Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 October 2020:
MPs in the parliament of Sierra Leone yesterday approved loan agreements totalling $40 million which the government has signed with the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) respectively, to help boost the country’s education sector.
The government of president Bio has prioritised free quality education for primary and secondary school children but there is a massive gap between demand and capacity to deliver.
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the country’s education system in the last five years, Sierra Leone still lags behind other African countries in terms of literacy levels – at less than 40 percent of population.
Millions of school children and college students in the country are making do with inadequate learning materials, overpopulated classrooms, and dilapidated school buildings.
But all that is about to change, should the government spend the $40 million loan it says it will secure from the OFID and BADEA to build new schools and colleges, refurbish dilapidated buildings, and procure more learning and teaching materials.
Presenting both loan agreements to parliament for approval, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. Patricia Laverley said the loan agreements are aimed at implementing the government’s education project for 2020 and 2021 in order to achieve higher quality education in the country.
Dr. Laverley also said that the project would be focusing on the rehabilitation and construction of schools and colleges in some parts of the country.
The Deputy Minister said Bunumbu Teachers College, MMCET Goderich and Congo Cross campuses would benefit through their expansion projects; and Government Secondary School in Magburaka, Bo Government School, Government Secondary School Kenema and Prince of Wales would be rehabilitated and maintained.
Speaking to the motion, Chairman of Finance Committee, Hon. Francis Amara Kai- Samba described the loan agreements as “simple and straight agreement”. He recalled that government has allocated 21% of the national budget to the free quality education which is a flagship project of the government.
The Opposition Whip, Hon. Hassan Sesay reaffirmed that the agreement is “non-controversial” and appreciated the efforts of the government for seeking these loan agreements for the development of the education sector in the country. He called for the project to be executed for its intended purposes.
Hon. Joseph Williams Lamin, supported the loan agreements and noted that, it is “non-controversial”, and appealed for Koyeama Government School in Bo District to benefit from subsequent project.
Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay commended President Bio for the loan agreements to support the education sector, and said it is very timely and essential for the development of Sierra Leone. She pleaded for remote allowances for teachers in the rural areas in order to attract more experienced teachers to serve in the provinces; and thanked donor partners for supporting the sector in the country.
She supported the rehabilitation of Koyeama Government School and the Government Matora Secondary School for Girls in Magburaka, Tonkolili District.
Hon. Lahai Marah said Billions of Leones have been expended on education and that everything is just centred on education. He spoke on the need for government to assess and monitor the implementation of the free quality education.
He blamed government for the deplorable state of government primary schools across the country and called for proper assessment of and accountability for the free quality education scheme, as well as subsidies for schools.
Hon. Marah questioned the two million dollars consultancy fee spent on the project and three thousand five hundred dollars payment per month for the project coordinator.
Hon. Bash Kamara of SLPP said the rural schools must be improved to catch up with their counterparts in the urban areas and emphasized on the challenges faced by Koyeama Government Secondary School, which he said “is starving from government support”.
Hon. Paul Saa Sam of C4C acknowledged the intervention of the government in support of the free quality education and emphasized the need for the total support of all schools in rural communities.
Leader of NGC, Hon. Dr. Kandeh Yumkella said the agreement is targeting human capital development, and spoke of the importance of improving education in our rural communities. He called for proper assessment of the education sector and effective monitoring and implementation of the project.
Leader of Opposition, Hon. Chernor R.M. Bah said that the debate has been touching because it has to do with the government’s flagship program. He said the free quality education is on its embryonic stage and called on all to support the scheme to succeed.
He advised all MPs to avoid politicising the free quality education programme, and urged government to continuously monitor and supervise the implementation of this project which would serve as a catalyst in boosting the free education programme.
Concluding the debate, the Acting Leader of Government Business, Hon. Bashiru Silikie thanked colleague MPs for their contributions, and said that he is pleased with the loan agreements aimed at promoting the free quality education programme in the country.
He also acknowledged the challenges highlighted by colleague MPs in respect of the free quality education. He said to achieve quality education, government should recruit and incentivise well-trained and qualified teachers.