Sierra Leone government school buses will be allocated fairly – says transport minister

A.B Sheriff: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 August 2019:

In support of Sierra Leone’s Free Quality Education Programme which is a flagship of the Bio led government, the ministry of transport and aviation this week announced that the fifty school buses bought by the government from China, will be fairly allocated across the districts in the country.

Transport minister – Kabineh M. Kallon, made this announcement at the ministry of information and communication’s weekly press briefing which was chaired by the deputy minister of information and communication – Mamadi Gobeh.

Transport minister Kallon said that since the arrival of the fifty government school buses, they have had several meetings with stakeholders including the ministry of finance, ministry of education, ministry of local government and all the district councils in the country, to discuss how many buses will be allocated to each district.

Kallon informed the press that the fifty buses cost $4,980,000, manufactured by the Golden Dragon Company in China and insured by the National Insurance Company of Sierra Leone.

He said it has been decided that the buses will be allocated to the districts as follows: Kailahun 2, Kenema 5, Kono 3, Bombali 3, Koinadugu 1, Tonkolili 2, Falaba 1, Portloko 2, Karene 1, Kambia 1, Bo 6, Bonthe 1, Moyamba 1, Pujehun 1, Western Rural 5 and Western Urban 12, bringing the total allocated to 47. The remaining 3 buses he said, will be reserved for any emergency.

‘’During our meetings held with stakeholders, we agreed to set up committees to monitor the operation of the school buses. The committees comprise of the Chairman or Mayor of the district, the Director of Education, District Officers, Youth Representative, Provincial Secretary, Civil Society Organisation, Women representative, Sierra Leone Teachers Union, and Sierra Leone Police. The buses will be operated on a cost recovery basis,’’ minister Kabineh Kallon said.

He added that the government will ensure that the daily bus fare per child will meet the affordability of parents, and will be agreed before the launching of the buses which is scheduled for the 13th September, 2019.

The allocated buses will be made available to the districts a day or two before the launching ceremony which will be organised by the committee members of each district.

Transport minister Kallon also informed that the bus manufacturing company has provided a month’s training for the all the drivers and technicians. (Photo above: President Bio launching the National Free and Quality Education Programme).

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation – Brima S.T Kebbie spelt it out clearly that the government school buses will only be used by government and government assisted school pupils, and will not be available for use by teachers and private schools.

But the one million dollar question that remains unanswered, is how or what mechanism will be set up to help bus conductors and drivers identify pupils who are attending government and government assisted schools.

17 Comments

  1. My only concern about these school buses is the lack of culture of maintenance in Sierra Leone. I recall seeing some government vehicles in Freetown which were donated by foreign governments during the Ebola outbreak and are still almost new, parked in front of buildings with flat tires. And because of the long procurement process, some of the government officials connived with outsiders to steal valuable parts from those vehicles which are now scrapped metals.

    I hope that councilors will make sure that the proceeds from the Buses will not be misappropriated, and the petrol tanks will not be siphoned by the drivers to make quick money.

    Finally I hope and pray that the opposition APC party and supporters will not use these Buses as an easy target when going through their emotional roller coaster phases. They should desist from any ploy just to undermine the credibility of the Free quality education especially in their so-called strongholds.

  2. Teacher Harouna: “All I stated was that the reality of politics in Sierra Leone is one of ethno-regionalism. Was I wrong to suggest that? Have you not commented on political party strongholds in Sierra Leone in this forum? What do you think are the characteristics of those strongholds?”

    In regards to the above questions you raised, I have no objectivity towards that. Yes, as you rightly stated, every political party in a democratic dispensation have strongholds, no one is arguing about. My point of contention with you is the notion that because I was born from a particular region or tribe, I am supposed to be automatically a supporter of a particular party. This is what you said earlier

    “Why is it easy for SLPP, NGC and C4C folks to publicly declare their political identity but when it comes to APC guys the process is akin to going to a dentist to have a root canal done? In Sierra Leone, it is not difficult to identify a person’s political affiliation or ethnicity“

    Views like this are exactly were you went wrong sir. While each party has strongholds, you can agree with me that, there is a huge percentage of individuals in those strongholds who are either independent or support the other parties. So I think it’s highly stereotypical for anyone to insinuate that people who carry a certain last name or come from a particular region of the country are on this party or that party.

