Women in the Media Sierra Leone(WIMSAL)*
21st June 2020
*WIMSAL condemn alleged rape of five-year-old girl*
*Women in the media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL)* vehemently condemns the alleged rape of a five-year-old girl in Freetown , which inhumane act reportedly led to her death.
According to information gathered, the victim lost her life as a result of multiple rape as postmortem shows.
As a female media organization we are deeply saddened and we therefore condemn this act.
We are calling on all authorities concerned to speedily launch an investigation into the matter and ensure the perpetrator(s) is brought to justice.
WIMSAL will follow this case closesly and work with other organisations to ensure justice for the girl.
Meanwhile, we want to extend our sincere condolences to the family for this great loss.
Andrew Keili: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 June 2020:
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education must be commended for its most recent Annual school census report, which is considerably more revealing than in previous years.
The SLPP government initiated its flagship Free Quality School Education (FQSE) programme in September, 2018. Although some results of this census are encouraging, some aspects make for depressing news – the good news is very good, the bad news very bad, the surprising news, quite surprising.
The FQSE programme has resulted in a tremendous increase in student enrolment. The number of learners enrolled in schools increased tremendously by almost 700,000 due mainly to the commencement of the FQSE. The data collected also reveal a significant increase in the number of schools approved for Government support. 53.4% of pre-primary, 78.7% of primary, 76.7% of junior secondary and 80.4% of senior secondary schools are now approved. In 2018 less than half of schools across basic and senior secondary were approved to receive government support.
With more than one generation streaming into primary, the gross enrolment rate (GER) has increased by 30 and 34 percentage points for boys and girls respectively between 2018 and 2019.
The 2019 census revealed that schools in Sierra Leone are serviced by a total of 83,054 teachers, 66,501 (83.7%) of whom practise in approved schools.
In primary, growth averages 29.2%, ranging from 18.4% in Moyamba to 48.1% in Pujehun. Growth in JSS averages 43.2%, ranging from 24.5% in Moyamba to 96.8% in Falaba. In senior secondary, there has been growth across all districts ranging from 19.8% in Moyamba to 78.6% in Kailahun. Considerably more students are learning and hitherto unreached areas have now been brought into the educational system.
The Pupil-Teachers Ratio (PTR) data show quite commendable results at all levels and districts; most districts are below the recommended respective PTR values.
Schools are by no means out of the woods with availability of textbooks but results are encouraging. Further analysis of the Pupil textbook ratio for core subjects in Government assisted primary schools indicates that most of the districts across the country have ideal pupil to text book ratios.
Despite challenges with infrastructure generally, there is now a higher percentage of primary schools with play areas (80%) which makes the school environment friendlier.
There are also some surprising facts revealed (surprising to me but perhaps not to veteran educationists). Who would have thought that government really owns only a small percentage of our schools? We should really thank our lucky stars for the missionaries who made great inroads into the educational sphere. At each school level, mission schools are in the majority. Out of 11,168 schools recorded, 56% are owned by Missions, 16.2% by Private providers, 14.1% by Communities and 13.8% by the government. The much maligned private providers, providing 16.2% of the schools produce much better educational outcomes (not germane for this report).
Also surprising is the high number of unqualified teachers. Overall, 48,761 teachers representing 58.7% have the required minimum qualification to teach at the various school levels, which means that there are many unqualified and untrained teachers in the schools.
The results show that apart from the resources flowing to schools from the Government, households still contribute significantly to schools. More than one fifth of the resources flowing into schools came from households.
Parents paid to schools a total of Le. 9,763 million out of the Le. 14,000 million collected in all pre-schools, accounting for 70% of the resources flowing into schools.
In primary, despite the FQSE, parents’ contribution accounted for 24% of the total resources, indicating that even with FQSE, some schools are still charging some levies. Only two thirds to three quarters of the resources flowing into junior and senior secondary schools come from the government.
Overall, salaries and wages account for the highest spending item for schools at 45.4% followed by rehabilitation at 30% and acquisition of learning materials at 20% which are the key inputs to any functioning school.
The bad news about the school census should give us all cause for reflection.
The first bad news is that the expansion in school infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth in student population. The number of schools increased from 10,747 to 11,180, an overall increase of only 4%.
Although completion rates have improved, many children before the age of 12 still drop out of the school system; more females drop out. A good number of pupils find it difficult to graduate from the last grade (JSS 3) of Junior secondary school. Similarly, the Senior Secondary Completion rate (CR) of 43.5 % for both sexes, indicates that CR decreases as we proceed to higher level of schooling.
