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.
I hope and pray that one day the majority of Sierra Leoneans will be able to read and write, which will eventually change some of the decisions they have to make in lives. Hopefully the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation which I believe Sierra Leone is a member of, will continue to work in partnership with our government to transform our nation to at least 90% literacy rate.
May the Almighty continue to make this program sustainable, and hopefully our people will base their decision to vote on issues rather than tribalism or regionalism.
Listen up folks – Mr Fofana strongly believes that plunging a fragile, poor, bankrupt nation into the abysmal depths of crushing debts, is the proper and correct way and manner all nations must wisely conduct their affairs, and be governed.
Again, although prudent, logical thinking and sensible economics clearly points out that tailoring the needs of one Country to resemble others like a cloth being cut, designed and sown “ASHOBI ” style is a bad idea, he and his short-sighted SLPP cronies think it is alright to do so. They say it’s just fine!
How can someone,anyone with all their senses of reasoning intact,say that its is a good thing to beg,borrow,and stretch ones budget because other nations have been known to do so? Man,I have to admit, that tops the list of the silliest,dumbest,most irresponsible statement I have ever heard anyone utter.
But do not be alarmed, by their outright displays of half-wittedness,because their mediocre mindsets are ceaselessly dysfunctional,and forever trapped in endless cycles of recurring,delusions,and illusions. Fitzgerald’ donating tables to traders clearly shows how practical the APC can be. We are fully aware that people have immediate needs to be addressed,and cannot afford to wait for ‘donkey years’ to satisfy their most pressing desires.
So go right ahead,and build your Castles in the skies,while we nurture and feed the poor, sick and the elderly. Rest assured,our paths will never cross in the dark valleys and barren deserts of failure, for we are heading towards greener pastures and the blessed peaks of Everest to gaze at magical sunrises and sunsets – and best of all, to breathe and enjoy pure,refined,fresh air. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.
Mr Kaikai – your evasive, circuitous response doesn’t surprise me at all, neither does your self-promoting Tribal rhetoric and logic. The SLPP must remember that this Country does not belong only to them, but also to millions of voiceless people standing on the sidelines watching.
Is it proper, sensible and right to keep on recklessly getting our nation involved in complicated contractual agreements and back-breaking debts we will never be able to settle and pay back for scores of years to come? Which books did their mediocre heads and minds study that explicitly points out to them that this is the way things have to be correctly done?
I’m asking because, I’m just curious. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year, for something that will produce results if any, at best a half a century from now. I think education should not have been prioritized. Those monies should have been directed towards Agricultural and industrial efforts that are guaranteed to yield quick returns and dividends that will ease economic strain, inequalities and jump start the economy of our nation.
Ghana is also facing similar challenges financing its ill-thought-out Free Education programme. It seems to me they also became blindsided by their childish, immature impulses, and didn’t first sit down and Count the cost of such an endeavor,just as the Master commanded – One cannot help oneself but laugh!
And by he way, there are some of us with obligations and reputations to maintain abroad. Please tell your government to quit projecting us as beggars with begging bowls in their hands, who cannot afford to buy a shovel to dig a hole. Ya heard! Rising Sun Will Rise Again.
I applaud the various commentaries on the plight of education in Sierra Leone and what the current SLPP government is doing to solve it. However, to my dismay, all the solutions I have read are purely academic and or political and, do not address the core problems facing education in the country.
For political reasons, others may disagree with the government on how to address this issue. To cut it short, whether you are for or against the president’s initiative, what is clear is the education system as it is today is broken and must be fixed; and that funds are needed to pay for the fix. No amount of rhetoric – academic or political is going to solve the problem.
EDUCATION IS DEVELOPMENT! So, we need money. We can raise this money through the Sierra Leone missions in the countries we live in. Each Sierra Leone mission should have a database of names and addresses of Sierra Leoneans in its host country. A special “Education Fund” account should be opened by each mission. All funds collected are sent monthly to a central account in Freetown, Sierra Leone, under the auspices of the ministry of Education.
So please all my Sierra Leone brothers and sisters, if we wiant to develop the country, we must start with education. We are all Sierra Leoneans and we are interconnected by one and only MAMA SALONE. Please brothers and sisters Temnes, Limbas, Lokos, Fullas, etc. as in the past, we the Mendes will always welcome you among us. Do not let the political elite divide us. They are only using us as scapegoats for their benefit.
