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UNIMAK Embarks On Outreach Programs For Ebola Affected Community

As the University of Makeni stands for building a civilisation of love, it is therefore striving to attain this vision through its various programs both within the university and at community level. On Saturday 12th September 2015 the Development Studies Department of UNIMAK organized two grand functions, one held in the university auditorium and the other at an Ebola hit community.

IMG_0656The one held at the college was the Annual Development Studies Seminar 2015. In his opening remarks, the Head of the Development Studies Department, Mr Unisa P Kamara, said the occasion was both an educative and interactive session for outgoing students of the department as they are on the verge of leaving the institution to face the wider world where they will be expected to implement theories and practical work they have learnt at the university.

IMG_0671He admonished them not to be emotionally attached to either the college or a specific individual, as they will one day quit the confines of the institution and face numerous challenges in life. He called on all to be steadfast and provide good leadership for the country when they have graduated.

IMG_0666Dr Fr. Francis Shedu Sesay, Dean of Academic Affairs, told scores of jubilant students at the auditorium that all that they have studied in the past for four years must be used to develop people. He added that the seminar conducted for the students might be the end at their time at the university, but it can as well be the beginning to effect community service through values learnt at the institution.

IMG_0664The keynote speaker, Rev Fr. Peter Conteh, said as Development Agents, people must be at the centre of their development activities. He compared the role of a development worker to that of a steward or a waiter in a restaurant. Fr Peter therefore said the intervention of any development animator must be relevant, appropriate, effective and timely.

Outreach Program
IMG_0681On the same day, forty-five year two students of the Development Studies Department embarked on an outreach program at Makomp Dorong, an Ebola affected community in the Bombali Shebora Chiefdom of Bombali District.
IMG_0682Mr Gerald Sesay, a lecturer at the department, said as 21st September marks International Peace Day, they thought it fit as a university and a department to engage community people, especially those hit hard by the Ebola Virus Disease, when a lot of conflicts arose, for example by alerting health workers for a sick person to be taken for treatment, or quarantining of people, so the outreach program therefore aimed at restoring peace and confidence among the people.

IMG_0709Considering one of the three pillars of the University, which is community services, they employed conflict resolving skills to bring lasting peace in a community where at the height of Ebola a lot of differences among the people were created. It was therefore an opportunity for community people to express their ordeals during  the peak of the crisis in their village.

IMG_0699The engagement was indeed lively and fruitful as students also were able to gain a lot from the community members in terms of knowing their culture, tradition and their way of life. The interaction unravelled the daunting challenges the community faced and solutions were offered. At the end, many did breathe a sigh of relief as they were able to accept their long term enemies and ready to forge ahead with their normal routines.

UNIMAK Meeting the Educational Special Needs of Children with Disability

Vice-Chancellor Fr Joe Turay addressing the Opening Session of the Training
Vice-Chancellor Fr Joe Turay addressing the Opening Session of the Training

The Institute of Inclusive Special Needs Education (ISNE) UNIMAK was happy to welcome 35 Participants to a training for mainstream teachers on Inclusive Special Needs Education. The training took place from the 21st to 31st July 2015. This was to give training to the mainstream teacher’s supported by Plan Sierra Leone in The Bombali District, Northern Province. It was sponsored by Plan International Sierra Leone and funded by Irish Aid.

Mr. Frank Velthuizen from Plan International Ireland and the Participants
Mr. Frank Velthuizen from Plan International Ireland

This training was held at the University of Makeni, being the only University in Sierra Leone to offer Special Education Needs Training since 2005. Last year the launching of the Institute of Inclusive Special Needs Education (ISNE) was honored by the presence of the Minister of Education’s own representative and the representative of the Minister of Social Welfare.

This occasion brought about appreciation of UNIMAK’s initiative in supporting the future education of Special Needs Teachers for the many children with disability in Sierra Leone.

Practical exercises in the training
Practical exercises in the training

The Institute team members who implemented The Plan International Sierra Leone training were Sr. Mary Sweeney, Mrs. Umu Turay, Mr. Andrew Dumbuya, Mr. Samuel Sesay, Mr. Siddie Kanu and Mr. Albert Sandy. This was a two weeks intensive training preparing teachers for the Inclusive Education Policy that the Government of Sierra Leone is in the process of enacting.

UNIMAK Staff and Plan International Ireland
UNIMAK Staff and Plan International Ireland

Plan International’s request for this training was timely and having the status of a university give an added quality to their certificate. Teachers took pride in being the first mainstream teachers to have had a university stamped certificate of quality. They felt ready and able to support the new Government policy for inclusive education, about to be inaugurated in Sierra Leone. The participants were very enthusiastic and enjoyed the interactive methods used. They could experience and analyze cultural beliefs and the challenges children with disability face in life and in learning. The group was a joy to work with.
Fatmata a participant was interviewed on local radio and one of our UNIMAK B. Ed students came to express his amazement at Fatmata’s knowledge and ability to name all types on the whole spectrum of disability. He found it amazing that only after two weeks training she had so much knowledge.

Plan International staff, UNIMAK staff and Participants
Plan International staff, UNIMAK staff and Participants

In May, Dr. Mary Hodges Director of HKI felt that Hannah Pessima was ready to expand her experience working with the disabled as Program Officer for five years. The Institute of Inclusive Special Needs Education were looking for an experienced Coordinator for ISNE. Hannah Pessima was approached to take up the challenge of coordinating, managing the Programs and activities of ISNE. She is now actively involved with all the administrative affairs of The Institution. Hannah is now pursuing the Blind and Low Vision Certificate course. Her five years’ experience working with HKI was a great help during the training and made for easy communication with Plan Coordinator Mr. Kellie. Mr. Frank Velthuizen who came from Plan International Ireland, an expert in Inclusive Education was of great support and his skills were greatly appreciated.

Certification of the Training
Certification of the Training

We look forward to UNIMAK being able to offer training for all categories of disabilities. We hope that experts in SNE will volunteer to come and support and build up the capacity for teachers of children with learning disability. Anyone with this expertise and the possibility of coming to give some input to students, teachers, facilitators and lecturers of the Institute would be truly welcome.