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HomeFQSE in 3Yrs...Making Schooling an Attractive Enterprise in Sierra Leone

FQSE in 3Yrs…Making Schooling an Attractive Enterprise in Sierra Leone

By: Desmond Jones – Development Media Practitioner

In post war diamondiferous Sierra Leone, efforts made by government and other education related organizations to scale up the educational standards and systems of the country seemed not to have yielded much dividend. Beyond the failure of structures and institutions of education in the country, the decline in standards of education in Sierra Leone could largely be attributed to the fainted interest of citizens in education.

Parents preferred to bribe their children’s way through school instead of paying attention to their outputs in school. Child labor was prevalent with most Sierra Leoneans sending children to sell cold pure water, plastic bags, and biscuits on the streets, while people in rural communities send children to work in farms and mining sites.

For these reasons in the past, making schooling an attractive enterprise in Sierra Leone becomes a focus of the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to deliver on the Human Capital Development promise, the President, Rt. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio made to the citizenry of this country when he was contesting to become President in 2018.

The fainted interest of citizens in education began to rekindle just after the President launched the Free Quality School Education Program on the 20th August, 2018. During the launch, the President emphasized that Basic Education is compulsory for every child in the country; he prohibited parents giving their children excessive chores at home and depriving them of a quality time to study.

Just after the FQSE was launched at the Miatta Conference Hall, the country witnessed a surge in pupils’ turnout in schools. The President’s address to the Nation on that day inspired Sierra Leoneans for the Free Education novelty to the point that even adults enrolled in primary schools, even though, the FQSE is a program for children. 

However, efforts to make schooling an attractive enterprise in Sierra Leone did not stop at the ‘Paopa all Pikin for Go School’ address of the President, MBSSE and its partners are executing a number of meaningful strategies to ensure community ownership of the FQSE implementation, ensure retention of pupils in school, ensure teaching and learning is child centered and ensure radical inclusion of pupils in schools. 

Ensuring Community Ownership of the FQSE Implementation:

It is important for people in our communities including traditional authorities to take ownership of the FQSE. This will make community members and authorities see themselves as critical pillars for the successful implementation of the government’s flagship programme. Thus, the President established the FQSE Coordinating Secretariat with one of its roles being to mobilize community support for the FQSE implementation, and further serve as a bridge between MBSSE together with other education stakeholders and the communities.

Early this year, the Ministry distributed motor bikes to Districts FQSE Coordinators to enable them reach more communities across the country.

In March this year, the FQSE North-Eastern Regional Coordinator Abu Bakarr Jalloh (ABJ) commenced a community mentorship program in Kalmaron village – Tonkolili district to conscientize parents against sending their children to the gold mines during school days. This programme was widely welcomed by local authorities in the village and bye-laws were instituted to penalize defaulting parents.

This year, Pujehun district recorded an improved pass rate of 84 percent in the National Primary School Examination. The Head Teacher of the Holy Rosery Primary School, Catherine Burreh attributed this change of story for the district to media engagements undertaken by the FQSE Coordinator in the district Abu Kpukumu to sensitize parents and other community members on the need for children to read their books at night instead of playing under the solar lights installed around Pujehun town, attending village dance shows, and watching Nigerian movies. She appreciated that the FQSE coordinator was on various community radio stations in the district advising parents.

Ensuring Retention of Pupils in Schools:

MBSSE and its partners have expanded the school feeding programme from 3 districts in 2018 to 14 districts in 2020. The School Feeding Program is a strategy used by MBSSE to retain pupils in school and it currently benefits over 500,000 pupils in 118 hunger prone chiefdoms across the country.

Residents of Toli Chiefdom – Kono district are happy with the meals served to children in schools. A petty trader in Kondewakoro town – Headquarter town of Toli chiefdom, Hannah Jambai revealed that the program has made her kids to be happy with their teachers in school. She intimated that they would even want to go to school on weekends.

Ensuring Teaching and Learning is Child Centered:

MBSSE recently rolled out a National Basic Education Curriculum Framework and its 18 Subject Syllabi with core principles on Critical Thinking, Creativity, Comprehension, Computational skills and Civic Mindedness. The 5Cs enables teaching and learning to be Child – Centered. This is a class system where in Teacher ‘Lemp Lemp’ is encouraged to replace his BIG CANE with a pointer made of van card and become an exciting teacher in class.

MBSSE in collaboration with the Teaching Service Commission and UNICEF have contracted local and international outsourced agencies to train teachers of lower grade classes on how to use familiar songs, onsets and rhymes to teach identification of alphabets sounds, basic reading and comprehension and numeracy.

In these trainings, teachers are taught how to make their classrooms colorful and attractive to pupils, and how to sing and dance with pupils in a bid to make teaching in classroom sessions interactive.

Added to efforts being made by the Ministry and its partners to establish Early Childhood Development Centers across the country, the Early Childhood Development Unit of the Ministry has conducted several capacity building exercises for ECD educators. These exercises are geared towards training Aunties of ECD centers on the use of the Play-Way method of preschool facilitation.

 “In our ECD centers we do not teach kids how to read one, two, three on the blackboard. We teach them how to count their cups at home, how to name their fathers and mothers, and how to name the things they see in their environments. We make way for kids to learn through play,” the Deputy Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Mrs. Emily Gogra boasted.

Ensuring Radical Inclusion of Pupils in Schools:

Sierra Leone was widely acknowledged at the July 2021 Global Education Summit in London for her National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools. This policy makes it a must for deliberate actions to be taken for every child in Sierra Leone to access quality education, regardless of where he/she is resident and what is his/her medical, physical or religious status.

As a result of the Policy on Radical Inclusion in schools:

●Provision are been made for wheel chair ramp in every solid school structure being constructed in the country.

Heads of schools are encouraged to make their current school structures accessible to children with physical disability.

●The brail version of FQSE Core text books were distributed to pupils with visual impairment across the country.

●In March this year, the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh commissioned over 300 solid classrooms and about 10,000 sets of furniture in hard-to-reach areas nationwide.

In conclusion, these are just few highlights of efforts being made by MBSSE to make schooling an attractive enterprise in Sierra Leone, since the FQSE was launched in August 2018.

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