Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 October 2021:
Teachers in Sierra Leone can only dream of receiving a $10,000 award along with a plot of State land as a gift from the president, in recognition of their hardwork and the difficult environment and circumstances in which they work.
Yet few months ago, despite the dire economic and financial difficulties facing the government, president Bio awarded $10,000 and a plot of State land to each national football team player and officials after winning a football match, costing the taxpayer millions of dollars.
Prioritising the needs of footballers over poor struggling teachers – most of whom are earning less than $50 a month, does not make economic sense nor is it morally correct, which is why on Tuesday, many Sierra Leoneans were expecting the president to correct his mistake as he celebrated this year’s World Teachers’ Day at the presidential national best teacher award ceremony, organised by the country’s Teaching Service Commission. Instead, what teachers received was little more than platitudes in recognition of their hardwork.
Each of the 48 teachers recognised for their hardwork, received about $2.800 which is far less than the $10,000 each footballer was awarded plus a plot of State land.
Speaking at the event, president Bio said: “If a bare-footed, five-year old village boy, who stared in awe and with great curiosity on his first day at school, today holds degrees from institutions of higher learning, can speak English and French, use technology, think critically, interact freely with world leaders, and is today President of this Republic of Sierra Leone, it is all because of the sacrifice, care, nurture, and patience of teachers.”
He added that as a President, he has prioritised investing in people because it is the only enduring, inclusive, and sustainable pathway to developing the country, noting that central to that investment is the free quality education that is universally and equally accessible to all.
“Therefore, on this day set aside as World Teachers’ Day, it is all appropriate to celebrate, to honour, and to thank every teacher for all they have done. Through war and through pestilence, teachers have been at the very heart of our nation’s resilience and recovery. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, they kept schools open, imparted knowledge with characteristic selflessness, patiently prepared students for transitional examinations, and continued to mould and open minds as they are wont,” he said.
President Bio said it is important to honour those teachers who might have been mocked, ridiculed, and under-appreciated for choosing a profession that did not bestow instant monetary wealth upon them.
“Today is about recognising communicators, influencers, opinion makers, care givers; people who serve with empathy; who mould character, instil discipline and respect; who empower; who give passions, imaginations, hopes, and dreams an opportunity to blossom,” he noted, adding that the event was also about thanking those who when children had doubts, made mistakes, were unsure and frustrated, would patiently stand by and assure them that the best was always in them.
Giving an overview of the selection process that led to the winners of the Presidential National Teachers Awards, the Chief Executive Officer for Teach For Salone, Madam Josephine Saidu said she was honoured and delighted to have been a part of the selection process, saying that many stakeholders like members of Council of Principals, Members of Parliament, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the Inter-religious Council and chiefdom stakeholders which she said made the process very transparent and credible.
The World Bank Country Manager, Abdu Muwonge, expressed gratitude and congratulated the government for what he called the huge accomplishments in the education sector, adding that the achievement of the country in transforming education was being echoed everywhere around the world.
“It is important to note that as we gather here today to honour teachers, parents too have a role to play to keep the children in school. Teachers have played a critical role in this country, he stated.
World Bank Country boss affirmed that the bank and other partners would continue to work together to improve the condition of service for the teachers; and make the learning environment more comfortable for all actors.
The Minister of Basic and Secondary School Education, Dr Moinina David Sengeh told the gathering that the Award Ceremony was a fulfilment of a manifesto promise in 2018 by President Julius Maada Bio, when he was a presidential aspirant.
Dr Sengeh noted that since the SLPP came to power in 2018, a lot of transformation had happened in the education sector, of which he said there had been more than 30% increase in enrolment and about 22% annual budget allocation to strength education in the country.
“Our work and the progress have attracted more funding. Very recently the Global Education Summit in London, Sierra Leone is now eligible for a $40 Million grant for the education sector. We have trained more teachers, recruited more teachers and we have empowered Inspectors of Schools to monitor teachers’ performance. We have done a lot, and more is to be done,” he assured.
Telling teachers they are doing well and patting them on the back is well and good but does not food on the table of their families. President Bio could have done better by announcing an increase in teacher’s salary and introduce an incentive package that rewards outstanding teachers in the country.
Prioritising the needs of footballers over poor struggling teachers – most of whom are earning less than $50 a month, does not make economic sense, nor is it morally correct. Does the president truly believe in his human resource development mantra?