We Can’t Deny the President LIED on Independence Day By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

On April 27, the day of the anniversary of what is called Sierra Leone’s “Independence Day”, Ernest Bai Koroma made a series of spurious claims about his leadership achievements. It is not that the content of his speech differed from what he had said on such occasions each year during the last nine years. For those citizens who actually listened to the address, they did not do so expecting to hear anything new. Instead, they continue to listen to Koroma as part of a laughing game. Some words and sentences are permanent features of his scripted speeches at this point. Words such as “thousands of jobs for the youth”, “a peaceful and democratic country”, “an economy with a double digit growth”, and “a country with a resilient people” have become staples of the presidential vocabulary in the last nine years.  People can write the bulk of Koroma’s speeches before he even gives them. For a decade, he has recycled the same tired phrases.

This year’s “independence day” speech was no different. Koroma said it would be his last “independence address” to the country. This was also not news either. Despite his unsuccessful antics and efforts during the last five years to subvert the presidential term limit and prolong his presidency, everyone, except for his noise makers, expects him to vacate the seat of power when his term expires less than a year from now.

There are, however, some strange and absurd claims made by Ernest Koroma in his “independence speech” this year.  Again, it is not that these strange claims were themselves actually unusual or out of character for the administration. The propaganda machine that produced them, however, has become so thin and bare, that their absurdity was obvious. This year, the president went beyond even his usual exaggeration and made too many lies and false claims in his effort to ascribe to himself accolades he does not deserve. The speech left numerous questions in its wake, all of which challenge the truth of what was stated.

While we are all aware that the president’s claims on jobs for the youth, the state of the economy, the health sector, and roads are not new, in this year’s speech, he took his “development propaganda” to a new place in the desert. He claimed to have “established three universities in just nine years”. And while propaganda from this president is expected, while there are many scripted claims from the development hymn sheet his supporters have choired all these nine years, this year’s claim of “newly established universities” went far beyond the margins of even the usual government propaganda that characterizes his leadership.

Where are the three universities that the president claimed to have established in the last nine years? This is the crucial question that formed the centerpiece of the social media discussion which broke into frenzied debate during the speech in order to interrogate the president’s truthfulness. Listeners especially challenged the president’s university claims.

In my own contribution to this discussion, I pointed out that the president’s claim on “newly established universities” is nothing but a complete lie on an Independence Day celebration. The fact is that Ernest Koroma did not build or establish any university in the country during the last nine years of his tenure. Was he actually referring to the University of Makeni (UNIMAK) and Malaysian-owned Limkokwing University campus in Freetown? These two institutions are neither owned by the state of Sierra Leone, nor are they semi-public educational institutions.

Limkokwing in Freetown is an extended campus of the Malaysian-based Limkokwing University. It is purely operating as a private educational institution. Similarly, UNIMAK is a catholic-owned private university. These two universities were not established by the government of Sierra Leone and are not owned and/or administered by government (as opposed to the University of Sierra Leone and Njala University, which actually have the president of Sierra Leone as their Chancellor).

The third institution that comes next in line here is the Makeni Teachers College, which was later named Northern Polytechnic. This is a teacher-training college and has never been a university. Quite recently, Ernest Koroma forcefully re-named this institution The Ernest Bai Koroma University. This was done despite the fact that the institution does not meet any of the required criteria to be named a university. Outside of its HTC Primary and Secondary certification programs, its recent Bachelor’s program in education (B.Ed.) is administered as an ad hoc program under Njala University.  How can a teacher training college, which cannot run an independent Bachelor’s program in education, be called an autonomous university? Is this not completely absurd?

The Sierra Leone Universities Act of 2005, which is the law that governs the establishment and administration of universities in the country, is clear on the question of university establishment and administration. It stipulates in Section 3(2) that “each institution specified in the (Act) in relation to the University of Sierra Leone or, as the case may be, to the Njala University, shall constitute a campus of the respective university, and any other institution stated in that schedule as constituting or incorporated with the institution concerned, shall cease to exist in its former name.” Based on this provision, therefore, the Northern Polytechnic or Makeni Teachers College (now forcefully named The Ernest Bai Koroma University), whose B.Ed. program is currently administered by Njala University, is technically a campus of Njala University in the north of the country. So the effort to re-name it as a separate university when it’s highest degree (the Bachelor in Education) is administered by Njala University runs completely against the provisions of the Universities Act of 2005, which is the law that governs the establishment and administration of universities in the country.

So the question still remains: where are the three universities that Ernest Koroma claimed to have established in the last nine years? If these are the institutions that the president actually referred to in his speech on April 27, then it is obvious that the head of state did, in fact, lie to his audience when we claimed to have established three universities. It is unfortunate that a speech, which is supposed to commemorate an “independence day” event, contained such barefaced lies about national development rehearsed by the “first gentleman” of the nation himself.