    Now, you mentioned about me being personal in responding to your statement directed at my person. The question is, if someone attacks your personality, how exactly should you respond? You and a few others kept accusing me of something that I am not. Do you expect me to succumb to your false perception of my person? Its never my intention to even express my background or personality here. I thought being a Sierra Leonean by itself should qualify me to participate in a political debate without needing to explain myself about where I was born or what tribe I belong to.

    Disappointedly, folks like you are more interested in labeling people rather than dealing with current issues affecting our nation. It is ludicrous for anyone to keep insisting that I am an APC hardcore supporter, not to mention me being ashamed to declare my affiliation with the APC party.

    I have stated here time without number that, I care less about party politics in Salone. I also mentioned that, in my opinion, both the 2 major parties, SLPP and APC are birds of the same feathers, so I see no point in wasting my time and energy praise singing their corrupt leadership. Whenever situation present itself, I have commented on both the failures of the 2 parties. Never have I defended the corrupt practices or injustices perpetrated by the EBK regime on this platform.

    By all indications, SLPP is in governance now, they are in the driver’s seat, so it only makes sense to scrutinize their current actions. When APC was in power, the spotlight was on them. So I clearly don’t see the issue of me being critical of what I perceive as the wrong doing of this administration.

    As a Sierra Leone, I believe its within my constitutional right to critic the government of the day without risk of being labelled as something else. My comments on this platform are all put in context of what is being reported. On each occasion, I try to analyze what I have observed as a Sierra Leonean and submit my comments. All participants do the exact same thing.

    I am fully aware that most of us have party affiliations, I absolutely have no issues with that. However, what I expect or subscribe to is to point out false information being propagated for political gain. If for any reason, you or anyone deems my comments as false, contrary to the realities on the ground or historical contexts, please query me.

    I believe this platform is setup for us to express our views while at the same time educating each other. So please, let’s refrain from labeling people simply because they do not support our political parties or political ideologies.

    • Forumites, please, please, please!! May I request that you ALL keep your comments succinct and brief. Please bear in mind that we spend a lot of time moderating comments before they are approved, so as to maintain and uphold the integrity of your discussions. To help us do this, I would recommend that comments take no more than four paragraphs, with each paragraph having no more than 6 sentences. Failure to comply may result in parts of your comments being deleted, so as to save space on the Comments Page of this newspaper. Thank you for your understanding in advance. God bless.

      NB: Please note that you can always send articles for consideration for publishing, if you find that your views on current issues affecting Sierra Leone extend to a few pages long.

    • Young4na, I don’t understand why you keep misinterpreting my statements. Again, let make myself very clear. There is nowhere in my comments where I even remotely insinuated that a Sierra Leonean born in a particular region must support a particular political party. What I said was that political party membership or support in Sierra Leone is characterized by ethno-regionalism. This means that there is a tendency for Sierra Leoneans of a particular ethnicity and of a particular region to support a particular political party. Is this not a fact?

      Don’t Northerners largely support the APC and Southeasterners the SLPP? Also, If APC has historically averaged 85% of the voting population in the North, is that not significant? And if 85% of Southeasterners have historically voted for SLPP, is that not significant enough to warrant the generalization that Southeasterners are largely SLPP? Does this conclusion necessarily mean that every Southeasterner is SLPP or that every Northerner is APC?

      I have sometimes gotten into trouble for speaking the truth. But it does not bother me. And I scoff at Sierra Leoneans who argue that Sierra Leoneans are not tribalistic. Make no mistake Sierra Leone is a very tribalistic society. And much of Sierra Leone’s tribalism is driven by politics. Thus, even those whose marriages cut across tribal lines are not necessarily innocent when it comes to Salone’s virulent tribalism.

      To close, I did not question your personality. I asked you why you get emotional in political discussions. Big difference.

  3. Teacher Harouna, the problem with our country is exactly views like yours — the notion that we are bound to support or affiliate ourselves with crooked politicians simply because they came from a certain region or they are our tribesmen. A prospect leader or politician should not be judged based on merit or qualification rather we should support him/her simply because we speak the same language and he/she has managed to convinced majority of our ill-informed villagers to back his/her quest to leadership. This mentality is exactly why our African continent will remain to play catch-up with the rest of the world.

    Now, I migrated to the U.S, immediately after I took my JSS 3 certificate. I finished my high school here and continued onto higher education, obtaining my masters few years back. In the area of politics, I have never voted or participated in any election exercise in Sierra Leone. Prior to 2018 election, I was in town during the registration process, so I took the opportunity to register obtaining my first voter ID in Salone. Of course I was not around when the actual voting was taking place, so the none voter aspect of me continues.

