About FBC and Its Past Students

Mahmoud Idriss is a trained economist with professional experience in: macroeconomic and multi-sector policy research and analyses; financial and investment analysis; project development, feasibility analysis, appraisal and reporting

Written by Mahmoud Idriss

The history of the Fourah Bay College students body is one that cannot be written without consistent evidence of a strong bond of camaraderie; camaraderie that was created out of a sense of unity in fighting the challenges of social and economic hardships; out of a concentration of youthful exuberance and pure aspirations for achieving the highest virtues of social and political ideology; and out of a desire to have fun – in its fullest. No matter the generation or the academic decade, these things, and more, are always there to make Mount Aureol a special place and time in the lives of all who study there. Needless to add, that this number has included many; ministers, diplomats, senior Government officials, successful entrepreneurs and business people, and even the current president of the republic.

There have been various efforts and initiatives that various groups of people have used to bring together students of certain periods to discuss, share memories and plan issues that could make Fourah Bay College and Mount Aureol, worth remembering and being proud of. More recently, and thanks to social media, the FBC Times has been created on facebook, where students from FBC of various generations and academic periods share their memories, thoughts and plans in relation to FBC.

I should note that in these past few weeks that I have been a member of this facebook group, I have experienced the greatest surge of nostalgia about Aureol than I have ever felt; everyday brings a new topic and contributions, sometimes up to 40 at a time. I find myself so overwhelmed reading the comments, that I can’t even get myself to write a comment. Now I feel I have gathered enough strength to write, I have the urge to write more than just a facebook post or a comment; I need to write this blog and share all the ideas and thoughts that have been going through my mind over the past weeks on this matter; and they are as follows.

Nostalgia: Re-Living the Moments

I can tell that those moments at FBC, the hard times, the fun times, the stressful study times, are priceless to all of us who went through that great institution. One feeling that has kept running through me is this; “I wish I could go back to FBC for a few moments and just do as many of those things I did all over again – at least for the fun of re-living it”. The more I have thought on this, the more and more I have felt like actually doing it. I am not sure how many of my fellow ‘Fourahbites’ (as we used to call ourselves) have this feeling and urge. I have, therefore, decided to propose to as many of us who have the willingness and ability, to agree on a time and period, when we can all go back to FBC (a homecoming event of sorts) for about 2 or 3 days, and do the things we used to do and were asked to do. Everything from floating around bostik and just chatting, to making a bonfire in the evening and signing locally composed songs, and to wake up and jog, even organise a mini-sports meet and an after-sports jam; and to crown it all, a Press Conference at the Amphitheatre; just get the rush of it – again. Something tells me that doing it again with some of the same people we all did it with back in the days, could bring back the kind of satisfaction even the US Dollars cannot do for us.

This brings me to the point of how it may be organised; apart from the event planning aspects of such a homecoming programme, the groups of persons going for such a programme have to be delineated along ‘generational’ lines for it to be successful. This is because, the event itself is all about re-interacting and re-living past days; so people need to have some commonality in the history they have to share. In the life of every fourahbite, you interact with about 9 years of students; when you enter Preliminary Year (which was the case for many coming from ‘upline’, you meet at least 4 years of students ahead of you and you interact with all of them, whether at the cafeteria or in one social or political function or another. Also, by the time you get to Final (Hons II, best case scenario) Year, you have like 4 years of students behind you. Give and take 1 year for repeating, that means 10 years of student interaction in all. The beauty about FBC is that some Prelim students are sometimes more popular than even the Final Year students; and because there are usually no strict boundaries between student relationships (a preliminary year student gorilla in Block H may think he is like one of the Hons II Engineering students) interaction is almost seamless. In this regard, as I discuss more of the FBC Homecoming proposal, I am thinking, it should be organised in 10-year periods. For example, we can start with Class of 1990 to Class of 2000. This can be followed by class of 2001 to 2011. For the purpose of this proposal, I am targeting the graduating classes between 1990 and 2000. I choose this particular group as a pilot because I see they are the most vibrant on facebook and because I think they are the generation with the ‘richest’ memories of FBC and what student unionism stood for.

The Homecoming Programme

I am suggesting that a homecoming programme for FBC students (Graduating Class of 1990 up to Class of 2000) be organized sometime in late 2012 or even early 2013. The long period is to allow proper planning because bringing people from the USA, Europe, Australia, China and other parts of Africa requires detailed planning and preparations. The event shall have 2 main objectives: (i) to allow students within this period to go back to campus and re-live certain memorable events and times of their lives at the University, interacting with the same set of people they lived on campus; and (ii) to lead in the organisation of a global Summit of FBC Alumni, with the goal of establishing a more functional and robust Alumni Association and an Alumni Endowment Fund, which would play an active role in shaping the future of the University in terms of curriculum, standards, financial solvency and maintaining the FBC brand as the ‘Athens of West Africa’.


