UNIMAK gives students hands-on experience of professional IT work

Prof. P F U Taylor,  Coordinator, announces an exciting new initiative at UNIMAK:

UNIMAK introduces On-Campus Internship Program (OCIP) 2015/16

One of the most challenging aspects of technology or Engineering curricula in African Universities today, is the recurrent difficulties in securing placement for students/graduates in industry, in order for them to gain practical (on the job) experience relevant to the profession for which they were trained. It is common knowledge Universities train students on theory and, at best, Laboratory exercises to test text book (ideal/never fail) case studies, far away from REAL life practice. The orthodox age-old approach to compensate for this lapse in training, is to send students to industry for Internship attachment or apprenticeship.
This approach has not been successful, as most companies are usually reluctant to accept students for internship attachments, even though they are not required to give stipends to the interns. This attitude is based on the justifiable fear that graduates from tertiary Institutions may have degrees but lack practical skills to make them readily usable in industrial production to meet company profit-oriented goals.

Setting up the system from the existing computer laboratory

Setting up the system from the existing computer laboratory

Another possible and more practical approach, would be for the companies, who are the prospective employers, to agree to give on-the-job training for new employees. However, this is not being done by companies because of the financial implications. Funds for this desirable on-job training of new employees, is an expense companies consider as unnecessary and therefore, not normally budgeted for. It is cheaper, from the companies perspective, to employ experienced workers that the company can productively use from day one. Although this line of reasoning can be shown to be short-sighted but does make immediate economic sense.
It is worthy to note that this preference for experienced new employees is coded in all advertisements inviting applications for job vacancies. The Adverts usually include a clause specifying a non-zero “minimum number of years of relevant experience” as a mandatory requirement that applicants MUST meet. By implication, this mandatory previous experience clause, disqualifies all fresh graduates.
The irony of this hurdle that fresh graduates are faced with in their job hunt, is that even Universities and other Tertiary Institutions, that train and produce these job-seeking graduates, never fail to include the “minimum number of years of previous relevant experience” requirement clause in their own advertisements for job vacancies within their Institutions, emphasizing the importance of pre-work professional experience.

Trainers and interns on the maiden OCIP programme

Trainers and interns on the maiden OCIP programme

There is, therefore, a desperate need to find a way to include the Internship/apprenticeship component, that will be acceptable to employers as satisfying the minimum entry experience requirement, in our University curriculum in order to make our graduates marketable.
An ideal approach that can include this much desired professional experience into the curriculum, is to have an arrangement whereby the Universities unambiguously specify the minimum skills companies expect of or require a graduate to possess in order to be productive to the company from day one. Graduates can then be sent to industries where practising professionals will teach these skills, so specified, in a form of apprenticeship for a minimum agreed period and receive a certificate in the end before attempting to apply for a job. This can not be possible in real life, because it is a distraction for practicing professionals who have their daily company goals and assignments that do not include teaching the required skills. Besides, any attempt to teach interns in the industry, will require halting the production processes to demonstrate to interns, resulting in unacceptable economic loss to the company. In real life, the very few students who are lucky to be accepted for internship in industry end up either being idle throughout the period or doing non-professional odd jobs like clerical tasks.

The UNIMAK Solution

Faced with this recurrent challenge, the University of Makeni, has introduced a pragmatic approach to the Internship dichotomy, by using a bringing “the Mountain to Moses” approach, suggested by the Vice Chancellor, and eventually developed and appropriately named the On-Campus Internship Programme (OCIP) by the Department.

The professionals with vast relevant industrial experience who came to the campus as Resource Persons

The professionals with vast relevant industrial experience who came to the campus as Resource Persons

OCIP invites professionals with vast relevant industrial experience to come to our campus as Resource Persons to lead and demonstrate their skills for a day or two to interns, who will then be supervised to individually repeat skills demonstrated. The programme is initially designed for the Information and Technology (IT) Department and the first interns to benefit are the 2015/6 graduates of the Department. The maiden OCIP will run for four weeks, starting on 13th September and end on 7th October, 2016.
The objective of the On-campus Internship Programme (OCIP) is primarily to create, as realistically as possible, an industrial environment where students can be exposed to and have hands-on experience of real life practical aspects of the profession for which they were or are being trained in the University. In order to create the proper industrial environment, an appropriate Code of Conduct was designed.
The whole idea and main objective of the On-Campus Internship Programme (OCIP) is to provide real life hands-on professional exposure for participants in a setting that is as near to Industrial as possible. It is hoped that prospective employers will accept successful completion of the UNIMAK OCIP as sufficient practical entry experience for employment as IT officer into their work force, requiring minimum or no further immediate training.
In order to achieve this quality, our OCIP must meet certain minimum criteria:


a) Each participant will be made to see him/herself as a worker in an industrial environment.
b) All interactions during OCIP must be based on this understanding.
c) OCIP Participants will be referred to as “INTERNS” and staff referred to as “SUPERVISOR”, “RESOURCE PERSON”, OR COORDINATOR depending on the functions and responsibilities performed.
d) Adhere to basic industrial Code of Conduct and Discipline;
e) Submit a weekly authenticated report of activities;
f) Pass all Assessment Tests to qualify for a Certificate

