Mornings on the slopes of Mount Aureol are unlike any other; the chilled breeze and tranquil quietness are broken only by chirping birds, honking cars and the chatter of commuting students. These serene plains are home to the oldest western-style university in West Africa Africa. The Fourah Bay College (FBC), was founded in 1827 and for almost 200 years, it has been the epicentre of higher education and advanced learning in Sierra Leone.Despite its illustrious heritage in the aftermath of an 11-year civil conflict which provoked a downward spiral in the type and quality of education, many efforts are being made to transform learning outcomes for students. .
In August 2018, H.E President Julius Maada Bio launched the Free Quality School Education (FQSE) Program and allocated 21% of the national budget to fulfil the government’s flagship commitment to boost educational standards nationwide. This undertaking promises to directly benefit 2.6 million school children , who make up approximately 37% of Sierra Leone’s population. These and other developments demonstrate that there is indeed the political will to effect inclusive and radical reforms in education. Further engagements at the Technical and Higher Education level have seen the government increase the salary of university lecturers and student hostels and learning environments have been upgraded by the government. New departments of Mining Engineering and Architecture have been established at FBC as the government promotes human capital development relevant to the 21st Century.
Much has changed at Mount Aureol since the gloomy days of the early post-conflict years; there is even an unfamiliar spectacle of DSTI’s CIO Dr David Moinina Sengeh, lecturing close to hundred students in a final year (honors). While Dr. Sengeh serves as the Minister of Basic Education, he is one of the young, dynamic and spirited academics rewriting the narrative in post-secondary education. The course he is currently lecturing is titled Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program (FENG 510).
Dr. Sengeh believes that FENG 510 has the potential to make meaningful contributions to Sierra Leone’s Human Capital Development Agenda through a robust course model designed to equip students to rethink business models that are more impactful, sustainable, and connected to other sectors of the economy such as Poverty Reduction, Education, Health and Agriculture.
FENG 510 can empower students with access to information, job opportunities, and services that invariably improve their living standard whilst enhancing opportunities for data gathering and analysis for more targeted and effective entrepreneurship strategies. However, the biggest value is that the course is hands-on. Students will develop and present prototypes accompanied by detailed business plans as part of the course – Dr David Sengeh.
Students currently enrolled in the course believe it raises crucial awareness, inspires and stimulates their interests as budding engineers to embark on careers focused on harnessing the culture of upscaling technologies to develop creative entrepreneurship schemes.
Mr Emmanuel Gaima, a mechanical engineering student, said;
“The FENG 510 program presents a unique opportunity for Sierra Leone to leapfrog in its efforts to cultivate a sustainable nation-building drive. Dr. Sengeh is making great strides in this direction. It is a surreal experience to be taught by Dr. Sengeh. He is cheerful, welcoming and above all highly intelligent. Bearing witness to what he has accomplished both academically and as a high-level government official is a wake-up call to us as youths and future engineers, not merely to be spectators or observers in the struggle for national development but to be active participants and proponents of it.”
Miss Afanwi Dobgima, a student who hopes to specialise in electrical engineering, also expressed identical sentiments;
I think FENG 510 is an enlightening and mind-blowing class. Dr Sengeh has helped me to gain a better understanding of how we can co-opt technology and
entrepreneurship to improve Human Capital significantly. We have discussed at length the limitations of engaging technology here, two of which are inadequate electricity supply and data availability and affordability. As Engineering students, he challenges us to do more to tackle these issues. That being said, leveraging tech is a step-by-step process. With all hands on deck, we can help Sierra Leone achieve the best version of itself. These are some of the thoughts I always leave the classroom with.
With such enthusiasm and appetite for success, Dr. Sengeh is convinced that students in the FENG 510 program are uniquely positioned to make cutting-edge interventions across multiple sectors in the coming years as they will possess the requisite toolkits to tackle existing drawbacks preventing the integration of emerging tech for national development. For Instance, in the Agricultural sector, farmers can leverage the Internet of Things to optimise productivity and reduce waste through data-driven “precision farming” techniques. Also, with numerous health challenges exacerbated by climate change, limited physical infrastructure, and a lack of qualified professionals, technology can help mitigate these threats and build sustainable health care systems.