Despite these facts, a few noise-making supporters of the president are trying to stampede those critical of the president’s April 27th address to the nation.

Initially, they tried to argue that the president did not actually claim to have “established three new universities” but that he was allegedly making reference to the fact that the said institutions were “established during the nine years of his tenure as president”. They went even further to say that the president’s comments were, in fact, “we had established three universities in nine years” as opposed to “my government has established three universities in nine years.”

If we have to constrict the scope of this discussion to these very distinctions that the president’s noisemakers are now trying to advance, it is also too obvious that their efforts will still fail to set the president free from the entrapment of lying to the public on an Independence Day celebration. They have failed to understand that the problem itself rests on the president’s use of the collective pronoun “WE” when referring to the establishment of the universities in question (UNIMAK and Limkokwing).

It is the use of the collective pronoun “WE” that makes the president a claimant of the accolade for these institutions establishment. The collective pronoun “WE” is different from the pronoun “THEY”. By employing the use of “WE” when referring to UNIMAK and Limkokwing, the president wrongfully ascribed to himself the accolades for the establishment of the said private educational institutions. The collective pronoun “WE” would only have been appropriately employed if the president were a personal shareholder in the said institutions, or if the said institutions were actually owned or directly established by government. None of these situations apply in this case.

Another effort to defend the president’s statement also argued that whether the president is involved or not, the fact that these private institutions were established during his tenure makes him the owner of the credit for their establishment. The individual who advanced this argument said government is “the most powerful institution of the state” and must not be “grudged of the achievements that happen under its tenure.”

This is a sorry defense for the president’s Independence Day lie to the nation. Certainly, there are things that governments are given credit for.  These do not include credit for the private investments of individuals, or for the establishment of private corporations and limited liability companies owned by individuals and/or groups that are not part of the government’s organizational machinery. A private educational institution such as UNIMAK is a private investment in education by a catholic organization. It is not the same as Njala University or the University of Sierra Leone. To equate UNIMAK with University of Sierra Leone is no different than equating SIERRATEL with AFRICELL. There is certainly a difference between these two entities even though they are both involved in telecommunication.

The point is that Private corporations like Bollore Africa Logistics or SOCFIN are not within the same economic tangent as NASSIT or the NRA or SALWACO or EDSA. Private educational institutions, therefore, should not be lumped together with public investment in education. Governments only take credit for educational institutions that are public-owned and administered or funded. They do not take credit for private educational institutions that operate as educational businesses.

The fact is that governments have an obligatory mandate to provide economic and social development for their citizens. It is not a charity but an obligation. The credit for government policies that encourages private sector investments in education, health, mining, agriculture, and other such sectors of the economy are complimentary, but they are not part of the milestone public programs that are used in assessing a government’s scorecard on its social service delivery to the citizens.

The need to address the president’s university claims is crucial, because the president’s record on education is indicative of his failure to deliver fundamental social services to the people. In fact, the crumbling state of the country’s institutions of higher learning and the frightening speed with which educational standards have tumbled in the last nine years stand as one of the president’s greatest failures, especially to the youth of the country. Why have Njala University and the University of Sierra Leone become constant sites for industrial action in the last nine years? What happened to Njala University students who demonstrated recently against the closure of the university for a whole semester? Are all these examples not indicative of Koroma’s failure on education? What does it say about how our president cares for and prioritizes our youth when, despite the clearly dismal state of the nation’s university system, he has the audacity to claim progress is being made?

About a year ago, the London-based Economist Magazine reported that the University of Sierra Leone only has about eight university professors for a student population of eight thousand. Is this not a national disaster? How then can a government talk of establishing three additional universities in a country where the professoriate is almost non-existent?

These are the questions the president’s hero-worshippers and noisemakers must put to him. They must be bold enough to tell him that he lied to the country during his “Independence Day” speech. Anything less is an affront to the thousands of struggling students in this country.

 

 

 

 

 

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From the Kangaroo Report to the Illegal Court’s Decision: Omissions, Erasures, and Silences

Capture

 

On 11th May 2015 a memo was delivered at my house inviting me to a meeting: “Invitation to a meeting with an appointment sub-committee to look into the renewal of appointment of Dr. Ibrahim Abdullah”. On receipt of the said memo, I called the registrar to clarify the real purpose of the meeting since my appointment has never been subjected to renewal since I started teaching in 2005. His response was that I am not a tenured faculty and that the committee will have to review my appointment and make recommendations regarding tenure.

The Kangaroo Committee’s report, which I was never given, revealed the real motive informing the alleged renewal of my appointment that the Dean himself considered unprecedented: it was the inauguration of the illegal process that would eventually culminate in my dismissal.

