We must overhaul our education systems

Oswald Hanciles (The Guru): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 03 July 2020:

The educational systems in Sierra Leone have been monumental failures. It is obvious. The festering poverty of Sierra Leoneans sitting on top  of some of the wealthiest marketable natural resources in the world is a gnawing pointer to the poor education we have imbibed in Sierra Leone.

Those who think that the quality of education is not the main culprit for Sierra Leone’s daunting poverty don’t  know the essence of education.  Education is all about transferring knowledge to an individual, and/or a society, for optimal survival of the individual or/and society.

Sierra Leone has some of the worst human survival indicators in the world  – this is a disgrace, given the disproportionate natural wealth Sierra Leone is endowed with.

EDUCATION IS FOR OPTIMAL SURVIVAL

Man is a leadership species and a sociological species. Man can best survive with dynamic leaders within orderly and productive  societies. In Sierra Leone, our educational systems have meant generally breeding a poor leadership at nearly all tiers of our society. We have predatory leadership that have a sense of entitlement in preying (‘ for tiff big money nar gofment’!) on the rest of society.

We have a leadership that does not see it as their responsibility to guide people in  society to improve their livelihoods – a childishly egoistic leadership; and reeking with demonic egotism. We have trained our leadership in educational systems where they think that education is essentially about imbibing information  and vomiting them on paper during examinations to earn credentials; Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctorate degrees being perceived as  the most superior   – what  I have often disdained as the “classroom mentality”.

And the leadership thinks it is their divine right to steal the most from the impoverished majority  –  once in senior government positions –  the more academic  credentials they have.  Generally, our academic content are devoid of SURVIVAL-CONTENT.

DEVOID OF SURVIVAL-CONTENT

Seriously, I challenge you to randomly ask pupils in primary and secondary schools; students in our universities and colleges… these questions: What does WATER intake do to the human body; and what does inadequate water do to the human body? 98% of them are not likely to answer that  question correctly.

Ask them: What is the quantity of water that is adequate for the human body  in our hot and humid climate in Sierra Leone? 99% of them won’t  answer that question correctly.

Ask them: what should be  the daily intake for the human body of minerals and vitamins, and what are the natural sources within Sierra Leone of these minerals and vitamins? 99.9% of them won’t answer.

Ask them: what are the mineral and vitamin content in fruits and vegetables like mango, orange, tomato, potato leaves, pawpaw, pear, etc. and what happens to the human body when it takes adequate amounts of them; or, does not take them? You could well be speaking Chinese to them. When I was at State House as media adviser to former President Ernest Bai Koroma (January, 2012 and March, 2018), I tried to draw attention to issues on nutrition, and the need for Nutrition Education. That took me to nutrition desks in the ministries of agriculture, and health, and to a special US-government-sponsored unit in the Office of the Vice President,  called Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN). They all moaned about one basic problem: inadequate resources to do their jobs.

NO DEMAND FOR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Around schools and colleges – even the most expensive and elitist  schools  – the hawkers would almost be NEVER  seen selling fruits and vegetables; but their stalls would be over spilling with imported biscuits, chocolates, sweets, and sugary soft drinks.  Why? Simple demand and supply laws. The pupils and students do not create a demand for fruits and vegetables.  Our children lack knowledge that their body needs adequate daily intake of vitamins and minerals.

Among wider Sierra Leonean society, there is no demand for fruits and vegetables either. Most of the fruits and vegetables being sold in the capital city of Sierra Leone, Freetown, the biggest consumer market in the country, are by female petty traders who hug the front doors of supermarkets  – targeting the elite.

What sort of education we have in Sierra Leone when pupils and students are not being taught two of the most fundamental needs for survival, adequate water and adequate fruits and vegetables,  until such information is inculcated into them?

The smallness of information being given our pupils and students as “education”  is alarmingly disgraceful.  In the 1960s/early 1970s when  I was a pupil in the Albert Academy in Freetown, we would have FIVE different books for Geography; THREE different books for Mathematics…; about 35 text books which even those from poor homes could afford to buy.

Today, too many pupils in our public  secondary schools go to school with NO TEXTBOOKS.  This continues right up to tertiary institutions. And there, their libraries are largely empty; and the few books in libraries  would be cannibalized.

Are we producing graduates in Sierra Leone who can compete with their academic peers in even Kenya or Ghana? No!

