Government through the Ministry Technical and Higher Education (MTHE) has described the Universities Act 2005 as not beneficial to the development of education in Sierra Leone and therefore needs to be reviewed, declared Deputy Minister, MTHE Dr Turad Senesie whiles addressing a weekly press conference at the Ministry of Information and Communication.
Passed in 2005 by the House of Parliament, asserted by the late former president Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the Act made provisions for the establishments of other private and public universities in the country. For the present government everything inherited must be changed by all means for the better though the betterment is still far fetch yet in almost every sectors of governance irrespective of the fact that other key players are not consulted on what is happening. It indeed good to acknowledge the good works of one’s predecessors whenever policy makers and implementers are making statements of what was inherited from their predecessors, especially in this area of reviewing the Universities Act 2005, in which Senesie and his government have made some administrative blinders by damning the law under review and amended.
But Njala University academic professionals have decided to corporate with the ministry as the review is only temporal and not permanent and have therefore frowned at unwarranted influences and interferences in the appointment of who runs the affairs of Njala University, by the ministry of higher education into the administrative dealings of the university, whereas the Act gives the university autonomy. The ministry is also said to have gone ahead in appointing or designing directives on how to get lecturers to take over administrative positions from the current heads of the university to which Njala University says is completely against the Universities Act 2005. The move is being widely criticized by the public more so in the aspect of government ignoring every laid down procedures they met in place to suit its own comforts as the powers that be.
The review by comes in as part of government’s over all proposed reforms of the education sector promised by President Dr Julius Maada Bio and his ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party SLPP, during his presidential campaigns in 2012 and 2018. The Universities Act 2005 now being broadly discredited by the present administration as if previous governments did nothing in the sector, also terminated monopolies traditional Universities had enjoyed over years.
Record also have it that most of past and present governments senior executive are beneficiaries of the Universities Act 2005, but they are now trying to review it on grounds that it does not serve the development interests of higher education.
The process is said to be at an advance stage with the first phase already hurriedly done as in the words of Senesie, who now cares less about the concerns of his former colleagues at Njala University, but his personality gap coupled with his present status as minister continues to keeps himself away from his colleagues. And that is not helping the situation in any way, nor the government at all in the continuing saga between Njala University and the higher education ministry.
Consequently, the continuing development is having serious setbacks to the process if needful contributions from Njala University Academic Staff Association and other stakeholders including lecturers, senior lecturers, assistant lecturers, researchers and professors as well as academic administrators are not well factored into the very review exercise.
The controversy is as a result delaying everything about the amendment of the Universities Act 2005, as against the much anticipated urgency being duly attached to it by higher education ministry and government.
Nonetheless who takes the lead from there to engage who, Njala University or the line ministry which is major concern bordering critical academic minds across the nation, with the public apprehensively waiting to see where the apparently stalled exercise will take the entire efforts to? Both sides give the impressions to be reluctant to meet each other due to personal egos of heads of those crucial educational institutions against the development of higher education.
Moreover, like rouges now falling apart when some of the highest profile members had almost gone away with the lion’s shares of the union loots probably being provided by the ruling SLPP in the form of compensations to party loyalists. There and then interests and counter egos have becomes issues for attention grabbing as the former president of the Academic Staff Association Njala University, Turad Senesie does not see eye to eye with good number of his former colleagues at all. For Senesie, it is all about governance, politics, party and no more academic staff friendships, nor former colleagues, forgetting the unionism vanguard that catapulted him Senesie to where he is now as deputy minister of Technical and Higher Education.
What an ungrateful betrayal to course of ASA NU and where will Senesie go after the tenure of office of the present government shall have come to an end in the nearest future space?
These amongst host of other legitimate issues may be responsible for the delays and apparent refusal of the Njala University academics from taking active parts and make meaningful contributions in the review of the Universities Act 2005 are the unaddressed demands of staff of the university, which to every well meaning Sierra Leoneans are urgently calling on government to address now.
Students after the other as well as staff of Njala University randomly interviewed by this writer expressed their disappointments at the manner in which Njala University is being treated by the present government considering all what they did against the past government.
