His Excellency 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.
Statement by His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio on the National Launch of the Free Quality School Education (FQSE) Programme Teaching and Learning Materials and Core Textbooks.
The Honourable Vice President
The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone,
The Speaker of Parliament,
Ministers of Government
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
The Honourable Chief Justice,
The Mayor of the Municipality of Freetown,
Heads of International Institutions,
Heads of Parastatals,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fellow Sierra Leoneans,
Two of Africa’s most inspirational figures believed in and spoke to us through their lives and in their words about the power of education.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela;
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family” – Kofi Atta Annan.
When I staked my presidential campaign on “human capital development” as one of my national priorities, a few, (very few) opposition politicians thought that I was clueless, too daring, and too brave. When I proposed giving every Sierra Leonean child access to free quality education, they pilloried and laughed at the idea. But the majority of Sierra Leoneans believed in my vision and voted me President. This free quality education programme is for every Sierra Leonean. It is not for one region, one tribe, one political party; it is for every Sierra Leonean who wants an education.
When I launched the free quality education programme, they did not only wish for it to fail; they engaged actively in misinformation campaigns to scupper the programme. But what kind of Sierra Leonean are you if you do not believe that we must give our children access to quality education? What kind of Sierra Leonean are you if you do not believe that we must give our children a competitive edge in the global marketplace with a good education? Educating our children is not politics; it is an obligation; it is our sacred duty. So to those detractors and those who secretly wish for the Free Quality Education programme to fail, please recognize that the future of our children is above politics; the future of our nation is above politics; 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. When one develops the human being through quality education and training, good health and well-being, and proper nutrition, one develops the most invaluable resource base for generating development and growth.
We have done more since the formal launch of the Free Quality Education programme. My government has allocated over 21% of the national budget to education and human capital development. We have fast-tracked much needed infrastructural and sector governance reforms. Our Free Quality Education programme continues to be predicated on its five core elements:
Ensure that every student regardless of economic status and especially gender and disability gets access to quality education,
QUALITY AND RESOURCES – Provide adequate school infrastructure, teacher training, teaching materials, learning resources, and training in delivery methods,
- Keep children in school through student-centered interventions including nutrition programmes, general WASH programmes, community engagement (especially in changing cultural attitudes to girl-child education, early marriage and disability), and strengthening strategic partnerships with donor and international institutions whose programs promote retention and persistence in school – Implement policies that will reduce drop-out and attrition rates, and provide career and skills-training pathways consistent with the unique development needs of our country.
For the teachers and administrators, how do we adapt our teaching of the core textbooks to different learning abilities and styles? How do we promote critical enquiry and exploration in learning?
For the teacher training institutions: will teacher training institutions keep the foregoing question in mind when they develop their teacher-training and development curricula? Can in-service teacher training institutions and bodies elevate the quality of teaching through research and adoption of best practices?
For our education researchers and administrators – will they engage in periodic reviews of these core textbooks? Will they research, measure, and evaluate the efficiency of the teaching methods and the teaching materials? Will they develop supplementary teacher-targeted material?
To our innovators, when can we begin to leverage new education technologies to reduce the costs of producing and distributing teaching and learning materials? Is there a place for digital textbooks, telephone delivered texts and podcasts, e-learning, or other interventions tailored to improve learning?
Let me end by saying that this is another milestone reached in the process of transforming education in Sierra Leone. We will continue to invest in our nation’s human capital development because we believe that this is the most certain pathway to prosperity and development. Let us therefore stay committed and focused on surmounting our challenges, reflecting on what we could do better, and working harder still to make Sierra Leone an even better nation.
With this, I now formally launch the provision of free teaching and learning materials in support of the Free Quality Education programme.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The Republic of Sierra Leone State House.