GOD BLESS ALL SIERRA LEONEANS
Chicken feet require a small pot to cook, while as cow feet needs a big pot to cook (of course, I made this up). It may as well be a parlance in Sierra Leone, who knows. For a government to succeed however, it must be willing and unafraid to take bold and decisive, and I must add daring steps that may or may not succeed.
It must be ready to frown upon skeptics who may harbour and spread aspersions on the wisdom of such decisions; and continue on the path well thought out and determined to succeed regardless of obstacles that may present themselves.
Since the inception of the new direction government, a series of decisions and steps indeed have been taken to steady the metaphorical “ship of state” that seems to be floating aimlessly adrift downstream in the Rokel river (the largest river in Sierra Leone, stretching from Kabala in the North and empties in the Atlantic Ocean in the Western area of Freetown.
Instead of the ship going upstream in the Sierra Leone river, which is a river estuary on the Atlantic Ocean in Western Sierra Leone, it seem to be grounded even though the port is the largest natural harbour in the entire continent of Africa.
It is formed by the Bankasoka River and the Rokel River and is between 4 and 10 miles wide, and 25 miles long, enough for any ship of proportional commercial size to sail through.
It holds the major ports of Queen Elizabeth 11 Quay and Pepel. This estuary is important for shipping; again, for purposes of emphasis, it has the largest natural harbour on the entire African continent, for heaven’s sake. Indeed.
Several islands, including Tasso Island (the largest), Tombo Island, and the historically important Bunce Island, (think of the final holding site for the arduous and ignominious voyage of our people as slave across the Atlantic Ocean to work in the cotton, corn and sugarcane plantations in America and England are located in the estuary. If only these Islands can be developed for their touristic and cultural significance for commercial cash purposes, if nothing else.
So therefore, commences the ever-bold national agenda of Free Quality Education in the country. Bold steps engender bold responses, while baby steps similarly precipitate baby steps. Enter UNESCO, a branch of the United Nation’s organization, which promotes education, with a pledge of support for the government’s Free Quality Education Programme.
Primarily “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 fulfill their aspirations and realize their potential”.
A high-level delegation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), led by its Regional Director – Ydo Yao, emphasized the point that President Bio’s flagship agenda will be nurtured and supported by this international organization whose mission, amongst others, is to support genuine efforts in alleviating educational paucity around the world.
This has never been seen or done before in Sierra Leone, on such a grandiose scale. As Nay Sayers are shouting Bloody Mary from the roof tops of their ill-gotten mansions, the government is determined as ever to see this attempt at human development in a small, poor African country succeed at all costs.
Quoting Abdul Rashid Thomas of the Telegraph Newspaper, “Costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, Sierra Leone’s Free Quality Education Programme does not come cheap. Addressing the president, the UNESCO Regional Director, said his organization is committed to supporting all efforts being made by the Bio-led government, especially his decision to prioritize 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 mobilizing resources to help improve technical and vocational education and boost literacy rate in the country”.
Indeed, other governments, organizations have also expressed interests in giving all kinds of help that is needed to make this programme a success. We fervently hope, the government’s efforts are pushed forward at all cost regardless of its hardship and initial problems.
Any professional craftsman will tell you that there are different tools that are perfectly suited for the accomplishments of certain tasks and duties. For example, a spanner can be effectively used to unscrew bolt and nuts, a sledge-hammer for bringing down a concrete or brick wall, explosives for demolishing old houses and crawlers to clear away concrete, sand and debris that are no longer wanted.
Different tools for different purposes – just perfect, everything in its rightful places, that is exactly the way it should be. So also will I do today, in order to make my point crystal clear, refined discernment demands that I use the greatest tool that has ever been given to mankind, to subdue and overcome ignorance, laziness, immaturity and fear – the words of the the greatest Master to have ever tread the face of the beautiful earth – Our Lord, savior, redeemer and Emperor over all the men and women on Earth; Angels in Heaven, devils in Hell, principalities, powers and worlds seen and unseen – Jesus Christ.
Here are his timeless words; ” For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counted, the costs, whether he hath sufficient to finish it ” (Luke 14 : 28) Those are not my words,neither are they the words of the opposition APC. They are the words of Christ! Indeed, the time has finally come; one must now put on gloves made of iron, otherwise this nation is going to be led astray – allowed to sail recklessly and randomly out of sight, and get lost in the deepest, unforgivable, uncharted waters; a wayward, badly ungoverned, rudderless ship is what our nation has now become.
