Legal Aid Board discusses partnership with Islamic College

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The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, on 31 January 2024 paid a working visited to the campus of Maahad Aali College of Technology and Professional Courses at Grafton where she had discussions with the Proprietor and Staff of the college on strengthening partnership, support to members of the Council of Imams particularly on legal education and the proposed introduction of Paralegal Studies.

The Proprietor, Dr. Mohamed Habib Sheriff briefed the Legal Aid Team on the origin, aims and objectives of the college. He added that the original idea of establishing the college is for the teaching of Arabic and the Quranic Education. This was reviewed over time to include secular education informed by feasibility study by the college.

Dr. Sheriff noted that the institution has grown over time and can now boast of not only an Arabic center but primary, junior and senior secondary schools. He added that the college has six departments which include: Health Science and Nursing, Computer Science, Islamic Studies, Finance and Management Studies, Media Studies and International Relations. The college currently awards Diplomas and Higher National Diplomas.

He added that the department of Paralegal Studies and Crime Management will be introduced once discussions with the relevant authorities have been concluded.

He said the reason for inviting the Executive Director is to see for herself what has been achieved and how she could help towards the introduction of paralegal studies. ‘We need your intervention in making this dream come true,’ Dr. Habib Sheriff concluded.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles explained the Board’s position on the introduction of paralegal studies in any institution, noting that the Board will only accredit paralegals that have gone through appropriate courses at an institution approved by the Board. She noted that paralegals have to go through the curriculum developed by the Board to be accredited.

 Ms. Carlton-Hanciles added that the Board will be piloting the curriculum at FBC. She therefore, admonished Dr.  Sheriff and his team to put on hold the introduction of the paralegal studies for the time being. She assured them that immediately following the completion of the piloting phase, Maahad Aali College will be authorized to commence the course.

She likened the Board to the Pharmacy Board which regulates pharmacies and pharmacists in the country. In the case of the Legal Aid Board it is responsible for regulating paralegal studies. She said the Board will ensure all institutions use the curriculum that has been developed by the Board and the Judiciary.

She thanked Dr. Sheriff for the initiate and assured all present of her support to ensuring introduction of the Paralegal studies.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles further intimated her audience on her intention to have the Imams educate legal aid staff on Islamic marriage and divorce while the Legal Aid Board will educate the imams on the laws relating divorce. She said the Board has received complaints and concerns from women who cry foul claiming that Imams have disadvantaged them in their interpretation of the Quran during the dissolution of marriage.

She concluded by calling on Imams to preach peace, reconciliation and law and order, noting that “there is so much tension in the country.”

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles was accompanied by the Board’s resident Legal Aid Counsel for the Western Area Rural District Abdulai Sesay, Media Officer Moriba Kamara and others.          

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