By Mac Jibba…………………….
Learning institutions all over the world have histories which guide and inform generations as to how it all started. For some, such stories are not usually remarkable until after decades of hard work and improvements. Institutions undergo systematic changes which are referred to as growth or development.
The concepts of growth and development are so much intertwined that most people often take one for the other. Growth and development go together but at different rates. Whereas growth deals with the progressive increase in size, development on the other hand is a process of growing or changing and becoming more advanced. It is however from this perspective that I will take a look at what is today the Eastern Polytechnic; the highest learning institution in the Eastern Region of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
The Eastern Polytechnic was established on the 1st October, 2001 following the Polytechnics Act of 2001. This Act gave the institution its legal existence and started operations as a merger of two prominent learning centers in the Eastern Region of the country – the then Bunumbu Teachers College from the Kailahun district and the Government Technical Institute in Kenema which is today the main campus of the Eastern Polytechnic.
As far back as 1924, the Bunumbu Teachers College came into being as a Catechist Training Centre by the Methodist Mission. Later in 1933, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) transformed the Centre into a Teachers Training College for Primary Schools and named it The Union College.
With the onset of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) movement in March 1991, Bunumbu fell into the hands of the RUF rebels in May of the same year. The college was then evacuated and in October 1991, Bunumbu Teachers College resumed operations as a displaced institution in Kenema on the campus of the Government Technical Institute. The Institute co-existed with the Bunumbu Teachers College on its campus between October 1991 and January 2001 when the Polytechnic Act was passed in Parliament.
Prior to the merger, the major function of the Bunumbu Teachers College was the training of teachers for the conventional classroom. Today, the Eastern Polytechnic offers courses for Training Teachers, Nurses, Medical Laboratory Scientists, Business Administrators, Tradesmen, Technicians and Mechanics. Students are certificated by the National Council for Technical, Vocational and other Academic Awards (NCTVA), a special Examining Body set up by the Sierra Leone Government which has replaced the Institute of Education at Tower Hill in Freetown.
The Eastern Polytechnic now has four faculties and two schools namely: the Faculty of Education and Community Development Studies, the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, the Faculty of Basic and Applied Sciences, the Faculty of Business and Management Studies, the School of Nursing and Medical Laboratory Sciences and the School of Distance and Continuing Education.From the various faculties and schools above, programmes are offered ranging from certificate to degree levels. In the faculty of Engineering and Technology, new certificate programmes in Renewable Energy have been established and are now on offer at the institution. Furthermore, the faculty of Education has established threenew specialist areas in Guidance and Counseling, Educational Administration and Early Childhood Education.
The Eastern Polytechnic currently operates on three campuses which are, the Kenema Campus in Kenema District, the Bunumbu Campus in Kailahun District and the Woama Campus in Kono District. There are plans underway to transform the Polytechnic into a university and in that vein, the college authorities have acquired about 344 Acers of land at Bandama, Small Bo Chiefdom, which is the proposed site for the university. The administration is currently busy reviewing the curriculums and upgrading them to university status.
On the various campuses, infrastructural developments are being expedited under the new administration. At the Kenema Campus, the library is almost completed and the Renewable Energy Laboratory is completed. The Science Laboratory and Amphitheater are under construction and would be completed before the end of this year.Similar infrastructural developments are simultaneously going on at the Bunumbu and Woama Campuses.
Twenty-five years ago, what used to be a training ground for teachers is today a center for training people for skills of all walks of life.With the growing student population, there are needs for expansion which has spurred the administration into acquiring land elsewhere. This is the dream of Professor Mohamed Tailu Lahai to witness and oversee the transformation of the Eastern Polytechnic into a university. The landmarks and other indicators are eminent. In the very near future the story of the institution will be different.