Francis Ben Kaifala Esq, Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), on Wednesday 15th June 2022 revealed that education in Sierra Leone has taken the center stage of late, lamenting how the fake degree scandal has rocked the country.
He quoted the late Nelson Mandela as saying that “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world is education” and Malcolm X who said “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who are prepared for it today” while former American President Barrack Obama said, “in a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity–it is a prerequisite.”
He made the statement as a Guest Speaker at the Solade Adams Public Lecture Series on the topic, ‘Sanitization of the ‘Dominion’ Effect. Retracing the ‘Athens of West Africa’ to Unleash Sierra Leone’s Developmental Aspiration’ held at the Great Hall of the MMTU, Goderich campus in Freetown.
According to Francis Ben Kaifala, the Greeks held the view that if philosopher-kings were made all will be well, that during the 19th century Sierra Leone occupied an enviable position in entire West Africa but in the 1970s and 80s bad governance crept in while corruption reared its ugly head as the meager funds allocated to the education sector were embezzled resulting to overcrowding in schools, low wages for teachers, lack of teaching and learning materials with endemic corruption and bad governance that led to the civil war.
He also enlightened that Government has prioritized education as 30% of the national budget goes to the sector and upgraded a number of tertiary institutions all in the country’s efforts to retrace its steps to get back to where it was affirming that the ACC is clamping down on academic fraud as the children of today are the seeds of tomorrow and that there is loss of faith in professionals at all cadres.
He furthered that during the same period educational institutions decayed and dilapidated as there was a lack of adequate facilities, little incentive to attract quality teachers while the syllabuses were not in line with modern trends and lamented that the country has lost the title of Athens of West Africa that resulted to the setting up of the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry stating that the 6334 system of education was “an error of judgment.”
The guest speaker quoted a UNESCO report as stating that Sierra Leone’s literacy rate is 48.1, that no country can develop without education, that fake degrees, honorary PhDs, and other titles and examination malpractices have now become the order of the day, and asked the rhetoric question, “how did we get there?”
He said the penalty for acquiring fake degrees is five years imprisonment and recalled the ACC press release of 19th April 2022 in which it clarified that there are state institutions like the Tertiary Education Commission, Public Service Commission, and the Human Resource Management Office among others that are responsible to address the issue stating that the 205 ACC staff nationwide is inadequate but informed that the ACC has established a Task Force to support other institutions to address the issue, appealed to students to be examples to others to change the country reiterating that one does not need to have a PhD to succeed in life but that people must merit what they have underlining that dishonesty would not dominate the country.
He revealed that the ACC undertakes massive public sensitization for transparency to reign, undertakes system reviews in government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies as well as tertiary institutions where they attack the minds of students and are covered by intellectual freedom, that Sierra Leoneans hate corruption only when it does not benefit them and appealed to all to support the fight against corruption.
Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of MMTU, Dr. Philip John Kanu warmly welcomed Mr. Francis Ben Kaifala to the campus and observed that Sierra Leoneans do not know how to celebrate their compatriots. Introducing, the guest speaker, the head of the Hotel Tourism and Nutritional Sciences, Ms. Aminata Bangura revealed that the ACC has made remarkable improvements in the fight against corruption in all indexes both local and international.
Papa Njai, Coordinator of Short Courses at MMTU, who moderated the program, underscored the timeliness of the topic by citing the case of the fake degrees awarded by the Dominion and Africa Graduate Universities, recalled the period when Sierra Leone was described as the Athens of West Africa and hoped lecturers and students would take advantage of the knowledge gained by disseminating it.
He continued that the guest speaker would do justice to the topic, that MMTU is now a force to be reckoned with in Sierra Leone and soon in the West Africa sub-region citing the recent visit of The Gambian delegation to MMTU to understudy its achievements.
The question and answer session and the vote of thanks given by Santigie Conteh, a final year student, climaxed the well-attended event.