    Yes,Ii was born in the northern part of the country but grew up in Freetown. During my school days, I interacted with students from all regions and tribes. As we speak my best friend (almost a brother) here in America is from the south east, we attended the same university here in the U.S, and we have remained close for the past 18yrs. My wife with whom I have 3 kids with is from the South, Pujehun to be specific. So in a nutshell, tribe or region has never been an issue for me. I see all Sierra Leoneans as one, no tribe, region or sector is better than the other.

    Despite not being a registered party member, during the last election, I was actually campaigning for KKY. Each time I call my folks back home, I insisted on them to vote for KKY else they should stop complaining about the hardship during the APC. On several occasions, I went into intense arguments with my cousins, pointing the corrupt practices of EBK, each time, they will point to me that, KKY has done nothing for the country despite his high profile job. I did everything to enlighten them but they were stuck with the same mentality that you are expressing here — voting for our tribesmen. What a backward thinking, I told myself.

    So Teacher, my advise to you is we should change this mindset and mentality if our country is to developed. The so called politicians are aware of this, hence they care less about accountability. They will invoke the tribe card whenever they want to seek votes and when accountability is demanded from them. A typical example is the corrupt EBK regime officials, the sooner they are called upon to account for their kleptomaniac practices, the tribe card is invoked.

    The question is, when will this end? The saddest part of it all is the highly educated Sierra Leoneans being the worst. One will think that living in the western world and acquiring higher education will make a difference, but oh yah, God help us.

    • Young4na, with all due respect you clearly misunderstood the thrust of my argument. Please read my comments again and try to comprehend what I wrote. There is no where in my arguments where I suggested or even remotely purported that folks from a particular region should toe a particular political party line. All I stated was that the reality of politics in Sierra Leone is one of ethno-regionalism. Was I wrong to suggest that? Have you not commented on political party strongholds in Sierra Leone in this forum? What do you think are the characteristics of those strongholds?

      Correspondingly, if one could observe that Blacks in the United States largely support the Democratic party, does that mean that one is suggesting that Blacks should largely support the Democratic party? I reckon that there is a fundamental difference between a positive statement and a normative statement.

      In essence, while I am being realistic about the nature of party politics in Sierra Leone, you are being openly deceptive about the objective reality of political developments in Sierra Leone. And to make matters worse you feign neutrality as if it is that difficult to discern where your political allegiance lies.

      Without being personal, why do you get so emotional in discussions related to Salone politics?

  4. Komba Fenga, what can I say in you labeling me an APC core? The good thing is, this is not the only time you or someone else labeling me as an opposition party insider after being critical of certain injustices. The short time I have participated in this platform, I have seen even our great patriot Mr. Thomas being labelled an APC sympathizer for simply reporting the injustices being perpetrated by the Bio regime.

    When APC was in power, he was reporting the same injustices, and the APC folks will labelled him as an SLPP sympathizer. So its typical for political parties’ fanatics like your kind to label people that don’t out rightly, blindly support your selfish leaders.

    All I can say, I will continue to proudly be critical of any leadership that takes over governance in our sweet mama Salone. Our leaders are acting like gods today simply because folks like you worship them. We saw how each time EBK returned from a foreign trip his cabinet ministers will head to Lungi to worship him and escort him to Freetown. We can see a similarity in the current Bio regime, idlers and core SLPP insiders gathering in huge crowds blocking traffic and causing other disturbances to welcome the president from a foreign trip. If calling out injustices makes you a hater of the president, I will proudly accept such labeling.

    • Young4na, you have every right to criticize any perceived injustices in your country. And doing so should not preclude you from being a member of a political party. It is your fundamental right as a citizen of Sierra Leone. I have even seen members of the SLPP criticizing the present Maada Bio government.

      However, what I find interesting and sometimes confounding is the practice of APC guys quickly disowning their party whenever they are called out. This is especially common among educated APC guys. Why is this the case? Why is it easy for SLPP, NGC and C4C folks to publicly declare their political identity but when it comes to APC guys the process is akin to going to a dentist to have a root canal done?

      In Sierra Leone, it is not difficult to identify a person’s political affiliation or ethnicity. Politics in that country is rooted in ethno-regionalism. But politics in Sierra Leone is not that different from politics in other African countries. In Ghana, for example, the Akans support the New Patriotic Party (NPP) while the National Democratic Congress (NDC) draws its support from Ewes and Northerners. And I dare say that even in advanced democracies like the United States where I have lived for the last twenty five years, ethno-regionalism does influence politics and political party membership.