RULES for Interns

a) Attendance must be punctual and complete;
b) Workday starts at 9am and ends at 5pm with a lunch break from 12.30pm to 1.30pm, Monday through Friday
c) An Intern must Sign-in to work not later than 9.15am in morning and no later than 1.45pm after the lunch break
d) The first two days of each week are reserved for Orientation and demonstration of the tasks of the Module of the week;
e) Only Interns who attended the Orientation days will be allowed to perform the hands-on tasks of the rest of the week.
f) Only INTERNS who attended 80% of both Orientation and Hands-on will be allowed to take the End of Module Assessment tests.
g) Each Intern is required to submit an authenticated weekly report of activities to the Supervisor, based on the approved format, before the end of workday on every Friday.


1. Minimum of 80% attendance.
2. Pass in ALL Assessment Tests and Exams.
3. Regular and punctual submission of weekly Reports in the approved Format.
4. No queries for disciplinary lapses.

OCIP is planned to cover critical skills areas, divided into three (3) modules listed below, which we consider basic for a practicing IT Officer at the current level of technology infiltration in our economy.
Each Module will be introduced as 2-days of orientation, led by the invited Resource Persons, to be immediately followed by 3-days of supervised individual hands-on practicals. At the end of each module, the interns will be required to take an Exam and the scores earned will contribute to a final assessment for an UNIMAK OCIP Certificate.

At the end of each OCIP, some practical and functional ICT project must have been executed to professional standards by interns.

OCIP 2016
The OCIP 2016 team was given an assignment to “Design, Plan, Lay-out and set-up a functional 4-seater computer network“ from scratch. To this end, the University sponsored the programme and provided an empty room for the purpose at the Sylvanus Campus, at Yoni, Makeni.

Interns apply the tools and skills of their new IT profession

Interns apply the tools and skills of their new IT profession

By the end of the second week and module 23rd September 2016, the assignment had been fully and satisfactorily accomplished by the OCIP 2016 interns. This constructed 4-seater Network is easily expandable which is now ready for use as a computer Laboratory, and was commissioned by the Vice Chancellor, Rev. Fr. (Prof) Joe Turay, on 7th October, as part of the closing ceremonies when successful interns received their OCIP certificates.

Successful participants of the maiden OCIP

Successful participants of the maiden OCIP

The objective of the OCIP is primarily to give interns practical and real-life hands-on exposure to skills that will give them a positive advantage in the search for jobs, especially as an evidence of relevant previous professional experience.
There are, however, valuable benefits that can evolve from the programme. Firstly, if OCIP is made an annual component of the curriculum, the Department will have no difficulties to set-up an ICT team that should be able to handle most, if not all, IT projects in the University as a whole. The Department has the required expertise to back up a supporting OCIP team.
Secondly, the OCIP produced IT team can vie for consultancy jobs from companies, not only in Makeni but whole of North and the country, as a whole, because our fees will be very competitive for comparable professional services.
And finally, UNIMAK may have landed a controlled and cost-effective solution to the Internship dichotomy.



Update Report from the Vice-Chancellor, August 2016



I would like to thank the Chancellor, Pro-chancellor and Council members for their continued support and efforts in our endeavour to build the University. This report will present a summary of activities for this academic year discussing opportunities and challenges for our university.


Despite the Ebola crisis and its attendant consequences, we saved the academic year and examinations have commenced for the final semester. Class coverage on the whole has been satisfactory and student attendance regular. Students participation in the learning process has been enriched by class presentations, department workshops and seminars, incubators, booth camps and Inter- departmental debates combining both theoretical and praxis.

Registered student population for the academic year is as follow for all the Faculties:

Faculty of Commerce and Management: 490
Faculty of social Sciences: 582
Faculty of Education: 23
Faculty of Agriculture and Food sciences: 35
Faculty of Mass Communication and IT: 119
Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities: 3
Total: 1252
Academic audit was conducted on some of the Faculties with the following recommendations noted: the need for regular departmental meetings ; departmental evaluation of students work; recruiting staff for specialized areas within some departments and continuous staff development.