Back to FBC

The plan is this; as many students in the selected graduation years as are willing and able, would come to FBC campus for a period of 3 days to ‘become students once again’; the event would even bring former faculty and administrative staff to participate in some of the events. The plan will ensure that all the hostels are cleared and cleaned to enable past students to live in the hostels for the scheduled dates; if it falls during vacation, the better. There will be a comprehensive 3-day programme of events that would include:

• An orientation programme at Mary Kingsley Auditorium, with a blend of former University officials that are still alive such as the former Principal Prof. Strasser-King; former Warden of Students e.g. Jenner T.G. Buck, other Hall Wardens and Registry staff to be on the Orientation Panel.

• Mock classroom sessions (1 for each faculty Engineering, Law, PAS, Social Sciences, Arts etc) with former faculty members taking a 1 hour ‘class’ of the students. There can even be a 15 minute slot for one member of the student body to ‘play-act’ a particular lecturer that students can relate to in a funny way.

• A bonfire at Bostik, where we can test the singing, song-composing skills and ‘attewoh’ capacity of some past students

• Wake up and jog event for all Halls; to start at 6 a.m followed by a mini-sports meet at the Harry Sawyer Grounds (maximum 3 hours) to be followed by award of trophies (100m, 200m, 400m, 4x100m relay, Tug of War and All-Hall Relay)

• A sports jam at the SU Building…

• A general binding day or ‘Open Day’ (which would attract other students from other graduating periods, earlier ones and later ones alike) so that we can all share light moments and start informal brainstorming about what can be done to make FBC the Athens of West Africa again

• An FBC Alumni Summit; this is a properly organised formal and serious event that should attempt to bring as many alumni to the Amphitheatre, as possible, to discuss salient matters on the future of the University and the revamping of the Alumni Association to make it more robust and functional. The summit would entail presentations on topics pertaining to the launching of a 20-year vision and 10-year strategic plan for developing FBC Campus in the USL.

The Alumni Association

Colleagues may be aware that in other more developed parts of the world, the Alumni of Universities have strong associations that influence policy, have a say in development of standards and curriculum in the institution; they even have endowment funds, which not only give scholarships, they engage in projects like constructing hostels, modern libraries, supporting academic research and funding commercial projects. We are now approaching a state where we too should be like that.

I must commend the older colleagues who had taken the initial step to establish the FBC Alumni Association; they have done a good job so far in keeping it alive. Now it is time to move the Association to another level. We want to use the time, energies and resources of the Alumni to make it a strong living, growing and influential component of the college’s journey going forward. Want to ensure that parents having their children in the diaspora can be confident to send their children back home to FBC so that they can get good quality university education while maintaining the Aureol tradition in their families. We want to go back to the days where international students from Cameroon, Namibia, Gambia, Liberia etc can come to FBC this time not because they don’t have the opportunities in their countries, but because they still regard FBC as the Havard of West Africa. For those of us who live in Sierra Leone, we shouldn’t even entertain the thought of having to send our kids to UK or USA or even Ghana for a first degree, even if we have the money. For those of you living abroad, sending your kids to Auroel for 4 years is a way to get them to sharpen their Krio or Mende or Themne or Mandingo as the case might be; and it may be even cheaper for you. So rather than put those monies into plane tickets and contribute to the GDP and educational standards of these other countries, let us invest today in FBC and make it a better place for our children and our children’s children. Start calculating the ticket future costs, the future tuition fees and living expenses for 4 years in a foreign land, not to speak of the social risks you would expose your kids to, and start discounting those costs. Whatever you arrive at, start investing today in FBC.

For those in the graduating class of 1990 to 2000, your kids are yet young; but in 10 years or less, some may be getting ready to enter University. Now is the time to act, if we want FBC labs to have modern equipment, if we don’t want examinations to come and there is no paper, if we want the Law Faculty to start offering courses in international trade and investment law (which is where Sierra Leone and Africa is moving), if we want the Economics and Commerce Department to develop into a full-blown Business School, where they offer good quality MBA and Finance Degrees, then now is the time to start. Let us not look down on ourselves as Alumni; as individuals we may be small and powerless, but as a group, we are the largest and most potent force FBC could ever have. Let us do this, not for ourselves, but even for our children. Now is the time to act; and one of the most effective ways of getting things moving is when we all get together in a single place and time and agree. Whatsoever, 2 or 3 or more of us shall agree on that campus, it shall be agreed even in the heavens because we have a connection to the campus.

Finally, I wish to thank the people who started the FBC Times Group on Facebook; I urge you to continue the topics and I hope to add my comments to it. My special shout-out goes to Joe Weaves, Charles Hubbard, Nabilahi Musa, David Sheku aka Ndovo, Umu Kabba, Franklyn Ebemessie, Alusine Sesay, Ray Macauley Paul Duwai Sowa, Yandama Sesay, Agnes Gbekie, Bintu Koroma, Lovette Brima, and Yves Thomas. Keep the fire burning!

To God be the Glory


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