School infrastructure is still of poor quality
Only 52.3%, 53.2%, 64.6% respectively of classrooms in pre-primary, junior secondary and senior secondary are solid and in good condition.
6.7% of the classrooms in basic and senior secondary are makeshifts (the materials used in making the classrooms being of temporary nature including twigs and grass).
Although the average class size with all classrooms considered for approved schools are 25, 34, 38 and 46 in pre-primary, primary, junior and senior secondary respectively, further analysis reveals that the average class size in more than 40% of approved pre-primary schools is 50 if only solid classrooms are considered.
In primary, JSS and SSS, the average class size in more than 60% of approved schools is more than 50.
A considerable number of basic and senior secondary schools do not have access to any source of water and a majority do not have access to piped water.
1 in 3 pre-primary schools, 4 in 10 primary schools, 3 in 10 junior secondary schools and 2 in 10 senior secondary schools do not have access to any source of water.
A significant share of schools (58% in pre-primary, 54% in primary, 45% in junior secondary and 42% in senior secondary) rely on boreholes and wells.
Some Districts fare abysmally with water provision. In Koinadugu District only 7.7% of the schools in primary and 18% in secondary have access to safe water (piped and borehole).
In approved schools, the results show that the toilet ratios when considering only toilets in good conditions are unbearably high (47 learners for every toilet in pre-primary, 124 in primary, 108 in Junior secondary and 157in senior secondary). It is disconcerting to note that the practice of hand washing is decreasing in schools (59%) since the end of Ebola.
About 47,965 pupils in the four levels of education are children with special needs (67.4% of them in primary, 22,2% in Junior secondary and 6.2% in senior secondary). A majority of these children, accounting for 27.6% suffer from learning disability, followed by visual, hearing, speech and physical disability (19.4%, 18.0%, 17.8% and 17.2% respectively).
Despite this state of affairs, only 1 in 10 schools reported having ramp and special latrine for pupils with disabilities, and only 6% of schools said they provide special cubicles for girls during menstruation.
It is surprising to know that nationally, only 2% of the schools have a functional science laboratory, while 6% have a functioning library. A majority of these are in senior secondary schools.
Access to electricity, computers and internet services is challenging with only 22%, 4% and 1% of schools respectively having access to these facilities.
Further analysis by levels shows that 2%, 16% and 9% respectively of primary, senior and junior secondary schools have access to computer services. Only 7%, 3%, 1% and 1% respectively of Senior, Junior, primary and pre-primary schools are connected to the internet.
There are many other issues related to education that the Ministry is grappling with apart from data collection on schools and education facilities, including facilities assessment and teacher deployment handled in this report.
What this report does is to give the Ministry enough ammunition to adopt a line of action to address these issues and improve on the performance of the sector.
Whatever the case, this report is sobering
One must not be tempted to do any “Monday morning quarterbacking” about whether the FQSE should have been phased in by government, as the problems seem insurmountable. (Photo: Minister of basic education – David Sengeh).
The FQSE has been introduced and one must commend its successes, whilst being mindful of its considerable challenges.
The government already spends some 21% of the national budget on Education, so the solution is surely not to raise this further. It is clear that the government and the Ministry must think outside the box to address these problems.
Many questions could be asked. Should the government encourage missions to have more of a say in the running of mission schools and probably help garner some external funding?
Should the government actively court the assistance of Alumni Associations, perhaps granting them duty free and other concessions in the running of their schools?
Should other MDAs and the private sector be enticed to address the woeful infrastructure problems in schools in their various programmes, including CSR programmes?
Could the private sector be courted to help out with science and technology issues?
The questions are endless!
We should not close our minds to solutions. The Sierra Leone Grammar School (SLGS) is a stellar example of how an alumni association semi-privatised an institution of learning. Today the SLGS can give any private school a run for its money.
Private schools which have 16.2% of the schools should also be encouraged by the Ministry as true partners. There are many issues that can be sorted out together, whilst regulating them better.
The situation is serious and urgent. Fortunately, the new Minister, Dr. David Sengeh provides hope. With his dependence on data based evidence to make decisions, his quick understanding of the issues, consultative nature, blunt honesty and willingness to share any credits with his staff, there is hope that solutions will be sought, even if outside the box.
It behoves all of us to help seek solutions together if we are not to confine our children to a life of ignorance and unpreparedness to meet the huge challenges of the modern workplace.
Indeed, a lot has been done, but much more remains to be done in the education arena.
Ponder my thoughts.
Courtesy of The Sierra Leone Telegraph 19 June 2020
Major global leaders have adopted over the years, diverse policies that ensure empowerment of young people all over the world. The commonwealth for example, has series of funding windows through which it acknowledges and supports the great contributions of young people to community developments across the Commonwealth states. United Nations and the European Union have their own programmes through which they promote young people in diverse ways.
