If you are dreaming of benefiting from the Commonwealth Scholarship for Masters or a PhD through the Ministry of Education Science and Technology in Sierra Leone without the red ID card or not related to the Minister of Education Science and Technology, Dr.Minkailu Bah or any cabinet Minster to push your case, you are in a dream world and would never get such enviable scholarship.
The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom (CSC-UK) awards over 900 scholarships and fellowships for postgraduate study and professional development Commonwealth citizens each year. These scholarships and fellowships programmes are funded by the Department for International Development for developing Commonwealth countries otherwise known as countries that were colonized by Great Britain. The Scholarships are mainly divided into two groups, namely the Commonwealth shared scholarships for Masters and PhD study which is usually been obtained online and the Commonwealth scholarships for nominating Agencies/Countries. For Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology has since inception of the programme, been the nominating Agency/Ministry charged with the responsibility of nominating qualified applicants to pursue Masters and PhD courses in the United Kingdom.
However, since the All Peoples Congress (APC) came to power in 2007 and the subsequent appointment of Dr.Minkailu Bah as Minister of Education in 2007, the Commonwealth Scholarship nominating process had been reportedly mired by politics, corruption and nepotism. In fact this medium can categorically state that influential members of the APC such as Ministers and executive members of both the APC National Executive and the APC Youth league every year submitted names as nominees to the Minister of Education, Dr. Bah for consideration before even the Scholarships are advertised. As such, the advertisement and interview process is just mere protocol as nominees of the Commonwealth scholarship would have already been determined by Dr.Minkailu Bah and his twisted panel. Sadly though, qualified applicants with First Class Honours degrees that meet the requirements are not considered, instead the minister would handpick candidates based on nepotism or political affiliations. The Standard Times has even discovered that Dr.Minkailu Bah in 2014 nominated his niece, Caroline J. Bah to pursue masters at the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom and in 2015 selected his nephew, Sheriff Hamid Yasin who resides with him at Kortright to pursue a Masters course at the same University. What surprised many people is the fact that Dr.Bah’s nephew who graduated with a Second Class Degree in Mass Communication in 2013 was a continuing student pursuing a Law Degree at Fourah Bay College, but Dr. Bah facilitated his nephew’s way to clandestinely defer his course for the Commonwealth scholarship thus depriving other qualified Sierra Leoneans from benefiting from the programme.
During this year’s interview that was held in October 2016, applicants were delayed for the rest of the day and asked to come the second day because one of the corrupt officials working at the Ministry of Education, Mr. Pearce Mansaray informed the applicants that they don’t have enough time to interview all candidates and that they should come the following day. On the second day of the interview, the applicants also spent the rest of the day waiting to be called. An applicant, Mohamed Osman Kamara told this medium that they were called in large numbers and asked double barrel questions to explain in 90 seconds. “We were asked to explain the reason for applying for the Commonwealth scholarship, define Governance and Leadership and explained the impact of the course to Sierra Leone.” Kamara said, adding that “how do you expect me to answer this pregnant questions in 90 seconds? He lamented. Another applicant, Ibrahim Barrie accused the panel of not even concentrating to respondents during the interview. “While we were busy defining and explaining, the panelists were taking tea break as if they had chosen the nominees they wanted”, Barrie said, adding that the Ministry of Education should stop deceiving the public with fake advertisements and just continue with the normal handpicking process of those they want every year. Some of the applicants lamented that they would never apply for such scholarship at the Ministry of Education again, adding that the entire nomination process is flood with nepotism, corruption and politics. They called on the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) to look into the issue to ensure that deserving Sierra Leoneans benefit from the scholarship.