Higher Education Embraces Transformation under Prof. Wurie’s Watch


By Sahr Sewa

Training and enhancement of Sierra Leone’s workforce has always required robust mechanisms, which could only be realized by creating the right institutions with the right leadership. The Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, being one such institution which was established through a proclamation made by H.E President Julius Maada Bio in 2018, has undoubtedly proven, through its immeasurable achievements over the past five years, to have served the purpose for which it was prudently disjointed from a single Ministry of Education that had been in existence from Independence to 2018. Hence, the appointment of Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie by H.E President Julius Maada Bio as Minister of Technical and Higher Education in 2021 was indeed a commendable step.

With a mission to not only promote access to quality tertiary education but also to strengthen vocational education and skills development for national advancement and global competitiveness, the Ministry has been training people in all walks of life, ensuring equivalence of esteem between tertiary education and technical education.

To this end, the enactment of the Universities Act of 2021 was precisely laudable, in that it did not only repeal and replace the Universities Act of 2005 but also made provision for the establishment of two technical universities (Eastern Technical University and Milton Margai Technical University) and a university of science and technology (Kono University of Science and Technology). This clearly underscores Government’s commitment towards catching up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, taking into consideration digital advancements and the prioritization of the sciences.

Giving credence to the sciences has been one of the policy formulations of the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, which is why female students pursuing courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Mathematics (STEAM) are prioritized in the award of the Sierra Leone Government Grant-in-Aid (SL-GIA). For the first time in the history of Sierra Leone there were more female applicants than male applicants to the Faculty of Engineering in 2022/2023 academic year. The fact that this has given a tremendous boost to female empowerment in science education as well as positioned Sierra Leone to constantly embrace global trends with regards digitization and technology cannot be overstated. It is indeed a pure demonstration of President Julius Maada Bio’s New Direction Government’s passion for the sciences, and by extension, Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie’s display of the educational leadership skills he has acquired over the years.

In recognition of his leadership expertise, Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie, was on 23rd May, 2022 appointed as Regional Representative for Africa on the Commonwealth of Learning Board (2022-2024) with a view to ensuring that information and communication technology plays an increasingly important role in the expansion of education, training and learning at all levels.

The passion to embrace digitization can as well be seen in the introduction of the Learning Management System in tertiary institutions. Now students can do their applications online, allowing them to readily meet their financial commitment as well as boost the coffers of tertiary institutions. Deans and Heads of Departments can now know the grades submitted by lecturers just by clicking through the system. This digitized system of higher learning has as well been quite beneficial to the conduct of students’ union elections. The fact that students’ union elections are now done online, means that the elections have not only been free of all forms of malpractice but an ambiance for a peaceful exercise of students’ franchise has equally been created. The Ministry of Technical and Higher Education therefore urges those tertiary institutions outside the loop to urgently use the Learning Management System such that Sierra Leone can have a holistic higher education data.

Sierra Leone’s commitment to Goal Four (4) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which speaks about ensuring inclusive, equitable and quality education as well as promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, has been clearly demonstrated in a plethora of instances, and with effective collaboration between the Ministry and its subsidiary academic institutions, there has been massive progress within the domain of higher education, as far as reengineering of the sub-sector is concerned.

This has positively resulted into a number of resolutions that were recently made by the Ministry in a bid to efficiently handle the operations of universities, polytechnics, teacher training colleges, and technical institutes. Some of the resolutions are:that all university/college applicants be screened though different modes of assessment (oral, written or computer-based) in order to enhance fairness in the selection process that all students who complete diploma programmes in Sierra Leone’s public tertiary institutions shall proceed to degree programmes at year-one without going back to take the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE); those with a grade point from above 3.6 shall be evaluated for admission into year-two that preliminary year be reintroduced for students pursuing STEAM options that the role of affiliated tertiary institutions (Grade-B institutions) be strengthened by Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) in collaboration with universities (Grade-A tertiary institutions) that TEC, with funds from the Commonwealth of Learning, develops an online policy that will ensure quality and parity of esteem in the educational outputs of Sierra Leone’s graduates and that the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education formulates policies with regards centralized admission, apprenticeship and internship by linking with the private sector.

The Ministry prides itself in upholding President Bio’s “Human Capital Development Initiative” with an overriding objective to leave no one behind. The enactment of the Student Loan Scheme Fund Act of 2021 has allowed for the inclusion of everybody (irrespective of gender, ethnic or physical differences) in the acquisition of education. The good thing about the scheme is that, unlike the SL-GIA, students in private institutions can apply for it.

 It also serves as a mode of higher education financing, especially when the SL-GIA places a huge financial burden on the Government on an annual basis. The Student Loan Scheme is therefore implemented to complement the SL-GIA, given that the latter cannot suffice.

Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie has always emphasized the need to leave no one behind in the attainment of education, and as part of the Ministry’s policy formulations, persons with disability have not only been prioritized in the grant of SL-GIA in public tertiary institutions but also in private tertiary institutions. Sons and daughters of teachers who have taught for at least ten years as well as students pursuing postgraduate courses in Medicine are prioritized in grant of the SL-GIA.

Let me at this juncture state that with all the above mentioned, learning can only take place with a healthy and functioning body. Sports is in no doubt one of the ways through which students can keep their body and brain fit to effectively absorb what they are taught in class.

As such, the revival of the intervarsity sports by Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie in 2022, after it had been dead for over a decade, has indeed played a critical role in not only unifying students from different tertiary institutions across the country but also in creating a platform through which potential athletes, footballers, volleyball players etc. can be scouted for within the realms of tertiary institutions to represent Sierra Leone at national and international level.

With these achievements and more, there is need for educational stakeholders’ collective involvement in a bid to ensure that educational developments are sustained. The growth of every nation is dependent on its ability to adequately invest in the education and training of its citizens. Hence, the Ministry is poised to uphold His Excellency President Bio’s commitment to reinforcing excellence in the country’s institutions of learning.


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