      I believe that we all should be proud of our affiliations, political or otherwise as long as we obey the rule of law and contribute to national development as productive citizens. This is just an honest observation. I hope I did not offend anyone.

  5. Hawa Koroma, contrary to your perception of my comments, I happen to be one of those Sierra Leoneans who are apolitical. My biggest interest is in seeing a developed mama Salone. So I care less about any party that is in governance. What matters to me is they do the right thing.

    In light of this, I will always call a spade a spade. When politicians do things that are detrimental to our nation, its incumbent on all patriotic Sierra Leoneans to call them out. Turning a blind eye to injustices simply because your party is in power will never bear good fruits for our nation.

    Now, if you read my reply to Ajay, I believe I have vindicated my assertions regarding the allocation of buses. In regards to your report about upcoming projects in Makeni and Magburaka. I must say this is news to me. The only major hospital being discussed or worked on is the one that has been in construction for over 5yrs now. My late senior brother happens to have a place few meters away from the hospital.

    If I am not mistaken, it should have been completed now or near completion. Its my understanding that it will be the largest regional government hospital once completed. So I am not sure of where you get your report of a new hospital being approved. Likewise, I was in Magburaka 6 months ago. I drove in the vicinity of Boys school campus. While a few of the buildings are in deplorable state, most of them have been remodelled. I was told the remodeling has been going on for over a year now, one building at a time. Again, I am not sure where you get your news from. My advice is we should all be willing to take constructive criticism without labeling someone as supporting this political party or otherwise.

    • “My biggest interest is in seeing a developed mama Salone. So I care less about any party that is in governance.” Young4na

      Young4na, My friend, you may have an interest in seeing a developed Sierra Leone, but admit it, you are APC to the core and you dislike SLPP to the core. How do I know? Your arguments on this forum. You cannot fool anybody here with your pretence to be neutral. You are not. What is so wrong with you declaring your political identity? For your information, I am a member of the C4C party.

  6. The government made the wrong decision buying those buses, because those buses will never get to the children in their localities. Why not use that money to approve teachers or increase teachers’ salaries. Did the government think that the buses will motivate children to learn? No not at all. Please am not against the buying of those buses, but the best solution is to encourage teachers.

  7. When you start DISCRIMINATION in a country like ours by separating GOVERNMENT sponsored SCHOOLS from PRIVATE SCHOOLS, you destroy the very idea behind providing transport to COMMUTE children TO and FROM SCHOOL. The GOVERNMENT must bear in mind that, not all CHILDREN attending PRIVATE SCHOOLS come from RICH FAMILIES. Some parents just have the motivation, ambition and SENSE of sending their children to good schools, whether rich or poor.

    All governments in the past and present, have contributed to this SAD and UNFORTUNATE situation. SAD. Why not concentrate on the upgrade of SCHOOLS (infrastructure) and provide more training, incentive and motivation to our COURAGEOUS and HARDWORKING TEACHERS? This is just a CAMPAIGN style MAKE-UP with LIPSTICKS, EYE BROWS, BROWN POWDER and maybe some TEEROW in my view. Simple as that.

    Why not use that money ( almost US $5 million to UPGRADE the SCHOOLS (both primary and secondary) and give the teachers the ENTITLEMENTS they deserve to do their jobs to the best of their abilities in the entire country? The school infrastructures in the country for the major part are broken. No good student tables and chairs, worn out buildings, poorly equipped with poorly paid and disgruntled teachers. The list goes on and on.

    Let me be LOUD and CLEAR that, I am not against the purchasing of these buses for commuting the school children. What I am against is that, it is DISCRIMINATORY and not the most needed option/priorities for the school children and schools at this time.

    OH POOR FREE QUALITY EDUCATION PROGRAM! How are you doing? Is it just once upon a time in 2023 foresight? It’s a difficult decision for you EH? Finally, may the ALMIGHTY GOD BLESS the FREE QUALITY EDUCATION PROGRAM to think about the right priorities and not BUSES which will BREAKDOWN on day one after being commissioned. Not something to fill the minds with Mr. PERCENTAGE. AMEN AND AMEN.

  8. Yes, the distribution is somewhat skewed – and it depends on how one looks at the statistics. But it might be a true reflection of how government assisted education is spread in the country.

    Perhaps, there are more government assisted schools in the south-west than in the North-east. The values or data give the greatest bias when looked at this way. At provincial angle, there is not much movement from normality.

