“Even if you don’t remember me, those 2.5 million children will” – says President Bio

James Samba: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 April 2021:

Despite decades of reforms in education especially school improvement initiatives, large number of pupils were still underachieving, failing or being pushed out of school in Sierra Leone.

Clearly, a distinctly new approach was needed, the time for a serious government and policymakers to take a bold and comprehensive approach to education. There is no question that education is a powerful driver of change, transformation and prosperity.

As the 2018 elections drew closer, the conversation about how to change the direction of the country gained even more prominence— focus on education and many other critical issues Sierra Leoneans were facing. During the campaigns, the New Direction Manifesto stood out, representing ideas of how to increase access to childhood education and how to make higher education more accessible and affordable, ensuring that every child in Sierra Leone has an excellent education. What an ambitious plan.

It was on this manifesto that a man of dignity and valor arose to become the 3rd democratically elected President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency the President Brigadier (retired) Julius Maada Bio, who postulated equity, accessibility, relevance, system-strengthening and integrity as the core of his Free Quality Education policy.

In August 2018, the President defied his sceptics and went on to officially launch the New Direction Government’s flagship program – the Free Quality Education (FQE) – paving the way for easy access to education for over 2 million children in the country.

“When I promised free and quality education my opponents said it was a political gimmick. But today, I have proven them wrong. In less than six months, we have shown that free education is POSSIBLE. I have always prioritized education as a means for development. As President, in order to demonstrate my commitment to education, my government has increased the budgetary allocation to education to 21 per cent of the national budget.”, said President Bio at the launch of the FQE on August 20 at the Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown.

A President, who means well for his country would invest in education in order to reinforce a society’s wealth and growth, where individuals can easily improve their own personal ambition, productivity and outcomes. According to International Human Rights Law: “primary education shall be compulsory and free of charge whilst secondary and higher education shall be made progressively free of charge”, this is fundamental in guaranteeing everyone has access to education.

The cornerstone of President Bio’s FQE is to increase nationwide access to quality pre-primary, primary and secondary schooling, as well as school level technical and vocational education and training. The goal is that ALL children will be able to successfully complete basic education and be prepared to move on to pursue higher education or training as appropriate for the workforce needed for national development.

In 2020, the Government allocated Le1.4 trillion to the education sector representing 22% of the country’s annual budget. The FQE package includes: payment of tuition fees from primary to senior secondary school, provision of core text books, furniture and other learning materials including the payment of fees for all public examinations.

Because we have a President, who understands that in many developing countries, families often cannot afford to send their children to school that was why he separated the education sector, where we now have the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education (MBSSE) and the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE) and appointing a young, energetic, and dynamic Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education in the person of Dr. David Moinina Sengeh.

This Minister, together with his team has been working very hard to provide sufficient supply of learning and teaching materials, providing a conducive environment for learning by constructing spacious classrooms, providing adequate text books, furniture, WASH facilities, trained and qualified teachers, increasing teachers’ salary by 30% and the recruitment of 5,000 more teachers ensuring that even the ‘hard-to reach-areas’ are not left behind. What an audacious step taken by the New Direction Government!

Under his leadership, Dr. Sengeh has also enticed cabinet to overturn the 2010 decision by the past administration that prevented pregnant girls from attending school. The New Direction administration has replaced the discriminatory procedure instituted by the APC government with two new policies focused on the ‘Radical Inclusion’ and ‘Comprehensive Safety’ of all children in the education system irrespective of class, ethnicity, tribe, disability, location, gender, reproductive or parenting status.

Recently, in Pujehun District, the Ministry commissioned 18 new and refurbished schools in hard-to-reach places across the riverine areas. This also includes providing training and stipends for the volunteer teachers in those parts of the country that have been neglected for decades. Mohamed Kallon, a resident in Bormu, YKK Chiefdom, Pujehun District, said “At first, when I heard, the President was going to pay school fees for every child, I didn’t believe until the day I went to pay my son’s fees, and was told that it was free—I felt so relieved”.

“Every time I wake up in the morning, I always get excited because I now know there will be hot lunch waiting for me at the school”, said Alie Conteh, a class six (6) pupil at the Holy Angels Roman Catholic Primary School, Kambia District, Tonko Limba, Yankanbor village.

