The Chancellor’s Speech

My Vicar General, Representative of the Honourable Minister of Technical and Higher Education,

Chairman, Tertiary Education Commission and Team, Chairman, Bombali District Council; His Worship, The Mayor of Makeni City and Honourable Members of Parliament; Members of the University Board of Trustees, Members of the Governing Council and Senators; Vice Chancellor; Directors of Administrative Offices, Deans of Faculties and Heads of Departments of the University of Makeni; Members of the Clergy and Religious Congregations here present, Revered Paramount Chiefs and Local Authorities. Vice Chancellors and Registrars of other Universities here present; Members of the Administrative, Academic and Auxiliary Staff of the University of Makeni; Beloved Students, Distinguished guests, friends and well-wishers who have come to witness and grace this occasion, Partners in Educ., Media practitioners, Security Personnel, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Heartfelt greetings to you all and thank you very much for honouring me with your presence.

As Bishop of the Diocese of Makeni, I am deeply humbled, and at the same time, overwhelmed with gratitude to the Board of Trustees and the University Community on this occasion of my official installation as the Third Chancellor of the University of Makeni. As I embark on this journey, I solemnly pledge to serve and to be fully committed to upholding the values and traditions of academic excellence that have defined this institution since its inception.

My relationship with Unimak began in 2015 when I served as a part-time lecturer. That stint as lecturer was however short-lived as I had to assume the office of Vicar General of the Diocese of Makeni. But since I continued in my role as a member of the Board of Trustees and of the university’s Governing Council, assuming the role of the Chancellor is not in any way stepping into an entirely new and unfamiliar territory.

History is made by men and women who make meaningful and gainful strides for the good of others, and their good works will surely continue to make impact in the lives of people even when they are long gone. At this juncture, permit me to pay special tribute to my two predecessors: Bishop Emeritus George Biguzzi, Founding Father of the University of Makeni, and Bishop Natale Paganelli, the Second Chancellor of UNIMAK. Their meaningful contributions laid a solid foundation upon which we will continue to build and improve the good work they began. May God be gracious to them.

On behalf of God’s People in the Diocese of Makeni, may I also use this platform to express sincere gratitude to the Governing Council of the University, the Vice Chancellor – Rev. Professor Joseph A. Turay and his devoted team of collaborators, partners and sponsors for the sustainable contributions they have made and are still making towards the steady growth of the University of Makeni. UNIMAK as the pride of the Northern Region and the beacon of academic excellence in the country and beyond after barely fifteen years of existence is owed to your foresightedness, professionalism and commitment. Let us please give them a round of applause for a job well done. God bless you for the sacrifices you have made over these years.

In her mission of evangelisation, the Catholic Church, like many other faith-based institutions, has always prioritised education in every place, time and age. This passion and drive of the Church in establishing and running educational institutions especially universities since the 12th century is guided by the commission of our Lord Jesus to his disciples, namely, ‘to go out and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20). From this passage, we understand that the primary mission of the disciples is to baptize and to teach. The object of the teaching is “all I have commanded you”. Note that the nature of the mandate is unlimited. It is reasonable to state then that Jesus’ command has a universal destination. It embraces all components of life since God’s will is that the whole of humanity be saved and come to the full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). It is against this background that the church gives premium to her multifaceted vision of education.

Next, the Church’s passion for education is also based on the principle conceived by St. Augustine of Hippo that the Church has no right to beget children if she cannot educate them. Therefore, if the church begets children through the sacraments of Baptism and matrimony then the church has an obligation to educate those children to become repositories of values. Education then, for the Church is enlightenment or illumination. Enlightenment is to train or enable people to come to know and follow the Light. Light, here, signifies God Himself who is the Author and embodiment of truth and goodness. Quality education, then, according to the mind of the Church, is that driving-force to acquire knowledge of the truth about God and of his creation, especially the climax of his creation, the human person. Besides, the Church also strongly believes in the transformative power of university education and its ability to shape minds, inspire hearts, and change lives for the better. For a long time, universities in this country were seen as means to give graduates the credentials to become job-seekers, and so a long line of functionally illiterate people swelled our ranks and added to the frustration of thousands of unemployed youths in the street. Thankfully, UNIMAK has carved out a niche for herself as a leading institution that is training job-creators who are making impact in society. We cannot continue with business as usual. If education in the universities cannot change our thought patterns, feed our nation and create the energy for positive change in society, then, I’m afraid, they have lost the reason for their existence.

