OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
As we end the academic year, we thank our God for accompanying us in our journey. It is his work and kingdom that we are invited to create. Our thanks and appreciation to our Chancellor, Bishop Natalio Paganelli, who has been appointed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to shepherd the Church of the Diocese of Makeni. The episcopal consecration of Bishop Paganelli will take place on the 31 of October, 2015.
We have been supported and accompanied by numerous partners, benefactors and friends in these challenging moments. We are grateful and thankful for the many sacrifices they have made. We congratulate his excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and his government for providing leadership in the fight against the Ebola epidemic and gradually leading us to a post-Ebola recovery stage.
TEACHING/ STAFF/ STUDENT DEVELOPMENT
The University re-opened in March 2015 with preparations in place to respond to any emergency in our campuses. As a University, we had a visible presence in the fight against the epidemic by supporting the mobilisation, psycho-social and the clinical pillars in the Bombali District Emergency Response Task Force. These initiatives have galvanised into partnerships with European and African Universities in establishing a legacy bio three level safety infectious disease research laboratory at the Sylvanus Koroma Campus, Yoni. In particular, we express our gratitude to the University of Cambridge, through the Pathology Department, Division of Virology directed by Prof Ian Goodfellow; and the University of Tor Vergata , Rome with the support of Prof. Vittorio Colizi. These partnerships would strengthen our School of Public Health and Allied Sciences in training, preparing lab technicians and eventually become an international centre for research bringing scientists from all over the world and building the scientific culture in our country. We have also leveraged the opportunities provided by this crisis to strengthen our health systems by obtaining funds to construct a new School of Public Health and Allied Sciences at the Sylvanus Koroma Campus.
Cooperation from staff during the Ebola crisis has been high, with low lecturer absentee rate, and there has been an appreciable turn out of students despite the outbreak leading to strong academic performance. Student enrolment for the academic was well over a thousand and four hundred for both campuses. We have completed the academic year successfully with the commitment of both staff and students. The academic year ended with an academic and administrative staff retreat on the UNIMAK’s new strategic plan 2015 -2020. The new academic calendar is on our University website and classes would commence in November 2015.
Senate has met and approved the next cohort of students for graduation in 2016. We continue to explore diverse ways of promoting staff development and scholarships have been obtained for our staff in Italy, China, Korea, and Ghana. We will continue collaboration with partners and solicit support from the government in securing scholarships for further staff development.
The following staff will proceed for further studies:
- Collins Owens Cole: Masters degree in Computer Studies and Information Systems in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana and supported by the Makeni Trust Fund, UK and UNIMAK.
- Charles Turay: Masters in Mineral Resource Economics and Sustainable development; a one year scholarship awarded by the University of Bologna, Italy.
- AlhaJi Kargbo: Masters in International Development; a scholarship awarded by the University of Pavia, Italy
We want to thank Dr. Carmen Valle and Tamsin Evans who have steered the ship of our Mental Health Program with the European Union for the past four years. With the coalition members of the mental health in Sierra Leone, great strides have been made in establishing strong coalition and an enabling environment for training and advocacy for mental health services.
We welcome Dr. Rebecca Esliker, with a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, who will start our department of Psychology, UNIMAK and will be the technical consultant for our Mental Health program in Sierra Leone.
Aligning our curriculum with the needs of the country in order to be relevant and provide the human capital for our nation has been a priority for UNIMAK. We have introduced an executive MBA in impact entrepreneurship last year, in partnership with over six universities in Europe and Africa, in a bid to embed entrepreneurship in tertiary education in Africa and filling the much needed gap of social impact entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone. Agriculture and Food Processing has also been introduced in collaboration with the University of Milan and Njala University.
We have signed an MOU with the Imperial College of Ghana to provide training in vocational and technical sciences as a start towards building the engineering component of the University. We are very much aware of the need to provide the needed human capital in civil, mechanical, mining and electrical engineering. There is a huge deficit in the sciences in our country and we intend building a scientific culture with our partners by using the various laboratories to strengthen the biological sciences and other pure sciences thus paving the way for science education in the University.
Our Law department of the University has produced its first crop of lawyers who have gone through Law School and have been called to the bar. We are also grateful to the Government of Sierra Leone for providing the enabling environment in democratising legal education by amending the Legal Practitioners Act allowing graduates from UNIMAK and any other recognised Universities to engage in legal practice in Sierra Leone. We are working towards diversifying legal training and fill the gap in providing the legal education in environmental law, civil law, and mining law.
Our community service programs on governance, social transformation and mental health are impacting our communities and promoting the common good. We have also completed special needs training for the visual impaired professional certificate program funded by Hellen Keller. Indeed building resilient communities is a priority of UNIMAK. A partnership with the Special Needs department of the University of Winneba , Ghana , is being worked out.
A Practical Legal Education project was designed to tap the latent access to justice potential of the University of Makeni Law Department‘s academic staff and students. The project engaged in five main lines of work: a paralegal assistance in the prison and police station b) legal representation for criminal defendants. C.) Paralegal representation to women d) civil representation for women, e) student internship. The University of Makeni, through its Law Clinic, appeared almost in every court sitting in Makeni and our paralegals provided consistent presence in the police stations and local courts.
FUNDING FOR TERTIARY EDUCATION
We are quite aware that these are challenging times for funding for tertiary education in Sierra Leone. And so we will work with our partners to secure funds for the development of the University. However, we are grateful to our partners who are supporting us in providing the enabling environment for our students to flourish. We are also grateful to the Bombali district Union for taking the bold initiative in constructing a hostel, library and other facilities for our Students at UNIMAK.
Finally, we pledge our support and commitment in providing educational services in building our nation, Sierra Leone.