Students urge varsity authorities to reopen colleges


January 19, 2015 By Victoria Saffa

Minister of Education, Dr. Minkailu Bah
Minister of Education, Dr. Minkailu Bah

Students from various tertiary institutions have called on the government and university authorities to reopen colleges, especially as the Ebola virus shows signs of burning itself out.

Many students who spoke to Concord Times said the reopening of colleges has been overdue, almost six months after they closed for the previous academic year. The students said they are mature enough to prevent themselves from contracting the virus, nearly nine months into the outbreak.

They lamented that officials at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology have failed to propose any alternative means of learning for thousands of college students, despite introducing a radio and television programme for primary and secondary schools, albeit fraught with many challenges.

According to Mohamed Lamin Bah, a third year Engineering student at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, the closure of colleges is driving students to frustration.
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“The government is allowing market women and business people to go ahead with their business in jam-packed places, while they are afraid to reopen colleges,” he lamented.

The University of Sierra Leone announced late last year that a programme was underway to commence lectures via electronic means and handing out handouts to thousands of students in various departments in its three constituent colleges – Fourah Bay College, Institute of Public Administration and Management and College of Medicine and Allied Science.

But almost three weeks into the New Year, the university is yet to roll the programme, with anonymous sources indicating that the university lacks funds and expertise to conduct lectures online in the immediate future.

Agnes Sesay, a student of Agriculture at Njala University, said she was disappointed that despite assurances by President Ernest Bai Koroma that schools and colleges would reopen “in the shortest possible time”, she is less optimistic of the prospect after the spokesman of the Ministry of Education recently dampened the hopes of students.

Brima Turay told a local radio station few weeks ago that schools and colleges would only re-open after the World Health Organisation has declared the country Ebola free – based on 42 days of zero Ebola cases – although he later denied making the statement.

He subsequently stated that modalities are being put in place for the reopening of schools and colleges, as many are apprehensive the entire academic year might be lost.

Meanwhile, as the number of new Ebola cases continues to nosedive, students can at least breathe some sigh of relief that they will commence the new academic year sooner rather than later.