The Sierra Leone Students Union in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Embassy both in China are planning a big welcoming ceremony for the President Ernest Bai Koroma who is expected to be in Beijing on the 23rd of this month.
According to information from the Students Union Secretariat, they are planning to take about 100 students all over China to Beijing to grace the president’s visit and to make him proud.
This will be the first visit of Ernest Bai Koroma to China since he took office in 2007 and it is expected that this visit will be very fruitful for Sierra Leone in the future.
China has been one of the leading donors for Sierra Leone since the seventies when the late president Siaka Stevens established diplomatic ties with them.
Also China has enormous respect for Sierra Leone as we were the hundredth country to vote for them in the United Nations to be member of the Security Council. It is expected that the Chinese government will be investing more in Sierra Leone in the coming years.
At present there are little over 100 Sierra Leonean students in China studying in different fields on scholarships awarded by the Chinese government.
However, the visit of Ernest Bai Koroma comes at a time when some 17 students’ names were removed from the Ministry of Education government grants list last year by the Minister of Education who told members of the executive that those students were not recognized by the government because their scholarships were directly from the Chinese Embassy.
This angered many students who are not happy and would want to use this opportunity to either put their case forward or to demonstrate on the arrival of the president. But the current executive is working with the Embassy to make sure that the delegation of the president solves the problem before they arrive or on arrival.
The former government made sure that every student whether from the government or not received his or her grant-in-aid, but the new Education Minister upon assuming office thought otherwise.
Many African leaders who have been in China over the years have received a rousing welcome on arrival at Beijing by their students and we believe that Sierra Leone should not be an exception in making the president and his entourage proud as well as the Chinese government who has been providing these scholarships annually for Sierra Leoneans to improve their education.
The executive is hoping that the 17 students who did not receive their grant-in-aid from the government last year will definitely be happy when the president comes as they are appealing for the president to intervene and make sure that the money arrives before he comes or they will come with it.
The secretariat hopes that the president’s trip will be fruitful and he will be happy from the reception he would receive from the students and will return to Sierra Leone as proud and confident and will never forget it in a hurry.
As the current global crisis is taking its toll on Sierra Leone, we hope that the president would be able to get the world’s third largest economy to invest more in the country in the coming years and we hope that students finishing their studies will return to Sierra Leone to be part of the development process.
By Austin Thomas in China