July 24, 2015 By Ishmael Bayoh
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) on Wednesday engaged the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on the closure of the Leone Preparatory School.
The Commission had received a letter from the proprietor of the school alleging that he received a letter from the acting Chief Education Officer in the Education Ministry dated 2nd July 2015, ordering him to close down school operations for contravening sections of the Education Act 2004. Also that he was accused of making public pronouncements that his school had nothing to do with government and therefore not answerable to government.
HRCSL said it was concerned about the alleged violation of the right to education of the 350 children enrolled at the school and as a way of protecting this right, they considered it prudent to engage the ministry on the issue.
Speaking at the engagement, Chairperson of HRCSL, Brima A. Sheriff, reiterated the functions of the Commission and highlighted its advisory role to government concerning draft legislation that may affect human rights. He spoke of the opportunities missed by the children during the Ebola period and also its debilitating effects, for which their rights should be protected by the State.
He cautioned that the Commission was not looking at the merits or demerits of the matter but that children that are in Class Six who are due to write their first examinations were out of school whilst their colleagues in other schools continue to take classes and prepare for the exams.
Mr. Sheriff made reference to section 3(2) of the Education Act 2004 which states that “every citizen of Sierra Leone shall have the right to basic education which accordingly shall be compulsory and shall be designed to (a) provide facilities for all citizens to be literate and numerate and help them to cultivate the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them to earn a good living; (b) improve the social and health circumstances of the citizen; (c) inculcate patriotism; and (d) enable the citizen to understand the complexities and opportunities of the modern world”.
Vice Chairperson of the Commission, Mrs. Daphne Olu-Williams, said the children should not suffer for the actions of either the ministry or the school’s authorities. She therefore called for the shortest possible solution to the impasse to enable the children return to school.
The Professional Head in the Ministry of Education, Alhaji Mohamed, said their concern was to protect the children and noted that after several meetings held with proprietors of schools on the calendar year, the Leone Preparatory School did not follow the regulations for a two-term. He also stated that when the inspectors of schools visited the school, they found out that some children had been driven for not paying fees for three terms.
“We suspended the school’s operations for not adhering to the regulations laid down by the ministry,” he said.
Director of Inspectorate, Mohamed Sesay, emphasized that their intention was not to deprive the children but for the school authorities to comply with the ministry’s laid down principles. He said the ministry has the capacity to provide alternative education facilities for the children at Leone Preparatory.
Professor Sahr Gbamanja, who was also in attendance, urged all for a quick resolution of the impasse, while the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education maintained that schools authorities should comply with the laid down principles of the ministry.