By Alhaji Haruna Sani
“You thought me not just communication, but all I need to know about administration. I saw you lead, I followed. I copied you. Now you are gone! O God, please help me handle this,” those were the words of Willette James on her Facebook page, one of the students and now lecturers who went through the forensic hands of Dr. Bernadette Cole.
Dr. Bernadette Cole, former Chairperson of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), passed away in Freetown yesterday morning, leaving behind a legacy of remarkable achievements and contributions to journalism and education in Sierra Leone.
Announcement of her death had saddened many media practitioners, educationist as well as other highly placed officials who passed through her forensic hands.
“Mrs Bernadette Cole is no more. Throughout her life, it is easier to decipher how much she was composed, calm and result oriented. By every indication, she lived a fulfilled life. A Lecturer to Lecturers, a mother to parents a blessed woman is gone. We are all thankful for the life well spent. -She made sure that everyone understood the courses. Even the dullest of comrades will not fail Mrs. Cole’s module. That was how much she knew her job. This is big loss to the Media, Journalism and the University of Sierra Leone. I cannot begin to name all her titles, but I know for a fact that Mrs. Gloria Palmer is looking forward to reuniting with our Iconic Mrs. Cole- We love and appreciate you. May Allah have mercy on you all, Aameen,” Sheku Putka Kaara, an alumnus of Mass Communication and a lecturer also wrote on his Facebook page.
“Being the founder of Mass Communication at FBC, Mammy Cole, as we fondly called her, had that kind of deep passion for and interest in Mass Communication students and graduates- Sleep on, Mammy Cole! Your legacy as a strong woman is incomparable,” Editor of the Concord Times Newspaper and an alumnus of the Mass Communications FBC wrote on his Facebook page.
Dr. Cole began her educational journey at St. Joseph’s Secondary School, where she excelled and obtained a Division 1. She did her sixth form at St. Edwards Secondary School May Park, Kingtom.
Driven by her passion for knowledge, Dr. Cole pursued higher education at Fourah Bay College, USL, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, History, and International Relations. Her dedication to journalism led her to pursue a Master of Arts with distinction in Journalism at the University of Wales, Cardiff.
During this time, she also served as the Freetown Correspondent for the London-based West Africa magazine, showcasing her commitment to quality reporting.
She began her professional journey at the Ministry of Information, starting as an Information Officer and eventually rising to the position of Principal Information Officer. Dr. Cole also served as the former Public Relations Officer of the University of Sierra Leone, where she played a crucial role in fostering positive relations between the institution and the public.
One of Dr. Cole’s significant contributions to academia was the establishment of the Mass Communication Department at Fourah Bay College, aimed at training aspiring journalists. She served as the department’s head from 1993 to 2009, dedicating her expertise and passion to shaping the future of journalism in Sierra Leone. From 2009 to 2013, she held the position of Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Fourah Bay College, showcasing her leadership skills and commitment to academic excellence.
In 2014, Dr. Cole was appointed as the Director of Alumni and International Relations of the University of Sierra Leone. Not only was Dr. Bernadette Cole an accomplished academic and administrator, but she was also an author. Her book, “Mass Media, Freedom, and Democracy in Sierra Leone,” remains a respected resource in the Mass Communication Department at Fourah Bay College. Through her insightful writings, she contributed to the understanding of the role of media in promoting democratic principles in Sierra Leone.
She was married to Mr. Tunde Cole, retired Solicitor General of the Law Officers Department and survived by two children, Avril Tundette Cole and Barton Cole.
Throughout her illustrious career, Dr. Bernadette Cole’s dedication to journalism, education, and her country was evident. She will be remembered as a mentor and teacher to many, guiding and inspiring future generations of journalists. Her invaluable contributions to the field of media and her commitment to academic excellence have left an indelible mark on Sierra Leone. Dr. Cole’s legacy will continue to inspire and guide those who follow in her footsteps.May her soul rest in eternal peace.