Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, His Excellency Mohamed Yongawo on Saturday 26th August 2023 graced the Second Annual National Union of Sierra Leonean Students’ Convention in the Russian Federation as Keynote Speaker on the theme: “The Impact of International Students in National Health, Finance and Development.”
In his statement and as this was his first public engagement with students, H.E Yongawo used the opportunity to congratulate His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio on his resounding victory in the June 24th, 2023 free, fair and transparent Elections. Ambassador Yongawo also congratulated the Minister of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE), Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurrie being one of the Guest Speakers at the convention.
The Diplomat thanked the government of President Bio for his continued support of the country’s human capital development, among others, for paying allowances of students every academic year through the MTHE.
To encourage students to see a reason to return to Sierra Leone upon completion of their studies, Ambassador Yongawo provided data on the Sierra Leone medical workforce, which included the number of Doctors, Nurses, Community Health Officers and Pharmacists.
He informed the convention of his team’s efforts, which led to the increase in the number of scholarships from 37 (when he took up office) to around 150 students, and the majority are medical students mainly studying at the People’s Friendship University RUDN.
H.E Yongawo continued: “My team and I made a special appeal to RUDN for medical scholarships. Thus for the last five years on an annual basis, Sierra Leone has been awarded 15 medical scholarships. This was increased to 25 this academic year; and we are grateful to RUDN and the Russian Government for such a gesture.”The Diplomat added: “This quota is in addition to 25 scholarships in various fields of study awarded to Sierra Leone through the MTHE on a yearly basis.”
He encouraged the students to always engage the Embassy in dialog to discuss any of their concerns, such as delays in their stipends/ allowances. “Don’t engage in public demonstrations at the Embassy; engage us as this is the best way to address issues”, H.E Yongawo admonished.
“We are here today as a result of our collective efforts of the Mission and students working together to market our country to the Russian people and other nationals in this country”, he added.
The diplomat continued “I am very proud of your academic performances in your various Universities across the Russian Federation, and I am not surprised as it is known that Sierra Leoneans are very intelligent people.”
Ambassador Yongawo ended by reminding the audience of President Bio’s Big Five Game Changers: “They are achievable with the collective efforts of all Sierra Leoneans both home and abroad.”
The Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurie delivered her speech online. She started by extending a salutation from His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio to the students and distinguished guests at the gathering in Moscow.
The erudite Minister committed government’s continued support to human capital development, pledging to work with all stakeholders in the academic sector.
Madam Minister used the occasion to speak about diversity, cultural exchange, and enhancing and fostering social cohesion.
She informed the meeting of the role her ministry is playing in the forefront of President Bio’s human capital development, calling on students to use the opportunity available to create networks with other foreign students, the business community and the Russian people as this will be beneficial in their future careers and to the people of Sierra Leone.
The Minister encouraged the students to embrace diversity for a globally connected world; to help them to contribute positively to Sierra Leone and the international space.
“We want to create a positive cycle of change and also change the narratives. When we motivate you we are motivating the next generation of active young people” ” she concluded.
The outgoing President of the National Union of Sierra Leone Students in the Russian Federation, Alhassan Bangura thanked his Executive and the entire Students body in the Federation, with special thanks and appreciation to Ambassador Yongawo and his Mission Staff for accommodating and always helping them out during their stay in the country.
Mr. Bangura outlined his Executive’s successes ranging from online lectures of particularly Russian Language to new students, establishing an online Library, Students’ Magazine, and website.
According to the outgoing NUSS President, as students, their major challenge was the late payment of stipends/allowances.
He used the occasion to appeal to the Minister of Technical and Higher Education to consider an increment of their annual stipends to meet the demands of an increase in living costs.
Alhassan Bangura, on behalf of students in the Russian Federation, congratulated His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio on his resounding victory and went on to thank him for his continued investment in human capital development and his exemplary leadership skills in leading Sierra Leone.
Other speakers were the CEO of AFRUS Business Group and AFRUS, Freight Brokers, Mr. Alex Arnold Whitfield, Dr. Kadia Bundu, CEO Aidak, and NUSS Sierra Leone President, Mohamed Rex Bonapha.
The convention ended with certification, music, comedy, and colorful cultural performances by students and other artists, which were all representative of Sierra Leone’s diversity.