Utilisation of genetic sequencing during the tail end of the Ebola Epidemic

An international team of researchers has produced a detailed picture of the latter stages of the outbreak in Sierra Leone, using real-time sequencing of Ebola virus genomes in an in-country  facility which provided  sequencing capability to process samples from patients in Makeni and surrounding areas in real time, without the need for sample shipment out of the country.

The sequencing facility set up by the team has now been moved to the University of Makeni, where it forms the focal point of the new UNIMAK Infectious Disease Research Laboratory. The facility is providing world-class training to local students and scientists, which has proven crucial to sequencing the recent new cases of Ebola when no international staff were present.

Follow this link to read the full story in a press release

UNIMAK Institute of Inclusive Special Needs Education certifies 31

By Correspondent Emmanuel A. B. Turay:

DSC_0099The Institute of Inclusive Special Needs Education (ISNE) at UNIMAK has awarded certificates to thirty one (31) teachers of the visually impaired at a ceremony held at the University’s Great Auditorium at Fatima Campus in Makeni city.

In her opening remarks, the Chairperson who also doubles as the Deputy Director of ISNE, Mrs. Umu Turay noted that this is the first certification ceremony for teachers working with children with special needs in education in Sierra Leone. She highlighted several challenges encountered by the teachers in their ambition as they embark on their chosen career including failure of remuneration of salaries for the certificate gained in special education and their intensive hard work and greater dedication in teaching the most vulnerable children in Sierra Leone.

DSC_0115Madam Turay maintained that she is of the conviction that these graduates will succeed because ISNE is committed to developing graduates who are academically able and possess the essential knowledge and skills that employers value in a competitive educational employment market. Secondly she assured her audience that ISNE will remain a leading local institution for an Inclusive Special Needs Education in the country noting that the range and quality of the proposed special needs education programmes will cover the whole spectrum of special education to address many of the key challenges that are faced in the education of children with special needs.

The Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay in her statement commended UNIMAK and its partners including Helen Keller International and Sightsavers for pioneering the role in addressing disparities in the education of persons with disabilities by introducing and enforcing the need for teacher training as a critical prerequisite for achieving education for all.

DSC_0129The Deputy Minister reiterated that special needs education must be considered as one of the cornerstones of our education and training and that it is apparent that investment in special needs education ought to be prioritised as it will unleash the potentials of persons with disabilities squandered by the absence of special needs experts. In doing so it will equip them to play a critical role in building our nation’s wealth, she added.

She lamented over what she described as the enormous shortage of experts to handle special needs education which was communicated to the UN at the eighth session of the conference of member states to the convention on the persons with disabilities for appropriate actions to be taken to address this critical challenge. The Deputy Minister described the effort of UNIMAK as a laudable initiative noting that the initiative of training special needs teachers will help open the doors that have been closed to most persons with disabilities.

Madam Rugiatu Neneh Turay on behalf of her ministry assured all partners that if there have been any broken bridges between their organisations and the MSWGCA, those bridges will be reconstructed for effective service delivery to the vulnerable community. She appealed to all partners and other friends of Sierra Leone and the various universities in the country to strengthen their commitment to embrace special needs education which she noted is the key empowering tool for the disabled persons like all other citizens.

DSC_0126In his brief remarks, the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone, John Hoover stated that we should judge ourselves by how we treat the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our societies noting that disadvantaged people like the orphans, the extreme poor and other people with disabilities like blindness often suffer greatly because of their vulnerability.

The US Ambassador disclosed that the Education for the Blind and Low vision children and Adults has been a two year programme worth $300,000 that is funded by US Agency for International Development through Hellen Keller International that is working at schools across the country including UNIMAK, to provide expertise, advocacy and materials to strengthen the quality of teaching for blind and low vision children and Adults. We believe the programme is a success, he added.

Statements by the Representative of MEST, Mr. Horatio Nelson-Williams, the Director of Sightsavers, Mrs. Nancy Smart; NCPD Commission, Fredrick Kamara; Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone, the Director of Academic Affairs UNIMAK, Rev. Dr. Francis Shedu Sesay formed high points of the certification ceremony.

