Transforming education is not cheap – says President Bio as he unveils new National Education Sector Plan

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 September 2022:

President Dr Julius Maada Bio has launched the National Education Sector Plan 2022-2026 under the theme, “Transforming Education for All”, noting that although transforming education is not cheap, his government is making gains.

Speaking at the Freetown International Centre in Aberdeen, Freetown last Thursday 8 September 2022, the president said: “I am truly elated that we are gathered here to formally present a full-bodied plan of our vision for education in Sierra Leone over the next five years…This is the fourth education sector plan developed in Sierra Leone since 2007. But this one is firmly situated within the vision we established in the New Direction manifesto for transforming education in Sierra Leone and is anchored in the work of the last four years. This one is developed by us, for us, and our national development.”

The President said that his government has provided substantial levels of funding to meet the needs of the education sector, and used the occasion to recognise other generous interventions from the Global Partnership for Education and other development partners, including ‘Leh Wi Lan’, the World Bank and the UN children’s fund (UNICEF).

“As I have argued, transforming education is not cheap. Providing accessible and equitable education with improved learning outcomes has not been cheap and will not get cheaper, given our aspirations. But we are confident that it is an investment worth making now to make the quality of education in Sierra Leone globally competitive.

“We already know the impact of education as a cross-cutting driver for inclusive and sustainable development. Nations that have achieved rapid and sustainable economic growth have done so by developing the most productive resource in any nation: human capital. That is why we have predicated our development agenda on delivering human capital development, free quality education, affordable and quality healthcare, and food security,” he said.

The President also emphasised that the greatest blight in any nation would be a lack of access to quality education, adding that lack of access to quality education is the root of all evil that could  befall a nation.

“A nation of uncritical thinkers, a nation that cannot participate in global technological and scientific advancements, a nation that cannot develop entrepreneurship and local manufacturing or attract global investors seeking unique skills, is indeed a nation that is assured of cycles of poor living conditions and intergenerational poverty,” he stated.

President Bio said that since 2018, his government has re-established a curriculum and research department, which has created an Early Childhood Development curriculum, Basic and Senior Secondary curriculum, and produced new learning materials.

“We have recruited, promoted, and replaced more teachers than ever before in the history of this country. There are now more female teachers than ever before. There are also more special education teachers.

“My government has paid teachers more than any government has in the history of this country. Despite financial constraints, my government is one of the very few in the entire world to increase teacher salaries even in the middle of COVID-19.

“With partners, including the European Union, British Government, the US Government through the USDA, Qatar, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, Global Partnership in Education, the World Bank, and contributors to the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, we have raised substantial funds to support our work on transforming education in Sierra Leone. There is a significant funding gap, and we are hopeful that our development partners can work with us to close that gap,” he stated.

Country Representative for UNICEF, Dr Suleiman Braimoh, on behalf of international partners and all the United Nations systems working in the education sector in Sierra Leone, said: “The National Education Sector Plan has been designed as an important accelerator for Sierra Leone’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4, targeting access to quality education and to fulfil the government’s vision of high-quality education for all girls and boys”.

Head of Development, Irish Aid, Carol Hannon, stated that: “Sierra Leone is playing a leadership role on the global education stage through numerous avenues. Sierra Leone has also led by example in making commitments and adopting policies that aim to transform education…”

Representatives from the Council of Paramount Chiefs, students, community leaders, the Sierra Leone Teachers Union, and civil society organisations all spoke about their respective roles in the successful implementation of the government’s new Five-year education plan.

You can read the full text of President Bio’s speech below:

Ministers of Government, Honourable Members of Parliament, Paramount Chiefs and Community Leaders, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, Education Sector Administrators and Teachers, Our learners, pupils, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning:

I am truly elated that we are gathered here to formally present a fullbodied plan of our vision for education in Sierra Leone over the next five
years. As previous speakers have indicated, this is the fourth education sector plan developed in Sierra Leone since 2007. But this one is firmly situated within the vision we established in the New Direction manifesto for transforming education in Sierra Leone and anchored in the work of the last four years. This one is developed by us, for us, and for our national development.

