By Amin Kef Sesay
The Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), has made a total payment of Le l46,927,817,600 as tuition fees for pupils in pre-primary, primary, junior and senior secondary schools in Government and Government-assisted schools for the 2018/2019 school year and first term of the 2019/2020 school year.
This is in fulfilment of the Government’s commitment to the citizens of Sierra Leone on the flagship Free Quality School Education (FQSE) programme, according to a press release issued by the ministry.
The release added that the MBSSE in consultation with the leadership of the Council of Principals of Secondary Schools and the National Council of Head Teachers agreed to delay the payment of second term school fees for the 2019/2020 academic year until Government conducted direct head count of pupils in Government and Government assisted schools.
‘The head count conducted to validate the actual enrolment figures in schools, shows anomalies in enrolment data submitted by some schools in the 2019 Annual School Census (ASC),’ the release noted. It went on to state that ‘in 29% of schools, the enrolment numbers are consistent between the two data sources while 37% of schools reported much higher numbers in the ASC than was recently counted; while 34% of schools have more students enrolled than was captured during the ASC conducted last year and that there is only 1% overall difference in enrolment numbers between the ASC and the completed headcount,’ the press release informed.
The recently completed and validated head count will be used by Government to determine the payment of school fees, supply of Teaching and Learning Materials (TLMs) and textbooks for the remainder of this academic year, while more robust systems are put in place to mitigate against discrepancies for the ASC 2020, while school leaders are encouraged to desist from cheating the system, the release stated.
The release added that the Government is assuring heads of schools and the general public that payment of school fees for the second term of the 2019/2020 academic year is now being processed, while government reiterated its commitments to the full implementation of its flagship Free Quality School Education programme, which has added close to 700,000 new students and continues to be highly successful.