Titled “REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE THE RENEWAL OF THE APPOINTMENT OF DR IBRAHIM ABDULLAH” it went against all the rules and regulations on natural law and justice; and made mockery of what a real tenure assessment entails. There is nowhere in the world were an alleged tenure review is also an investigation!!!

To begin with, the idea of the Committee was unprecedented: Any action against a tenured faculty starts with a formal letter. This was never done. To subvert the laid down rules and regulations, Mr. Thompson, the Vice Chancellor, and Mr. Dumbuya, the Registrar, illegally claimed ex-cathedra that my appointment was not tenured. If that was indeed the case, why was I not subjected to an annual contract appointment? Why was I accorded all the trappings of a tenured faculty? Why was I promoted to the professorial cadre after an external assessment? In the interest of justice and fair play they should explain this anomaly to the general public.

How can a committee set-up to look into the renewal of my appointment become a committee to “investigate” my renewal? Can a renewal be “investigated”? If so, why so?

Mr. Thompson set-up the Committee and went to testify to the same committee as a witness. Is this in line with the natural justice that he claimed he applied in cases involving the university? He not only went to testify against me, he also lied to the committee: that he invited me to his office and that the committee should consider transferring my line to the political science department. I wrote a letter complaining about what the outgoing head of department did, and requested a meeting with Mr. Thompson. And I do have documentary evidence to back up my claim.
The report of the Kangaroo Committee was never officially given to me. Two copies of the report were leaked to me—from different sources at Tower Hill. I only knew about the report when I met Mr. Thompson on 26th January. He even asked me, feigning, if I have seen the report. Can he set-up a committee—to “investigate renewal”— and withhold the report from me?

My testimony to the committee was selectively used and the documents I submitted/tendered were NOT included in the appendix to the report. The Head of Departments’ handwritten one-page course outline, which is damaging to their case, was discarded. My course outline was also turned down. The claim in the report that I was “responding to the questions bothering (sic) on why the Head of Department decided not to recommend the renewal” of my appointment was concocted by the Committee. The Committee NEVER mentioned anything about what others have said about me. If they had mentioned that my response to their questions would have been completely different. (I turned down an invitation to a conference in China during the month of Ramadan and recommended the Head of Department but the Committee conveniently decided this was not important for the public to know).
Three previous encounters centered on professional misconduct—a veritable background to the surreal drama was deliberately amputated. In 2005/06 academic year I offered to jointly teach a first year class with Mr. Spencer. I did the course outline, bought books, and taught for two weeks. When it was his turn to teach he pitched twenty minutes late. When I enquired what the problem was his response was “ nar d system”. I reported the matter to the then Head of Department, who did nothing, and left him in charge. During the second semester a lecturer supervising a final honors dissertation allowed the student to turn in a final copy with close to 40% plagiarism. As the second reader of the said dissertation I brought the matter to the attention of the Head of Department and the student was asked to do a re-write. The student in question is now a lecturer in the law department. In 2006/07 academic year, the then Head of Department, Mr. Alie was apparently too busy with party politics and was constantly away—not attending lectures and not supervising student dissertation. When the dissertations were submitted to me I discovered that students had plagiarized: wholesale liftings! I told the Head of Department that the dissertations couldn’t pass. He pleaded with me to let them go but I refused and marched him to the then Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Gbakima. We were at Mr. Gbakima’s office when the then Principal of FBC, Mr. Redwood-Sawyer, barged in uninvited. I quietly told him to walk out because he was not invited to the meeting. His response was that I am not to tarnish the “reputation” of FBC and that he would never allow me to head the Department of History. In the end nothing substantial came out of the meeting: the dissertations were resubmitted and I was asked to check all the grades in the department. There was a lecturer who gave his wife an A when she was clearly not an A student. Another lecturer who had graduated the previous year with a bachelors was teaching a final year course in which 60% of the class had A’s. The latter was subsequently prosecuted in court for soliciting funds for grades and dismissed. The Kangaroo Report deliberately silenced this important background information.