Let me, therefore, thank the leadership of the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education for their great work on this. Let me also thank experts, consultants, and stakeholders who added their voices and expertise to developing this comprehensive document.

The process of developing this education sector plan has been highly consultative and it has been guided by several existing assessment reports and policy frameworks relevant to the sector. Details have been provided by previous speakers. The Government of Sierra Leone provided substantial funding in order to meet our objectives. But also, our friends and partners, the Global Partnership for Education and other Development Partners including Leh Wi Lan, World Bank, and UNICEF have generously supported this initiative.

We already know the impact of education as a cross-cutting driver for inclusive and sustainable development. Nations that have achieved rapid and sustainable economic growth have done so by developing the most productive resource in any nation – human capital. That is why we have predicated our development agenda on delivering human capital development – free quality education, affordable and quality healthcare, and food security.

When I speak about intentional planning therefore for education in Sierra Leone, I mean that as a nation, we have leveraged what we know
about the education sector; pondered with purpose over what we need to do; considered the experiences of others; and we have then deliberately thought-out and carefully scaffolded our implementation of interventions. I have always argued that we must get education right if we must get the sustainable development of this nation right.

As I have always said, the greatest blight in any nation is a lack of access to quality education. In fact, the lack of access to quality education
is the root of all the evil that can befall a nation. A nation of uncritical thinkers; a nation that cannot participate in global technological and scientific advancements; a nation that cannot develop entrepreneurship and local manufacturing or attract global investors seeking unique skills; is indeed a nation that is assured cycles of poor living conditions and intergenerational poverty. Since 2018, we have demonstrated through our work that we must change the future of learning and with that the future of our nation forever.

The theme of the Education Sector Plan 2022-2026 pronounces a dedication to transforming learning for all. Our aspiration is that learners will have equal opportunities to access quality basic, secondary, technical, vocational and higher education right across this nation. We have laid out our priority objectives very clearly.

But as with all our initiatives as a Government, we start doing even before we talk. We have re-established and staffed a new curriculum and
research department which has created a new Early Childhood Development curriculum, Basic and Senior Secondary Curriculum and developed learning materials between 2018 and 2022. Through our work with partners, we have also updated, procured, and distributed teaching and learning materials. Civic education is again part of the curriculum. We have established a learning assessment unit to conduct international assessments like EGRA/EGMA for Primary and Secondary Grade Learning Assessments. We have strengthened accountability and developed policies for education sector governance.

We have recruited, promoted, and replaced more teachers than ever before in the history of this country. There are now more female teachers and a higher proportion of female teachers than ever before. There are also more special education teachers. My Government has paid teachers more than any Government has in the history of this country. In spite of financial constraints, my Government was one of very few in the entire world to increase teacher salaries even in the middle of COVID-19. I also launched the Presidential Best Teacher Award in order to recognise the outstanding work of our teachers. Instead of witch-hunting, hounding down, and disparaging our teachers for 11 years, we have provided more professional assessment and development opportunities for our teachers.

And for our parents, we have not only paid tuition fees for every public education learner in this country, but we are also paying examination fees for over 400,000 learners every year. For all these payments made by Government, calculate how much we are putting money into the pockets of parents and families per child. We have also developed the SMS Result Checker that is also saving parents a lot of money. We have also included parents and communities in the governance and management of education.

Across tertiary, technical, and vocational education, we have registered unprecedented successes. The Minister of Technical and Higher Education has mentioned that we now have ten districts with Government Technical Institutions. We have established a Skills Development fund for public and private TVET institutions and expanded skills development training at higher and tertiary institutions across the country.

