FREETOWN, Sierra Leone
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.
The Head of State 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.
The President 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.
He noted: “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 added.
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.