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Njala University Takes Radical Approach to Innovation & Job Creation

HomeAYV NewsNjala University Takes Radical Approach to Innovation & Job Creation

Njala University Takes Radical Approach to Innovation & Job Creation

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Speaking at an academic seminar held recently at the University’s Mokonde campus, Dr. Maurice Sesay, Acting Head of Physics & Computer Science, laid out plans for developing and preparing students for 21st Century jobs, through computational thinking, connectivity and coding.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Sierra Leone’s youth unemployment rate is 70%, with some 800,000 young people looking for jobs at any given time.

“We need to bridge the gap between the university and the workforce so that the curriculum can be designed to make students more marketable,” said Dr. Sesay.

Dr. Sesay who returned from a week-long hands-on workshop in April at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, is the focal point for Njala’s membership at the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) at MIT.

The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) in the Office of Sierra Leone’s President, has appointed Njala University to become Sierra Leone’s beneficiary of the J-WEL program, as it is the nation’s leading educational institution for STEM, with a robust research program in Computer Science and technical postgraduate education.

DSTI, whose mandate is to transform Sierra Leone into an innovation nation, has an ongoing research and knowledge-sharing relationship with MIT, that includes forging partnerships between academic institutions in Sierra Leone and MIT.

J-WEL is an incubator for change which aims to spark a global renaissance in education for all learners, by leveraging MIT’s resources to convene a global community of collaborators for sustainable, high-impact transformation in education through research, policy, pedagogy, and practice. Its membership includes other higher and technical institutions from Asia, South America, Europe, and Africa.

Njala’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr. Joseph Sherman-Kamara said that DSTI’s support through J-WEL, would allow the institution to harness the tools needed to make graduates more employable.

“Higher education systems around the world are undergoing tremendous transformation in the face of unpredictable circumstances in the job market, due to rapid advancements,” said Dr. Sherman-Kamara.

He added that the 21st Century technological revolution, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, means that mechanized jobs are giving way to automation; creating a demand for STEM skills, computing, and data science.

He went on to say that Rapid Prototyping, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Social Media Marketing are some of the 20 fastest growing skills in the world and that those who cannot learn the language of computing will be left behind.

“Coding is just a language; everyone can code. The best students, the most marketable, will be those who can speak spoken languages as well as computer languages like python,” he said.

The seminar was attended by several higher education administrators from across Sierra Leone, including the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Njala University, the Vice Chancellor of the Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology, and other representatives from Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema, and Milton Margai College of Education and Technology.

At the end of the Seminar, both Dr. Maurice Sesay of Njala and the DSTI signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Sierra Leone’s Chief Innovation Officer, said that Njala has demonstrated tremendous leadership in the manner in which it had embraced technology. The school has not only made ICT compulsory for all incoming students, but Njala also offers free open WIFI on campus (a first in the nation), allowing instant connectivity and public access.

“In terms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – digital biology, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, you’re talking about the right things to make Njala not just a leader in Sierra Leone, or the continent, but for Njala to compete globally,” said Dr. Sengeh.

He challenged the university’s administration to go beyond making computer science compulsory, to making coding an essential part of the curriculum as English and Mathematics. Moreover, to the students, he encouraged each one to make it a priority to solve problems using technology.

“It is our responsibility as students, as learners, to create the solutions that we need,” said Dr. Sengeh during a roundtable discussion with a cross section of students.

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