The selectivity, omissions, and erasures in the Kangaroo Report were deliberate: the rationale was to present their case by suppressing my voice in the report. I was never given the opportunity to challenge the current Head of history Mr. Spencer’s outrageous claims—I did not even know about them— nor did the committee reveal any of the testimonies by those called in as witnesses. Yet Mr. Alie was privy to my testimony and was allowed to respond to them. Is this in line with the pursuit of justice? The injustice and lack of deference to procedural rules comes out clearly in the presentation and modus operandi of the committee. I was NEVER presented with any claim or accusations and even when I questioned the legality of the committee, they collectively feigned innocence in their attempt to appear impartial.
The outrageous claims presented by Mr. Spencer—refusal to teach; non-attendance at departmental meetings; treatment of students; attitude to messenger/visitors; etc.—were NEVER presented to me. They are baseless allegations solicited by Messrs. Thompson and Dumbuya. There is no documentary evidence or testimonies to back up any of these claims: minutes of departmental meetings; testimony from students; visitors; and messengers. Their sole “veracity” lies with the claimant making the claims. But the context demands that they be rejected. In the copy of the Kangaroo Report leaked to me, Mr. Thompson minuted: “Prof. Abdullah has now been queried. Let’s proceed from here. The relevant section of the Code of Conduct should be cited/referred to. Please direct Dr. Spencer”. And Mr. Dumbuya concurred: “I endorsed this”. Is this not a clear case of conspiracy to achieve their hidden but not so hidden objective?

The duplicitous manner of Messrs. Thompson and Dumbuya need some emphasis. The Kangaroo Report, which informs the illegal verdict of the court presented to the public, was doctored to serve their nefarious inclination. The Kangaroo Report does not reference “rudeness”; this was added to have the desired effect of discrediting me. The bulk of their outrageous claims are from Mr. Spencer’s letter. The said letter informed the committee that “ Abdullah suffers from deep pscho-social problems” and this should be taken into consideration when making a decision. But because this would appear too partial and damaging to their cause, it was omitted from the verdict presented to the illegal university court.

It is perfectly normal to ask the Head to write a letter, assuming this was really a tenure evaluation. But there is no faculty at USL whose current curriculum vita is available anywhere in the university’s creaky bureaucracy. If the Head has no access to my current curriculum vita, on what basis did he pen a letter against my so-called renewal of appointment? How did he evaluate my teaching? My research? And my service? He had virtually nothing to say about these three pillars—teaching, research and service—the raison d’etre of any functional academy. Yet his top of the head letter was accepted as the basis for an informed decision to convert my tenured position to a one-year appointment. To crown it all, there was NO EXTERNAL assessment—a sine qua non in any professional tenure review process.

To invite the Dean—who claimed he did not invite me to discuss the matter because he knew I wont come—as a witness, and the Principal—who did not reply /acknowledge my letter but then went on to urge me to teach a course without the relevant readings—is to stack the deck against me. This is anything but justice.

And the professional issues raised in my letter of November 2013, which mobilized Mr. Thompson’s accomplices on the Hill were shafted and silenced in the surreal drama of arbitrary power and lack of due process that has come to characterize this brazen illegality in our premier institution. How can a head of department solely review a department’s curriculum? Is this professional best practice? The previous Head, Mr. Alie, claimed he did review the syllabus, which one student rightly claimed is “older” than them. Instead of setting up a committee to look at the strength of the department and what it can offer and then review the curriculum and request the hiring of more faculty to press on with a graduate program, the so-called review only included two courses from me. Since the so-called review was undertaken, more than six years ago, and the committee report issued, virtually nothing has been done to right this ancient anomaly.

Mr. Thompson lied in the report that informed the university court’s verdict. His claim that he had to invite me to discuss the issue in the department is just that: a bogus claim. There is no difference between what the report that informed the court’s decision references as constituting the background and what he claimed informed his decision to roll out his plan to get me out. And he deliberately confuses the issues without anchoring his narrative on specific dates. I wrote my letter in November 2013 stating why I couldn’t teach a particular course because the course was “assigned” to me by the out-going head of the department—who had no basis for such an action—on the very day I was to start teaching. During 2014/15 academic year, the new head of the department, Mr. Spencer, “assigned” the same course to me to teach. When I informed him that I could not teach the said course because the country had been shut down due to Ebola and that I had no access to books, he wrote back to say I have “refused” to teach claiming “where there is a will there is a way”. It is this alleged “refusal” to teach without books that became the rallying banner for their cause to dismiss me. The university wants me to teach without books and relevant reading materials. I buy my books for all my courses and stock them in the library.
Mr. Thompson also lied in the three-page court verdict that he only suspended my salary after our meeting of 26th January. I do have documentary evidence to show that my salary was suspended effective 1st January 2016. The memo signed by his faithful subaltern Calvin Macauley reads: “approval has been obtained for Abdullah’s salary to be suspended with effect from 1st January 2016”. The elaborate explanation that Mr. Thompson spun on why he took this decision when the issue was not even broached in my meeting with him clearly reveals a duplicitous character at work: by any means necessary—fair or foul!

In their collective bid to get me out by any means necessary, the duo, Messers Thompson and Dumbuya, skirted the real issues about standards and excellence in academe. Instead they rode on a train of illegality—riding from one illegality to another—The Kangaroo Report deliberately silenced my voice while the summary presented to the University Court’s denied me a fair hearing. The Universities Act 2005 is explicit on such matters: “ No person shall be removed or suspended by the Court, during the period of the contract, in the exercise of powers conferred by these Statutes, unless he has been given a reasonable opportunity to defend himself”(10:3).