    On the whole, it is very difficult to come to a definite conclusion if one is not aware of the criteria used to come to the final decision. Somehow, there is magical value missing: and that is #4 – or 4 buses for Makeni.

    Maybe the transport minister will spot this ‘error’ and respond accordingly through the three contingency buses.

  9. Hi, can you produce your source for this statement you made?: “Census results and other observations point to other districts being more populous than these 2 strongholds.” What I thought is that the buses are distributed base on registered student population and not the general population density. Thanks.

    • For those of you who have failed to intuitively deduce the unfair allocation of the school buses according to merit, let us go through a few statistics here. To begin with, let’s look at the Provincials stronghold of APC and SLPP. By all indications, APC can boast of their stronghold in the North, comprise of the following districts — Port loko, Bombali, Kambia, Tonkolili, Karene, and Koinadugu. SLPP on the other hand have their stronghold in the South-East comprising of – Bo, Kenema, Bonthe, Moyamba, Kailahun and Pujehun. Kono district which is on the East has traditionally been a toss-up district but currently a C4C stronghold.

      According to the article, the allocation of buses is as follows: Bombali 3, Pork Loko 2, Karene 1, Kambia 1, Tonkolili 2, Koinadugu 1. So, when you add these figures, you will get a total of 10 buses for the northern province—APC strongholds. Now let’s look at the SLPP strongholds allocation: Bo 6, Kenema 5, Bonthe 1, Moyamba 1, Pujehun 1, Kailahun 2; all total to 16 buses for the SLPP strongholds. C4C stronghold has 3 buses, Kono district.

      Now, according to an extensive school census carried out by the government of Sierra Leone with support from the world bank; in November 2010 there were 644 pre-primary, 5,931 primary, 888 junior secondary and 208 senior secondary schools in Sierra Leone, all total to 7,671. Here is the link for the 116 pages long report.

      http://wbgfiles.worldbank.org/documents/hdn/ed/saber/supporting_doc/AFR/Sierra%20Leone/ECD/SL%20SCR%202010_.pdf

      Looking at page 29, table 1.2.2 there is breakdown of schools by districts as well as city councils. The following number of schools are listed: Kailahun 400, Kenema 759, Bo 733, Bonthe 258, Moyamba 546; Pujehun 291, Bombali/Makeni 616, Tonkolili 594, Port Loko 655, Kambia 393, Koinadugu 424.

      Now, let’s take the number of schools in Bo (regime stronghold) and Makeni/Bombali (opposition stronghold). If we extrapolate the data collected during 2010 census, with Bo having 733 total schools and Makeni having 616 schools, the allocation of 6 buses in Bo compared to 3 buses in Makeni clearly shows an unfair sharing of resources. While Bo happens to have a higher number of schools, the small differences cannot in any shape or form be a justifiable reason to allocate 50% more buses compared to the opposition stronghold.

      If it interests you, here is another link showing some brief statistics of schools distribution across the nation during 2012.

      http://politicosl.com/node/596

      Both of the 2 sources above provide enough evidence to prove my assertions.

  10. Every patriotic citizen of Sierra Leone should applaud the Bio led regime for the free education scheme. Despite the many challenges our economy is facing, we cannot afford to turn our backs on our future leaders (sons and daughters). An educated salone will unleash a lot of potential from our citizens, hence a promising economy and well informed electorate. So politics asides, I absolutely cannot see any reason for anyone to be against the regime’s stance in promoting education.

    Now coming to the article, the headline says the buses will be fairly distributed across the nation. Contrary to population density and demography, I clearly could not understand why Kenema and Bo (the regime’s highest strongholds) are allocated the highest number of buses. Census results and other observations point to other districts being more populous than these 2 strongholds. So, there is clearly an unfair allocation of these buses.

    Pouring a higher concentration of resources and other developmental activities mainly on so called strongholds will never achieve the desired results. The children of Sierra Leone, across all regions and tribes, must be given equitable access to education and other resources if our country is to move ahead. This selective approach in implementing policies needs to be reconsider by all means.

    • Young4na,

      The buses are school buses and their allocation was based solely on school population in the various districts. There are more schools in Bo and Kenema and by extension more school children in those districts than in the other districts of the country. I don’t understand why the article failed to mention this salient point.

      Bonthe, where the president was born and Pujehun where he was raised each got only 1 bus.

      We have to stop dressing everything in Salone in political regalia. Is Makeni not ear-marked for a new hospital? And has the president not provided funds for the rehabilitation of Magburaka Boys Secondary School?

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