By Desmond Jones
The Secretary General of the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS), Mohamed Kamara, has told AYV that the strike action put up by students of Fourah Bay College came as a rude shock to the national student body.
Kamara said NUSS was expecting that both the college administration and the students union would have settled the issue amicably without recourse to violence.
He maintained that the NUSS, as a national students’ body, was responsible to superintend the activities of students and appropriately mediate between Students Unions and their respective College authorities and national State actors.
He said it was on that back drop that the NUSS has decided to play the role of a neutral mediator in ensuring the issue was peacefully resolved.
He further stated that when the issue came up, both the college authorities and the college students’ union government were issuing press releases and counter press releases.
He said NUSS had the course to intervene in a press release calling on the FBC Student Union government to stop issuing threatening press releases and further advised the administration to put on hold their decision of inviting senior officials of the student union government to the college disciplinary committee, as the situation was conflict provoking.
However, he said the situation looked under control until when news broke out that the college authorities have rusticated 31 students for alleged illegal occupation of the college hostels.
He said as a result, the Student Union President met with His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who is the Chancellor of the University, pleading on behalf of the rusticated students. He said the President promised his student Union counterpart to look into the situation.
He said on Thursday the SU President of FBC called him to inform him of a press statement stopping the rusticated students from taking the on-going second semester exams.
He said in the morning of last Friday, he went to the college campus and found out that the students were protesting for their rusticated colleagues. He said he appealed to the students to be calm, and pleaded with the Police to exercise patience and restraint.
He said despite NUSS was a body that sought the welfare of students in Sierra Leone, yet NUSS did not condole act of indiscipline by students. He further maintained that NUSS considered any act of indiscipline to be a disruption of normal learning process in the University community.
Furthermore, he said NUSS was not against the fact that the administration took disciplinary measures against students, but wanted to ensure students were appropriately punished for the crime they committed.
He said rusticating students for illegally occupying the hostels was a wrong move made by the administration. He said the crime committed by the students was not commensurate to the punishment levied on them by the administration.
He said suspending students to stay away from the University system for over a year was a significant blow to the educational system of the country. He further suggested that the administration should think of an appropriate way of punishing the students, particularly those that appealed.
Meanwhile, the President of FBC Student Union government, Siman Alie Mans-Conteh, said they were still in negotiations with the college administration through mediation by the Chief of Staff, State House, Dr. Kelfala Marah. He said the arrested students have been released, and they hoped that the exams would resume this week or the next.
However, he said they were still insisting that the punishment meted out on their colleagues was harsh and they urged the college authorities to review the penalties.