Parents, school authorities, pupils, education authorities and government officials outside the Miatta Conference Centre were in a celebratory mood prior to the unveiling of the free, quality education package.
Haja Rabiatu E. Conteh, National Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Market Women’s Association said as women they are the head and champion of homes and the children. She described their position as the direct beneficiaries of the program stating, most of them are widows, husbands have no work and the entire household depends on women. She said, the money she usually spends on school fees can now be used for food and on other areas of the home.
Olive Maya Fofana, from Freetown Secondary School for Girls (FSSG) called on both government and her colleagues to take advantage of the program. She said the government should ensure teacher’s salaries are increased. She hopes the program works.
On Monday 20 August 2018, President Julius Maada Bio launched the first phase of the free, quality education package for government and government-assisted schools.
The package includes:
School fee subsidy for pre-primary, primary, junior secondary and senior secondary students.
For students who are over the age for primary school, there will be an opportunity to attend non-formal educational learning centres.
The government will pay for pupils taking private examination; BECE, NPSE, WASSCE and NVT examination fees will be provided.
Core subject textbooks will be supplied in English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science and Civic Education.
Essential teaching and learning materials for pupils and teachers and including exercise books, pen, pencils, chalk, registers and sports equipment.
School feeding program to every school.
Furniture will be supplied to schools in all districts.
More trained and qualified teachers will be integrated onto the government payroll.
The Minister of Basic, Primary and Secondary Education, Alpha Timbo, said there are 2.14 million pupils in over 8,000 government and government-assisted schools according to 2018 school census. The Minister said the project is for five years and the 2018/19 school year will mark the beginning of the first phase.
Isatu Marie Kamara, a teacher, said quality goes with meaningful services so they want to see their welfare considered seriously by the government. She said they want one-on-one teaching and learning materials for the children. She said there is a need for massive sensitization to parents especially those who cannot read and write. She called on her colleagues to stay in class and deliver quality learning to the students.
The Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said they have released Le32.7 billion for tuition subsidy that is now being processed by the Accountant General’s Department.
The government has received and validated bank accounts for 85% of the primary, junior and senior secondary schools. The Ministry continues to collect and validate school bank accounts. By 7 September, payments of the tuition subsidies will be paid to schools.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Alpha Timbo, said the President will unveil the full education package at the Miata Conference in Freetown, today, Monday 20th August 2018. It’s less than a month away from the beginning of the school year and the country eagerly awaits some concrete information and explanations about the government’s free, quality education program.
Minister Timbo said his branch of the Ministry did a national schools survey to ascertain the number of schools and pupils in all government and supported schools, re-established school management committees and reviewed the Education Act. The Minister said they have banned the construction of new schools across the country until proper apportions of pupils are done per school, ahead of September 2018. With less than a month before schools re-open, the Minister said, “Everything is in place to ensure the proper and effective implementation of the government’s top agenda program.”
Assie Sheriff is a mother of two. She expressed optimism despite the fact that school charges were not that huge. But, the extra charges by school authorities were almost four times the annual normal school fees. She said they are hoping that the free, quality education package will capture tuition fees, uniforms, books, pencils, pens, external examination fees, and so on. The government should discourage school authorities from receiving money for arts and crafts, flogging canes, drinking bowls, colour/sport days, payments for report cards and other bribes paid to teachers and principals.
Sheriff said the education plan will hopefully assist parents, especially mothers, from the burden of paying tuition fees and other charges that were self-imposed by teachers and head of schools.