Elias Bangura – Freetown
The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 July 2013
Members of the Parliamentary Education Committee have on the 18th July, 2013, asked the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the use of the girl-child funds in Bonthe.
They say that information received regarding the use of the funds is inadequate.
The Committee met with education stakeholders across the district at a meeting held in the regional capital of Bo.
They discussed the implementation of the Government’s White Paper, which took on board the recommendations of the Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry Report 2008.
The Chairman of the Committee – Sulaiman Sisay, said that efforts have been made by previous and present governments, in improving standards of education in the region.
“In spite of all these, the sector still faces challenges. Therefore as the people’s representatives, we want to ensure, among other things that our children are provided with accessible, affordable, safe and above all – quality education that could match international standards.
“In doing this, we would also probe into the effective use of public funds allocated at the local level through devolved functions, by the appropriate authorities” – says Sulaiman Sisay – MP.
In response, Sulaiman A Sengeh – one of the acting principals of the junior secondary schools, speaking on behalf of his colleagues, said that they are new to the job and not presently signatories to the accounts. Hence they were unable to give the information requested by the MPs.
He however acknowledged receipt of the girl child grants, which have so far been paid into their respective school accounts.
Joseph M.B. Sesay – Deputy Director of Education, who took up appointment on 26 April this year, said Bonthe has 11 chiefdoms, most of which are difficult to access.
He said there are 78 primary schools in the district – of these 71 are approved by government; 26 junior secondary schools – with only 7 approved; and 8 senior secondary schools – with 3 of them approved.
Another problem for the authorities in Bonthe is the qualification of teachers.
There are 286 qualified primary school male teachers and 125 untrained and unqualified male teachers; 126 qualified female, and 144 unqualified and untrained.
Among the qualified there are 46 teachers that are not on the government’s payroll.
With respect to the junior secondary schools, there are 18 trained and qualified male teachers, and 113 untrained and unqualified; and 18 unqualified and untrained female teachers.
The senior secondary school has 66 qualified male teachers and 6 qualified female – but 15 of them are not on the government’s payroll.
The Deputy Director of Education said that all the schools are operational, but with difficulties, which should be looked into very quickly.
There are three institutions in the district’s tertiary sector. One is yet to be approved by the government.
“Regarding the girl child support – these monies are paid directly to the schools’ accounts, with no details sent to the education secretariat. We find it very challenging to account on their behalf, as such we cannot comment because as a policy we should be given the list; instead the head teachers take it directly to the ministry.
“The fast track education is a worrisome issue, because for government to spend a lot of money on these schools that are not approved will not help the situation.
“There are 4 EFTA/EFTI schools, 3 Sababu schools, and 10 Nacsa schools that have not been approved. We have made reminders and recommendations, but they are yet to be approved.
“Regarding the effective use of the girl-child education grant, parents have been asked to pay fees and would be refunded when government disburse the funds.
“However, we are not informed when these monies are sent to the different schools, so we don’t know much about it. Besides, a copy of the receipt is not sent to us at district office, to know whether school X has received this amount or not.
“As a principle, we called the principals to a sensitization meeting to tell them that these monies are meant to be refunded to the parents and that we need copy of receipts, because monies go directly into their accounts.
“And whether the district council has an education officer stationed at the council, no, this is not presently happening; the council is not provided with office space.”
He said the district is indeed benefitting from the grant-in-aid. Presently it has 50 quotas of grant-in-aids, and there is a panel that makes funding decisions.
Regarding his work in the education office in Bonthe, M B. Sesay said there are 7 inspectors and 5 supervisors working with him. They assist in administration and see that work is done at the schools.
He praised Unicef, who he said are helping greatly in the retention of girls in schools. Unicef has initiated 10 mothers’ clubs and gives out Le500,000 to each club to help support educational activities.
“World Vision Sierra Leone is also helping with promoting education and providing counselling.”
He said that teenage pregnancy is a serious problem in the district.
“The challenge is for teachers to be approved, and to ensure that they put pressure so as to get the approval for schools. Grant allocation to the district is also very, very small – Le57million. This should be increased, considering the difficulties in accessing the whole of Bonthe.”
Julius Bangalie -, Chairman of the Education Committee at the Bonthe District Council, said that the former deputy director was not working in partnership with him. But the current director is.
He admitted having no knowledge about the funds, uniforms, and subsidies, as their functions were not really communicated to them. He said he has been the chairman of the committee in the last seven months.
“If monies were coming through the council, we would be able to account for them. But since these monies are coming into the schools’ accounts, we don’t know. I have also told them that an education officer should be stationed at the council, but this has not yet happened.”
In response, the parliamentary Committee said that the chairman of the Education Committee at the Bonthe District Council does not know anything about school administration.
Dr. Roland Kargbo – Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary Committee, said; “We want to see the relevant documents about how these monies were utilized and nothing has been produced to that effect. Look, we want to believe there is no working relationship between the council and the education committee.
“Government is providing a lot of money and we are not seeing the fruits of that. Now, if you allow the Anti-Corruption Commission to enter your district, there is going to be disaster for you.
“And the education chairman is really not up to the task, because he cannot answer the relevant questions; he should be replaced or should be sent on training to be able to live up to the task,” he said.