As schools re-open today…


EU Official says Free Quality Education is a Step to Sierra Leone Attaining SDG 4

September 17, 2018

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

The high table at the opening ceremony of the Education Trade Fair

An official at the European Union has said that the introduction of the free quality education by the government of Sierra Leone is a remarkable step to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, particularly goal number 4, which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Giuseppe Paguone made this statement last Friday during the launch of the Education Trade Fair, organised by HEAL Sierra Leone and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education at the ground floor of the Miatta Conference Centre, Youyi Building, in Freetown.

‘’Education is at the core of the development cooperation agenda of all development partners in Sierra Leone and in many other partner countries,” he said, adding that development partners are fully supportive of the free quality education programme.

Paguone disclosed that they have been working with the ministry throughout the summer and have witnessed the energy and effort that have gone into ensuring parents and pupils reap the initial benefits, beginning this Monday, 17th September, when schools re-open.

The EU Education Programme Manager underscored that in order for education to become the backbone of development, the action of civil society organisations was fundamental to improving community participation and local ownership of development processes.

‘’On this note, please let me congratulate you one more time, Heal Sierra Leone, for organising this event, which purpose is to contribute to provide information and sensitise the population on the importance of the free quality education to national development,’’ he said.

Joseph Sannoh, Executive Director of HEAL –SL, said in his statement that the theme of the 2018 Education Trade Fair was ‘the importance of free quality education to national development’, adding that the theme was timely as the government recently rolled out the free quality education in the country.

He said the education fair aims to popularise the benefits, targets of the free quality education, adding that they would be going to schools and markets to raise awareness about the benefits of the scheme.

‘’The trade fair would create a one–stop shop for parents to buy school materials at cost recovery prices, serve as an education and learning programme for all pupils and to serve as an entertainment and recreational centre for young people,’’ said Sannoh.

Giving the key note address, Minister of Primary and Senior Secondary Education, Alpha Osman Timbo said the free quality education scheme was one of the flagship programmes of President Julius Maada Bio, and that as an institution charged with the responsibility of realising that vision, he was elated about the education trade fair as it would showcase the benefits of the scheme and its relevance.

Timba, a teacher-cum-lawyer, revealed they had had meetings with key partners in development, including the EU and DFID, to ensure that the scheme succeeds, adding that schools would re-open this Monday.

He, however, urged all stakeholders to support the free quality education and assured that they would welcome constructive criticism of the scheme, which would cater for nor fewer than two million pupils at an estimated cost of Le190.9 billion.

Minister of Information, Abdul Rahman Swarray, remarked that when then opposition frontrunner, now President Bio, said during the campaigns that he would introduce free quality education many thought it was a ‘Hollywood movie’, but it’s now reality.

Swarray added that government was committed to making the scheme a success, but cautioned that the latter could not do it alone, without the contribution of credible civil society institutions and partners who also will play a key role in the execution of the initiative.

“Parents must ensure that their kids have the necessary room, support to study their notes, to attend schools and classes on time. Civil society must ensure that they are with us in this journey to ensuring that they work with government and draw the attention of key stakeholders to any challenges associated with the free quality education,’’ he said.

The 2018 Education Trade Fair is the fourth to be organised by Heal Sierra Leone, Education Microscope and partners in the country, where a number of private and public institutions showcase their products to the public, targeting parents, pupils and students.