November 7, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
President of the National Union of Sierra Leone Students, Osman Bikal Kamara, has told Concord Times in a telephone interview that while they have been in talks with university authorities to mitigate punishment meted against 127 students recently rusticated for alleged examination malpractices, they also plan to appeal the decision.
Special Assistant to the Registrar of the University of Sierra Leone (USL), Brima Bah, has also noted that the rusticated students have right to appeal the decision of the committee set up to investigate examinations malpractices.
Fourah Bay College (FBC), one of the constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone, recently rusticated 127 students for various breaches of USL’s rules and regulations.
But according to Bah, “once their appeals come in, a committee would be constituted and for those who would be able to convince the appeals committee, the decision would be overturned.”
He said the USL administration had received a report from FBC’s Discipline Committee on a number of cases about students who were involved in examination malpractices as well as those caught faking registration slips.
Bah said the affected students were investigated and recommendations were made to the university, adding that the Vice Chancellor and Principle has, on behalf of USL’s senate, taken action by penalising the students accordingly.
“The students committed various offences that were categorised into five points. They included students with fake registration slips, those caught with foreign materials, those who refused to submit their answer booklets after examination, those who wrote answer booklet numbers on their attendance slips different from those of the distributed answer booklets, and those caught with headset and phone in the examination hall,” he explained.
He revealed that 44 students who committed various offences were from the Faculty of Arts, 11 from the Faculty of Engineering, four from the Faculty of Pure and Applied Science, and 71 from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law.
He added that only 100 students were interviewed while 30 did not show up for the interview, and that 97 were found guilty while three were exonerated.
“We have various penalties – those who were caught with fake registration slips were rusticated for two years, those caught with foreign materials in the examination hall, those who refused to submit their answer booklet, those who used different answer booklets from the ones they were given, and those caught with headsets and phones were all rusticated for one year each,” he explained.
He said the offences were committed during the first semester examinations and that the committee which was set up in June, 2017 completed and submitted their report on 13 September.
He said the decision to rusticate students was not the first by USL, adding that the university has a track record of taking action against those caught in examination malpractices and others who violate the rules and regulations of the university.
“We believe that when they come back after this rustication they will be conscious, knowing that they need to abide by the rules and regulations of university,” he said.
He explained that the university has always been lenient with students who are facing challenges in their academic pursuit, citing that there were others, who, after realising that they could not afford to pay their fees wrote to the Registrar that they wanted to defer the course and were granted.
“They can also appealed for an extension of deferment. We always tell them about this and other policies whenever we meet with them at various gatherings,” he said.
However, President of NUSS, Osman Bikal Kamara, said even though faking examination slips is against USL’s policy, the punishment was very harsh.
“The students were rusticated for two years and that’s too much. Some students had really paid but because of the sluggish registration process by USL administration they were not able to register on time. They had not wanted to miss the exam and they opted to beat the normal system,” he said.