Free quality education (FQE) for primary and secondary pupils in Sierra Leone is one of the major promises made by Julius Maada Bio during the 2017 campaign.
After winning the March 2018 Presidential election, President Bio wasted no time to implement this promise which is one of the reasons why both the international community and national entities consider his Government to be taking education seriously.
One of the packages in the FQE is the distribution of free core subject textbooks to pupils but apparently there is mixed feeling and fear from parents and pupils based on rumors circulating that if any of these core textbooks is lost or damaged, the parent/guardian will be asked pay Le200,000 or face police action.
It is against this backdrop that the Civil Rights Coalition (CRC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education decided to organize wide range community engagements on the handling of the FQE books. The sensitization will target pupils, parent, traders, religious and traditional leaders, the media, Boards of Governors of Schools and the general public for them to be aware of what is in the package in the first phase of the FQE.
In an interview with Alphonso Manley, National Coordinator, Civil Rights Coalition, he said among other things that his coalition has noticed that because the Book Handling guide is not understood by parents and pupils, it has been misinterpreted and this misinterpretation has a negative effect on the FQE. He added that parents in some districts have signed and collected the textbooks but keep them at home and not allowing their pupils and wards access to the books because they do not understand what the handling guide says; which is: If the textbook is damaged or goes missing, parents will be asked to replace it with a locally printed (photocopied) replica.
He went on to say that the Education Ministry and the Civil Rights Coalition have on several occasions in certain districts, visited parents to encourage them to allow their children access to the textbooks for effective learning.
He stated that this planned community outreach will improve the FQE beneficiaries’ knowledge on how to handle the textbook while improving the learning process of the children, because they would now feel confident to use the textbooks to study at home, improve community study, while parents can also assist their children to study and build their confidence.
He further stated that the sensitization campaign will target major markets in all the 16 districts where most people go to buy goods as it has been discovered that most traders do not normally listen to radio, watch television or read newspapers. He added that all pupils in attendance will have the opportunity to ask questions about handling of FQE books, adding also in attendance would be pastors, imams, traders and parents among others.
The key objective, according to Mr. Manley, is to ensure that learners have easy access to the textbooks; engage communities to enhance their knowledge on the handling of the textbooks and ensure that through advocacy and sensitization the life span of the FQE textbooks will be long so that the children will benefit immensely.
According to him, they shall embark on public awareness through the use of loudspeakers, jingles in the local languages for better public understanding about how to use and take care of the FQE textbooks for effective use and longevity.
Alphonso Manley maintained that they are getting support for this project from Mutt Macdonald. “The FQE is a blessing to this nation and so we all need to embrace it for the development of our nation,” he concluded.