford Academy, Cambridge Institute, etc. For obvious reasons, such names carry unspoken and unproven connotations of excellence by virtue of association.
Sadly, these so-called academies were not only run as private institutions by private citizens but could operate unchecked and unvetted. They operated as primary, secondary and second chance WASSCE and BECCE opportunities.
We all know that like hospitals, and anything with the qualifying adjective “private,” connotes excellence. The footfalls that followed these institutions raked in exorbitant fees from struggling parents, who did not only regard these institutions as value for money but became identity cards for their own social standings in their various communities; “na private school me pikin dae go”. Public and government schools became the refuge of the poor and have nots.
Were these institutions subjected to any standards or requirements by our governments? If so, was there a system to ensure regular inspection of schools like in my day? When you consider the rate at which these institutions were springing up, you would be forgiven to think that all you needed to start one, was an unfinished building and collection of school dropouts to operate.
So where was the Ministry of Education all this while, and over the years? Where was the TEC while the Dominion Christian University (DCU)was conducting its business, and according to TEC, on false pretences? Did someone, or some people turn a blind eye, because they stood the once in a lifetime opportunity to be called “Doctors”?
If the Inspector General Ambrose Michael Sovula… sorry Dr Sovula, the highest personification of law and order in the land is allegedly a beneficiary of such an allegedly illegal institution, what hope have we ordinary mortals, to avoid the clutches of such an elaborate scheme? I repeat, why did the TEC not shut down this alleged den of deceit until the day of its graduation ceremony?
In all honesty, the Tertiary Education Committee (TEC), and all those tasked with the solemn duty to educate the next generation have failed the people of Sierra Leone, big time. Have all those tasked to facilitate, promote and ensure 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 DCU was not” free”. In view of its current circumstances, even the quality of education is now subject to scrutiny.
But the debacle surrounding the DCU might just be the tip of the iceberg. This should serve as a wakeup call. Notwithstanding the smear this has cast on our international standing, it has taken a chainsaw right through President Bio’s “FREE QUALITY EDUCATION” drive. The education could be free, but would it be quality, when you have such institutions attracting aspersions on our overall national education system.?
Has the DCU, like many others brought education in Sierra Leone into disrepute? There have been situations involving unscrupulous teachers, lecturers, students involved in corrupt practices like “leakages” and all sorts. But this one takes it a further to a notch.
What makes this issue painfully nauseating is the fact that Freetown, Sierra Leone was once known as “Athens of Africa”. Fourah Bay College, a public university that was founded on the 18 February 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’Ivoriens, etc and many more came to pursue their higher education in Freetown during the colonial era, thanks to many Excellent schools in Freetown and the surrounding areas. To see such a pedigree brought into disrepute is nothing short of shameful and self-defeating.
So, what should President Bio and his government do to arrest (pardon the pun) the situation?
Reports indicate that arrests have been made already, including that of Dominion Christian University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Ezekiel Bangura. Has that come too little, too late for the damage this has caused to our reputation as a nation? The issue made headline news on BBC Focus on Africa and has since made taken reams and column inches in the tabloid newspapers. It has 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 signature vision of not only free but QAULITY education is to be maintained, should the Ministry of education and in effect government take a scalpel to the entrails of this problem? Should it require a root and branch sanitisation of the whole system? Sierra Leoneans need to see positive and restorative steps taken to repair this damage to our education system. The domino effect of the saga involving the Dominion Christian University is far reaching and must be treated with all the seriousness it deserves.
This is not just about DCU but the whole works, and especially the so called private educational institutions. The problem goes deeper, farther, and long before the advent of the DCU. And it’s bigger than what we see happening with DCU. President Bio owes it to our young generation and generations beyond. If for nothing else, he owes it to his own very legacy.
The TEC owes the public some explanation as to why it took so long to bring DCU to book. You can bet your bottom dollar that Dr Sovula would happily help the guilty brought to book. Some people spent endless hours with their feet submerged in buckets of cold water to get their basic qualifications. Other moved to the botanical garden (FBC) and chewed lots of kola nuts, drank bucketloads of coffee and disowned sleep, just to get their hard-earned education.; thanks to “Ngor Ngayba”.
At this rate, I am tempted to have a few initials after my name. Dr Abdulai Mansaray seems to have a nice ring to it. What’s the going rate? Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.