Sadly enough though, youth are featured in every news of our society – both locally and internationally – as they contribute to nation building. Only few readers and listeners usually pay attention to them. Unlike in the 18th and 19th centuries when scientific discoveries and community leadership were only attributed to the aged, our planet today is gradually succumbing to the leadership of young citizens – scientifically, technologically, democratically, and monarchically. These include communities that are traditionally, culturally and religiously fanatic, such as Asia and the Middle East.
Most successful legendries of our lifetime began their careers during their youth. Bill Gates for example, the brain behind the world’s most popular software application (Microsoft) wrote his first software at the age of 13. Mark Zuckerberg discovered Facebook at the age of 20 and became the world’s best social media innovator at 30. Faiq Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei, the richest footballer in the world, is just 20 years old. Sebastian Kurz became the world’s youngest national leader as Prime Minister of Austria in October 2017 at the age of 31; Kim Jong-Un, who succeeded his father as supreme leader of North Korea in 2011, is just 33. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani 36, is the Emir of Qatar — a post he took over in 2013 from his father; Emmanuel Macron 39, became France’s youngest-ever President in May 2017 after founding his own political party, En Marche! The list is endless…
This is why world leaders are investing in the youth from diverse fronts. Some UN agencies have even established databases of potential young leaders emerging from many countries across the world with diverse professional backgrounds. The United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC) for example, has established the Intercultural Leaders Network, a platform that keeps track of thousands of outstanding young leaders with whom it has worked over the years as agents of peace and positive social change in their own localities.
The above tells us that the youth no longer fit our usual traditional classifications such as ordinary hailers, marijuana addicts, burglars, cults or clique groups. They are now true stakeholders in community building.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Intergenerational Dialogue in November 2017, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Ret. Honourable Patricia Scotland said “Young people have a critical role to play in delivering Our Common Future. In the Commonwealth and across the world, we have seen incredible examples of young people who are being the change they want to see. Their engagement and empowerment is essential to ensuring a prosperous future for all.”
The next Commonwealth Youth Award, which includes cash grants and round trip tickets for the recipients to participate in the award ceremony, will take place in March 2019 during the Commonwealth Week in London. The theme of the ceremony shall be: ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’.
On 12th August this year the government of Sierra Leone, in collaboration with its donor partners celebrated the International Youth Day and National Youth Leadership Summit in the eastern provincial capital of Kenema under the same theme: “Safe Spaces for the Youth”. This clearly demonstrates our government’s readiness to imitate our colonial masters. But when closely looked at the socioeconomic and political scenario in which our youth are living today, one would like to ask: how does our country fit into the international framework of youth empowerment? How far is our government ready to go in the struggle to create a “safe space for the youth”?
For argument’s sake, let us assume that “creating safe space for the youth” really means reserving a piece of land for the youth. According to the last census, our population is about 7 million occupying 71,740 sq. km. This means that if we were to share the portion equally, about 97 people would own a sq. km. So how much of this space is truly owned by any young citizen, whether by direct procurement or inheritance?
In Sierra Leonean tradition, ownership of family properties – including farmlands, plantations and houses – chiefly depends on individual ages which allows the oldest, by default, to always assume ownership on behalf of the rest; thereby rendering the younger members powerless to have a fair share. This tradition exists in our main political parties as well. Every party has a young generation wing, which eventually motivates the youth to ghettoize themselves according to their demographic identity, which in itself restricts their chances to assume leadership in the main executive.
Interestingly, whenever we interface with decision makers about youth empowerment in Sierra Leone, they quickly point fingers at few young people who have been appointed to key political positions, and some politically motivated development projects targeting the youth, as undeniable signs of their commitment and contributions towards youth empowerment. A development expert would then like to ask; what does youth empowerment really mean in post conflict, post Ebola and post-mudslide Sierra Leone? Is the taste of political power by few of the politically motivated youth the best way of empowering the rest of our youth population? I strongly doubt that…
Oh yes, appointing some youth in key political positions is a positive step towards empowerment. However, from a development point of view, those appointments are just political compensations for being members of the ruling parties and a magnet to woo in more youth in future elections. It is a token gesture at best at times. Therefore, they should not be viewed as a sustainable approach to youth empowerment in a poor community like ours; hence, longevity of the power depends on the next election result. This tells us that the appointees are not genuinely safe and empowered.
