Sierra Leone Higher Education: At the Crossroads for Change

Koso-Thomas, one of Sierra Leone’s leading academic scholars, entrepreneur and professional engineer, in his new book ‘Sierra Leone Higher Education: At the Crossroads for Change’, outlines the successes and challenges in developing the educational institutions for the training of engineers.

Human capacity building is one of the key pillars on which the development and prosperity of a nation rest.  Its strength, however, is derived from a complex set of factors relating to education and training of manpower. Early strategies applied by various governments in Sierra Leone following independence from Britain, underestimated the investments required in education and training, particularly in the engineering fields to achieve sound economic growth and prosperity.  There is a direct relationship between capacity building and institution strengthening in the sense that weak institutions cannot build strong manpower capacities.   Furthermore, institutions starved of funds to undertake their vital roles in manpower training cannot produce the manpower requirements for economic development and prosperity.  Thus, engineering manpower as a component of the productive cycle of any nation, must of necessity be trained in institutions where the quality of the products is not jeopardised by inadequate funding or internal prejudices. It is only through the production of well-trained engineering and technical personnel could we expect to benefit from a progression of technical advancement from one generation to another, enriching the social and material lives of all citizens.

In the early 1960s, light industries were beginning to appear in urban centres in the country, joining the mineral extractive industries that had earlier been established in the rural areas.  Yet, training institutions in Sierra Leone were unable to supply the calibre of personnel required to fill vacancies at the senior technical levels. Most of these vacancies had to be filled by personnel trained overseas, only a few of these were Sierra Leoneans.  It had been obvious for a long time that the poor planning strategies and lack of commitment from government to provide the resources that were required, prevented existing institutions from taking advantage of those past opportunities.

The decision taken in 1954 to introduce engineering as a discipline at the University of Sierra Leone began a new chapter in the educational history of the country.  It showed that the country was then ready to correct the weaknesses in the institutional arrangements for manpower training in the country.  The university took the challenge and prepared itself for the first steps towards the local training of the nation’s professional engineers.

The book can be purchased on Amazon.