On Thursday 12 November 2020, NCTVA together with their partners celebrated the signing ceremony of the MoU for the new digital certification process at the Family Kingdom Resort in Aberdeen. NCTVA was represented by Marray Samuel Kamara (Certification Head), Abdul Razak Mansaray (ICT Head), Ahmad Tapsiru Bangura (ICT) and Johnny Massaquoi (Exams). Members from the Certification Expert Panel (CEP) included Joseph C. Barnett (EP), Edleen Elba (JobSearch), Emmanuel J. Coromah (MIMETECH), Winston Moore (GTI), Hectora Pyne-Bailey (TSC), Ing. Umar Lahai (MMCET), Saidu Dumbuya (ACC), Irvina G. Belts (SLCCIA), Ahmid Kannah (NATCOM), Albert Harding (JADA), and Sorie Kamara (SJTI-L). Additional TVIs were represented by Emmanuel J. Regis (LUBAN), Williette Siafa (YWCA) and Ibrahim A. Bangura (LICCSAL). GIZ was represented by Abubakar Sesay (EPP) and Lucas Dobelmann (PPP).
Welcome, Opening Remarks & Introduction
After having breakfast, the session was called to order by Lucas Dobelmann, Digital Advisor at NCTVA on behalf of GIZ, at 10:00 a.m. and who warmly welcomed all participants. In his opening remarks, Mr. Dobelmann appreciated the commitment of the numerous participants, particularly recognizing the effort of those who travelled from the provinces. He then stated the purpose of the event, which was to revise and sign the updated version of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NCTVA and TVIs for the Management and Implementation of the NCTVA Certification Policy Framework and Certification Process. The opening remarks were followed by a quick round of self-introductions.
Mr. Dobelmann then explained that NCTVA aims to digitize its certification process by means of the newly developed web-based Integrated Certification Software (ICS). He gave an overview of the agenda for the day, specifying that those TVIs invited to the event were to participate in the ICS pilot phase starting with the 2021 academic year. Abdul Razak Mansaray, Head of the ICT department at NCTVA, welcomed all attendees and urged that many efforts have been made by different stakeholders in the six Certification Expert Panel (CEP) workshops leading up to the delivery of a state-of-the-art certification system, the ICS. In addition, signing the MoU is an important milestone in the commitment of all parties involved. He ended by encouraging all attendees to feel free to make their valuable input.
ICS Development & MoU Update
Mr. Dobelmann briefly outlined the activities related to ICS since March 2020, when the 6th CEP workshop was held, and ICS was officially handed over to NCTVA. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICS pilot phase scheduled to start immediately after the workshop, had to be postponed until TVIs in Sierra Leone would be able to open admissions again. In lieu of the ICS pilot phase, NCTVA in collaboration with Eastern Polytechnic Kenema, St. Joseph Technical Institute Lunsar, Government Technical Institute Kissy and Murialdo Institute of Management, Entrepreneurship and Technology, as well as 15 currently enrolled TVET student volunteers, conducted an ICS simulation phase. In the span of 10 weeks, an entire academic year and its processes in ICS were simulated in order to test the system. Feedback and ideas gathered during this simulation phase served as the basis for discussion at biweekly ICS development meetings between NCTVA, iDT Labs and GIZ to finetune the system, adjusting it to be increasingly user-friendly. The MoU for the NCTVA Certification Process was adapted after development on ICS was completed (finetuning of the system notwithstanding) and was to be officially ratified and signed by NCTVA and TVIs present on this day, 12th November 2020, at the end of the programme.
Next Steps for ICS Implementation
Mr. Dobelmann proceeded to delineate NCTVA’s planned steps for gradual ICS implementation at all NCTVA-accredited TVIs in Sierra Leone, the signed MoU representing the foundation of the mutual commitment between the parties. The plan for the 2021 academic year is to carry out the NCTVA Certification Process through ICS at a minimum of 11 TVIs. TVI staff is to be trained by NCTVA in ICS applications and data security. Moreover, NCTVA wishes to identify additional TVIs in order to scale up ICS use to a minimum of 30 TVIs by the 2022 academic year. This process will include applications for eGovernance and CSR programmes within the country, as a stable internet connection is a prerequisite for effective use of ICS.
13-Step NCTVA Certification Process
In preparation of the discussion of the MoU, Mr. Dobelmann presented the 13 steps of the NCTVA Certification Process as developed by the CEP and adapted by iDT Labs in the development of ICS. Mr. Dobelmann explained how ICS accompanies a TVET student throughout their educational career, from their application at a TVI until graduation, certification and even during job application. ICS streamlines NCTVA processes by means of easy tracking, monitoring and data verification within the system.
