President Julius Maada Bio Launches educational materials to Support Free Quality Education in Sierra Leone

President Julius Maada Bio has unveiled textbooks, teaching and learning materials worth Le 221 billion ($26.2 million) as a joint-support from UKAid and the Government of Sierra Leone to the free quality education programme in public and government assisted schools.

In his keynote address to the ceremony organised by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education at the Government Secondary Technical School on Congo Cross in Freetown, President Bio said that when he prioritised human capital development during his campaign, by offering free quality education to every Sierra Leonean child, his doubters laughed at him. He added that they had said the proposition was impossible, but that within the shortest period in office of his administration he had been able to deliver on that promise.

He said by providing textbooks and other teaching and learning materials for students the government had eliminated a major impediment to learning, especially for parents who could not afford the high cost of training their children in schools. He assured that with the new sets of materials, there would be content coherence in schools and teachers would also work harder to prepare instructional materials.

“By investing in the education of our children, we are investing in the future of our nation. Human capital is the most valuable resource in any nation and I believe in it. We have done a lot since the formal launch of the free quality education, including the allocation of over twenty-one percent of the national budget to the education sector.

“Textbook guidelines have been developed to ensure care and security of the core text books provided by government. Parents now have the responsibility to comply with the guidelines set to safeguard the textbooks. These materials are not for sale and anyone found stealing them will face the full force of the law,” he stressed.

He also commended the donor partners for supporting the free quality education and called on community members to fully support and own the programme while ensuring its successful implementation throughout the country. He said government had put in place plans for the quick delivery of the materials across the country.

Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Lawyer Alpha Osman Timbo, said a lot of wrong information had gone around in an attempt to distract government in achieving the free quality education. He expressed hope that the public show of the school materials would put an end to those negative messages. He said the materials were meant to help the teaching and learning process for students and teachers.

The minister also stated that his ministry would work with Civil Society Organisations and Traditional Leaders to ensure that the materials were not only distributed but were also properly monitored so that they would be used for their intended purposes. He added that they were working to ensure that visually impaired students also enjoyed similar facilities.

Country Representative for the Department for International Development, Mary Hunt, said that after months of hard work she was excited that the materials were being launched. She encouraged government to put in place the right policies to ensure the materials were used for a minimum of five years. The DfID Rep also assured that the UK government was committed to supporting the successful implementation of the free quality education programme.

President Julius Maada Bio Launches the McGovern-Dole International School Feeding Programme in Kabala, Koinadugu

President Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio serving food to kids 

President Julius Maada Bio has launched phase four of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program (IFEP) in Kabala, the district headquarter town of Koinadugu, some 190 miles north of Sierra Leone.

Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education, Lawyer Alpha Osman Timbo, who also doubled as the chairman of the event, told the gathering that access to free quality education was at the centre of President Bio’s administration. He added that it was, therefore, no doubt that they were launching the School Feeding Programme and its associated packages to tremendously add to the success of the Free Quality Education Initiative.

The minister thanked representatives of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the US-based international humanitarian organisation, and the United States of America for their continuous support to the government’s flagship programme.

Speaking on behalf of the people of Koinadugu and Falaba districts, Paramount Chief Member of Parliament, Honourable Alie Balasama Marah of Sengbe Chiefdom,thanked the government of Sierra Leone and its implementing partners for introducing the school feeding programme in the area. He added that the move was a testament to the fact that government had countenanced no bias to region or group when it pursued development across the country.

“This will go down in the history of this country, because contrary to every expectation the School Feeding Program has been launched in the northern part of the country where some people believe it is not the political stronghold of the ruling party. This is a laudable venture,” he confessed.

The country representative of CRS, Paul Emes, described the unveiling of the School Feeding Programme as momentous because the move showed how serious the President Bio administration was about building the human capacity of the country through a universal access to education.

“This day is momentous because it has ushered in an era of a new Sierra Leone where education will flourish. I am happy that the CRS is a part of this history-making trajectory,” Mr Emes assured the people of Koinadugu and Falaba districts.

The CRS chief also noted that with support from the US Department of Agriculture,they were willing to invest $ 25 million, over a period of four years, to the school feeding initiative. He promised that other facilities like capacity building of teachers, rehabilitation of primary schools, construction of water wells and boreholes would also be part of the package.

US Ambassador, Maria Brewer, stated that the launch was an important milestone in strengthening the long-standing relationship between the two countries, adding that the US Department of Agriculture’s food for education programme had helped support education, child development and food security in developing countries since 2003.

“This programme aims at reducing hunger and improving literacy and primary education,especially for girls,” she said.

She commended the Free Quality Education Program, particularly the allocation of 21 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product to achieving education for all Sierra Leoneans. She also commended CRS for their invaluable contribution to promoting education and noted that she looked forward to seeing the successful implementation of the programme.

President Julius Maada Bio thanked the government of the United States of America and CRS for joining him in ensuring that free and quality education reached every corner of the country. He added that he was happy to be in Koinadugu to fulfill his promise of providing free and quality education and to creating an enabling environment that would ensure the survival of the programme.

President Bio also noted that when he proclaimed to offer the free and quality education,he did not do it to gain political favour or to score political points. He said he did so because he knew that investing in the future of children was a right and an entitlement and not a privilege.

“This School Feeding Program will encourage parents to send their children to school and it will also increase attendance of school going pupils,” he said, and called on parents and local authorities to embrace the initiative because it would go a long way in encouraging children to see the need to be always present in school.