By Abubakarr Harding
President Julius Maada Bio,on the 8th September, 2022 launched the National Education Sector Plan 2022-2026 at the Freetown International Centre on Aberdeen under the theme, “Transforming Education for All”, noting that although transforming education is not cheap, his Government is making gains.
“I am truly elated that we are gathered here to formally present a full-bodied plan of our vision for education in Sierra Leone over the next five years…This is the fourth education sector plan developed in Sierra Leone since 2007. But this one is firmly situated within the vision we established in the New Direction manifesto for transforming education in Sierra Leone and is anchored in the work of the last four years. This one is developed by us, for us, and our national development,” he assured.
The President recalled that his Government had provided substantial funding to meet their objectives on education and used the occasion to recognize other generous interventions from the Global Partnership for Education and other development partners, including ‘Leh Wi Lan’, the World Bank and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“As I have argued, transforming education is not cheap. Providing accessible and equitable education with improved learning outcomes has not been cheap and will not get cheaper, given our aspirations. But we are confident that it is an investment worth making now to make the quality of education in Sierra Leone globally competitive.
“We already know the impact of education as a cross-cutting driver for inclusive and sustainable development. Nations that have achieved rapid and sustainable economic growth have done so by developing the most productive resource in any nation: human capital. That is why we have predicated our development agenda on delivering human capital development, free quality education, affordable and quality healthcare, and food security,” he said.
The President also emphasized that the greatest blight in any nation would be a lack of access to quality education, adding that the lack of access to quality education was the root of all the evil that could ever befall a nation.
“A nation of uncritical thinkers, a nation that cannot participate in global technological and scientific advancements, a nation that cannot develop entrepreneurship and local manufacturing or attract global investors seeking unique skills, is indeed a nation that is assured of cycles of poor living conditions and intergenerational poverty,” he stated.
President Bio made reference to the fact that his Government, since 2018, had re-established and staffed a new curriculum and research department, which had created a new Early Childhood Development curriculum, Basic and Senior Secondary curriculum, and developed learning materials between 2018 and 2022.
“We have recruited, promoted and replaced more teachers than ever before in the history of this country and there are now more female teachers and a higher proportion of female teachers than ever before. There are also more special education teachers. My Government has paid teachers more than any Government has in the history of this country. Despite financial constraints, my Government was one of the very few in the entire world to increase teacher salaries even in the middle of COVID-19.
“With partners, including the European Union, British Government, the US Government through the USDA, Qatar, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, Global Partnership in Education, the World Bank, and contributors to the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, we have raised substantial funds to support our work on transforming education in Sierra Leone. There is a significant funding gap, and we are hopeful that our development partners can work with us to close that gap,” he stated.
Country Representative for UNICEF, Dr Suleiman Braimoh, on behalf of international partners and all the United Nations systems working on the education sector in Sierra Leone, said: “The National Education Sector Plan has been designed as an important accelerator for Sierra Leone’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4, targeting access to quality education and to fulfill the Government’s vision of high-quality education for all girls and boys”.
Head of Development, Irish Aid, Carol Hannon, stated that: “Sierra Leone is playing a leadership role on the global education stage through numerous avenues. Sierra Leone has also led by example in making commitments and adopting policies that aim to transform education to be more decent and gender transformative”.
Representatives from the Council of Paramount Chiefs, students, community leaders, the Sierra Leone Teachers Union, and Civil Society Organizations all made meaningful contributions on their roles to the successful implementation of the 5-year education plan.