In his citizen’s engagement on FM 98.1 ‘Good Morning Salone Breakfast Program’ on Thursday 8th April, 2021, whilst speaking about his Government’s three years administration, President Julius Maada Bio noted that in order to have a happy nation, individuals and their families should be happy.

He said that was why he took the burden of paying school fees for about 2.5 million school children in the country and that the parents of those children, who now put those school fees into other use, are quite happy because his government has taken away that burden from them.

“No nation can ever develop without education. The future of this nation is our children. So, we have to invest hugely in educating the children and to have a happy and progressive nation in future”, he stated.

After his 10 or more years of effective leadership of this great country, H.E President Julius Maada Bio would be widely considered as one of the greatest Sierra Leonean President’s because of his courage and leadership in making education Free for ALL.

So, even if you don’t remember him, Alie Conteh together with those 2.5 million children would remember him; they would remember him for the 103 billion Leones subsidy paid for school fees; they would remember him for the 69 billion Leones paid for school feeding; they would remember him for the 3 billion Leones paid for furniture and other school materials; they would remember him for the 5,000 teachers recruited; they would remember him for 4,334 teaching and learning materials procured; they would remember him for the 3,044 schools approved.

Candidates taking NPSE, BECE, WASSCE and NVQ in government and government assisted schools will also remember him.

About the author

James Samba (Photo) is a Mass Communication graduate from Fourah Bay College. He is the Technical Assistant (TA) to the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, NAO Building, Tower Hill, Freetown.

9 Comments

  1. Mr James Samba, please dont forget to write another article,reminding the president to keep all these expenditure receipts to serve as proof, to be presented to the next Anti Corruption Commissioner. Because we the people of Sierra Leone will want to thank him for his marvelous job done in 2023 by God em pawa!

  2. Folks, i will like to remind delusional, propagandist PAOPA supporters of the following facts: before 2018, Primary school education for public schools is FREE all across the nation, the government pay all public examinations fees for both primary and secondary schools, most tertiary institutions students were receiving grant in aid— to subsides higher expenses of getting a degree, this includes scholarship given to hundreds of students to pursue QUALITY education being provided by one of the finest International institutions, Limkokwing university. So what has happen in our educational sector since 2018 that PAOPA supporters are making noises about?

    Among the biggest changes is the government announcement of an expansion of none school fees payment to now includes both junior and senior secondary schools. As a result, more enrollment of school kids was observe, necessitating the recruitment of more teachers, albeit the lack of space to accommodate these new waves of students and poor teaching conditions for teachers. Also, in what many considered as a big blow to our educational system, the government withdrew all scholarships for limkokwing students, most of whom were already in the 3rd or final year.

    To date, thousands of dollars paid by the previous regime for these young Sierra Leoneans stand wasted, with nothing to show for. The government promises to provide student loan schemes, but nothing have been implemented to date. Besides, since 2018, the failing rates of students in all educational institutions has drastically increases. Students taking public exams as well as those in universities are failing in droves. The administrative aspect of all major universities is corrupt to the core, with sex for grades and pay for grades, rampant all across. So i am not really sure of what supporters of PAOPA are trumpeting about.

  3. Here we go again with that much tried, tested and tired refrain ‘Free Quality Education’ that Bio, his ministers and other people already wedded body and soul to the style and substance of his governance have been repeating time and again, ad nauseam, to the detriment of our very fragile ear drums. Why can’t they just leave the rest of us alone, allowing us to judge for ourselves: to determine whether the merchandise is worth the hype surrounding it?

    The proof of the pudding as they say is in the eating, and not when it is being prepared, when the ingredients and utensils needed for making it have only just been assembled and when the cooking process itself has only just started. Who knows how the final dish will taste? Sierra Leonean voters will have an opportunity in 2023 to assess Bio and his team’s culinary prowess. On receiving their report card they can come back and tell us if the pudding and the singing. drumming and dancing that are going into its making right now, have been worth the effort: whether the education being sold to voters is indeed free and of excellent quality.

  4. The reality is our beloved country Sierra Leone or Mama Salone will always be known as “ THE ATHENS OF WEST AFRICA”, which means our nation holds a prestigious place in educational history in our region. The first secondary school for boys and girls and also the first university (Fourah Bay College), was the first in Sub-Saharan Africa. President Bio has only one dream, which is to restore that image. Our president believes that “Knowledge is power”, because with “ education, one’s potential or ability to succeed in the pursuit of one’s objectives will certainly increase”.