Discussion of MoU
Ing. Lahai from MMCET raised the issue of Teacher Education (TED) not being included in the ICS. However, the general membership of the workshop was informed that NCTVA will be looking out for help from the Government or the World Bank to fund the expansion of ICS in that regard. Mr. Joseph C. Barnett from Eastern Polytechnic Kenema raised the aspect of some TVIs having their own online portals, which are currently handling application and enrolment. He posed the question if these TVIs are to duplicate the admission process through ICS. It was then agreed that TVIs with such facilities are to duplicate the application and enrolment process, as ICS must capture students’ information at this moment in order to accompany them during subsequent steps of the NCTVA Certification Process. Mr. Sorie Kamara from St. Joseph’s Technical Institute Lunsar elaborated on the question by mentioning currently enrolled TVET students that will sit NCTVA exams in the 2021 academic year as they are enrolled into 2-year programmes. In preparation of NCTVA exams, steps 1-4 in the NCTVA Certification Process will have to be simulated within ICS. NCTVA apologized for any inconveniences cause, however, NCTVA promised to provide the necessary support for the activity and further communication is to follow shortly.
After a short discussion on the responsibility for provisional NCTVA registration, it was concluded that TVIs are responsible for requesting such provisional NCTVA registration whilst NCTVA is responsible for processing the respective requests in a timely manner. In preparation of final exams, NCTVA will refer to the list of provisionally registered students, clear up any uncertainties or open questions and then produce the final list of students who are eligible for NCTVA exams. NCTVA clarified to the members present in the workshop what the difference between an NCTVA ID and a student ID is. The NCTVA ID is a lifelong ID that is provided by NCTVA to every student once they are provisionally registered in ICS. It will not change even if a student happens to change a course and/or an institution. The Admission Number generated by ICS when a student is enrolled serves as the student ID and will be provided by the TVIs. The admission number differs between TVIs, as all of them have a certain institutional code assigned by NCTVA. ICS will automatically generate student ID cards, featuring the name, address and contact details of the respective TVI and student as well as the student’s photo, department, certificate level and course, and the expiration date of the ID card.
After a lengthy debate regarding the issuing of Statements of Results, it was maintained that NCTVA may delegate this responsibility to TVIs, as stated in the MoU. It was affirmed that the delegation of the responsibility is optional and should generally only be done upon request of a student. NCTVA remains solely responsible for producing the Certificates and will dispatch them to the respective TVIs for the handover to students. A discussion on the need for inclusion of Certificate-related costs in the NCTVA examination fee followed. The Certificate serves as evidence for the candidate to have taken and passed the NCTVA examination and should therefore be included in the examination fee. The participating NCTVA representatives promised to bring the matter to attention at the Secretariat. Mr. Saidu Dumbuya from the Anti-Corruption Commission emphasised that making English and Mathematics compulsory entry requirements for the admission at a TVI is not proper. He pointed out that entry requirements should vary by department. ICS offers the optional addition of TVI-specific entry requirements, where such details could be published. However, NCTVA entry requirements are compulsory for every student enrolling for an NCTVA-accredited course. During the ICS simulation phase, staff at the 4 above-mentioned TVIs was trained by NCTVA in ICS applications. NCTVA promised to carry out the same training for the additional TVIs that will now be participating in the ICS pilot phase. Furthermore, NCTVA will share the newly updated ICS user manual with all participating TVIs, as there have been some modifications of the ICS.
Digital Tools for TVET in Sierra Leone
Mr. Dobelmann reiterated the importance and usefulness of the newly developed digital tools hosted by NCTVA. ICS enables TVET students to apply for their TVET course of choice online, comparing matriculation fees at the various TVIs and monitoring their education status throughout the academic year. TVIs can publish and promote the courses they have to offer, ensuring data protection due to state-of-the-art technology being employed by NCTVA. NCTVA can operate much more efficiently, streamlining its existing processes and automating much of its administrative tasks. Third parties such as potential employers can validate NCTVA-issued certificates via the system through a 4-step validation process. The ICS is available via the following web address: www.ics.nctva.org. In addition to the ICS, NCTVA is hosting the TVET Communication Platform (TVET CP), accessible via www.nctva.org. This platform enables TVIs to share information about their institution publicly, helping them increase their visibility and facilitating promotion of their services. TVIs are mapped out according to their location in Sierra Leone and can publicly display their contact details such as telephone numbers and homepages. For those TVIs without a homepage, the TVET Communication Platforms offers the opportunity to publish TVI profiles, detailing historic background, courses and services on offer and much more. The creation of such a profile is done by NCTVA based on questionnaires designed for data collection that are regularly dispatched to TVIs. NCTVA in cooperation with the TVIs aims to process yearly updates and modifications that are submitted by the TVIs. For more information on these digital tools, ICS/TVET CP factsheets were shared at the event.
Mr. Dobelmann and Mr. Johnny Massaquoi, Exams Unit, thanked all participants for their active engagement and valuable contributions. The meeting was adjourned, and the group enjoyed lunch at the Family Kingdom Resort.