Fourah Bay College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone and the first institution of it kind in the Sub-Sahara Africa. Since its inception in 1827, Fourah Bay College has been the proudest offspring of Sierra Leone. It earned her great respect and honour across West Africa and the wider world for its academic prowess. This reputation put Sierra Leone at the apogee of academic success admiration in Sub-Sahara Africa.
Freetown was likened to Athens, the capital of Greece. Famously referred to as the ‘Athens of West Africa’, a title it has earned for eternity. Though many people no longer believe so. But the reality is that, Athens(Greece) was the first place in Europe to get modern education, so also was Fourah Bay College to West Africa. Today, Athens (Greek) universities are hardly found among Europe’s 100 best universities, so also is Fourah Bay College to Africa. A sad reality though! Today, FBC is no longer competing with its foreign counterparts, but rather clinging to its grasp in a bid to maintain its reputation with its local counterparts. The honour and pride held by this college is fastly eroding.
Today’s Fourah Bay College is a dilapidated and paralyzed one. It is characterized by institutional thuggery and malice. It is no longer what it used to be. But everyone is pretending not to know. A pervasive ignorance at play. The once ‘Center of Excellence’ will soon sink into the Atlantic ocean if it is left to sail by itself.
The horror students go through at Fourah Bay College are unexplained. They are huge! Am I painting a wall? Probably! If you haven’t being to Fourah Bay College before (in whatever capacity), you would be stunned when you get there. It is difficult to distinguish between intellectuality and mediocrity. A disorganized and polluted society it has become, with all due respect. This great institution is ebbing. There is a shebang no student or staff can choose to explain.
It is also apparent that FBC has reached its menopause. Adamantly not yielding anymore as before. It is not aligning itself with the changing trends, it is aged and still holding on to the archaic orthodox courses. No new programs that fit the current global trends. Thereby making Law the ultimate course that students in the liberal arts could clamour for. Students sitting in the sun for classes is a virtue.
A question that comes to mind is that, what is responsible for the present impoverished status of FBC?
I will attempt to elucidate with conviction the reasons for the diminished status of FBC.
After the World War ll, Fourah Bay College underwent an overhaul, ranging from relocation from its original grounds at Cline Town to its new home at Mount Aureol; from transferring administration from the Church Missionary Society to the government of Sierra Leone; among others.
According to Prof. Joe A. D Alie, Head of Department, History and African Studies- FBC, Fourah Bay College was located on the hills of Mount Aureol to serve as a redeemer, suggesting that whenever there’s problem down town Freetown, the public would look up to Mount Aureol for solutions. That’s why it was located on a forested and serened ecosystem of an acclaimed altitude of about 1500 meters above sea level, that is academically ideal. The Botanic stream that runs through the Mountain Cut community, and the forest belt across the hills of Mount Aureol serve as boundaries between mediocrity and intellectuality. Meaning, anyone that is fortunate to step on the soils of Mount Aureol is bound to succeed.
Mount Aureol became known as the ‘Mountain of Hope’. It then became the envy of all academicians, especially high school leavers (both local and foreign students) who made Fourah Bay College their utmost destination.
It played host to foreign students, researchers, lecturers, etc. Life on campus was awesome. Everyone enjoyed their stay at FBC, both academic and extra curricula activities were enjoyed by students, staff and lecturers. The earlier generation of FBC was marvelous. Academic excellence was a priority.
As time progresses, the college felt the pangs of political interference. Students were at the fore of protests, demonstrations, strikes, etc, in a bid to influence changes in the Siaka Stevens led government. Since then, national politics have been prevalent on the soils of Fourah Bay College. This mark the start of a retrogressive era for the Athens of West Africa. The college started shifting its goals from academic to that of politics. Students politics became
fused with national politics. The administration became fragmented. The once serened campus became a militarized zone. A college that was once hoped could provide solutions for national crises, became a source of the country’s problems. This hugely affected the growth of the college.
As the diverse political views became intensified, students and lecturers started dividing themselves into interest groups. A perusal of the TRC Report and other documents, proved that the idea for the institution of a brutal and senseless civil war was nurtured and masterminded on Fourah Bay College campus.
Since then, the college has became a competitive ground of tribal, regional, political and cultural dominance. Breeding more enemies than friends. Whatever enmity that is was created on campus was transcended to national affairs.