    The intention of the New Direction government is to help our future generation to at least be able to read and write before pursuing their passion in life. Hopefully within the next 10 years, the APC ideology about education which is “den say Bailor Barrie, you say Davidson Nicol” will be eliminated.

  5. My big brother the “Illustrious” Alimamy Turay has always exhibited on this glorious forum that he has a knack for saying the right things,truthfully, eloquently and judiciously; Mr Mustafa C – all that has been said here about your Little man in State House is true. And who has not seen a piece of metal, totally rusted and crappy that a giant magnet adamantly refuses to embrace because of its strange nature? Psst! your Conman in State House resembles that crappy, scrappy,rusty little piece of metal that is always going to be good for nothing – live with that! (lol)

    • STARGAZER, you are the man of the moment. We are just trying to keep pace with you. And it seems you are in 5th gear lately … Carry on the good work my brother.

  6. Now when it comes to free education as of April 2020, seventeen African governments, representing 37% of sub-Saharan Africa offers some form of free education to their school age going children. But listening to Bio and his government ministers dangling his free education flag ship,you will be forgiven to think this push for free education is only taking place in Sierra leone. The only country in the continent under the good leadership of president Bio, that have come up with this brilliant idea of offering free education as part of the government one direction agenda for change. The reality of course, with no corruption by government ministers, this is what is supposed to happen, given the large amount of natural resources our country is blessed with.

    And managed correctly, will not only offer free education from primary to secondary level,but even support low income students to university level. It is a shame they are using Bio’s free flagship education mantra, as a weapon of political choice to promote their political agendas. We know persistent inequalities to access education is the root cause of under development. Tribal conflicts and all the woes that comes with it. Lack of education also impact both in terms of human capital development, and how a country performs economically. By extending truly free education is only part of the free education movement being adopted by African governments across the continent.

    So this phenomenon is not by itself unique to our country. If it wasn’t Bio in government, someone else would be doing the same thing. That’s what donor communities demand of governments. But listening to Mr President and his ministers you will think its the only game in town through his good offices. Maybe if his government stamp down on corruption, he will be able to offer more sustainable development goals for our long suffering country.

  7. Who is fooling who within the Sierra Leone education sector. Posterity shall surely judge all these economic Armed robbers. From the inception of their purported trumpeted so-called quality Education project, I knew it was all just gimmick and fallacy, and that this group of immoral “gron pigs” can not achieve their so-called trumpeted project.

    Look – an armed robber is always an armed robber. So why should 2.5 million kids remember any body called Mr. Bio. Has Mr Bio done any thing to change their lives, to justify their defunct and dysfunctional claim. Sierra Leoneans will only remember Bio, as leading the most deficient, corrrupt, lawless, thieving government, to have existed in the history of Sierra Leone. They have depleted the central bank and destroyed the local economy.

  8. Damn straight they will remember him for the Poor Quality Eduction he shoved down their throats and for torturing them daily with poorly prepared,overcooked rice and Cassava leaves meals that gave them running stomachs and constipation (lol). They will remember him and so shall we for packing them into overcrowded classrooms closely like sardines in a little can. And why would anyone forget such a wicked man that ransacked our nations scanty coffers while allowing children to go to school under Baobab and Mango trees littered with rotten fruits left behind by bats, squirrels, Iguanas the night before?

    Of course they will remember him when they go looking for jobs and find none; And the worst part of all will certainly come many years from now when an eager, promising employer decides to evaluate them before handing them a job but is shocked to find out that they don’t dot their I’s or cross their T’s when writing and is left with no other choice but to conclude that the beneficiaries of Maada Bio’s Free Quality Education were lied to,manipulated and used for political gain because they still couldn’t tell the difference between their knees and their elbows. Geez!

    But Stargazer you failed to mention all those disgruntled teachers that were kicking up dust in protest because their salaries had not been paid for three months. Hahahaha…trouble not yourself anymore about their shoddy sense of planning and doings things – Surely our poor hungry teachers will always remember how they were cheated,abused and robbed by the SLPP’s “Wrong Direction” failing government.

Tell us about your views

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.