By Brima Sannoh
Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa has on Saturday, 19 October 2019, signed an Education Support Project financing agreement of 20 million dollars with the Director General, of OPEC, Dr Abdulhamid Alkhalifa. The signing of the Agreement is part of the 68 million dollars project, which are jointly funded by the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa of $20.0 million, Saudi Fund; $25.0 million and Government counterpart fund of $3.0 million.
The project will cover the rehabilitation, expansion and equipment of the Bunumbu Teachers College and Milton Margai College including Tourism College in Goderich, construction of new school blocks, rehabilitation and expansion and equipment including furniture for Bo and EBK Magburaka Boys Schools, Kenema Secondary school and Prince of Wales.
During the signing ceremony, the DG OPEC said that President Bio’s Government has taken the bold steps to prioritize education as its flagship program. Sierra Leone is recognized as one of the global champions of Human Capital Development and therefore OFID is committed to supporting the Government to achieve its aspirations.
On his part, the erudite Minister of Finance, Hon Jacob Jusu Saffa, said, it was no mistake that President Bio made his manifesto commitment to implement Free Quality Education in Sierra Leone. Reflecting on the famous words of President Bio, “If you want to destroy a nation, don’t use guns but destroy the education system”. This is exactly what has happened to Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone that was once known as the ‘Athens of Africa’ is today at the bottom of the education ladder.
Therefore, as a demonstration of Government’s commitment, as articulated in the SLPP Government People’s Manifesto promise, 20% of the Budget in 2018-2019 was allocated to the education sector and this trend will continue in 2020 and beyond. It should be noted that the government education agenda is non-discriminatory; it caters for all, starting from early childhood learning (pre-primary) to primary and secondary schools as wells as technical vocational and tertiary levels. He concluded by saying that the project is not only timely, but “it is in line with our Human Capital Development and the project overall is targeting 6 major institutions of historical importance to Sierra Leone; two teacher training colleges and 4 secondary schools; two of which happens to be schools of noble sierra Leoneans, Magburaka Boys school of former President Ernest Bail Koroma that has remained in ruins for over 12 years, and Bo School of President Julius Maada Bio.
The Minister said, you cannot improve on the quality of education, if you do not improve on the education value chain. The selection of two teacher training institutions is part of the critical element of the education value chain. He re-assured the OPEC Director General that the project administration will not be business as usual, but utilization of project funds will be closely monitored by Government and the community people-that advance procurement has already started.
Immediately following the historic signing ceremony, the Minister of Finance had fruitful engagements and project negotiations with the delegation of the Arab Bank for Economic Development (BADEA) at the wings of the ongoing IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington DC. The Director General of BADEA extended special invitations to Hon Jacob Jusu Saffa to visit their headquarters in November next month to sign a $20.0 million co-financing for the same project. This will be followed by the signature of Saudi Fund’s component of $25.0 million.
At the Launch of the Free Quality Education in 2018, His Excellency, President Bio said “When I staked my presidential campaign on “human capital development” as one of my national priorities, a few, (very few) opposition politicians thought that I was clueless, too daring, and too brave. When I proposed giving every Sierra Leonean child access to free quality education, they pilloried and laughed at the idea. But the majority of Sierra Leoneans believed in my vision and voted me President. This free quality education programme is for every Sierra Leonean.
It is not for one region, one tribe, one political party; it is for every Sierra Leonean who wants an education.” The distribution of the education support projects to schools and tertiary institutions across the country is a true reflection of a President who says and stands on his commitment!