May 14, 2018 By Jariatu S. Bangura
President Julius Maada Bio has on Thursday during the State Opening of the Fifth Parliament promised that he would cease to be Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone in 2019.
“My intention is to establish a university system that employs its own leadership as chancellors and Vice Chancellors with distinguished and proven records of higher education leadership and significant international clout and contacts (funding and research networks). In this light, effective 2019, I as president will cease to be the Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone,” he said.
Section 12 of the 2005 University Act states that ‘Each University shall have a Chancellor who shall be the President of Sierra Leone and Section 13 subsection (1) also states that the Chancellor shall be the head of every University, other than a private university.
To actual this dream, the president said the 2005 University Act will be reviewed to reflect the many other changes in the coming months.
He said the conditions of institutions of higher learning and in particular the citadel of knowledge- University of Sierra Leone and Njala University were ‘deplorable’.
President Bio acknowledged that the country has lost the glory of being the Athens of West Africa, which he said required urgent actions to develop the Universities and all other higher learning institutions.
He cited the creation of a separate Ministry of Technical and Higher Education that will solely focus on technical and higher education.
He observed that Science and Technology is the bedrock for the development of any modern economy, but observed that the schools and colleges lack basic facilities for scientific research, thus noting that his government would set up a Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation to develop a framework for scientific research.
He said the aforementioned Directorate would be midwifed in the Office of the President but shall work closely with the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education.
President Bio told the audience in parliament that “the amounts of public spending on fees subsidy for university education are unsustainable. Whilst we will improve on the management of the Grants-in-Aid policy, my administration will introduce Students Loan Scheme that will provide loans to deserving students to access higher education.”
“The high level of adult illiteracy in Sierra Leone estimated at 60 percent is unacceptable in any progressive nation. As part of my commitment to education, my administration will work with partners to develop and implement cost effective strategies for providing basic literacy and numeracy training for our adults who were not fortunate to attend school. Some of these will include initially establishing one functional adult literacy centre in every district and later expanding it to every Chiefdom using existing school facilities and integrating literacy programmes into agricultural and livelihood programmes,” he said.
He said one of the reasons for attitudinal challenges was limited civic education among the population, which he said was compounded by mass illiteracy among the population, thus stating that a nation would only develop if it educates her people on rights, responsibilities and obligations as good citizens.
He assured that the new administration would launch a National Civic Education Programme to provide civic education in educational institutions and communities and ensure that that it is re-introduced in schools and colleges curriculum for all levels.
To strengthen the health system, President Bio said his New Direction would transform the under-resourced, ill-equipped, dysfunctional and inadequate health infrastructure and healthcare delivery system to make it high quality, efficient, reliable, cost-effective, affordable and sustainable.
He recalled that the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics stated that life expectancy in 2015 was estimated at 50 years compared to 53 in neighboring Liberia and 59 in Guinea.
He said the Demographic and Health Survey (2008) states that infant mortality rate increased from 89 per 1,000 in 2008 to 92 per 1,000 in 2013 and under-five mortality rose from 140 per 1,000 in 2008 to 156 in 2013.
He said the figures above indicated that the Free Health Care initiative launched in 2010 has not created the desired impact as there were reports of leakages in the distribution of drugs, limited manpower to provide health care, and poor incentive for the limited staff and probably wrong entry point to reduce mortality among children and mothers.
He maintained that despite the health system strengthening efforts under the Post-Ebola Recovery Strategy, healthcare service delivery remains gloomy and the sector continues to be plagued by limited public investment and untimely disbursement, weak human resource base, weaknesses in disease prevention, control and surveillance, poor service delivery and poor governance among others.
He said the thrust of the New Direction is increasing access for all the population (particularly mothers, children and the elderly) to quality health services in an equitable and efficient manner.
‘The focus will be on health governance, health financing, human resource, free health care, disease prevention and control and service delivery.’
He assured that his administration would implement and strengthen a Health Management and Information System (HMIS) to support informed strategic decision-making, planning and programme development, monitoring and coordination, develop a robust policy and legal framework for Public-Private-Partnership in the health sector.
President Bio noted that his administration would review laws and policies relating to regulatory bodies such as the Medical and Dental Association and make them more functional, promote dialogue with relevant stakeholders in the health sector including but not limited to the Sierra Leone Health Service Workers Union, the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association and the Nurses and Midwives Association.
“Accordingly, my Government will take the following measures , raise the current public spending on health and sanitation from its current level of less than 10 percent to 15 percent as required by the Abuja Declaration and ensure timely disbursement of allocated resources, review and implement the National Health Insurance Scheme, strengthen the management and coordination of all resources allocated to the health sector and effectively track all donor resources to the sector and also develop public-private sector framework for health care service delivery,” he promised.
President Bio said the country’s health care workers constitute the most important input in the sector and that specific actions would include strengthening Health Service Commission and developing a comprehensive Human Development Plan that would ensure the immediate absorption of trained health workers in the public service.