Since the war ended in the year 2002, every government has expressed its commitment to youth empowerment and reduction of youth poverty. However, sadly enough, we are yet to see a comprehensively streamlined plan of action towards effecting true positive social change in our
Since the war ended in the year 2002, every government has expressed its commitment to youth empowerment and reduction of youth poverty. However, sadly enough, we are yet to see a comprehensively streamlined plan of action towards effecting true positive social change in our society, in putting the youth as spearheads. Instead, most of what we have seen are mainly focused on attracting media attention or satisfying donor benchmarks. The truth is, the Sierra Leonean youth are terribly thirsty and famishing; not only for food and water but for all the basic ingredients of human empowerment, ranging from quality education, skill knowhow, habitable homes, nutritious food, access to justice, gainful employment, moral respect, dignity, inclusion in decision making, just to name but a few.
After graduating from universities and colleges with the hope of attaining a gainful employment in Sierra Leone, the youth suddenly face the agony of the prerequisites needed to fill those vacancies. Every vacancy advertised is attached with multiple strings of unfulfillable requirements, such as powerful connections to individuals who would answer to the infamous question: who knows you? and several years of job experience. But wait a moment; job and job experience, which one comes first? How can someone gain experience without being employed? What an irony… After managing to squeeze themselves into some offices, the youth have to bootlick again for years. While the boys receive less salary than they deserve, the girls have to sleep their way through in order to maintain their jobs.
The above begs the questions: are we ready to create a youth empowered Sierra Leone? If yes, how far are we prepared to go?
According to the Commonwealth Plan of Action on Youth Empowerment, “Young people are empowered when they acknowledge that they have or can create choices in life, are aware of the implications of those choices, make an informed decision freely, take action based on that decision and accept responsibility for the consequences of those actions. Empowering young people means creating and supporting the enabling conditions under which young people can act on their own behalf, and on their own terms, rather than at the direction of others”.
Youth empowerment therefore, is an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement changes in their own lives and the lives of other people, including adults.
However, our past governments’ lack of sincere commitment and readiness to challenge the journey towards youth empowerment over the years provoked some positive developments, as it brought about many youth initiatives at grassroots level in forms of CBOs, NGOs, Associations, Clubs etc. While some are subterfuge created by smart people in order to win donor funds, some belong to power thirsty elites who use the youth as instruments of campaigns during the electioneering process. Regrettably, the life span of such selfish and politically motivated youth organizations depends chiefly on the availability of donor funds; since the central government itself has no independent funding mechanism for youth empowerment. Those created for election campaign purpose do not last beyond the election results.
Until decision makers change their “attitudes” towards the youth by creating the appropriate “structures” that can eradicate the “culture” which exploits the economic weakness of the youth, introduce a positive and sincere youth transformational “process”, the Sierra Leonean youth empowerment plan shall ever remain an ordinary hallucination.
Kamara striker force to lead Sierra Leone attack against Liberia
Colorado Rapids top scorer, Kei Kamara will pair Sierra Leone Premier League top poacher, Musa Tombo Kamara against Liberia at the Samuel Kay Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville City, kick-off 6:00 pm GMT.
Just under an hour, Sierra Leone will start their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign today against Mano River Union rivals Liberia.
The two strikers have registered 26 goals this season. Tombo scored 15 goals during the just concluded Sierra Leone Premier League while his compatriot has netted 11 for Colorado.
Coach Tetteh named two debutants in the squad, Abu Diaby Dumbuya and Alimamy, Azonto Bundu.
Inform AIK Freetong striker, Tombo Kamara, who recently parted ways with Swedish club side Trelleborg have been given a fresh start but this time at International level.
Another debutant is home-based midfielder Abu Diaby Dumbuya, who was excellent for East End Lions on their to lifting the National Premier title this season.
Diaby Dumbuya will partner Azerbaijan-based Keshla player in midfield.
Wednesday’s match between host Liberia and Sierra Leone is vital for both nations in the race to reach FIFA World Cup 2022.
The Ghanaian coach is going with skipper Umaru Bangura and long-time absentee Ishmael Jaw Jaw Koroma in central defense in the absence of David Simbo.
Here is the Leone Stars predicted XI:
Keeper Zombo Morris
Defenders: Hassan Milla Sesay, Ishmael Jaw Jaw Koroma, skipper Umaru Bangura, Mustapha Dumbuya.
Midfielders: John Kamara, Abu Diaby Dumbuya, Kwame Quee, Alimamy, Azonto Bundu.
Strikers: Kei Kamara, Musa Noah Kamara
Goalkeepers: Alhaji Sesay
Defenders: Yeami Dunia East End Lions, Alpha Bedor Conteh Bo Rangers, Ibrahim Mansaray FC Kallon.