Ibrahim Abdullah
26 July 2016

From Illegality to Jungle Justice: The Crisis of Fourah Bay College Continues

By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

The crisis of Fourah Bay College (FBC) reached the apex of its surreal drama this weekend. In what many have described as an unprecedented situation in the more than one hundred year history of the institution, the Court of the University of Sierra Leone announced Friday that it has “summarily dismissed” the renowned Sierra Leonean academic, Professor Ibrahim Abdullah.

Professor Abdullah, one of Africa’s leading contemporary historians, has been at the center of a protracted struggle against academic repression and injustice, orchestrated by the current administration, to remove him from the university. Abdullah’s professorial position was revoked in December 2015, and, since then, his salary has been equally frozen. The illegal decision came as a direct response of a beleaguered university administration, currently suffering from a serious crisis of administrative incompetence and ineptitude, to critiques made by Abdullah.

This past weekend, the University’s Court took an unprecedented decision: it unilaterally announced a verdict of dismissal against the renowned professor. The Court said it had terminated the contract of Abdullah on allegations of “insubordination, acts of indiscipline and negative attitude to work.” Abdullah’s only crime, it appears, is his ongoing refusal to submit to the draconian and illegal dictates of the university administration and his continuous criticism of the way the university operates.

The unprecedented decision came a day before a meeting of the Fourah Bay College (FBC) Alumni Association was scheduled to discuss the case of Professor Ibrahim Abdullah and that of another academic, Professor Tom Yormah, who was forcefully retired by the university administration.

The Alumni Association, at its meeting on Saturday, expressed grave concerns regarding the illegal dismissal of Professor Ibrahim Abdullah. The decision of the University Court runs contrary to the provisions of the Universities Act of 2005; the law that governs the establishment and operations of universities in Sierra Leone.

The Universities Act states in Chapter XI (3) that, “no person shall be removed or suspended by the Court, during the period of the contract, in the exercise of powers conferred by these Statutes, unless he has been given a reasonable opportunity to defend himself.” And it further adds in Chapter XI (4) that, “a reasonable opportunity to defend oneself means that the laws of natural justice shall be observed and the person concerned shall be entitled to be legally represented, to call witnesses in his own defense and to cross-examine any adverse witness and to adduce such evidence as he deems necessary for his defense; and if the decision of the Court is to suspend or remove him, he may appeal to the Chancellor who, after examining the evidence, may request the Court to constitute a new panel to review the case.” The Court’s action and decision on Friday clearly violated these provisions of the Act relating to the procedures for suspension, removal and/or retirement of university staff.

Professor Abdullah, for instance, was never invited to a hearing by the Court before the said decision, neither was he given an opportunity to present a defense nor call witnesses as required by the law governing the University and the Court’s operations.

The University Court hurriedly took a unilateral decision to dismiss Professor Abdullah in flagrant violation of the Universities Act of 2005. The required due process, which mandates the Court to give a reasonable time to an “accused” to defend himself, was clearly not followed. The Court clearly took a decision on Abdullah’s case without a hearing and without Abdullah’s side even being heard. It is obvious that the Court’s decision against Professor Abdullah was not only bias, but also represents a clear subversion of the principle of natural justice and a violation of the law itself.

Aside from failing to follow the principle of due process, the mandate of those constituting the University Court is actually long expired, a fact which clearly means that the Court, as currently constituted, lacks the legal mandate to even adjudicate on the matter. Additionally, the Court’s verdict on a matter that is currently on the desk of the University Chancellor also represents a subversion and usurpation of the powers of the Chancellor.

The Alumni Association, in its deliberations on Saturday, has resolved to challenge the illegality of the decision and a delegation of the Association’s leadership will be meeting the president on the matter. The Universities Act empowers the Chancellor to rescind a decision taken by the University’s Court on any matter relating to the university’s operations.

However, the question many have raised is why would the University Court resort to Jungle Justice in its effort to dismiss an academic whose case had attracted widespread international and national outrage in the first place?

In a widely circulated article published last month, Professor Abdullah wrote that he is engaged in a battle against “anti-intellectual forces” in the University of Sierra Leone.

“I am currently hemmed in, battling anti-intellectual forces at our so-called citadel of learning – a broken citadel of learning, as creaky as it is disused; bearing all the hallmarks of its slavery and slavish heritage,” he wrote. Professor Abdullah described the crisis of the university, as “the dirt of mediocrity.”

“It is a militant and passionate anti-intellectual culture, which continues to deprive an already deprived nation of the necessary tools with which to fashion its own emancipation,” Professor Abdullah stated.