I have had complaints from several employers in the engineering and mineral mining sectors over the past fifteen years  that most engineering graduates from our universities have to go through complete retraining  to be fit to  be put on the job in their companies.  Please, don’t forget my avowed contempt for “classroom education”.

NEED FOR MASS EDUCATION

There is URGENT  need for mass education through mass communications out of the classroom.  The Chinese government can give us lessons in this – how they were able to use mass education to hoist over half of their over a billion people from the abyss  of poverty  in just a  few decades.

Until about 10 years ago, the German government was financing a literacy  campaign for  illiterates in Sierra Leone.

Apparently, that just fizzled out – even as our illiteracy levels have remained  stagnant at 80% of our population; our educated populace with primary and secondary school qualifications are pathetically shallowly-educated; and even those educated to tertiary levels are generally mal-educated, and not competitive even in the terrain of West Africa.

I am unimpressed by the Bio Administration’s emphasis on “education” if it means perpetuation of those educational systems that have scandalously failed.  We need Environmental Education. We need Nutrition Education.

We need Anti-Corruption Education (There must be imaginative modes of Anti-Corruption Education at all levels in our society).  We need Physical Education.  We need Military Preparedness Education.  We need massive Education in Science and Technology. We need Education to be United as a People!

If our experts in our governmental systems would not be largely  mediocre professionals, classroom-mentality bureaucrats, they would have long since made contact with me to ask questions on my ideas, and to guage my passion, and  support my energy for this subject.  Alas, they wouldn’t!!

Classroom- Mentality types are very unlikely to tap the minds of the knowledgeable citizenry if they are not in classrooms. Can the populace hear  me?  Can ‘revolutionaries’ hear me?

OUR DIASPORA CHALLENGED

We need mass education of the populace  – especially children and youth to disempower, and negate the influence of, those mal-educated Sierra Leonean leaders who every second today on social media  are screaming “APC… SLPP… NGC…” –  when the vast majority of our populace lack basic survival knowledge.

Our Sierra Leonean compatriots in the United States and Europe  who are inundating us with audio and video messages every minute – they have far faster and cheaper internet to ours –  can unite to catalyze faster and cheaper internet for children and youth in Sierra Leone; and support mass Survival-Education through the internet.

They can also team up with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for close monitoring and evaluation on what the Government of Sierra Leone is going to  do  with the $50 million that has been gotten from the World Bank – taking advantage of the Access to Information LAW of Sierra Leone to DEMAND information from government.

7 Comments

  1. Yes, you are right Mr. Jalloh. month ago I wrote here on this forum about a necessary change in your education system and mentioned this dual system in germany which since decades it had proven itself. It functions only in an interaction between government, private companies, chambers of crafts and trade unions. And this may be a problem in sierra leone. Besides this, too much value is placed on education in high schools and universities.

    • Is it really about “fruits and vegetables? You most be kidding. And you cited you were a former adviser? We guys did quite a number on Sierra Leone’s education to be in the state that it is today. Can we seriously blame the YOUTHS of today in Sierra Leone? Is it the children that are decrying Sierra Leone’s new innovative EDUCATION agenda?

      Education is without a doubt the corner stone of development. But without a government leadership that focuses on quality EDUCATION with modern day tools and a respected and decently paid and trained professional TEACHERS, well Mr. Writer, you ought to know the result. So grammarlizing insults on Sierra Leone will not change the narratives of our country’s pathetic educational system. It takes bold baby steps like what the present government is embarked upon.

      If only we can all support in our own little ways. I urge you and all to take a listen to “Peter Tosh’s YOU CAN’T BLAME THE YOUTHS OF TODAY SONG.” It is not about how many books children reads in school. Is all about the kind of books, the authors and the stories. Is it our-stories or HIS-STORIES?

  2. At present there is more emphasis on the academic achievement, as opposed to vocational training. To me this is where we’ve failed to prepare students for their future skills development ready for the 21st century skills-based economy. Majority of the engineering companies hiring our graduates have to retrain them. These graduates have only been taught the theory rather than the practical side of things. Compared to industrialised countries, our country is not known as a major manufacturing power house so they will have on site training. We only know how to manufacture lies about our political opponents going back decades. This is where Germany is ahead of all the major industial powers in terms of manufacturing industrial goods. They have the dual training system. The world beating vocational training colleges established right across Germany. A combination of both theory and real life work environment experience.

