EXISTENCE, STUDENTS REDUCED TO A SLAVE-LIKE STATUS!!
February 24, 2016 By Alfred Kamanda
Fourah Bay College (FBC), hitherto known as the Athens of West Africa, celebrated 189 years of existence on 18th February, 2016. This institution has produced some of the best public servants currently influencing key policies and making critical decisions across the globe. This celebrated institution has, sadly, lost its place in the Ivy League of colleges on the continent. This article looks at the somewhat unhealthy relationship between the Fourah Bay College administration and the student body.
For several decades now, students of FBC have hardly had a fair deal, which partly explains why the alumni sever ties with the university the moment they complete their courses. Students face a plethora of challenges – on daily basis – as they toil to complete their courses. At the moment, students at FBC have been deprived of the opportunity to explore the kind of convivial relationship that should exist among students.
Furthermore, hardly does any harmonious relationship exist between them and the university authorities. Students have been literally prevented from residing on campus for the last SIX years. The hostels have gone for years without repairs and the proposed refurbishment by the government remains a pipe dream. This has had significant implications for students’ access to the campus. Spare a thought for the regular FBC student who has to shuttle for classes daily in a country that doesn’t have the best public transport system in the world. Students have had to queue up for hours before boarding a vehicle to campus; worse still many are forced to take the dreaded risk of hopping on motorcycles to ply such a very challenging terrain. But the FBC administration and the Sierra Leone Government don’t seem to care a bit. Does anyone ever think about the nexus between the lack of residential facility on FBC campus and the poor performance of students and the declining access to the college for students in the provinces?
Apart from the unavailability of hostels and poor transport services, there’s still a lot that needs to improve at FBC. For instance, the classrooms remain over crowded, and in most cases, very filthy. The students and lecturers must damn the potentially serious health hazards that such filthy conditions create and get on with it. To complain is to officially sign up as an opposition to the status quo. As a result of inadequate classrooms, students are sometimes compelled to take classes in the scorching sun at the Amphitheater. Many classes are large, thus making it almost impossible for lecturers to effectively evaluate students.
Moreover, with the ever increasing number of students, toilet facility still remains a major problem. There is just one public toilet. All other toilets are always under lock and key, obviously reserved for the high and mighty. This is quite worrisome and simply dehumanising. I feel particularly bad for our female students, most of who are forced to use the nearby forest to respond to the call of nature.
In spite of strong efforts over the years by students to get the FBC administration to address these challenges, little or no progress has been made. In fact, some who tried to hold the leadership of the college accountable were either rusticated or expelled. We are treated on campus like slaves who have no right to ask questions of our masters, much less expect them to provide basic services and conducive environment needed for learning. Do they need to be reminded that they (the college administration) are employed because we (the students) are here?
More frustrating and savagery in recent years is what I’d describe as education by ambush. The administration seems to have resorted lately to changing regulations (more specifically grading criteria) in the middle of the game and sometimes in the eleventh hour. This has left most students repeating the academic year because of the sudden introduction of new and stringent rules. To effect a change in rules, the college administration should ensure that students – through their elected representatives – participate in the process. At least, students have a right to be given due notice about the rules or criteria by which they are assessed. At FBC, though, students have no say in the decisions that affect their lot.
It’s important to also bring to the attention of the university administration that TESTS – as the name suggests – are meant to evaluate students and help provide them a sense of their strengths and weaknesses. It’s about assisting them to prepare well ahead of exams. It is sad that test grades are released – if they are released at all – to students after writing the exams. Little or no wonder the abysmal performance of students in recent years. Some lecturers often talk down to students and even come across as though they were doing them favours. How sad!
Finally, the road network to FBC is quite deplorable, thus compounding the problem for students and lecturers alike. The road leading down to campus from Kortright is simply a death trap. We respectfully urge the Government to intervene as fast as possible and rehabilitate it before it is too late.
While we have tried to survive under this tumultuous and turbulent situation, we continue to be pushed to the wall by the university administration. We are not allowed to gather and socialize on campus. No sooner four or more people are gathered in a very peaceful manner on campus than they are chased out by the Sierra Leone Police on the orders of the college administration. This is a blatant violation of students’ rights and their democratic freedoms. This must stop before you blame the students tomorrow!!!! Allow us to live on the shores of FBC as free men and women. We are not slaves in our own land!
© Alfred Kamanda is Penpusher, Auradicals Sierra Leone