These are serious times, a child that refuses to study, learn and grow up, must be severely rebuked and punished. How long will Sierra Leone stay immature, unable to measure up to it’s own responsibilities without asking for help, like toddlers needing adults to wipe their running noses?
Why didn’t this inept entity called by the English political elite, a legitimate, functioning government count the cost and with meticulous diligence do a thoroughly supervised estimate to see how much their Free Education Programme will eventually cost? You do not drive a car across the desert and break down, before realizing you did not check to see if you had enough fuel to complete your journey. That’s just plain and outright madness, irresponsibility and stupidity. Count the cost first, the Master said, not beg or borrow, steal or look for handouts.
The simplest advice ever, for any project or lofty ideal you wish to undertake: do an estimate and know what it will cost first to see if you will be able to bring it to completion. Goodness gracious! When will Africans ever learn to think for themselves and do the right thing?
We all know that free education is good thing for the nation, but not if it will lead to prostrating ourselves to organisations like UNESCO for help. Will you propose to marry a woman, without being able to buy her a wedding dress? And when happily married will others feed and take care of her for you? UNESCO already has its own problems: 20 percent of their budget that came from the United States has been withdrawn and is lacking since they recognized and supported the Palestinians as a Member State.
There we go again – A house is already on fire and we are mindlessly running there for help and assistance? Truly heartbreakin! Will UNESCO make good on their promises? Only time will tell. Count the cost firsts says Wisdom! Why? So that you don’t have to beg,and borrow from the English, the Chinese, the IMF, Germans,and Americans; Clear enough? Well there is more – so that you do not humiliate yourselves, become ridiculed and frowned upon when trying to sell your priceless souls, for crumbs!
Count the cost, in order to be looked upon with respect – to give pride and dignity to your children, grandchildren and generations yet to come. What will you say on the Day of Reckoning, when standing before the tremendous throne of the Almighty, and are asked to give account of your stewardship on earth? Will you say, ” we were robbed of rivers overflowing and glowing with diamonds to pay back our mountainous debts, to hungry and cunning wolves disguised in the garments of harmless sheep? “Nope,that will not suffice, for they will answer you saying; ” We gave you a mind to think for yourselves; why didn’t you run as fast you could from wolves that eat flesh, vampires that drink blood and hyenas that won’t forgive?” And the tears will start rolling like a gentle waterfall down your face, as you plead and beg for MERCY! Rising Sun Will Rise Again.
Mr. Saidu Conteh, I don’t think you have an iota of an understanding as to how national economic processes work. All nations of the world from time to time do embark on ambitious projects/programs that may stretch their budgetary allocations. However, what is important is whether a marginal analysis examination of the project/program points to the fact that the additional benefits to be derived from the project/program would outweigh the additional costs to be incurred.
In the case of Sierra Leone, the benefits of a free quality education (FQE) program far outweighs the costs. Hence, it must be pursued. Second, the cost of the FQE will be an integral part of the government’s yearly budgetary expenditure as long as the SLPP stays in power.
If I am not mistaken, the projection is 21% of government expenditure. This tells you that Sierra Leone can afford an FQE. Now, if our development partners want to help, why should we not accept their help?
It is no secret that APC apologists like Saidu Conteh are fundamentally against the FQE. If anything, the FQE exposes the ineptitude of the APC in governance. Hence, the APC would always try to be a distraction whenever strides to expand the FQE is at stake. For example, while president Bio was busy selling the FQE to Sierra Leoneans last year, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, the APC strongman, was seen donating tables to traders at Sani Abacha Street. This brings to the forefront the fundamental distinction between the SLPP and APC.
While the SLPP is concerned with human capital development, the APC believes that a segment of the population should remain in an entrenched illiteracy and poverty trap. Tellingly, those children that the APC is encouraging to perpetually remain illiterate and impoverished street traders are the same children that the SLPP is exposing to an FQE that would transform their lives, and by extension the fortunes of the nation called Sierra Leone.
Moreover, the money that the SLPP government is spending on the FQE is money that the APC would have loved to squander with impunity. Paddy, cool down. Poorer African nations have successfully implemented free education programs. Let Sierra Leone be.