We have introduced a National Qualifications Framework to enhance the quality of standards and equivalencies in certificates. We have reviewed conditions of service for academic and administrative staff of higher and technical institutions. The new Students Loan Scheme will open up access to technical and higher education for more students.

Above all, in four short years, we have transformed the quality of technical and higher education in this country forever by reviewing the
Universities Act and for the first time in this country, established three new Technical universities – the Kono University of Science and Technology (which was promised to the people of Kono of 11 years and never built); the Eastern Technical University; and the Milton Margai
Technical University. For the first time also, we now have a postSecondary Disability Policy for accessing learning.

And we are not done. In the near future, we will soon develop a new Basic Education Policy and Act and a new Technical and Higher Education Policy and Act. Other related education sector policies will support and expand this strategic vision we have set out.

As I indicated a few days ago at St Joseph’s Secondary School and again during my meeting with young learners yesterday, our work on education in this country has been highly praised by the international community. Our Freetown Manifesto on transforming education is now a global document. Among other international acknowledgments, I am a Co-Chair of the High-Level Steering Committee to UNESCO for SDG 4 and I am an Executive Committee Board Member of the Global Partnership for Education.

At the United Nations General Assembly this year, I will be a Co-Chair of the Transforming Education Summit along with the United Nations Secretary-General and leaders from Japan, Qatar, and Argentina. I will also co-chair a special session with the World Bank President and
the Head of UNICEF.

As I have argued, transforming education is not cheap. Providing accessible and equitable education with improved learning outcomes has
not been cheap and will not get cheaper, given our aspirations. But we are confident that it is an investment worth making now in order to make the quality of education in Sierra Leone globally competitive. We have set a new high among peer countries for domestic education financing. With partners, including the European Union, British Government, the US Government through the USDA, Qatar, Japan, People’s Republic of China, Global Partnership in Education, the World Bank, contributors to the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, we have raised substantial funds to support our work on transforming education in Sierra Leone. There is a significant funding gap and we are hopeful that our development partners can work with us to close that gap.

We have a lot to be proud of in the last four years. We have more girls in school and achieved gender parity across all levels of education.
We are universally addressing menstrual poverty. As a result of the work of the First Lady, Madam Fatima Bio and the Government, there is greater protection of the girl child, especially from sexual and gender-based violence.

In the last week, Sierra Leone has received global acclamation for a unanimous vote by the United Nations General Assembly for a Sierra Leone-sponsored resolution calling for justice for survivors of sexual violence. A bill for gender empowerment and equality is in Parliament. I
urge citizens to advocate intensively with the members of Parliament to pass that bill. It will transform the future of women and it will transform the future of this nation.

More rural poor now have access to quality education. More children in poorer districts can now have a warm meal while they are in school.
Hitherto excluded population groups can now access education. More schools and more classrooms have been built; more early childhood education facilities; new boarding facilities; more WASH facilities in schools; more parent learners, more out-of-school learners; more teachers, better-paid teachers, and a better student-to-teacher ratio.

There are now better learning outcomes and we can now monitor and measure those consistently. There are better completion rates, more
passes in transition examinations across the board, and more students being placed in technical, vocational, and tertiary education institutions. We do not only now have comprehensive school data, we predicate our policies, planning, and interventions on relevant, current, and accurate data.

Are we satisfied with these achievements and more in the last four years? Our aspiration is to do more. I believe that in the coming years, we can do more to address learning poverty at the foundational levels right across Sierra Leone and improve our literacy and numeracy levels.

I believe that our learners can graduate at the BECE and WASSCE levels with skills they can use to develop business start-ups and create
jobs and income streams for themselves and other Sierra Leoneans. They could also transition into technical and vocational education institutions at higher rates and improve their skill sets and make themselves more employable.

I believe that our curriculum can support more civic education so that our new generation of learners grows up with strong critical thinking skills; is able to communicate their feelings, needs, and desires in peaceful ways; and participates in and contributes to building a more cohesive, peaceful, and stable democracy.