At the heart of this surreal drama is the man in command of the university administration, Ekundayo Thompson. Thompson was appointed Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone in 2013 by the president, Ernest Bai Koroma. Under the laws of the University, the president serves as the chancellor of the university, and he equally appoints leading figures in the university’s administration.

Thompson’s appointment to serve as the University’s Acting Vice Chancellor has come under fire in recent times, with many questioning his academic qualifications and the circumstances surrounding his promotion into the rank of professor and his subsequent appointment to head of the university.

In recent years, Thompson has also been criticized for embarking on the illegal process of forcing the retirement of professors he perceives as threats to his position as head of the university. One such example is the case of Professor Tom Yormah, the former Deputy Vice Chancellor of Fourah Bay College who is currently battling against a forced retirement imposed by the Thompson administration. A University Court ruling in 2011 had recommended the extension of the retirement age for academic professors from 65 years to 70 years. Professor Yormah was forcefully retired at the age of sixty-five by Thompson; a decision regarded to be an irony considering that Thompson himself is now over 70 years old. Professor Yormah insists that the action against him is in violation of the University Court’s ruling on the age of retirement for academic professors, which was supposed to have taken effect since January 2012. But Thompson defied the Court’s verdict on the retirement age, and proceeded with his own plans of targeted dismissals and forced retirements. On Professor Abdullah’s matter, some members of the Alumni Association have described his dismissal as a classical case of jungle justice.

Despite widespread condemnation, Thompson continues to preside over a growing climate of campus disorder at Fourah Bay College and the other constituent campuses of the university. An internal university investigation conducted in 2013 into the operations of the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) under Thompson, for example, revealed that the vast majority of students who graduated with first class honors degrees did not meet the normal requirement of five Ordinary levels or WASSCE, including English and Math in not more than two sittings. And Thompson, himself, currently faces serious charges of plagiarism and academic fraud regarding his qualifications.

Investigators Release Plagiarism File against USL Vice Chancellor

Investigators have released a dossier containing cases of alleged plagiarism contained in a dissertation submitted to the University of South Africa in 2004 by Ekundayo J. D. Thompson, the current acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone.

The dossier’s release follows media reports last week that the University of South Africa (UNISA) has commenced an internal investigation into a report which listed cases of plagiarism found in a dissertation submitted to its College of Education by one of its former students, Ekundayo Jonathan David Thompson from Sierra Leone.

The University of South Africa, through a long-distance learning program, awarded Ekundayo Thompson a Doctorate degree in Education in 2004, and President Ernest Bai Koroma appointed him Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone in 2013.

He had submitted a dissertation titled, “An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Non-Formal Schools and Centers in the Urban Areas of Kenya” as part of the requirements for the award of the long-distance doctorate degree in education from the University of South Africa. But a recent report by a team of international investigators in the United States of America has uncovered numerous cases of evidence suggesting that the said dissertation is the result of serious cases of plagiarism.

The report clearly stated that the dissertation submitted by Ekundayo Thompson to the University of South Africa for his doctorate degree has been found to contain passages and sentences that constitute overwhelming cases of plagiarism.

The plagiarism allegations listed in the report have been sent to the University of South Africa by a team of international journalists and researchers seeking clarification on the charges.

The report is attached below.

https://africanistpress.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/ejd-thompson-evidence-numbered-file.pdf
EJD Thompson Plagiarism Numbered Evidence

 

UNISA opens plagiarism investigation against USL Vice Chancellor

The University of South Africa (UNISA) has commenced an internal investigation into a report which listed cases of plagiarism found in a dissertation submitted to its College of Education by one of its former students, Ekundayo Jonathan David Thompson from Sierra Leone.

The University of South Africa, through a long-distance learning program, awarded Ekundayo Thompson a Doctorate degree in Education in 2004, and President Ernest Bai Koroma appointed him Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone in 2013.

He had submitted a dissertation titled, “An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Non-Formal Schools and Centers in the Urban Areas of Kenya” as part of the requirements for the award of the long-distance doctorate degree in education from the University of South Africa. But a recent report by a team of international investigators in the United States of America has uncovered numerous cases of evidence suggesting that the said dissertation is the result of serious cases of plagiarism.

The report clearly stated that the dissertation submitted by Ekundayo Thompson to the University of South Africa for his doctorate degree has been found to contain passages and sentences that constitute overwhelming cases of plagiarism.

The plagiarism allegations listed in the report have been sent to the University of South Africa by a team of international journalists and researchers seeking clarification on the charges.

“Over the last couple of months, we have been looking at various aspects of E.J.D. Thompson’s “scholarship” and educational background, including a verification of the “Dissertation” he submitted to UNISA in fulfillment of the requirement for the award of his D.Ed. in 2004. Our investigation, has revealed evidence of several cases of plagiarism in the “Dissertation” submitted to UNISA by Thompson,” the investigators said in a recent correspondence to UNISA.