Please allow me to dig a bit into the roots of this long-standing relationship between the Church and university education. Academic terminologies and the nuances of words in the world of academia are all rooted in the history of the Church. Words like chancellor, vice-chancellor, pro-chancellor, professor, rector, provost are all ecclesiastical juridical terms now incorporated into the cultural environment of universities. This is how the relationship between church and university education has endured and continues to thrive. For example, when all of Europe was in flames with the Vandals and Huns laying waste to all learning institutions in the sack of Rome and destroying all traces of learning, universities were preserved by Catholic monks in the monasteries. This underlines the Church’s dedication to university education throughout the centuries. Let me put this in our own context: That over forty percent of the educational institutions in this country are Catholic is no mean testimony to an enduring legacy of promoting education for the holistic development of the human person. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10) This is our Catholic drive to complement the efforts of government in empowering her citizens to respond adequately to their needs, the needs of their communities, their country and the world at large. The University of Makeni, therefore, is at the pinnacle to serve this purpose.

As I conclude my address, I wish to outline some of my personal concerns and hopes as the in-coming Chancellor of the University of Makeni.

  • My major concern is that the University of Makeni, as a private academic institution, faces huge challenges of securing sustainable funding without government support. While public universities like the University of Sierra Leone rely heavily on government funding, alternative funding mechanisms are essential for institutions like ours. One such model could be the establishment of an endowment fund, commonly utilized by universities worldwide to bolster their financial resources. This fund could be sustained through contributions from graduates, alumni associations, and other organizations interested in supporting the university’s vision and mission. It is my hope that this concern be fulfilled sooner rather than later.
  • Next, by its very structure, a university setting symbolises unity – united not merely across the diversity of courses or disciplines it offers but across the diversity of its members in terms of thought, culture, background and belief – all sharing the same vision and purpose. It is my ardent hope that members of this university community should strive to cultivate a civilization of love, a culture of tolerance, open-mindedness and empathy where all members feel valued, respected, appreciated and empowered to reach their full potential. Unimak should strive to become a model of national cohesion; yes, a real unity in diversity, a beacon of hope and a catalyst for positive change in our society.
  • Third, I desire to see Unimak’s continued commitment towards dedicated dialogue and engagement with the community, the public and civil society with the sole aim of transforming toxic and unhealthy mind-sets into a culture of peace, tolerance and progress. As your Chancellor, I am worried about the extent to which “Kush” and many other related drugs are destroying the future of bright and promising youth in our universities. Dear Students, your wellbeing is my primary concern. Do not destroy your future with the illusion that drugs can make you smarter than you are. No lasting success is built without industry.
  • Fourth, I look forward to a holistic form of university education where the intellectual growth of the student is equally harmonized with his/her spiritual, moral, emotional and social development.

I pledge to work tirelessly to ensure the constant drive to maintain academic integrity and excellence in our university. And this begins with the recruitment process, where the university should prioritize selecting candidates based on their genuine university requirements and qualifications. Then, throughout their academic journey, students should be taught the importance of originality, proper citation, and the ethical code of conduct required in research and coursework. In fact, faculty members play a crucial role in upholding academic integrity by setting distinct and clear-cut policies and expectations, providing guidance, and enforcing academic standards consistently. In line with this concern, I implore that regular efforts be made to put in place robust systems for detecting and addressing academic dishonesty, examination malpractices, plagiarism in the writing of thesis in order to thwart or curb misconduct and protect the integrity of our academic credentials. In this way, we discourage students from being schooled in the demeaning art of cheating their way through life, including the education system. Failure to stamp out this menacing cancer is a recipe for a corrupt, backward and decadent society.

I am passionate about professionalism, especially on the part of university authorities, academic and administrative staff members who are expected to live by example within and outside the walls of the lecture room and campus. Faculty members who refuse to update, refresh, grow academically through publications and research and improve their delivery patterns in the lecture room might, in the future, have no place in a centre of excellence like UNIMAK.

Tied to what I have just stated is this next point: As a private university, the students are Unimak’s most valued customers, collaborators and ambassadors. Therefore, I desire to see a university where there is maximum respect for the students by university authorities and lecturers. No misuse or abuse of power in this university.

I expect our university to be open to embrace change according to the signs of the times. This requires changing mind-sets, putting aside unproductive models, dreaming big, envisioning a new horizon, acting big and never settling for dysfunctional mind-sets and failure.

Then there is the need, in the spirit of synodality, to foster collaborative ministry and the cooperation of all. Each member has something to offer or contribute.

In closing, I want to reaffirm how deeply humbled and honoured I am to serve this noble institution as the third Chancellor, and I pledge to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to its advancement. Together, let us embark on this journey with unflinching conviction, determination and perseverance, knowing that our collective efforts today will shape the future of our university and leave a lasting legacy of excellence and abiding service to humankind. May God bless the University of Makeni and may God bless you all.

Thank you for your kind attention!

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