Two weeks ago, Part 1 of the above subject was published both in our local tabloids and by the Sierra Leone Telegraph in London.
Globally, the overall response has been very encouraging as the writer received calls and e-mails from far away Australia, America, Germany, London, France, China and even from our neighboring Liberia.
The discussions on Whatsapp and over the Internet were just fantastic. In all of these, the message was very clear – “we need to do something for the only Institution Sierra Leone is known worldwide for”.
Hence, a big thanks to all the Editors of the Newspapers (Awoko, Global Times, Independent Observer, NewsWatch) that produced space for my article and people like Barrister Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai of Society For Democratic Initiative, Abdul Thomas of The Sierra Leone Telegraph London for their support and a very respectable elder and Statesperson who personally called me from Germany to discuss the issue further.
Let me now take the discussion to another level in this “Second Part of Tears of FBC”.
Anybody doubting the power of a pen especially in the discussion of a national issue must have a rethink again. This is because after the publication of Part 1, the event that followed was scurry; for in the Monday December 7, 2015 Edition of The Awoko Newspaper, an advert was placed on Page 10 by the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) (Government of Sierra Leone) for the rehabilitation of FBC – not bad (APPLAUSE FOR THEM). But this was simply a nervous reaction by the PIU headed by Sorie Manbay Kanu. They were so confused with the facts of the article and the momentum it has generated that the Project Manager totally forgot to append his signature on the advert. To my faith, this is the very first time I have seen such an anomaly. The simple impression the PIU want to give the general public is that they are doing something and have their timeframe. This might however sound ridiculous, otherwise why do they have to wait all this while for an article on such to be published before advertising. To avoid such, I always explain to my students in “Project Planning and Management” that the Project Manager (PM) is the “Leader of the Team and must be very effective in communicating the stages of a project for the understanding of the stakeholders and public domain”, especially for very sensitive ones.
Interestingly, the closing date for the receipt of Bids is next year, 22nd March, 2016. This simply implies that after 5 years of initiating the project, it is only now that Tender for Bids has been advertised. This “push-me-ar-start’ situation or knee-jerk reaction by MDAs responsible for project implementation in the country is another factor responsible for the underdevelopment of Sierra Leone. With this current reaction, can the reader please calculate/estimate when the project will actually commence and by indication when it will be successfully completed? This is because there are 9 stages in the Purchasing/Procurement Cycle for Project Implementation and the Invitation for Bids is the 3rd Stage. So when the Bids are received by the end of March next year, the other 6 stages will follow – Select Bidders, Contract Award, Advance Payment, Monitor Performance, Final Payment and Review of Performance.
Put simply, this BADEA (Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa) Project is not going to commence until June 2016 and by which time, another generation of students would have lost out again and the battered image of FBC will continue. And don’t be surprised when this project will stall as we enter the electioneering period of 2017. In the end (and with my strong Project Background), FBC’s rehabilitation under BADEA will not be complete until 2019/20 because of the gargantuan task ahead. The reason is quite simple – for the 10 hostels particularly, the reader is encouraged to comprehend that it is only the skeletal buildings remaining as there is nothing in terms of plumbing and electrical items including beddings in them. To summarize, the hostels have been completely vandalized and looted. This implies that students will not be able to access accommodation facilities at FBC between October 2011 and October 2020, and the earlier they will ever have a feel of this will be from the 2019/20 AY. In other words, for 10 blissful years, accommodation facilities for students at FBC will be “zero”; and when this “zero” is added to the other already “zeros” students are grappling with, the situation becomes more grotesque for them. Believe you me; for the students, lecturers and administration combined, this is heart-rending but for the students in particular, this scenario is terribly heart burning. During this estimated 10 year period of no accommodation facilities, some graduated students would have gone to pursue their Masters and Doctoral studies and would have accomplished such feats. When that happens, FBC’s rehabilitation under BADEA will still be on the trail.
Consider now the college infrastructure proper – Administrative Building, Arts Building, Library, Chemistry Building, Mathematics Building and Maths Theatre, Physics Theatre, Engineering Department, Biological Sciences, Geology Department, Wilson Theatre, Kennedy Building, Strasser King Building, Extra Mural Studies, Mary Kingsley Auditorium, University House, and even the Hospital, etc, – then you will conclude that “e nor funny at all”. This project is really a herculean task and this is why infrastructure of whatever kind in Sierra Leone (and especially buildings) should not be allowed to deteriorate over time. There should always be a constant or standby budget by the Government for rehabilitation and renovation (independent of external intervention) over a certain period of time – “but look watin day happen now with FBC”.
I still want to reiterate that FBC’s rehabilitation (especially the hostel facilities) could be undertaken without BADEA’s intervention and with the exception of the possible solutions I advanced in my previous piece; I have also formulated a reliable business proposal for this. If this does not sound plausible in anyone’s eyes, then I am ready to accept my letter of termination of services from the university or I will resign honorably – and I mean it. But if it will make sense after presentation soon, then it should be implemented right away for the benefit of the college, our current students and future generations to follow.
At this juncture, I will patiently wait for my Sierra Leonean brothers and sisters to arrive from Overseas for the Xmas holidays for further deliberation on this issue. To be candid, FBC is the only institution that is holding us together in this country and we should not really allow external players to fix this deteriorating situation for us. Therefore, we are gradually getting there but one thing is certain – I will never rest my pen until this issue about FBC’s rehabilitation is taken very seriously by all of us including the government; and the much awaited rehabilitation and road reconstruction (especially) commence immediately. On this road reconstruction from Kortright towards the bridge in particular, it has been reliably learnt that the EU (the major financier of the road construction from Leicester to Kortright) met its own obligation in 2011/12 based on the understanding arrived at with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA). The responsibility now is with SLRA for the thorough resurfacing of this stretch of road but the Authority seems to be recalcitrant on this. It is therefore the responsibility of the Academic Staff Association (ASA) Executive of FBC to hold discussions with Officers of SLRA and the EU to shed more light on the agreement/understanding relating to this FBC road reconstruction.
This is the only way I can contribute towards the revival and resuscitation of the Institution (that has made most of us the persons we are today) from the death bed. I am not going to budge on this and watch out for Part 3 of Tears from FBC in 2016. Meanwhile, I wish all Sierra Leoneans including those coming for holidays a happy Xmas and a refreshing new year 2016. In between please keep praying (even if you are not a Christian or Muslim) for Fourah Bay College because “e sick bad wan ooooo”
BY DR. DENIS M SANDY (LECTURER, DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS AND COMMERCE, FOURAH BAY COLLEGE; e mail – firstname.lastname@example.org)