UNIMAK and the Challenge of Urban Expansion

The University of Makeni, working in collaboration with Makeni City Council, will visit Spain, University of San Pablo, Madrid, between 20th and 28 th June for a programme of discussions on the issues facing expanding cities like Makeni.

More information about the developing collaboration is given in this link

The announcement of the event is shown below.

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UNIMAK Offering Certificate Course in Counselling Psychology

Counselling Psychology is one of the largest individual areas within psychology. It is centred on treating clients experiencing mental distress and a wide variety of psychological symptoms. The Society of Counselling Psychology describes the field as an area that can improve interpersonal functioning throughout life by improving social, and emotional health as well as addressing concerns about health, work, family, marriage, and more. Counselling psychology focuses on providing therapeutic treatments to clients who experience a wide variety of symptoms.

For details of the new Certificate Course offered by UNIMAK follow this link

UNIMAK Celebrates Fourth Convocation

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His Excellency Mr Zhao Yanbo

The University of Makeni celebrated its fourth Convocation with Graduands of the classes of  2013 and 2014, with Guest of honour, his Excellency Mr Zhao Yanbo,  the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Sierra Leone

Vice Chancellor Prof Fr Joseph Turay gave the following address:

Let me join our pro-chancellor in warmly welcoming you to the University of Makeni. It is good to have you with us and thank you for coming and honouring our invitation.

convocationWe thank our chancellor, Board of Trustees and council for their continued support and trust in us to steer the ship of UNIMAK. Most importantly, let me congratulate our Graduands and their families for your achievement, and for your trust and patience repose in us as a young university. This is your day and we are glad to celebrate with you. Our Graduands today are the class of 2014 and 2015, numbering 316, 10 post graduate diplomas, 19 Masters degree, 253 Bachelors degree, 37 diplomas and 1 certificate.

Allow me also to congratulate faculty members and staff for a work well done.

Chancellor Sir, we are met today as the convocation of the university, being the meeting of the whole university, and as such let me report on the last year’s events to you our stakeholders.

THE STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY

Mr Chancellor Sir, the state of the university is good. Of course it could be better but these years have been challenging to us as a nation, including our university.

Cross Section of UniMak Academic StaffOver four thousand Sierra Leoneans lost their lives as a result of the Ebola Epidemic. The impact of the Ebola crisis has been devastating. The situation was also exacerbated by the collapse of the iron ore prices and other commodity prices, flooding in some parts of the country coupled with the lingering effects of the global financial crisis. This crisis has had serious consequences for our university and the country as a whole.

We had to dig deep into whatever reserve we had to keep us afloat, especially so when we are a private university in a developing country. But thanks to God and with support from our partners and mutual understanding of our staff, we stayed the course. However, these shocks have increased levels of vulnerability and poverty especially women, youth and children. In fact, growth and post Ebola recovery in our country as read the other day in the budget of our country, is predicated on us getting a resilient zero infection, the resumption of iron ore production and export and a strong Chinese economy; (and so the presence of the Chinese ambassador Mr Zhao Yanbo here, gives us reassurance and hope for the future).

Chancellor Sir, despite all these challenges, a number of recent developments make us feel very good about our university.

TEACHING AND LEARNING

Law Department Receiving their Award (2)We have refurbished and renovated both the Sylvanus Koroma and Fatima Campuses with furniture and equipment for teaching and learning. Residential facilities have also been constructed and some refurbished to host visiting lecturers and staff. Senate has reviewed and approved our foundation core courses in order to address skills, competencies and knowledge deficit.

We commend the active role of our lectures and staff for their active engagement in providing services ranging from mobilisation, psycho-social and mental health services for those working with Ebola patients and survivors, and training of our public health students in Epidemology and Molecular Biology. Programmes were designed and classes conducted through a network of radios across the country to complement the effort of government in providing primary, secondary, and tertiary level education at that crucial time when schools were closed. We have been able to attract visiting professors and partners in supporting our teaching and learning from Ghana, Cambridge, Rome, Australia ,England , the USA and so on.

