“The – Great Fourah Bay College, Citadel of Learning, Athens of West Africa and Centre of Academic Excellence, Beacon of Light of Education in Africa, Pride of Sierra Leone , etc, …”– this was how FBC was referred to in the greater part of the 20th Century.
Yes, we were so proud of “our” FBC that the mere mention of its name and “us” being students were enough to instill fear in others and make them bow.
Unfortunately, the current FBC is totally different and the tears flowing from its eyes are asking just a single question- why? This is because FBC has not been given the attention it deserves in recent times and of the 3 constituent colleges of the University of Sierra Leone, FBC (including its environs) is on a life support machine, and it has been in such a state for almost 6 years now. The entire infrastructure is completely decrepit – you name them – the buildings are completely dilapidated with no renovations for a long time now; the library is a mini pool during the raining season; the tiles in the EJ Hall (newly constructed few years ago) and Chemistry building (another floor has been recently added to the original building) have resurrected; the physics theatre and the engineering department are in a state of paralysis.
To compound these ugly scenes, FBC is the only college in the world where a college is not a college, for there have been no accommodation facilities for students over the past 5 years. The “Great” Blocks of A, C, G, E, M, H and J and the beautiful Lati Hyde and Beethoven have completely deteriorated. Scrambling for chairs and tables amongst students; and clamoring for lecture halls amongst lecturers have now become a norm at FBC – one reason being the increase in the student population over time has not equaled the available infrastructure which have almost remained constant.
This mismatch has created tension between students and lecturers on one hand; and friction between lecturers and the Administration on the other.
Summing these problems is the deplorable state of the road from Lower Faculty, on campus as far as The Great Kennedy Building; and going towards Kortrght as far as that deep curve (immediately after the Principal’s residence at Kortright to where Prof Joe AD Alie is now staying).
Talk to the students, lecturers and the Administration on why this sad state of affairs and you will hear a compendium of excuses/reasons.
Without prejudice to any of these players/stakeholders, a summary has been provided below – lack of vision of the Administration, neglect by the government as current and past budgets over the years have not captured any rehabilitation component for FBC, no established research fund to spur Research and Innovation, inadequate “lecturing and understanding” materials, investment by the Administration not in tandem with the priorities of the college, (in)competent lecturers, ASA not getting the required support from colleague lecturers, lack of coordination between the Administration and the government, lack of trust between the lecturers and the Administration, lazy and dishonest students who want to have good degrees without deserving them and have made exams malpractices their specialties; etc, etc.
What has however seriously exacerbated the situation at FBC is this over reliance on BADEA to give a facelift to the entire college. In simple terms, BADEA is supposed to be the principal financier to transform the entire FBC (from hostels to lecture halls) but the project is yet to commence.
Five years now down the road, nothing is happening in terms of rehabilitation and the paradigm around campus for a very long time now is “we are waiting on BADEA”. This BADEA project is a classic example of how donor dependency has hindered the implementation of projects in most Developing Countries and by extension making a whole generation to suffer. So many students have started their studies at FBC without any hostel facility and have eventually graduated without any.
For those students coming from the rural areas, you can now imagine the difficulties they are going through. It’s really a shame that too much emphasis has been placed on BADEA when the government has the resources to transform FBC – after all, education is one of the pillars of the Post Ebola Recovery Strategy. The writer strongly believes that FBC’s rehabilitation can be undertaken without BADEA.
Exploring PPP is one route; the role of the Alumni Associations all over the world could be another; donations from philanthropists in the country and individuals are surest routes (for example, Hedge Fund Mogul Paulson donated US $ 400 M to Harvard University in America few months ago and this is why such universities are flourishing – so there are people here who can also do similar thing). This is because if these same people and MDAs made significant donations to His Excellency, the President at State House during the Ebola crisis, then they can also do the same for FBC.
What is more, even the lecturers are willing to contribute Le 200,000 of their salaries every month towards the rehabilitation of one of the buildings (preferable Arts Building) but should be given the authority to control the management of the funds and the eventual awarding of the contract. This should tell the reader the extent to which FBC has deteriorated and the displeasure of most lecturers to see how best the situation could be salvaged.
The government can demonstrate its commitment towards FBC rehabilitation by first reconstructing the deplorable road through and on campus. This track is not even a mile long and as a Development Economist and Project Planner, US $ 300,000 can do the trick – I bet my last dollar.
To justify this, FBC has now become a thoroughfare as government and private vehicles are plying this route towards Gloucester, Leicester, Hill Station, Southridge, Regent and even Lumley. Hence, the once peaceful and tranquil FBC especially on a Sunday has been lost. The deplorable condition of the road with so many potholes has further dented the image of this once “adored” college.
His Excellency, the President is the “Champion of Infrastructural Development” in the country and so, FBC should not be left out in this drive. An Executive Directive to the Deputy Minister of Works is all that is required for the Sierra Leone Roads Authority
(SLRA) through the Roads Maintenance Fund to turn FBC into a works yard. When that happens, FBC will start the next academic year with a bang. So if BADEA cannot start now, let the road reconstruction at least commence now.
As for the encroachment on FBC land, that is going to be an interesting piece soon
To summarize the discussion, the current priorities/demands of FBC are as follows –
1) Let the government rehabilitate the college road immediately after the bridge through Lower Faculty, on campus and as far as Kennedy Building; and through campus as far as Professor Alie’s residence.
2) Let adequate “lecturing and understanding” materials and equipment be procured/provided before the commencement of the 2015/16 AY.
3) Let other avenues be explored for the transformation of FBC and government can take the lead in this by allocating 0.6% of the country’s GDP. We should not wait for BADEA any longer.
Until these happen, pray that the Obituary of FBC is not announced because the tears flowing from its face resembles a (wo)man lying on h(er)/is death bed and saying h(er)/is last wishes with tears rolling down.