Midfielders: Abdul Sesay Oulun Luistinseura, Edmond Michael Edwards, Kaku Vasakund IF, George Davies SKN St. Pölten.
Attackers: Mustapha Bundu Aarhus GF, Mohamed Buya Turay,
Concerned youths in Sierra Leone are out in the massive deluge of rain fighting to save the lives of people as damaging floods swept the city of Freetown today.
Life in the Sierra Leone capital once again turned nasty, brutish and dangerous as widespread and raging flooding followed torrential rains that was persisting even as we went to press.
Many people, including children, are said to have died in this latest disaster to hit Freetown, which has not fully recovered yet from the fatal mudslide that killed thousands of residents two years ago.
A young baby born two days ago and his hapless mother were reported to have been swept away by the floods at the slum community of Kroo Bay. At the time of writing, youths were reported to have started recovering dead bodies and a TV footage saw two youths carrying a dead body wrapped in white shroud . They said it was the second body they had recovered in the area.
As a result of all-night rain, which continued throughout the day today, the whole city became flooded with massive volumes of water seen making roads impassable, overflowing bridges and gutters and driving people from their homes in flood-prone areas. AYTV and SLBC-TV showed live footages of distress and suffering as people had to swim to return to their homes to try to salvage their properties.
Streets of Freetown , which had become rivers, were littered with vehicles trapped in the floods.
Many people were heard on TV wailing and desperately appealing to the government to send help.
Even Freetown Water Quay was massively flooded . A fence was broken by the floods and containers could be seen half- buried in the water.
Fuel-Free Generator & Solar Tricycle Invented In Sierra Leone
Two Sierra Leoneans have invented a 600 watts in-built generator that supplies nonstop electricity; powers all appliances-with the exemption of refrigerators.
The ‘Sierra Power Plant Generator’ does not produce smoke and noise. Its main power source is a button and not a crank, because it does not use fuel. With an internal cooling system-when powered on, it constantly and efficiently supplies Alternating Current (A/C) as can be desired-days, weeks and months.
The in-built generator is made up of a mixture of waste electrical components including two (2) rectified diodes, two (2) transformers, two (2) transmitters, two (2) circuit boards, two (2) earths and two (2) switches. “It has a life span of six years-if the precaution is adhered to by the user”, one of the inventors asserts.
The inventors – Emmanuel Alie Mansaray, 21, and Andrew Sahr Norma, 20, are former pupils of Methodist Boys High School, Kissy, East of the capital Freetown. Emmanuel and Andrew say they did not inherit inventory from their parents, rather they were fortunate to learn Physics and Technology as subjects at school, from where they were selected in early 2017 to represent the Methodist Boys High School in the ‘Science Fair Innovation Competition’ held at Fourah Bay College-University of Sierra Leone; funded and organised by the Engineering Department of Cambridge University-UK, and Women in Mathematics, Cambridge and Science Resources Africa.
Emmanuel says the idea of inventing the generator came as a result of his visit to Kambia District, North-western Sierra Leone, early this year, where he noticed the total lack of electricity, “and my co-inventor has also been sharing similar experience of his home district-Kono”. In Emmanuel’s view, the generator will be of “economic benefit and blessing to inhabitants in rural and remote communities where poverty is largely felt”.
Andrew suggests that in future, their knowledge in technology will help them and Sierra Leone as a nation, if they are blessed with international scholarships to pursue their education in science and technology in any advanced university around the world.
Prior to the invention of the 600 watts in-built generator, Emmanuel and Andrew had invented a single-seater solar tricycle and a mini radio station. The solar tricycle covers about 50 kilometers per hour-which they say can be of immense importance and benefit to especially persons with disabilities, considering their challenges on movement and the acute shortage of transportation on the populace of Sierra Leone.
The local inventors’ radio station of about 700 meter-range, with a tiny transmitter, which they named: “Kuntorlor Community Radio” has always been interruptive to the bigger radio stations in the community including Citizen and Tumac FM in Kissy, Freetown. “We decided to shut it as a result of the persistent complaints over interruption in the airwaves, since ours is unlicensed and unauthorised”, Emmanuel tells the press.
If admitted into the University of Sierra Leone for this academic year, Emmanuel will study Geology, and Andrew will study Engineering Option. Over the years, they have been getting minor financial and moral support from Kite-SL, an NGO that deals with the issues of persons with disabilities, whose office is situated back of 2020 Night Club, Kissy, Freetown, where Emmanuel and Andrew do their inventory works. The two can be reached on +232 77 32-08-79/77 91-57-96 for more on their invention and support for mass production of the generator.