Senate has approved an external audit team headed by Prof. John Birchall from Cambridge University to conduct an audit on all programs offered by the University.

The first cohort of students for the professional course in visual impairment have been certified.

Two post-graduate students were on placement at UNIMAK from the University of Sheffield, UK.
A. Strategic Plan

We have completed a draft strategic plan for UNIMAK with the participation of staff and students and now requesting the input of Council members. Soft copies of the Strategic Plan will be posted to members for their inputs. The Strategic Plan has prioritized the following objectives:

Strengthening existing courses and introducing relevant academic courses with special reference to health sciences and technology; strengthening of staff capacity; development and enhancement of policies to guide university operations; improvement of university infrastructure; increase student enrolment and mainstreaming of ICT.

B. Staff Development:

We have provided opportunities for ongoing development of staff through regular internal trainings and studies abroad. The University has benefitted from visiting professors from the following Universities: University of Cambridge; University of Notre Dame; University of Sacred Heart, Milan; The State University of Milan; University of Birmingham; University of Ghana; Catholic University of Kenya and the University of TorVergata.

The following have been recommended for further studies in Ghana:

Mr. Moses Conteh, Masters in Management and Human Resources Strategy, KNUST, Ghana.

Mrs . Bernadette M Y Kanu, Masters in Finance, KNUST, Ghana.

The following students were recommended by the University and have been awarded scholarships:

Victoria Adama Koroma : ( Common wealth scholar ) LLM in Gender, Conflict and Human Right Law in Ulster University , UK.

Mr . Alhaji A. Sesay : Masters in Business Administration Pukyong, National University, Korea.

The following have returned from studies:

Mathew Kanu with a Masters in Journalism and Communications, China.

Isata Mahoi , Doctorate in Economic Policy, Catholic University of Milan, Italy.

Alieu Kabia, Doctorate in Industrial Economics, China.
C. Curriculum Review and New Programs

The Senate continues to provide oversight to the processes of curriculum review and the development of new programs. This process is a response to existing and emerging learning needs. A key feature in these processes has been the participation of stakeholders whose needs have been reflected in the programs. The following is the list of programs approved by Senate for recommendation to Council and they fall under already existing Faculties:

Certificate in Urban Planning

Bachelor of Science in Procurement Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Bachelor of Science in Economics

Masters in Education

A new Centre for Sierra Leone Studies has been approved by the Senate that will serve as the informed and respected place of study to and source of information available to those wanting to further their knowledge of Sierra Leone. This Centre is also hosting the prestigious Sierra Leone Studies Journal edited by a number of academics in Britain under the leadership of Prof. John Birchall



Senate has approved a new committee working under the Directorate of Research and Publications.

Through collaboration and partnership Faculties continue to be engaged in research and projects:

1. Mental Health Project: 1. Strengthening Evidence for the scaling of psychological First aid in humanitarian settings : in partnership with War trauma foundation, Queens University Amsterdam.

2. Building Back Better, in partnership with Mental health Coalition and funded by German Technical Cooperation

2. UNIMAK has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Metabiota Institute on the project :

Preventing the Next Ebola Epidemic: identifying the animal reservoirs and novel hosts for Ebola Virus in West Africa.

3. UNIMAK has also an MOU with the Sierra Leone Judiciary on the project: Proposal for Law reporting in Sierra Leone: the law reports will be published under the name Sierra Law reports.

4. The Institute of Inclusion for Special Needs (UNIMAK) has been selected in partnership with Sight-Savers and CEFORD) for funding by the European Commission for the project : Education for Children with Disabilities in Bombali District

5.Arias A et.al (2016) Rapid outbreak sequencing of Ebola virus in Sierra Leone identifies transmission chains linked to sporadic cases, Oxford University press.

6. Experimental treatment of Ebola Virus disease with TKM -130803: A Single-Arm Phase 2 Clinical Trial

7. Charles A et.al (2016) Notes from the Field- Ebola Virus disease Cluster in Northern Sierra Leone

8. Smiths S et.al (2015) Genotype anomaly in Ebola Virus Strains circulating in Magazine Wharf area Freetown, Sierra Leone


1. The University of San Pablo, Madrid, UNIMAK and Makeni City Council hosted an international conference in Madrid, Spain on the theme: Planning the African City, the Case of Makeni, Sierra Leone. These partners are working on the proposal to host a UNESCO Chair for planning sustainable African cities at UNIMAK.

2. Completed a strategic planning with Association for Development Cooperation (AGEH) on resource governance and have appointed a technical consultant for our Governance Program with logistical support .

3. With Plan International, supported by Irish Aid, the Institute of Inclusion and Special Needs, UNIMAK, has completed the training of thirty seven teachers from schools in Bombali district and other educational stakeholders on special needs education in Sierra Leone.

