At the United Nations International Day of Education on Wednesday January 24th, in New York, Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernor Bah, eloquently narrated Sierra Leone’s educational journey, beginning with the system the colonial masters handed over to us, the decadence that set in afterwards, the disruption caused by the war and the restoration of hope by current President Julius Maada Bio.
The confident Minister Bah held the august audience spellbound with his narrative of his country’s educational history, harping on the theme for the event: “Learning for Lasting Peace”. He dilated on the impact of the war on education, highlighting the disruption it brought into the education of many Sierra Leonean children, leaving a less than 20% literate population and its attendant consequences like inequality, unemployment and underemployment. The mercurial Chernor Bah shed light on an education system that was too pedagogical, making no room for critical debate and clamping down on dissent.
The Minister spoke on how those challenges in our system pushed them into advocacy to address the imbalances in our society and to find lasting solutions to them. He said they presented a strong case for inclusive education as a way of laying the foundation for just society. Chernor Bah succinctly drew the link between the factors that threatened Sierra Leone’s peace two decades ago and those currently affecting the entire world, such as increased inequality with education under threat, especially for girls.
After narrating the challenging stories, the Minister expressed optimism for the future, harping on President Bio’s bold decision to put education at the center of his governance. He told the audience that Sierra Leone now has a President who has allocated 22% of national budget to education, introduced free education from pre-primary to secondary school, the STEM programs and radical inclusion. All the barriers to education, he said, have been removed by the Government of President Julius Maada Bio, which he said is the ray of hope for the country.
Minister Bah committed to working with UNESCO to implement and institutionalize the UNESCO recommendations on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Sustainable Development.
The Minister spoke proudly of how Sierra Leone has risen from the ashes of destruction to now sit as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, showcasing its experiences of transformation from conflict to education-fueled development to the world.
He concluded by appealing to his audience for collaboration and interconnectedness in achieving the goals set already and asking that a leaf be borrowed from Sierra Leone’s journey as a shining example for all to emulate.