MA Student receiving degreeWe have continued our investment in staff development through external training abroad in Ghana, China, Korea, and Italy. We have hosted so far series of conferences on sustainable business in Sierra Leone and post Ebola recovery, exploring education in the diocese of Makeni ten years after our diocesan synod. Conference or town hall meeting on the new SDG’s, the safe abortion bill to name a few.

Just recently, we hosted a group of 20 students and staff from San Pablo, Madrid who worked with the City Council of Makeni in planning a Sustainable Urban Plan for the city. With support from Hellen Keller foundation and the university of Winneba, Ghana, We have continued our professional special needs education training in visual and hearing impairment.

Since the outbreak of the Ebola Epidemic, we have completed the academic year and we are well into the first semester of another academic year.

RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Admin Staff Recieves Award- Alycious KanuWe have also leveraged the expertise around us during the Ebola Epidemic to establish a research laboratory for Infectious diseases for the country. This is in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, funded by Welcome Trust and UNIMAK. Partnerships have been established around research for infectious diseases by establishing a bio-tech platform including the Universities and institutions: Tovergata Rome, Cambridge, Metabiota, Holy Spirit and the government of Sierra Leone. Our laboratory recently carried out genome sequencing of the latest Ebola flare up in the country.

We have continued to attract research grants for various projects including our law clinic, mental health building back better programme, the construction of a new public health building including classrooms and laboratories. Through the support of members of parliament, we got the legal practitioners Act amended making it possible for holders of our degree in law become legal practitioners.

STRATEGIC PLAN

We had a three days retreat in Lungi with all the Academic and Administrative staff designing our strategic plan for the next five years. his strategic plan with our key strategic priorities and objectives will guide the growth and development of the university in years to come.

STUDENTS DEVELOPMENT

With the Ebola outbreak, students enrolment dropped down as some decided to wait for the next academic year. Since then, the numbers have quite increased with a registered student population of 1,700 with a female representation of about thirty percent of the total.

At this juncture, I will like to congratulate one of our student Miss Victoria Koroma who came with best result at the Sierra Law School. We would also like to congratulate other students who are promDSCN2259oting the spirit of social entrepreneurship in our country in various innovative and creative ways: recycling waste materials to produce outdoor tiles; laundry services like the Rainbow wash; UNIMAK stop Shop, to name a few. The “I CAN DO IT” Spirit is gradually being embedded in tertiary education.

FINANCIAL AID FOR STUDENTS

We continue to appeal for financial aid from our partners, benefactors and donors support to less privileged students. We continue to appeal for subsidies through the representative of the Minister of Education who is here with us today and members of parliament for all students in public and private institutions.

At this juncture Chancellor Sir, I would like us to observe a minute silence for the dead especially those from our UNIMAK family. In a special way, Prof. Harry Turay who was a member of the university’s council, a visiting professor and a foundation member in the establishment of UNIMAK, and Dr. Vincent Kanu an entrepreneur who was awarded an honorary doctorate from our university.

May their souls rest in perfect peace!

Chancellor Sir, we are not without challenges. There is need to improve on our institutional processes, strengthening our information data management systems, increase our finances, build more laboratories and classrooms to address our deficit in the sciences.

But we take courage in the fact that we are resilient and can leverage opportunities. To quote our president, “we must stand firm, we must not relent, we have defeated Ebola virus, and so we can defeat and conquer any other challenges”.

To UniMak Graduandsyou our dear graduands, once more congratulation, continue to turn moments of crisis into opportunities. Do not allow the best in you to be overcome by the worst around you. Continue to be resilient and build partnerships to promote the common good. Above all, allow the love of Christ to urge you all in whatever decisions you make.

Remember the African proverb, “If you want to travel fast, then travel alone; if you want to go far, travel together”.

As you know we are fortunate to have the Chinese Ambassador with us because the Chinese Zodiac tells us that, this is the year of the monkey, the year of vitality, new life and innovation.

Show the best of our country and the best of UNIMAK.

May God bless us all!