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By Ibrahim Alusine Kamara (Kamalo)
It seems the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education will not stop acting ultra vires in its supervisory role of the country’s education system. Instead of going with the flow of the appropriate rules, the Ministry is said to be breaching the laws governing Sierra Leone’s education system with impunity.
While a heavy controversy overwhelms the education system over the decision of the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education to dissolve the University of Sierra Leone Court, including the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor and Principal, all believed to be far outside its legal authority, the same Ministry is said to have gone ahead acting beyond the boundaries of its powers by appointing the Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone (USL) on the 13th of March 2024 even as a substantive Chancellor existed and was in active service.
The ruthless state of affairs has led Dr. James Sanpha Koroma, who was the substantive Chancellor of USL at the time of the Ministry’s unwarranted appointment of a new Chancellor, to resign a day after, that was on the 14th of March 2024.
In his resignation letter to the Secretary to the President, Dr. Koroma expressed deep regret to formally resign as Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, citing the supervising Ministry’s gross interference in the administrative affairs of USL.
It could be recalled that the Ministry recently dissolved the University’s Court and appointed Prof. Aiah Lebbie as Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sierra Leone. This, however, brought about a deep standoff between the Ministry, believed to have contravened the University’s Act of 2021, and the Court of the University of Sierra Leone, said to have the authority to make such appointments.
The Ministry seemed to have taken advantage of the failure of the USL Court to appoint a Vice-Chancellor since the University’s Act 2021 was passed into law, thus acted beyond its authority by relying on Section 8(5), “Where the office of the Vice Chancellor and Principal is vacant, or if for any reason, he is unable to perform the duties of his office, the Pro Vice-Chancellor shall perform the duties of Vice-Chancellor and Principal until the Vice-Chancellor and Principal resume his duties or another is appointed in his stead.”
However, Section 9(1) of the University’s Act 2021, “A University shall have a Pro Vice-Chancellor appointed by the University Court from among the Deputy Vice Chancellors of the University,” exposes the Ministry as lacking the legal authority to appoint a vice-chancellor.
This conundrum at the USL is reported to have thrown a wedge into the full-fledged functioning of the semester as 9,750 students were reportedly thwarted in their readiness to pursue education. While matriculation was reportedly put on hold, exams were not timely taken.
While this was going on, several calls upon the Ministry from Sierra Leoneans – individual elites and civil society organisations – to uphold the principles of legal compliance and academic freedom became a fruitless endeavour, evident in the further appointment of Chancellor by the Ministry while a competent Chancellor was in office, an action described by many as “Administrative Bigamy”.
But between officials of the + of Technical and Higher Education and the President of the Republic, who has the constitutional authority and pleasure to appoint a Chancellor, is the question on the lips of Sierra Leoneans.
The other question that begs for an answer is, as Section 7(1) of the University’s Act is very clear that the Chancellor is appointed by the President on the advice of the Minister, who appointed the new Chancellor, while a substantive one was in office when no letter of such an appointment came from State House?
If not for anything, the Ministry must recognize and respect the established norms and standards by following the same to the letter. Let it be emphasized that appointing people without having the authority to do so, or when such powers are not delegated to someone is an abuse of office.
Meanwhile, as the Chancellor should be the chairman of the USL Court, Sierra Leoneans say they are waiting to see the reinstitution of the University’s Court, now that a new Chancellor has been appointed.

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