They pointed out that Thompson’s dissertation contains between 32% and 37% evidence of plagiarism.

“We focused only on overwhelming cases that can be easily found in conventionally published literature. Limiting our scope on this type of evidential material found in Chapters 1 and 2, we are able to safely say that the whole “Dissertation” in question contains between 32% and 37% passages and sentences that were found to be not unique to the author, and are therefore treated as cases of obvious plagiarism,” they stated in the report.

UNISA records indicated that Professor Eleanor Lemmer, a research professor in the College of Education, supervised Thompson’s dissertation in 2004. Investigators said they had earlier presented the plagiarism evidence to Professor Lemmer, the supervisor, but she offered no comments on the evidence.

In a correspondence dated May 16, 2016 Professor Lemmer only suggested that the matter be referred to the Research Directorate of the University of South Africa.

“I am in the process of retiring from the University of South Africa and I will have to refer your complaint to the Research Directorate of UNISA,” she wrote.

Earlier information from Professor Lemmer, however, revealed that Ekundayo Thompson scored only a pass in his dissertation evaluation in 2004.

Following months of communication and exchange of correspondences between investigators and UNISA authorities, the matter has now been sent to the University’s Vice Principal of Research and Innovation, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

In a correspondence dated June 15, 2016 Professor Phakeng has ordered an investigation into the findings of the report.

“I request that you investigate these allegations. I am copying the Dean of the College of Education (Prof McKay) for information since the allegations are about a graduate for CEDU and the Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning so that at least another member of Management is aware of this,” she wrote to Professor Michelle Havenga, the Acting Executive Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

“My view is that this is a very serious matter and I trust that you colleagues will deal with it well,” Prof. Phakeng said.

Observers say the UNISA investigation might recommend the withdrawal of the doctorate degree awarded to Ekundayo Thompson if the allegations in the report are corroborated by the University’s internal investigation.

The international investigation team, however, stated in its report that the evidence contained in the plagiarism report was verified through multiple checking tools used by the publishing industry, and that the clinical verification carried out on Thompson’s dissertation show that the document cannot pass any plagiarism check regardless of the tool employed.

“Our overall findings are that, the entire “Dissertation”, from the above evidence in Chapters 1 & 2, cannot pass any plagiarism test regardless of the method of verification or the plagiarism tool(s) employed,” the report concluded.

Investigators said they had sent the report of the said plagiarism findings to Ekundayo Thompson himself nearly two months ago for his reaction, but he refused to offer any comment on the matter.

“I will not talk to you or anyone concerning this matter. I know the reason why you people are after me,” Ekundayo Thompson said angrily on the phone when he was contacted for a response.

The international investigation, which uncovered the plagiarism evidence, has also been looking at other aspects relating to Ekundayo Thompson’s academic qualifications and the many problems affecting higher education in Sierra Leone.

In a separate investigation report released in early May 2016, they had earlier questioned Thompson’s academic qualifications and the criteria used in his professorial promotion. That report also revealed significant findings, which seriously challenged the credibility of the academic publications listed against Thompson’s name, which they said, might have formed part of the folio that was probably used to determine his qualifications for a professorial position.

Those earlier findings equally pointed to a long chain of irregularities ranging from academic fraud and intellectual deception. It also gave a clear case of how Ekundayo Thompson’s listed publications on Amazon, for instance, did not qualify as academic publications because they failed to meet the publishing industry’s publication standards and distribution requirements. That report also stated, among other things, that Thompson’s listed publications are not formally published academic materials or standard trade publications.

A senior lecturer at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) described the Thompson story as staggering.

“It is the germ of an international disgrace in the making,” he said. “These are serious allegations that call into question the whole basis of integrity in academe. It raises questions about how Thompson was hired; who hired him; and how he got promoted to a professorship in the space of six years after his long-distance degree,” he emphasized, adding that the situation is unprecedented and deserves to be investigated at all levels.

The University of Sierra Leone itself has been at the center of serious controversy since Thompson was appointed to head the country’s premier institution of higher learning by Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of Sierra Leone.

In early April 2016, a report by the London-based Economist Magazine revealed that the university’s student population of over seven thousand has only a total of nine academic professors. All but two are due to retire in the next two years.

University of Sierra Leone suffers another setback over Prof. Abdullah’s case

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has postponed an international workshop for Sierra Leonean scholars scheduled for June 15 and 16, 2016 in Freetown because of ongoing international protests against the University of Sierra Leone over the case of Professor Ibrahim Abdullah.

