341 More Students Graduated from UNIMAK

Correspondent Matthew Kanu writes:

UNIMAK Graduands 2018

The University of Makeni on Saturday 3rd March 2018 graduated 314 students from various disciplines in the 6th congregation ceremony of the University.

Appreciating the University’s effort in training them for the past four years the best female student Elizabeth Momodu said she was proud enough to represent the university at all levels of society. She said the training she received over the years shaped her world view or way of thinking from small community to a global community. She said she stood tall among colleague students because of hard work and commitment . She therefore called on colleague students to work hard and be meaningful people in society.

In his address to the congregation the chairman of the University of Makeni governing council, Professor Sahr P.T Gbamanja, congratulated the University for delivering quality higher education in Sierra Leone . Professor Gbamanja called on the students, academic staff and management of the University to do more and meaningfully contribute to the human resource development.

Addressing graduands , the Chancellor of the University Bishop Natalio Paganelli said the graduands are harvesting the fruit of years of sacrifice and hard work. “You must be proud for having attained this important achievement . The University of Makeni is proud to offer another set of graduates to the country” he explained.

Vice Chancellor University of Makeni Professor Joseph Turay addressing the graduands and invited guests.

The Vice Chancellor Professor Joseph Turay , in his address to graduands parents and invited guest, highlighted the achievement of the University over the years . For any country and university to progress it must invest in research and development. “The University of Makeni through its directorate of research and development is gradually working towards embedding the research culture in the university, and has completed the construction of a three apartment staff quarters whilst the construction of more classrooms is also going on at Yoni campus. A total of three hundred million Leones have been provided by the Diocese of Makeni, the university and its partners as scholarships for students at undergraduate and graduate level for the 2017/2018 academic year” he noted .

UNIMAK Organises Third Election Public Lecture Series

By correspondent Matthew Kanu

The University of Makeni Vice Chancellor Professor Joseph Turay addressing students, staff and presidential aspirants.

Sierra Leoneans will be going to the polls on the 7th March 2018. Over the past weeks the University of Makeni engaged presidential aspirants in a series of public lectures on their development vision of Sierra Leone 2018/2023 and beyond . Hundreds of students turned out to listen to the aspirants.

First year Mass Communication student Patient Kargbo is a first time voter who said the public lectures of the political aspirants helped her a lot to know the issues of national development across the country. She said the presentation of the various manifestos shaped her worldview of politics as compared to before when she thought politics was not her business.

A student of the Faculty of Commerce and Management Abibatu Tarawalie is also a first time voter who said she was expecting the aspirants to enact scholarship scheme policies for university students across the country.

45 years old resident of Makeni Amadu Sesay is an unemployed man who witnessed the public lectures and thinks education should be prioritized by all aspirants because there is every need to focus on the human resource development of the country.

Students and staff listening to the public lectures

This is the third election public lecture series organized by the University. It is part of the tradition of the University to engage political party aspirants during national democratic elections. The Alliance Democratic Party presidential aspirant Mohamed Kamaramba Mansaray, the All Peoples Congress Party Presidential Aspirants Dr. Samura Kamara, the running mate of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party Dr. Mohamed Joldeh Jalloh and the Peoples Democratic Change presidential aspirant Charles Francis Margai honored their invitation and presented their vision for Sierra Leone to the general students body and staff of the university.

Speaking to reporters before the lecture the UNIMAK Development Studies Head of Department Unisa Partick Kamara said the University of Makeni is not partisan. “As a University we promote sustainable development and not party politics” Mr. Kamara noted.

The first elections public lecture series was held in 2007 and the second in 2012 respectively . The majority of the presidential candidates discussions around the elections were centered on better health delivery, quality education, free press, agriculture ,job creation and infrastructural development.

All March 7 2018 presidential aspirants interviewed by the this medium indicated that the public lecture series organized by the university is a better initiative for peaceful democratic process before, during and after the 2018 general elections in Sierra Leone. They also opined that such an initiative at university level is step in the right direction for Sierra Leone emerging democracy.