Some opposition politicians seem to care less that their hateful and bigoted statements have led to deadly violence and the gruesome public killings of Police officers. But I believe that through the power of education, we can have a new generation of citizens who respect all ethnic groups equally and who prefer dialogue and peace over hate. We can use education to build a more peaceful, more stable, more resilient, and more sustainable future for our country.

I believe in the power of transformative education to make our learners more productive citizens who can craft a new perspective on and take action to tackle the urgent challenges of our country and of the globe. Climate change education, for instance, can empower learners to develop attitudes and take action to mitigate the effects of climate change in their communities and hence avert avoidable disasters.

I believe in that we can innovate teaching and learning and we can go beyond the Education Innovation Challenges we have started in order
to improve our learning outcomes. Everything is possible. We have been bold and audacious and we have made the seemingly impossible happen in just four years.

We may be a small country, but our achievements and our ambitions are unlimited. We believe that fit-for-purpose education can transform the future of our beloved nation. With this shared aspiration and uncommon commitment to getting even better, I proudly launch the Education Sector Plan 2022-2026. I thank you for your kind attention

 

2 Comments

  1. A reality check shows as of September 2022, Sierra Leone is the 5th least developed country in the whole wide world. The West African country, which few days ago lost her former head of state HRH Queen Elizabeth II, fares marginally better than Mali, Burundi, South Sudan and Chad – all trouble spots in sub-saharan Africa,. Sierra Leone was once bottom of the pile during her troubles but reached the dizzying heights of last 15 in recent years. Slowly but surely, the direction of travel seems to be a fast descent back to a familiar territory. It will be a sad indictment of the Government and people of Sierra leone if we become last (totebuckit in Krio) during peace time.

    https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/most-developed-countries-in-africa

  2. When Tony Blair was elected as the British Prime Minister in 1997, he was asked what he planned to do with his primeship to transform British society after the Labour party was given a resounding mandate to run the affairs of the United Kingdom ?With out stopping to catch his breath ,he replied “Education ,Education ,and Education .” Coming from a man who’s country is well advanced both economically and technologically, we can see why education is vital to achieve your country’s aspirational goals .Tony Bliar’s whoes father had a stinct in lecturing in Sierra Leone in the early sixties, knows all too well the vaule of eduction .”It helps people become better citizens,get a better paid job,show the diffrence between good and bad .Education shows the importance of hard work and,at the same time ,help us grow and develop .Thus,we are able to shape a better society to live in by knowing and respecting rights ,laws and regulation .”Constrast that with Bio’s view on eductaion or the late President Momoh’s lukeworm statement at the hight of the Students riots in Makeni when he said we the rioting students should know “Education is not a right but a previlege .”

    So if you are looking for answers why our country never took off and achieve our national develoment goals as set by the independence founding fathers look no futher .The political leadership viewed the educated elite as a threat to their very existence . More people with Doctrate degrees were executed by the Stevens government than any other president before and after him. It is easy to see why?politicians of all colours worked out it is easy to manipulate the uneducated population n tribal and regional lines for their own selffish goals than invest in our young people ,that in the long run is going to be the future leaders of the country .Transforming education is not cheap.

    We don’t need Bio to remind us how acquiring education doesn’t come with a cheap price tag .One will be for given to think the rest of human activity , like feeding your family, paying the rent or even up keep of your family home comes cheap .It seemed to me when it comes to our primary strategic developments goals , like investing in education , health care , agriculture, roads and bridges , electricity , housing , Bio the jet setting president , that spends millions of dollars on fruitless foreign travels is quick to remind us about the importance of being prudent with the public purse. We wish he can apply the same stringent attitude towards his expenses. The President is right in saying , we can only achieve our national developments goals we set ourselves if we have a robust education system that is fit for purpose .With education we will have a better choice of leaders .And that is what our country is crying out for .Lonta!

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