As Bio Prioritizes Education, No Schools At Maforkie, Marampa Chiefdoms
Parents and guardians from many villages in Marampa and Maforkie chiefdoms have appealed to the Government of President Julius Maada Bio not to leave their children behind in the Free Quality Education Initiative. (Photo: One of the voluntary teachers, Mr. Roke S. Fofanah with vulnerable kids)
According to some parents, they are worried about the education of their children for the fact that they walked many miles to find schools as a result of the complete absence of concrete school structures except caricature makeshift structures made out of old zinc and cane sticks which does not allow children to sit in class during the raining season as a result of the thatch roof leakages.
They said such a situation is not good for the well being of their children being that there is no health centre or pure drinking water fetched from tap water except they have to go for running stream water which is also hazardous to their health across over 41 villages.
Speaking to this press, one of the voluntary teachers at the unapproved Mabureh village Baptist Primary School in Maforkie Chiefdom, Roke S. Fofanah said the school which was built through the effort of communal labor comprises two rooms and each room contained three classes from classes one to six.
One of the voluntary teachers, Mr. Roke S. Fofanah
He said the total number of children attending the lack of accommodation and teaching materials school is seventy five and grumbled that they hears about the free education but it is not felt in that part of the country.
Mr. Fofanah further elaborated the school has three unapproved teachers who are working on voluntary basis just to get the children educated adding that Mr. Lamin H. Bangura is the name of the school principal. He therefore appealed to the Government to help construct modern structure for the education and protection of the well-being of their innocent children.
They also appealed to the Government to control activities of some mining company including Sierramin Bauxite Sierra Leone Limited who are working under the command of some selfish public authorities to stop indiscriminate mining in the district or else they would one day take drastic action against any company that may attempt to destabilize their environs.
The Sierra Leonean amputee community has appealed for greater inclusion into the Free Education program of the new government. The amputees, who made the appeal over the week in Rokel Village, say since the launch of the flagship program of the ‘New Direction’ government, their involvement has been limited due to the limited schools approved by the government in their locality.
Rokel Village is located a few km outside Freetown. There are only two approved schools in the whole area, which means many of the children of the amputees are forced to enroll in private schools, which do not benefit from the scheme.”We are appealing for the amputees to be given special attention in the Free Education initiative”, Pastor Tamba Finnoh, Secretary General of the National Amputees Association of Sierra Leone, said.
He was speaking at a ceremony marking the handing over of learning materials donated to the community by the Melqosh Mission International Pastor Sister Faith, the head of the Melqosh Mission International, is the pioneer of the donation, with support from GTBank.
The package also includes school fees, targeted at over 50 amputee school going children.
The Melqosh Mission has been supporting people with disabilities for couple of years now. They even supported over 350 pupils in the community last year.
Pastor Finnoh also used the opportunity to call on President Julius Maada Bio’s attention to the plight of the amputee community in the country. Eleanor Massah Abdulai, a Melqosh Mission Advocate, who is also an amputee, stressed on the need of empowering female persons with disabilities in health, jobs and education.
Another amputee, Mariatu Mayango, also emphasised on the need to empower the amputees.
The amputees also used the opportunity to narrate some of their ordeals, ranging from encroachment of their lands by the abled bodied neighbors, to stigmatization and discrimination.
Speaking on behalf of GTBank, the General Manager, Mr. Ade Adebiyi stressed the need to support the Free Education initiative of the government. He assured of his bank’s continued support in this regard.
The chief benefactor, Pastor Faith, founder of Melqosh Mission International, called on the government, local and international partners to support persons with disabilities. She explained that her organisation felt obliged to support persons with disabilities ,especially amputees, after seeing what they go through in the streets across the country. She said she wanted them to live independent lives devoid of street begging.
