This COVID season, as national RENs (NREN) across the globe are striding and striving to support education communities in any way they could, Sierra Leone Research and Education Network (SLREN) is also doing its bit to keep academic work going in the landlocked West African nation.

The nascent NREN is supporting and in some cases hand-holding some higher learning institutions (HLIs) to navigate their way through the academic continuity challenges posed by COVID. Though it is quite herculean to keep academic work going on this side of the world, SLREN is making efforts to ensure that the challenges of its members are alleviated to some extent. Currently, SLREN is helping HLIs to leverage existing commercial internet access to online e-resources websites and provide zero rating of universities URLs. It is also working assiduously with other parties to secure access to online e-resources and use through Research4Life e.g. e-journal, e-articles, e-books etc.

“You know it’s very daunting to keep academic work uninterrupted in the face of COVID the world over and especially our side. Nevertheless, SLREN is committed to doing the best we can to help our members to access knowledge, produce knowledge and relay the same,” CEO Thomas Songu said to AfricaConnect3 Communications.

It is obvious that SLREN needs the support of key stakeholders like the government agency in charge of higher education, telecom operators and the university administrators. Talking to Mr Songu, one gets a sense of high demand for academic resources but limited access to the infrastructure and platforms to provide the resources. Why is this so? 

“We don’t have as much support as we desire from our education management institutions. Funding, favorable policies and quick decision-making are needed to build the requisite infrastructure to access the resources, tools and platforms needed by our academic and research community. We understand that advocacy is very important in this regard,” the head of SLREN continued.

Also, SLREN is conducting on-demand capacity building for its members to come up-to-speed with implementing and managing e-learning platforms for their constituencies. Njala University is one of such beneficiaries. The university recently implemented its e-learning system for teaching staff and students. 

SLREN is preparing to access WACREN’s free Zoom licenses offer. The CEO believes this offer by WACREN is a fine opportunity for SLREN’s member institutions to keep academic and administrative virtual meetings going.

The SLREN team is looking forward to bringing together ICT experts, researchers and higher education representatives (SLREN membership) to develop a shared vision and also adopt a sustainable funding model to ensure delivery of quality ICT services.