Over 3million Sierra Leoneans will be voting during the March 7 elections out of a population of 7 million people.

In his address to political party aspirants and students, the University of Makeni Vice Chancellor Professor Joseph Turay said the university is a platform for democratic discussions that will shape the future of Sierra Leone at local and international level. “Our aim is to generate new ideas that will strengthen our democracy” Professor Turay emphasized.

As the country prepares for the March elections many people at home and abroad are expecting a nonviolent electoral process .

UNIMAK Hosts National Mental Health Conference

Correspondent Matthew Kanu writes:

A two day conference on Mental Health was held at the University of Makeni in December, organized by the Sierra Leone Mental Health Coalition. Participants in the conference were drawn from the health sector and other civil society groups with focus on health, including the University of Makeni Mental Health Department ,the Social Workers Union and Health and Advocacy Program.

Addressing participants of the conference the Registrar and Director of Academic Affairs Reverend Dr. Fr. Francis Sehdu Sesay said every meaningful Sierra Leonean should help others in maintaining a stable and mental health status in the country. “Our responsibility as a University is to minimize mental illness in Sierra Leone” he claimed.

Many believe that people should try to embrace the seriousness and reality of mental health in Sierra Leone because people should have advice on how to manage themselves. There are mental health risks in crisis situations such as the Ebola outbreak and the mudslide that change the psychological makeup of the people .

Many people in the street of Makeni hold the view that the conference is just the beginning of expressing the seriousness of focusing on Mental Health in Sierra Leone. Expressing his opinion in an interview, a trader in the Makeni City main lorry park, Sorie Conteh, said there are limited Mental Health drugs in most hospitals across Sierra Leone . “Government should know that Mental Health patients have their right to access affordable drugs” he explained . A student from the University of Makeni John Koroma believed that the families have a lot to do in order to minimize mental health in the country . He believed that the family is the first institution to respect the mentally ill people in society.“The families need to know that Mental Health patients should be respected” he exclaimed.

According to retired Dr. Edward Muana there were over 400,000 Mental Health patients after the decade long civil conflict and there are over 600,000 Mental Health Patients after the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. According to the 2015 Housing and Population Census there are 7 million people in Sierra Leone.

Addressing participants at the end of the conference Joshua Duncan of the Mental Health Coalition of Sierra Leone explained that the coalition was impressed with calibre of participants from the health sector and civil society that attended the conference but emphasized the need to engage in networking and partnership in order to ensure that the mental health illness is minimized or eradicated in the country. “The country will not develop if we refuse to focus on mental health” he explained.


Orientation of UNIMAK’s New Students

On 21st October 2017 new students were orientated in the midst of lecturers and management of the university inside the prestigious auditorium situated at the Fatima Campus.

Addressing the new students during the orientation, the Registrar and Director of Academic Affairs Reverend Fr. Dr. Francis Sehdu Sesay encouraged students to be focused in their studies.  He further emphasized that UNIMAK has a zero tolerance to exams malpractice, and student’s absenteeism without a justified reason is not allowed.

Students and Staff at the 2017 Orientation

Director of Administration and Finance Reverend Fr. Benjamin Sesay admonished the students to be responsible students within and outside campus. He also informed them that by gaining admission into the university they have entered into a contract in which their responsibility is to pay their fees in order for the university to provide the required services for them. “You know we are not receiving government subvention because this is a private university. 70% of our income is from fees so we encourage you to pay your fees on time” he noted.

Speaking in an interview first year Mass Communication Ejatu Jalloh says this is her first time of leaving her parents in Freetown but she feels very comfortable living in the university hostel not far away from the campus. “The environment is very friendly. The lecturers are very friendly. All that I need now is to listen to the advice of the Registrar and Director of Academic Affairs to focus on my studies” she said.