Marking International Day of Rural Women, UN Women called on Sierra Leone to ensure that women and girls living in rural areas enjoy their human rights as this would enable making “progress for all”. “The empowerment of rural women and girls is essential to building a prosperous, equitable and peaceful future for all on a healthy planet,” the UN Women said, stressing that “it is needed for achieving gender equality, ensuring decent work for all, eradicating poverty and hunger and taking climate action”. In Sierra Leone, UN Women says rural women represent 70% of the agricultural labour force adding that despite the important role women play in natural resource management and food production their works is often informal and poorly paid, offering little access to social protection or income security. “Rural women in Sierra Leone are often discriminated against ownership, access to and control of land, and most importantly, women are not realizing their economic impact from their agricultural activities. This is largely because of discriminatory, customary and statutory laws which favour men to women.” Isatu Sesay, program officer, Initiative for Women and Children said, “As child labour is common in the countryside, girls form a significant part of the agricultural workforce. This means rural women and girls remain disproportionately affected by poverty, inequality, exclusion and the effects of climate change.” Sesay said that includes the right to land and security of land tenure; to adequate food and nutrition and a life free of all forms of violence, discrimination and harmful practices. She added that every woman and girl should expect the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health; and has a right to quality, affordable and accessible education. Sesay says women and girls are responsible for water collection and fuel collection in most rural households without access to drinking water or electricity. The arduous journey, she says often takes several hours, poses much safety risks and hampers their ability to get an education or make a living. In addition, cooking with unclean fuels can result in long-term and even fatal health problems for women, Sesay stated, in countries like Sierra Leone that rely heavily on fuels like coal, wood, manure or crop waste for cooking, women account for 6 out of every 10 premature deaths through household air pollution. Stating that improving the lives of women and girls in rural areas requires “legal and policy reforms” and their inclusion in the decisions that affect their lives, Sesay stressed that “investing in their well-being, livelihoods and resilience, we make progress for all”. Noting the critical role that women’s groups play in sustainable development, the UN’s gender-quality agency, UN Women, noted that enhanced access to safe drinking water and sanitation brings gains in girls’ education and eventually increases women’s paid work to generate goods and provide services. She further pointed out that extending the reach of water grids and continuous piped drinking water to rural communities, is therefore an important priority with multiple benefits.
Mousa E. Massaquoi: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 September 2018:
Sierra Leone was once the centre for quality education in Anglophone West Africa. Known as the Athens of West Africa, the country has witnessed a steady decline in the provision of good standards of quality education.
This has immensely affected the human resource base of the country and productivity of its economy.
The free and quality education programme which was launched by President Julius Maada Bio at the Miatta Conference Hall on 20th August, 2018, will focus on government and government assisted schools all over the country.
The government’s support will include free subsidy for pre-primary, primary, Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary Schools, accelerated primary school programme for over-aged children in non-formal education learning centres, subsidy for pupils taking private examination. BECE, NPSE, WASSCE and NCTVA examination fees will be met by the government.
The free education programme will supply core text books in English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Integrated Science and Civic Education; essential teaching and learning materials for pupils and teachers – including exercise books, pens, pencils, chalks, registers and sports equipment, and a school meal.
Much needed furnitures are being supplied to schools in all districts. There are more trained and qualified teachers now on the government payroll.
The President has declared that his government will strictly enforce the Education Act of 2004. The Education Act of 2004 clearly states that it is a crime for any parent or guardian who does not send his or her child to school.
The launch of the free and quality education programme by the new administration has been welcomed by all well-meaning Sierra Leoneans.
But to find out about the preparedness of schools, our reporter spoke to heads of school and parents around Freetown.
Mrs. Rachel M.S Turay, acting Head-teacher of Saint Luke’s primary school, Wilberforce Barracks, said they are ready for the government’s free and quality education programme starting in September. Class lists and classrooms have been prepared, she said.
“We used to have 60 to 70 pupils per classroom and the classrooms are very small. Despite the government calls for 50 pupils per class, we are not going to ask pupils to find other schools because most of them got promoted. Lack of furniture and classrooms are the major challenges we are facing but we have just managed to repair the broken furniture that we had,” she said.
She stated that government used to provide school funding subsidy, but the whole of last academic year they did not receive a single cent from the government. She noted that last academic year, parents were asked to help run the school by paying additional charge of Le170, 000 per child.
Madam Turay said that the money collected from parents was also used to organize sporting events, school thanksgiving, paid auxiliary workers and other utility bills.
She said: “We do not admit pupils in other classes, except for class one and that is for pupils that graduated from nursery school. We are prepared to take at most 55 pupils per class because we also have repeaters. We won’t take a single penny from parents as admission fees because of the free and quality education programme.”
Mrs. Turay added that since government has introduced the free and quality education programme they are not going to collect money from parents as school charges as they did previously.
She said that she had called the teachers to a meeting and warned them strictly not to ask for payment from parents; and that if anyone is found wanting for taking money from parents, they will be dealt with accordingly.
The Head Teacher is appealing for more classrooms and furniture so as to cut down on the number of pupils per class.
She said that since text and exercise books are part of the free education package, they have not given booklist to parents, and that they will distribute government supplies received fairly.
“The school feeding programme will depend on what the government will provide. If what the government will be providing is enough, we will be cooking everyday but if it is not enough we will know how we will alternate the cooking. But if government does not provide help with firewood, pots and they like, we will call on the parents for assistance and the feeding will be for free,” she maintained.