“I mean it’s unimaginable for the ministry higher education to be always handling Njala University issues with trivialities whereas Njala University always provides students that are making meaning contributions toward national development in so many spheres governance. So we only hope that they won’t continue to do things the way it is being done now and the authorities would surely do the necessary things to address all outstanding matters with Njala University ASA this time around”, said Anthony Stevens, School of Technology Mokonde Campus, Njala.
Another very senior lecturer at the Institute of Languages and Cultural Studies, at Towama Bo Campus, name withheld said; “we expected so much from president Bio, the SLPP, Senesie and the entire government for positive changes at Njala University. In fact that was why we had always protested and staged strikes against the last APC government of former president Ernest Bai Koroma but sadly for us we are not being treated equally as other higher learning institutions which is why our vital contributions won’t come by so easily into the review of the Universities Act 2005”, almost the same views across Njala University campuses and the country at large.
Is it about self or nation, surely not ego but country first and in fact that is why government should be hasting enough to call things by their right names and urge authorities to take the necessary actions before the review processes of the Universities Act 2005 is completely stalled, since the Njala University point man at the line ministry is failing to relate well with his home family, at Mokonde, Bo and at Henry Street in Freetown and beyond.
And for all we know have learnt over the years is that there is always somebody taller than ministers and their deputies at higher education which is the Chancellor of the Universities; private as well as public which is the president. And where fairness is concerned president Bio must be seen addressing all outstanding welfare issues confronting the effective works of Njala University staff thereby ensuring their full involvement in the review of the Universities Act 2005. Give Caesar what dues him president Bio. Njala University lecturers relied so much on you and the SLPP to have come and salvage their poor plights, but only God knows when their dreams of better conditions of service would come true.
Also apart from president Bio and the SLPP administration, much is still really expected from Senesie to have articulated concerns of ASA Njala University, but to date there are still outstanding issues with lectures and other staff. In the very continuing give and take situation government through the line ministry also needs ASA’s valuable inputs into the review Universities Act 2005, but ASA’s laid down demands on the table as always should waste no time in pushing it forward by Senesie through his good office.
Njala University’s contributions remain very important in the review and amendment of the law, but how can they when their concerns are not met by government, even though one of them now works at the education ministry. Was it a deceitful appointment of Senesie to represent that constituent of the educational society? Or was it just compensation from president Bio as his tribe’s man, leaving the lot who supported him during his campaign? Due diligent should have been done well before the appointment of Senesie, for he is not the only fine academic at Njala University. So Mr president think well next time before misplacing such a golden opportunity in future and end up regretting it all. Turad Senesie is not serving the purpose for which he was appointed as minister.
For integrity sake deputy minister Senesie who is now widely alleged to have been the pioneer and brain child behind all lecturers’ strikes and students’ protests at Njala University against authorities during the last APC administration of former president Koroma, did all of that only to get to where he is now, and not for the general interests of the union he so claimed to be leading. And now working directly with the government he personally campaigned to bring to power, Senesie can’t articulate issues and welfares of his former colleagues instead he is always in conflict with Njala University authorities including the academic staff association over unresolved issues. That is not going down well with Njala professors and other staff.
In could be vividly recalled that during the last process back in 2005, all education stakeholders across the higher education sector were fully involved the enactment of the Universities Act 2005, whereas now the present review and amendment of the same law is being stalled due to the withdrawal of the academic staff of a one of the oldest universities in the country Njala, simply because government is failing to meet demands of the academic staff, for which Senesie must be fired for not constructively consolidating his constituents for and on behalf of the SLPP government.
To that end it is widely believe that until such actions are directly taken to firm conclusion before the public can realize the full participations of Njala in the review process. Or else the process will remain stalled for Njala would otherwise not entirely excluded from the process for formed strong parts of it through addressing all outstanding issues in accordance with the legal framework of the Universities law. The law is always the law until it is removed. So Minister Gbakima and your deputy Senesie please go by the rules and don’t bypass the law like you always do.