Sierra Leone today rolls out perhaps its most ambitious programme since independence – Free & Quality Education in pre-primary, primary & secondary schools.
It would be recalled that Sierra Leone’s new President Julius Maada Bio has in May announced the introduction of free education for both primary and secondary school age children, in line with his major campaign pledge.
“Free education will be introduced effective September 2018 for all primary and secondary schools to improve access to quality education,” President Bio told the state opening of parliament, to thunderous applause.
“Free university education will be provided for three children of every school teacher with ten years experience,” he said, adding that a student loan scheme would be introduced as well as special incentives for science and rural based teachers.
Over 1.5 million school children are expected to benefit from the Free Quality School Education initiative at the start of the school year September.
With support from donor partners including UK Aid, World Bank, Irish Aid, World Food Programme and UNICEF, this initiative will be phased over five years, and will waive the payment of tuition and admission fees and provision of teaching and learning materials with an initial emphasis on English language and Mathematics text books to all secondary schools in the country. It will also ensure that payment for public examination fees such as the National Primary School Examination (NPSE), Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and West Africa Senior Secondary School Examination (WASSCE) are waived.
“The waiver of fees for learning in any form will definitely ease the burden on parents and guardians who are making a lot of sacrifices under extremely difficult economic conditions to see their children become educated,” said Hon Alpha Timbo, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education.
As the programme rolls out today, Salone Mirror has gathered that fees, books and other learning materials will be supplied, more schools built and more teachers recruited.
“We are proud to be supporting the Government of Sierra Leone on this initiative,’ said Mary Hunt, Head of Office at DFID Sierra Leone.
Similarly, Dr Hamid El-Bashir, the UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone described the project as a laudable initiative by the Government of Sierra Leone and the commitment shown in increasing education budget from 12 to 21 per cent. He noted that it will significantly increase access, improve quality and school completion in the coming years.