Pitfalls of pioneering education in Africa: The case of Sierra Leone


AS an international institution of higher education, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology faces challenges that are beyond one’s normal expectation.

Take the case of Sierra Leone, as an example, where the university has been established in its capital city of Freetown since 2014.

Just as the university was ready to begin the first semester with over 1,000 students, the deadly disease – Ebola – swept through the country, forcing it to suspend operations after it had spent millions to renovate and equip the campus.

A deadly disease stops campus openingUndaunted, the university stayed on to assist the government by creating content for mass dissemination through print, radio, television and outdoor communications, under its “Stop Ebola” campaign. The campaign was aimed at bolstering the spirit of Sierra Leoneans in beating the disease.

It was two years before the campus could finally resume operations with a new cohort of 1,092 students in July 2016. Fees were dropped by half to facilitate the government’s desire to raise the calibre of its youths through education. On March 17,2017, the president officially launched the university. But trouble was brewing as election fever gripped the country the following year to prepare for general elections in March 2018.

New government begins corruption probe on previous governmentIncumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma could not contest, after holding the position for the past 10 years. So, the field was literally wide open and the campaign was intense. Eventually, a new government took over and probes began to identify the abuse of power of the previous government. Naturally, the university, as a foreign investor, came under scrutiny and funding for sponsored students came to a halt while the university underwent an audit in May 2018.

Limkokwing assists in probe by Anti-Corruption CommissionIn March 2020, the university was invited to assist the government as it conducted a probe of the abuse of power by the former Education Minister and the results were released in a public report published in the main newspapers. In a nutshell, the report upheld the Memorandum of Agreement signed between the university and the government with recommendations to review the fee structure. It agreed to settle outstanding fees and review the powers of the Higher Education Minister on the awarding of scholarships as well as the establishment of universities.

Limkokwing University Sierra Leone approved to reopen campus post-Covid-19While waiting to reopen the campus, the university has been invited by the government to a stakeholders meeting with public universities to discuss financial aid programmes for new students. The Technical and Higher Education Ministry will be submitting to Parliament a revised Memorandum of Agreement to regularise the government’s arrangement with the university and, thereby, move ahead with its human capital development programme.

The Malaysian media sensationalises by focusing on corruptionIt is unfortunate that the Malaysian media chose to sensationalise the issue by making allusions of corruption involving the university, primarily by the fact that the probe was conducted by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone. In actual fact, the university was assisting the government of the day and had earlier undergone a formal audit giving credibility to the legal standing of the institution.

Limkokwing University has been pioneering Malaysian education in Africa. The woes have been many, the uncertainties tremendous. But it has prevailed in overcoming issues that would have crippled many others. It continues to stay true to its mission to bring education to those who need it the most.

DATUK GAIL PHUNG

Senior vice president

Corporate development

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology

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