4. A National Conference on the Transition from the Millennium development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals in Sierra Leone was organized by the our graduates in Sustainable Development studies with support from UNDP and other stakeholders.

5. The following seminars and workshops were also conducted:

: With UNDP on Post 2015 Agenda and sustainable development Goals.

: Training of pastoral ministers on social transformation and ministry by the Centre for Social Transformation, UNIMAK.

: With the IMF , Economic Report of IMF on Africa, 2016.

: The Makeni Business Forum organized by the MBA Class

6. Mental health Centre, UNIMAK continues to provide services for the training of nurses and community health workers on mental health counselling services.

7. Our Law Clinic continues to provide legal aid services to the community.

8. A delegation from the Saint Lawrence Foundation, Italy visited the University in a bid to strengthen collaboration and partnership.



a. The building to host the Department of Public Health will be completed in September at the Sylvanus Koroma Campus.

b. With the support of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority and Chancellor, work is in progress on road construction and maintenance of the Fatima Campus.

c. We have discussed with the Chancellor the need for more lecture halls and an additional Library at the Sylvanus Koroma Campus.

d. Construction of a perimeter fence of the Fatima Campus and students canteen is in progress.

e. An audited report of the finances for the last two years has been conducted by the Bum and Doherty Auditing firm.

f. A number of benefactors have donated scholarships to students in the university: the Diocese of Makeni; Friends of Bombali District; Saint Lawrence Foundation Italy, Amici della Sierra Leone, Italy; Makeni Trust Fund , UK; Family without Borders, USA; Management of Sierra Leone Airport; Red Cross Sierra Leone; the Church of Latter Day Saints and Commodity Investment Company, SL.


UNIMAK launches Centre for Sierra Leone Studies


The country of Sierra Leone has a long and interesting history. It holds a unique place in the development of the continent of Africa. As such it deserves to have an academic institution, based on its own soil, that serves as the most informed and respected place of study and source of information available to those wanting to further their knowledge of the country and its people.

We hope that, over a period of time, we can develop a centre of learning that attracts scholars from across Africa and elsewhere. In order to commence this ambitious project, we will use all the modern digital tools available to us. We will begin by building both an anthology of materials available in all academic disciplines and providing a detailed bibliography of work stored elsewhere and currently being researched and where this maybe viewed and incorporated into the work of scholars studying  and writing on all aspects of Sierra Leone.

read more about this development …

UNIMAK Congratulates Alumni

The University of Makeni is pleased to congratulate two of its alumni on their continuing academic success:

Dr Isata Mahoi - UNIMAK alumna.

Dr Isata Mahoi – UNIMAK alumna.

UNIMAK alumna Isata Mahoi has graduated with a  Ph.D in Economics from the Catholic University of Milan.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Meanwhile UNIMAK female lawyer Victoria Adama Koroma ( the best student of the Sierra Leone Law school in 2015) becomes a Commonwealth Scholar to pursue LLM in Gender, Conflict and Human Rights Law at the Ulster University, Northern Ireland, UK for the 2016/2017 academic year.

Lebanese Ambassador Mr Nidal Yehya visits UNIMAK

Reporter MATTHEW KANU writes:

The Lebanese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Mr Nidal Yehya has paid a courtesy call on staff and students of the University of Makeni (UNIMAK). Welcoming the Ambassador on Friday 12th August 2016 the UNIMAK Vice-Chancellor, Rev Joseph Turay said the visit of the Lebanese ambassador to UNIMAK is timely and a step in the right direction that will not only create partnership but will benefit Africa as a whole and Sierra Leone in particular.

He said the University of Makeni was established in 2005 to positively contribute to the development of Sierra Leone after the civil conflict that ravaged the country, particularly the education system. Over subsequent years there are many countries, institutions and organizations that have contributed in rebuilding the Sierra Leone education sector, and the Lebanese community is one of them. “As an institution of higher learning we want to acknowledge the contribution of the Lebanese community in the development of education in Sierra Leone, … establishing partnership with the Lebanese embassy in Sierra Leone will make higher learning a viable tool for measuring our development strides and challenges after the Ebola outbreak “ he said.

Addressing students and staff of UNIMAK Ambassador Nidal Yehya stressed the significance of his visit to the UNIMAK. “This is not only an outreach activity for me and my entourage but one that will create a bilateral relationship that will promote higher institution of learning and national development. It is only education that will increase our full potential as a nation and one that will measure up to our expectations in making the world a better place to live “ he emphasized. Ambassador Yehya promised to establish links between UNIMAK and universities in Lebanon and to assist students who are doing well but cannot afford to pay their fees.