    The apprenticeship system where you are for example trained on the process of manufacturing a patcular product of your careers choice. For example if you want to work for company A, you sepend 50% of your time in the class room, and the other half in the factory floor. In this digital age and with companies moving ever closer to artificial intelligence to enhance their business models, companies prefer to recruit directly from this Toolbox – traniee stduents that have completed their apprenticeship with them. This vocational training is a collaboration between the German government and small and medium sized companies. Before the civil war broke out in Sierra Leone, We used to have a vocational training centre for shoe making. Parents in our town used to think its not academic enough.

    But in reality, stduents there were just doing what the Germans have been teaching in their vocational colleges all those years.They were on the right side of educational excellence. And knowing what we know now, by far they stood a better chance of getting employed in our country than some students that spend years studying for a degree that is of no use to them. It is not only a Sierra Leonean problem but it affects western countries as well. Right now our country is ripe for this sort of vocational training. There is a lot of rebuilding needed after that RUF senseless war – like brick laying, carpentry (chairs and bed making), plumbing, agricultural skills for farmers, manufacturing local products, IT, designing, etc. The government can invest more on vocational training centres or colleges across the country. It is by far the best way to reduce youth unemployment. Even the United of America is playing catch up with Germany. Little wonder Germany’s youth unemployment is low.

  3. Crikey. Why ask questions when you can just Google it? Are you aware that many of the questions you ask cannot be answered even by those in Western society without Googling it? All I ever hear about is people complaining about the situation. Get off your couch and do something constructive about it, or is fear a major driver in this instance? Be courageous and start doing something to change all the woes you highlight in this article. Make that change and spend the time constructively rather than complaining.

  4. Overhauling the ‘Educational System’ in Sierra Leone should not be theoretic, but urgently engaged to gauge the seriousness of the “Bio Talk and Do” pronouncements. We are watching!

  5. The problem in Sierra leone is the same everywhere in Africa,there’s a total lack in the ability to bring ideas and policies into fruition through the uses of practicable,and innovative strategies;Creativity is totally missing across board.The masters,and doctorate degree holders,that were meant to be saviors of our continent,are mostly nothing but unproductive book crammers,who have memorized the contents of volumes of books,word by word in order to please,and win the admiration of their first class Colonial-minded educators.

    The education in our beloved nation is a disaster story:Children are going to unsafe,unhygienic makeshift structures know as schools,teachers are poorly paid,and most of them lack the basic fundamental skills to teach,and train young children properly,and effectively.Poverty also has become a daunting obstacle that hinders the majority of our people living in villages,and shanty towns where economic prosperity is totally missing,and have never been seen,experienced or even heard of.

    Who wants to go happy,and dandy to school barefooted,on an empty stomach?And who is it in the slums of Freetown that can easily afford eating highly nutritious fruits and vegetables regularly in a country with one of the toughest economies in Africa,where every penny saved counts,and must be put to good,and prudent use?I totally agree,the entire education system needs to be completely overhauled,and that was exactly what the notorious,incompetent SLPP government should have done in the first place, instead of hastily implementing their totally impractical,ill-advised,shoddily prepared Free Quality Education Program.

  6. Continuing my studies in the United States exposed my thinking beyond the textbook to study complex topics based on real-world issues, such as the water quality in our communities or the history of our Sierra Leone, analyzing information from multiple sources, including the Internet and interviews with experts. Project-based classwork was more demanding than the traditional book-based instruction, where, like Sierra Leone, students may just memorize facts from a single source.
    Instead, as a student in the United States, I learned to use original documents and data, mastering principles covered in traditional courses but learning them in more meaningful ways. Projects can last weeks; multiple projects can cover entire courses. The student’s work then presented to audiences beyond the teacher, including parents and community groups.

    My untapped potentials got crushed, renewed critical thinking unveiled, and the student whom untrained high school teachers in Sierra Leone looked down on finally transformed into an expert scholar with a Ph.D. degree. At the Clear View of quality education, Sierra Leone’s students in the fourth and the fifth-grader should be competent to collect insect specimens, study them under an electron microscope via a fiber-optic link to a nearby university like Fourah Bay College, use Internet resources for their reports and discuss their findings with respective university professors. Quality studies should empower students to stretch across traditional disciplines and investigate their relationships and describe their connections.

    History, literature and the arts are interwoven and studied together. Integrated studies enable students to be investigators using many forms of knowledge and expression, as it expands literacy skills beyond the traditional focus on words and numbers to embrace graphics, music, color, and motion. Through this mapping, fourth and fifth graders learn to think critically in reading, mathematics, science, and technology use while investigating the languages of Sierra Leone.

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