For several months now, the University of Sierra Leone has come under severe national and international criticisms for its failure to uphold academic freedom and its acts of injustice against the notable academic, Professor Ibrahim Abdullah.

The latest development followed attempts by the University Registrar, Sorie Dumbuya and Memunatu Pratt, the head of the Fourah Bay College Peace and Conflict Studies Program, to exclude Professor Abdullah from participation in a workshop for Sierra Leonean scholars that would have been held next week.

The said international workshop was to be organized by the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council, which supports independent African research on conflict-affected countries and neighboring regions of the continent. The organization seeks to integrate African knowledge into global policy communities.

The postponed workshop in Freetown was designed to help Sierra Leonean scholars who are interested in updating their knowledge of various aspects of proposal writing, such as framing research questions, research methods and ethics, literature review and proposal budgeting to be able to compete in SSRC-APN grant competitions.

The organizers said peacebuilding researchers in Sierra Leone have had historically low participation and success rates for SSRC-APN grant competitions.

“It was hoped that the workshop will give participants the opportunity to learn more about the various APN grant opportunities, including the application process and proposal requirements, and how to submit a good grant application,” one of the organizers stated.

The postponement came after, Memunatu Pratt, the current head of Fourah Bay College’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies objected to the inclusion of Professor Ibrahim Abdullah in the workshop.

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) had invited Professor Abdullah to serve as a resource person for the said workshop in Freetown.

“As a leading peacebuilding scholar and researcher, we believe that your insights and experience would be invaluable to participants and wish to extend an invitation to you to serve as a resource person for the workshop. The expectation is that you will make presentation on Contextualizing Research in Existing Literature and hold one-on-one sessions with three proposal writers/participants on ways to improve the quality of the proposal or their papers,” the SSRC had written to Prof. Ibrahim Abdullah on May 4, 2016.
But Head of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, Memunatu Pratt protested against the SSRC’s decision to include Prof. Abdullah as a resource person. She alleged that the Registrar of University of Sierra Leone, Sorie Dumbuya does not want the renowned international academic to be included in any of its programs.

“The university administration has made it clear that Prof Abdullah must not participate in any activity that has to do directly with the University or its constituent colleges or departments. In this regard and in the interest of the partnership, it will be our mutual interest for him not to be involved in this program,” she wrote to the SSRC.

Dr. Cyril Obi of the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and Memunatu Pratt had earlier signed the letter of invitation sent to Professor Abdullah, but Madame Pratt objected to the inclusion of Professor Abdullah without consulting the SSRC.

Professor Ibrahim Abdullah described the University’s decision as an act of war against academic freedom in Sierra Leone. He said his struggle for academic freedom and justice is a battle against “academic jihadists” who want to run a university without regards for law.

“The powers vested in the Registrar has to be exercised within the laws of Sierra Leone—- not any arbitrary norm or illegalities designed by Mr. Dumbuya or any of his subalterns to undermine democratic institutions and practices. Neither the Registrar nor you, Ms. Pratt has any instrument on which you could stand in excluding me from participating in any meeting. At issue here is the continued violation of my academic rights of which you Ms. Pratt is now a party,” Prof. Abdullah wrote to Memunatu Pratt and the University Registrar, Sorie Dumbuya.

Following the evolving controversy, the SSRC has resolved to postpone the workshop and there are now concerns that this would result to sour relations with Fourah Bay College.

Observers say this latest development will also have severe impacts on the University’s relationship with other partner institutions around the world.

A lecturer in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies expressed anger over the action of Memunatu Pratt and the University Registrar, Sorie Dumbuya on the matter saying that the SSRC’s decision to postpone the workshop is not good for the University of Sierra Leone.

“The University must respect academic freedom and standards and it must address the case of Prof. Abdullah,” he said.

Professor Abdullah is one of Africa’s leading contemporary historians and also renowned conflict scholar in West Africa. Between 2002-2004, he was awarded a prestigious SSRC grant as part of his research on issues around the conflicts of the 1990s in West Africa.

Since January 2016, he has been engaged in a protracted struggle against university administrators at Fourah Bay College over decline in teaching and learning standards in the University of Sierra Leone. University authorities retaliated against his open criticisms of the current status of the university by suspending his salary and took an illegitimate decision to revoke his tenured professorial position. The case has drawn national and international attention with several petitions sent to the president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma who technically serves as the head of the University of Sierra Leone.

In early April 2016, an international conference of academics meeting in Lilongwe, Malawi described Prof. Abdullah’s case as a violation of national and international laws relating to academic freedom and justice.

“We believe that Professor Ibrahim Abdullah, a distinguished scholar of high international repute, raised questions of academic standards because of his deep commitment to his university and country,” they said in a letter sent to Sierra Leone president through the Council for the Development of Social Science Research (CODESRIA) on April 20, 2016.