She however called on the government to send the free education package to schools immediately when school reopens, so that they can begin to plan its delivery.
The Head Teacher of D.T Akibo-Betts Municipal primary school, Tower Hill, Madam Fatmata Musa explained that the school doesn’t have adequate classrooms and enough furniture. She said that for the time being they will make adjustment to accommodate the government’s 50 per class policy.
“We have done some registration and it was free of charge. The only thing we asked for was the last school report cards,” she stated.
Mrs. Musa added that the main challenge facing her school is that the school compound is not paved and has no proper playing ground for the pupils. She calls on the government and development partners to consider helping the school.
She calls on parents to make use of this opportunity by sending their pupils to school, and to monitor them so that the county’s literacy rate can increase.
Mr Sahr M.R Dauda, Principal of Government Model Senior Secondary School said they are at the stage of preparation and are putting measures in place for the free quality education programme.
He outlined that the key challenge facing the school is that they have a large number of pupils but not enough classrooms. He said they will not be able to implement the 50 pupils per classroom policy at this time.
“We are working towards having more furniture and putting up temporary structures to accommodate the pupils so that we can meet the government’s policy,” he stated.
He disclosed that his school used to have 70-80 pupils per class, and that the teacher to pupil ratio has been poor. This is the very reason why the school has not been performing well in public examinations, he said.
He said that last academic year, up to 1,784 pupils applied for admission to attend the school SSS1. A large number of them passed the entry exam, but the school was unable to admit all of them, noting that they will be cutting down on the number of intakes in the coming academic year.
The school administrator also disclosed that he has a good number of qualified teachers, but the only problem is that most of them are not yet approved.
He calls on the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education to speedily approve more qualified teachers who have been in the system, and also make the learning environment friendly for pupils – more especially the disabled.
He admitted that parents are always in the habit of bribing teachers. He said that any parent who engages in such practice will be destroying the free quality education programme the government has introduced in the country.
He added also that, some pupils are in the habit of lying to their parents that the school has asked them to take money to school, which he said is not true.
“Teachers are professionals and should behave professionally in schools. I’m calling on teachers who are in the habit of asking for money from pupils to stop immediately, because any teacher who engages in such practice is committing a serious crime and will face the full force of the law.”
Mr. Mohamed Kallon, a parent of two said that the free quality education programme is a laudable project for which he is thanking the government.
He said paying school fees for his children has been a huge challenge as both of his kids are in secondary school.
He stated that the government should monitor the free quality education programme as teachers are in the habit of organising extra classes, which he said is a burden on parents.
“We the parents should rigorously monitor our children to and from schools because government is paying huge amount of the country’s budget into the education sector, which would have been allocated to agriculture or health,” he appealed.
Another parent of three, Madam Josephine Williams said that the free education is welcoming news for them. She maintained that they are going to make use of the opportunity as it has been the cry of parents.
Madam Williams added that government should fully monitor the process, if not, some unscrupulous offcials in the educational system will undermine the process.
Mr. Augustine M. Kambo, Head of Administration at Education for All Sierra Leone Coalition and also a member of the Technical Working Committee on the Free, Quality Education programme, said that as a civil society working on education, the Free Quality Education is a laudable venture by the government, because for a long time they have been campaigning for access to free and quality education.
“As per global standard, the world has decided that every country should allocate 20% of their national budgets to education. And today, we have seen the government allocated 21% of the budget to education, and we have started seeing result of our campaign,” he stated.
He said, as a member of the Technical Working Committee, on the area of one shift system, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education held discussion with the conference of principals, and they all agreed to accept a one shift system; stating that it might not be 100% successful, but they have to start somewhere.
Mr. Kambo maintained that with the introduction of the free quality education programme, contact hours of pupils with their teachers in school will increase, which he said has been a challenge leading to poor performance in public exams.
“We as civil societies are ready to follow and monitor the process because the role of civil society is that, we should be an ally to government and we should also look at government as a target based on the promises,” he said.
But he said, what is disappointing about the free quality education is that the President in his speech did not talk about issues affecting the physically challenged. He said the government should have provided accessibility support for disabled children to enable quick access to schools. They are also part of the society, he said.
He said that they are going to follow the delivery of the free education programme rigorously to make sure that school authorities do not extort money from parents and guardians.
The civil society activist stated that they are also going to work with diverse stakeholders at various levels to find out the challenges they face and proffer solutions.
He calls on the government to put a premium on teacher recruitment, stating that the free and quality education can only be achieved through the service of qualified teachers.
Sierra Telegraph 5th September 2018
Editor’s Note: This story is made available courtesy of MRCG/SLRU with support from UNDP.