At long last the Justice Semega-Janneh Commission of In quiry visited the site of the much lambasted and allegedly non-existing College of Science and Technology at Hill Station. It was "jepeh londo!"
Behold the three magnificent and palatial edifices standing on the site making nonsense of the allegations; edifices that most of those traversing the Freetown/Regent stretch overlook, not for one moment associating them with an institution of education - their concept of such institutions been limited to nondescript and bland looking structures.
Well, did you hear that Attorney General Abdul Serry Kamal swooned with quivering fear on beholding the towering majesty, believing that a ghost had come alive? That cannot be ascertained. What is for sure is that the ghost-come-alive was a blow to the Attorney Generalís and those of his cohortsí crusading zeal to get the erstwhile Minister of Education Science and Technology, Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie exposed for non-existing crimes conjured up in the hate filled minds of those who had falsely perceived the former regime and its operatives as a bunch of criminals.
What in fact the inquiries into the Ministry of Education as it was administered by the SLPP have exposed is that the functionaries of the former administration were responsible and visionary people who had put national interest first before the persona.
When hate suffuses the mind confusion sets in. Thank God, however, that after weeks of questioning the AG could now understanding that the Hill Station Senior Secondary School project with a monetized value of Four Hundred and Eighty Million Leones had, in cognizance of the national needs, been upgraded to another status, that of a College of Science and Technology with additional funding to the tune of Seventy Million Leones, bringing the total to Five Hundred and Forty Million Leones, with a change of project title to Hill Station College of Science and Technology.
This underscores the fact that what was misconstrued as two separate projects was actually one and that no misappropriation of funds had been committed as had been alleged, since it was the European Union that tendered the programme and paid the contractors.
Neither the Ministry, nor the SABABU project had anything to do with the exercise.
When the efforts to create the impression that the said institution did not even exist had failed, still in desperation to nail somebody on the pull-him-down cross, the issue of the ownership of the land on which construction had been carried out then became contentious. Such contention was laid to rest however, after a very confident former Lands Minister, Dr. Alfred Bobson Sesay clarified in a recent testimony to the Commission that the land in question was a government land that was given to the College which is also a government institution. No crime in that, you see.
But the detractors were still not content so they raised yet another issue Ė that of the keys of the College. The truth of the matter is that for an existing school, the keys for a newly completed building would first be handed over to the Ministry of Education which in turn will hand it over to the board of governors for onward delivery to the principal or head teacher.
In the case of a new College then, the keys would have first been handed over to the Minister who would then transfer it to the proposed Education Trust that would manage the institution. David Walker whose name came up as shareholder, being a member of that trust actually signed in his capacity as stakeholder. Mistakenly, the word Ďshareholderí appeared instead of stakeholder. But there cannot be a shareholder to an institution with non-existent stock holdings Ė government being the sole owner.
A piece of advice to the current Minister of Education would be that he traces the keys for the College within the ministry itself; while for him to get a full grasp of the office he now occupies, and in the interest of continuity, he should discuss with the erstwhile minister the details of the said institution rather than going around searching for ghosts where ghosts do not exist.
The hoopla over the Hill Station College emanated from the desperation to discredit the SABABU project at all cost in the mistaken assumption that the institution was part of SABABU. The project however, is separate from SABABU and is being funded by the Islamic Bank and European Union.
Revelations at the Commission of Inquiry meanwhile, have proved the SABABU project above reproach. The project is still on course with 250 out of 392 schools already completed, while the remaining 142 are at various stages of construction. Seven thousand (7000) teachers have been trained, four million text books bought and 70% of schoolsí management committees trained. What has not been said about the project but which needs to be told is that the funding for the SABABU project of twenty million US dollars was actually a World Bank loan which was, on the erstwhile ministerís initiative, transformed into a grant. Shouldnít that have won praise rather than condemnation?
Even the IDB programme for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of 142 primary schools has, out of national necessity witnessed a redirection of funds, but only about 8% to support the demand for basic education and boarding schools, both more urgent national priorities. This redirection was however carried out with the expressed approval of the project director and the Islamic Development Bank Taskforce manager. This could therefore, not be misconstrued as either misappropriation or misapplication, but rather an appropriate response to the realities on the ground to help the Ministry of Education to establish Junior Secondary Schools and support teacher training; for without adequate numbers of qualified teachers the schools built will remain useless structures. This need was informed by the fact that as at 2001 40% of primary school teachers were unqualified and untrained, a sad state of affairs the SLPP had inherited but was desirous to correct.
These are the facts so far about the SABABU project and other projects embarked upon by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology during the last administration which should put everybodyís heart at rest.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.