Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 June 2019:
Yesterday, Thursday 13 June 2019, a high-level delegation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), led by its Regional Director – Ydo Yao, met with President Julius Maada Bio at State House in Freetown, to pledge their support for his government’s Free Quality Education Programme.
Launched in August last year, the government’s free quality education programme has opened up access to primary and secondary education for hundreds of thousands of children from very poor backgrounds, to fulfil their aspirations and realise their potential.
Costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, Sierra Leone’s Free Quality Education Programme does not come cheap, and there are teething problems. In some parts of the country, there are schools where children are still being taught in appalling classroom conditions, with no desks and chairs – children sitting on floors, inadequate text books and other learning materials, as well as poor standards of teaching.
But the government is cash strapped, and cannot find the funds needed to fully sustain such a massive programme through taxation alone. It needs every help it can get from international agencies to help plug the gaps in transforming Sierra Leone’s education system.
Addressing the president, the UNESCO Regional Director, said his organisation is committed to supporting all efforts being made by the Bio-led government, especially his decision to prioritise education in Sierra Leone.
He said that as the UN Agency leading the promotion of universal access to education in the world, they are ready to help the government achieve its objectives for the development of education in the country.
UNESCO he said, is committed to supporting human capital development by mobilising resources to help improve technical and vocational education and boost literacy rate in the country.
He told the president that based on experience, UNESCO has a very good approach in using new technology in promoting education.
Head of Secretariat of the International Task Force on Teachers, Edem Adubra, said improving the quality of teaching is fundamental to improving the quality of education. He said that in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, teachers are key to the implementation of all the other goals.
He noted that improving the quality of life for teachers is not only about improving quality of education, but also about improving the quality of development in general.
President Bio said he gratefully welcome the delegation from UNESCO as partners in development. He said as a people, Sierra Leone appreciates the value of education, adding that the country was once referred to as the ‘Athens of West Africa’.
He stated that over the years, the level of education in the country has declined, but that there is need now to aspire again to that position not only to serve Sierra Leone but also to be a centre of learning that could impact the sub region and continent.
“We truly believe and have passion for education as a means to development, which we all aspire to. If we have to be part of the 21st century, we have to take education seriously. We have added quality to the education we want to provide, which means we want to provide quality and purposeful education to make our children competitive in the global market.
“I truly appreciate UNESCO as an organisation that promotes education; and because we are talking about quality, teachers are at the heart of it and are the most important factor. We will appreciate whatever support you can give to help augment our efforts to improve on the number and quality of teachers,” he pleaded to the UNESCO delegation.
UNESCO is a UN body that seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, Science and Culture. It develops educational tools to help people live as global citizens, free of hate and intolerance. The UN body also works so that each child and citizen has access to quality education.