UNIMAK Library Organises Awareness Raising for the 2018 General Election

Matthew Kanu reports:

On Wednesday 17th May 2017 the University of Makeni Library held an awareness raising session on the electioneering process in Sierra Leone. This awareness raising session is aimed at schooling students of UNIMAK on the electoral conduct of the Sierra Leone general elections on 8 March 2018. This is the pre-election process that is directed towards building the confidence of Sierra Leoneans to participate in the 2018 elections. Over 200 students attended the session with support from the Embassy of United States of America in Sierra Leone.

Since its inception in 2005, UNIMAK has been very proactive in building a stronger governance system in Sierra Leone. During the 2007 and 2012 general elections UNIMAK trained paramount chiefs on their responsibilities in the electoral process, trained youths on non violence campaigns and also trained local community radio reporters across Sierra Leone on election reporting .

Students and facilitators posing after the session

First year Mass Communication student Bintu Sudan Sesay admitted that this is her first time of listening to a detailed explanation of the electoral laws of Sierra Leone and consequences of violating them. “Before this time I knew nothing about the Sierra Leone electoral laws . Now I can stand anywhere and explain them to colleague students and people outside the university” she explained .

First year accounting student Abibatu Tarawalie said explaining the NEC calendar and its challenges and successes to them showed that the 2018 elections will be run in a transparent and accountable manner. “Coming down to our level as students to explain the electoral laws is the beginning of a transparent electoral process in Sierra Leone because I know most colleague students are within the voting age and can contribute a lot in ensuring a clean electoral process nationwide” she noted .

Addressing students in the auditorium during the session UNIMAK Director of Academic Affairs Rev. Fr. Dr. Francis Sehdu Sesay said this session is part of the university core values. These values include teaching. research and community engagement . He said UNIMAK is organizing these sessions because students have the right to vote and be voted for in Sierra Leone.

Facilitators of the session included the Bombali District NEC Voter Education and Training Officer Manty Daboh Turay, Makeni Panlap Police Division Local Unit Commander Gibril M Turay and UNIMAK Dean of Students Foday Augustine Bangura.

Bombali District NEC Voter Education and Training Officer, Manty Dabo Turay

The Bombali District NEC Voter Education and Training Officer Manty Daboh Turay informed the students that NEC is aware of the students’ role towards the conduct of a successful election in 2018. She also noted that violation of electoral laws is punishable by law and liable to imprisonment . “These violations include spreading false rumors, ballot stuffing, attempting to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the electoral process, provocation, intimidation, destroying your voter ID card and not displaying political tolerance”.  Madam Turay advised students to be role models to others because their contribution to the electoral process is key to sustainable development in Sierra Leone. She also noted that public engagement is very important for a successful conduct of the elections. “Please disseminate peaceful messages, undertake mass campaign rallies to ensure peaceful elections within and outside your campuses”.

Community policing is key in all elections in Sierra Leone. Even though the current police population is small to police a population of over seven million people, the country’s police hierarchy said they are ready to police the conduct of the 2018 elections. About 1000 newly recruited police officers will be ready .

Makeni Panlap Police Division Local Unit Commander Gibril M Turay

Explaining the police role and public expectations the Makeni Panlap Police Division Local Unit Commander ASP Gibril M Turay said section 2 of the police act of 1964 guaranteed the duty of the police to provide security for citizens of which NEC is no exception . “UNIMAK students should make the difference in the dispensation of the election process within the framework of the laws “he explained .

ASP Turay noted that for peace and tranquility to prevail students and members of the public as a whole should not insult or do any action that will disturb the conduct of the elections in 2018. “Breaking these laws makes one liable to imprisonment. If you misbehave during the election the police will arrest and charge you,” he explained.

UNIMAK Dean of Students Foday Augustine Bangura.

The UNIMAK Dean of students Foday Augustine Bangura encouraged students to be responsible in disseminating information. “Don’t hold on to messages. Ensure messages are disseminated and not distorted, and avoid the issues of fake news on social media” he noted .

Mr. Bangura further explained that the students are the potential leaders of this country and that they should not be part of anything that is a threat to the elections process. He advised them to ”vote wisely, and don’t say politics is not my business” .