President Dr Julius Maada Bio has decorated and installed Chancellors for four public universities in Sierra Leone, assured them of autonomy in governance and urged them to project the integrity of their respective institutions.

Dr James Sanpha Koroma is now Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, Professor Sahr Gevao, Chancellor of Njala University, Mr David Omatshola Carew, Chancellor of the Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology, and Justice Nyawo Finda Matturi-Jones, Chancellor of the Kono University of Science and Technology.

Dr Koroma is a celebrated banker, economist, founder Managing Director and now Chief Executive Officer of Union Trust Bank Ltd. Before then he held several national public offices and international leadership positions in the UN, World Bank, and was former Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone in 1998.

Prof. Gevao, appointed Chairman of the Sierra Leone Council for Post-Graduate Colleges of Health Specialities in 2019, has a distinguished academic and professional career with the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, University of Sierra Leone and Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Mr Carew is a distinguished economist, who served as Minister of Trade and Industry and before then he was Minister of Finance from September 2007 to February 2009 in the previous government. Before becoming minister, Mr Carew was the Managing Partner for KPMG, before it became Baker Tilly SL.

Justice Matturi-Jones is a retired Supreme Court Judge, described by her peers as a fine woman with unblemished character, who worked across Sierra Leone right from being a magistrate to serving for many years as High Court Judge in Kenema and eventually became a Supreme Court Judge in 2016.

While welcoming the gathering, Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Alpha Tejan Wurie, said it was a unique occasion for a sitting President to relinquish his position in the university, saying that it was indeed hard in Africa for one to give away such a prestigious position.
He added that such a drive, by President Julius Maada Bio, was to depoliticise public universities and to expand the educational sector, promote effective management and proper productivity.

“As chancellors, you will be the exclusive administrators of your various institutions. I, therefore, urge you all to work hard and add more value. You will be managing and protecting the image of those universities,” he noted.

Chairman of the Tertiary Education Commission, Professor Aliyageen Mohamed Alghali, noted that it was a bold step by the government, adding that the step was a show of commitment to increasing access to education in the respective institutions. He added that the Commission stood ready to advance the management and development of the universities for quality service delivery.

Speaking on behalf of her colleague chancellors, Justice Matturi-Jones thanked President Bio for the confidence reposed in them to govern the various universities and for his drive to support and strengthen the educational sector.

She assured that they would be diligent in the exercise of their duties as chancellors and further reminded her colleagues that the task before them was a difficult one expressed hope that they would work harder so as not to fail in their various duties.

In his statement, President Julius Maada Bio recalled that when he made the decision to depoliticise public university governance, he was intentional and had thought about it, adding that his decision was also about assuring a future of effective and autonomous governance for public universities.

“So, we are here today to not only celebrate a promise delivered but to work towards a future of excellence and development at our universities. The constraints and challenges are still many, no doubt. But that is where focused and autonomous leadership supports the growth and development of our public universities.

“With the politicisation of university governance, public universities relied on what subsidies the Government could allocate to those institutions. Lower allocations led to frequent student strikes as student rations and services were reduced to bare minimums and university hostels, faculty housing, libraries, and lecture halls fell into rapid disrepair.

“The correlated decline in the economy had impacts on investment in public universities. Financial mismanagement and a lack of investment in physical and digital infrastructure were evident,” he said.

The President bemoaned the already diminishing university autonomy, which brought about diminished participation of faculty and staff in the operations and future of their institutions. He added that because of the arbitrary executive interference in everything about the university, faculties were dispirited and staff eventually saw themselves as having lesser stakes in ensuring excellence in their own institutions.

“The consequence was obvious – a sharp decline in the quality of higher education in our country. Curriculum offerings were not aligned with the skills development needs of the country.

“So, when I made the decision to depoliticise public university governance, it was well thought out and intentional. It was about assuring a future of effective and autonomous governance for public universities.

“In the New Direction Manifesto, we made a firm commitment as a party to ‘establish a university system that employs its own leadership as chancellors.’ These would be persons with ‘distinguished and proven records of higher education leadership, significant international clout and contacts (funding and research networks), and who are reform-minded,” he said.