The establishment of the University of Sierra Leone, amalgamating Fourah Bay College as one of its constituent colleges, was due to its ineptitudeness. It was inevitably clear that Fourah Bay College could no longer stand on it own. Otherwise, a 189 years old college would have had campuses across the country as part of it success. The fact is that, its only campus on Mount Aureol is in a poor state, inadequate facilities and poor administration.
To date, Fourah Bay College has succeeded in creating bitter relationship between it and its students. The present campus is a student deprived one.
My spell at Fourah Bay College first as a volunteer staff and now as a student, taught me a lot. I was attached at the PRO’s office of the University of Sierra Leone, I interfaced with the public on various activities organized by that office, especially the Career Advising and Placement Services (CAPS) Center, established by the University and the National Youth Commission with the blessings of madam Lola Aforo, former PRO-USL. She saved the image of the university by engaging the media, corporate houses, international partners and the public, but her stay was short-lived. From that moment to now, my experiences about that college are vast.
The administration is doing more harm than good to the college. The once vibrant students union is virtually dead. The university administration has managed to paralyze the students union body,thereby muzzling students’ voice on issues that affect them, evacuating them from the hostels-followed by the rustication of students that insisted staying there. Students are deprived of basic facilities like functioning computer laboratory, toilet facilities, sitting accommodations, etc, the list is endless. Students unionism is the right of the student. They should not be deprived of it, they should experience real campus/university life. The university exists because of them.
The college has hurt a lot of students in the past and they are presently doing it. Breeding hatredness. I emphatically say it again, students at Fourah Bay College are deprived. The hard fact is, students have no where to complain when their rights are trampled upon, either by lecturers or staff. The worst a student can do is to challenge his or her grade or report an authority for misconduct, that student will automatically be incriminated against an issue he or she suffered. Nobody listens. Nobody cares. The lecturers are gods. Their vindictive stance could be sensed by the way they treat students in class, exams, etc. They normally lament what vthey went through, so their services are vengeful. The college celebrates failure. “MASS FAILURE” in key departments, nobody asks questions.
If you ask students thet have graduated from the college if they would wish to read at FBC in the future, majority will decline. This is obvious because they will not want to experience the same haul. Apart from the older generation of FBC alumni, the recent ones are not proud of the college for reasons best known to them.
We have seen and heard of what alumni have done for their colleges across the world, because they enjoyed their stay during their studies. We’ve seen alumni organizing fund raising programs to boost their institutions. But this is far fetched in Sierra Leonean colleges, especially Fourah Bay College. There are people that may not even want to include the FBC certificate in their CVs, because think they were badly treated.
Have you reason out why Fourah Bay College is still struggling in terms of infrastructure and other facilities even when the current Education minister is a product of FBC? What about the current president of Sierra Leone, also a product of the same college, who was reportedly awarded a third class degree? Think about it. Are they paying back the college in its own coin? Speak to people like Lawyer Melron Nicol-Wilson and others, they will tell you their ordeals with FBC.
Have you ask why the BADEA combined project for the rehabilitation of FBC has not yet commence for more than half a decade now? Has the government ever prioritized that project? Consider the abrupt promulgation or better put, the rise of UNIMAK, comically defeating other colleges in the Bar exams. (Just thinking aloud).
There is irrational discrimination in the soils of the Almighty Republic of Fourah Bay College- a self governed state! Many academic Professors and Doctors have been submerged and suppressed and left.
They are now out there seeking NGO and government jobs. As a result, we now have Deens of faculty and Heads of Department without a PhD.
They are not naive though, but this will not happen in the recently established Legon University or other serious universities across Africa, where even a Course Coordinator or Exams Officer is a PhD holder. There is a problem of insubordination and disrespect also. For instance, a lecturer can take his own question papers to the exam halls without going through Exams Office or Head of Department, as per the university regulations. They will do any as they wish. This is terrible.
Despite the anomalies at Fourah Bay College, there is still high influx of students seeking admissions. The is still reaping from its aged glory.
Fourah Bay College has reached a point of saturation. It’s high time things are put right at Fourah Bay College. Because what affects that college, directly affects the nation. Even at its declining state, there is no other competent local institution that can overtake Fourah Bay College.
Have I answered the above question of what is responsible for the impoverished state of Fourah Bay College? Maybe the above scripts have attempted to loosely answer it.
Together we can restore the lost book of the Athens of West Africa.
Viva Fourah Bay College!
‘Non sibi sed aliis’ (Not for self but for others)!
©2016, Ibrahim Sorious Samura