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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Ministry of Education Remains A Credible Institution of Government
By Brima Michael Turay Deputy Director School Broadcasting/PRO Ministry of Education 076-450-134
Apr 3, 2014, 17:00
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For several years now, Sierra Leoneans have been saying that the standards of our education have fallen. It is therefore encouraging that we, as a nation, are all in agreement about this social menace. The first step to solving a problem is to accept that there is a problem in the first place. Now that we are all in agreement about the fallen standards, it is only proper that we handle this menace through a holistic and national approach. The blame game must stop! The Ministry of Education is not the only entity that is responsible for this unfortunate situation; and several studies have proven that other factors and entities are equally responsible. Education, in any nation, is not a one man show; and should never be! If we are true to our consciences and our desires for a better Sierra Leone, we should stop politicizing the business of education because it is the one thing that touches the hearts and minds of almost everybody in the country. Even the most unpatriotic Sierra Leoneans, if there are any, would not like to see a crumbling education system because they, or a member of their family, may be affected one way or another.

 

The Minister and his team have been making tremendous effort to patch the broken bones in our education system so as to bring eventual sanity to this government institution. Every individual and every government, past and present, has, in several ways, contributed to this national endeavour; and we must not relent. We have made remarkable progress as a nation. Some of the policies that we are currently adopting and enforcing are all in line with our desire to resuscitate and rekindle the hope in all of us that in the not too distant future, we will once again be referred to as the Athens of Africa. The Ministry has been coming under attack from individuals and media entities for the simple fact that we have not, for a period of time, been forthcoming in our responsibility to freely share information with members of the public. However, this is in no way equal to failure. We have been succeeding in silence.

 

Minister of Education Minkailu Bah

 

A year ago, to be precise, the Minister, in his wisdom and that of his team, decided to have a Public Relations Officer so that the institution could be adequately represented and presented to the public as and when necessary. Since that time, we have been sharing information and educating members of the public about our activities and how those activities impact the development and improvement of education in this land. The Teacher verification exercise that was undertaken last year is a case in point and a real success story. From 2007 to present, the Minister and his team have rooted over 6,000 (Six thousand) Ghost Teachers who did not have any business collecting a monthly salary from our coffers. In the month of October last year alone, the Ministry saved the government 83.5 Million Leones. This clearly tells us that money was going into the wrong hands. I dont think any Sierra Leonean would wish that the government loses such huge amount of money every month through such fraudulent activities.

 

Education, everywhere in the world, is expensive, especially higher education. In recognition of this, the government continues to pay huge sums of money for the three public examinations conducted every year. They would be the National Primary School Examination (NPSE); the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSSCE). Quite recently, government, through the Ministry of Education, announced fees subsidies to nearly 18,000 students in our institutions of higher learning. This would last for a few years and would eventually be replaced by a Student Loan Scheme that would be introduced later. This represented the greatest intervention into education financing ever in the history of education in this country. This is in addition to the yearly government Grant In Aid. This is great progress and we, as a nation, should be proud and should continue to be hopeful.

 

Teacher shortage has also been a very serious obstacle to the provision of quality and relevant education since the moratorium on hiring was instituted in 2006. Heads of schools could barely run the schools with such severe Teacher shortage. Discipline was lacking in schools as a result. Those teachers who managed to stay in the classrooms, hoping that someday the moratorium would be lifted and they would eventually be hired, could do anything and everything to survive; even if it means compromising their integrity and ethical values through what I would call institutionalized extortion of pupils and students. It became something almost acceptable in our school system in the name of No approval and No Salary. Some would complain that they have taught for anywhere between three to six years without approval and without a salary from the Ministry; and by extension, the government.

 

In response to this cry, the government mandated the Ministry of Education to hire, at least, 4,000 Teachers. This hiring process started in December last year. After only four months into the hiring process, the nation would be amazed to understand that the Minister and his team are discovering, from the applications we are receiving, tones of fake certificates purported to have been obtained from our institution of higher learning. Since the day the hiring process started, with only the Western Area now remaining, we have not been able to hire even 2,000 Teachers because we keep getting fake certificates. Most of these fake certificate bearers are the same people who would give the Ministry of Education and the government a bad name by telling you that they have taught for Six years without approval and without a salary.

 

From Bo district, we received over 500 applications but the Minister was able to hire only 77 Teachers. The rest were fake certificate carriers. Moyamba sent over 300 applications and only 29 were hirable because the rest had fake certificates. From Port Loko, we discovered 77 fake certificates purported to have been obtained from port Loko Teachers College. In Kenema, we were only able to hire 174 Teachers. Kambia and Bomboli had over 40 fake certificates respectively. From just a few schools in Freetown, we discovered 99 fake certificates purported to have been obtained from Freetown Teachers College. With such a huge number of fake certificates floating within our school system, one could only imagine the amount of damage that these Teachers may have caused to our pupils and students in the classrooms through their poor and inefficient delivery of teaching methodologies over the years. Not to talk about how much loss of revenue it would have been for the government in the name of salaries to these fraudsters if the Ministry of education had hired them prior to this time. As a nation, we must not condone such practices because they will forever continue to wreck our education system if we do. There must be a national effort to keep these people away from our classrooms so that we would, once again, begin to enjoy the flavor of decent, quality and relevant education. We deserve better; and better we must always endeavour to nurture in our educational system.


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