His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has reaffirmed governmentís commitment to ensuring quality education in Sierra Leone. He made this statement at the official launching of the first national school census report at Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen, Freetown on Tuesday 12th¬†June.
President Koroma disclosed that apart from all other things, he was a living example of how education can transform not just the life of an individual, but also the lives of those around him.
INCREASED BUDGET ALLOCATIONS
He reiterated his passion for quality and affordable education in the sense that his government continues to place education amongst its top five priorities in the Agenda for Change, adding that the amount of budgetary allocations to the sector was proof of his commitment to enhance education in the country.
The President was very much buoyant about this.
TEACHER SALARY INCREASES
ďOur increases in the salaries of teachers range from 200 to 400%, depending on the grade of the teachers; and this is more than any increases before by any government. We have increased salaries of lecturers by over 50%, and also increased subvention to universities,Ē the President said.
WHOPPING INCREASES IN UNIVERSITY SUBVENTIONS
ďWhen we took over governance in 2007, government subvention to the University of Sierra Leone was 9 billion Leones; today it is 38 billion Leones; we have increased the subvention to Njala University from 8 billion in 2007 to 26 billion today,Ē¬† the President informed.
20% DEMAND = 50% INCREASE
ďWhen lecturers in teachersí training colleges demanded 20% increase in their salaries, we gave them a 50% increment,Ē¬† the President informed.
OVERSEAS STUDENTS ALLOWANCES
ďWe have increased allowances to Sierra Leoneans studying abroad from 60 dollars a month in 2007 to 150 dollars todayĒ President Koroma informs.
GIRLS EDUCATION PRIORITY
ďWe pay tuition fees for girls in JSS, and women studying sciences in the universities. In addition to paying for public exams for primary, junior and secondary schools, we also pay for public examinations in polytechnic and teacher training colleges,Ē President Koroma continued.
SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITIES!
He also stressed that his government believes in education, a reason why so much has been provided to cushion the effects of daunting economic challenges facing the government, and called on the people of Sierra Leone to seize the opportunities thrown up by his stewardship of the country.¬†
ďTodayĒ, the Chief Executive said, ďwe are launching this census report, which will enable us to determine more areas for intervention and strengthening. This is the first ever scientifically validated and launched school census in the countryĒ, while noting that, ďIt provides us with a picture of our schooling situation at local and national level. The picture painted is one of progress with warning lights. Enrolment in schools have greatly increased for both boys and girls, but the transition rates for girls to other levels of schooling are far less than those for boys.Ē
CONCERNS FOR GIRLS
President Ernest Bai Koroma further maintained that the rate of dropout among girls, especially in furtherance of their educational aspirations is a challenge that needs great attention. ďWe are already paying tuition for girls, all in an effort to increase their school enrolment and retention rates, but Education is not only government business. It is also the business of communities, of imams and pastors and of cultural entrepreneurs. Let us all continue to raise the awareness that more girls in schools mean better families, better communities and a better nation,Ē he said amidst roaring applause.
BUILT MORE SCHOOLS EVER
The father of the nation also disclosed that his government has built more schools and was supporting more schools than ever before in the countryís 51 years history, saying, ďWe are paying for public exams more than ever before; it is therefore the duty of school authorities, parents and others to inculcate habits and attitudes of success amongst our students.Ē
He paid glowing tribute to other stakeholders who continue to make priceless interventions in the educational sector, including Local communities, religious missions and private providers. President Koroma promised to escalate opportunities for public Ė private partnerships to make the necessary difference they could make to education in Sierra Leone.
HUMAN RESOURCE IN SECTOR
ďCognizant of the need to improve and increase its capacity, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has embarked on a large scale personnel recruitment exercise. Even as it endeavours to improve its capacity, the Ministry has been able to produce the report which I will be launching today and to conduct training exercises using its staff. The Ministry is improving its capacity and does possess staff of quality as recognized by most partners and warrants commendationĒ the President informed.
ďI am informed however that some partners in Education have commenced channeling support for education away from the Ministry to other partners without due consultation and agreement. This move is creating misunderstandings and can impact negatively on education system of the country. I will therefore call on all those who have embarked or are contemplating such a move to hold urgent discussions with the Ministry. The Government Aid Policy must be the policy we follow in all our operations in this countryĒ, President Koroma maintained.
In conclusion, he expressed satisfaction for a three day long annual Education Sector Review meeting which was also being held as a way of taking stock of what has happened in the sector, debate on key issues and agree on a way forward.
ďI commenced this address by declaring the debt that I owe to the education I received in my formative years; I close by declaring that I will do everything in my power to ensure that no child in Sierra Leone is denied the opportunity of acquiring the education that will enable him/her to be literate, numerate, employable and able to contribute positively to the development of societyĒ he ended.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.