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Lawmakers: Free Education may be fraught by challenges

May 29, 2018 By Jariatu S. Bangura

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Lawmakers have predicted that the proposed free education scheme – the flagship programme of the new administration – could face serious challenges if proper mechanisms are not put in place.

As lawmakers debate the maiden speech of President Julius Maada Bio, delivered at the State Opening of Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic on May 10, many have urged a robust implementation strategy to ensure the scheme is a success.

Hon. Sahr Paul Sam of the Coalition for Change (C4C) said the initiative was laudable, adding that government should be aware that schools would be overwhelmed with pupils at the start of the new academic year, barely three months away.

While alluding to his constituency, Hon. Sam, who represents Constituency 025 in Kono district, said existing structures and the dearth of qualified teachers mean schools would not accommodate increase in enrolment.

“There are 52 schools and 156 teachers in my constituency. Only 11 schools were approved out of that number. For teachers, only 51 of them were approved, and my constituency is made up of four chiefdoms,” he said.

The lawmaker added that there are more community schools in his constituency than government assisted schools, thus urging the government to look into the issue and bring those schools onboard.

On his part, Paramount Chief Member of Parliament from Tonkolili district, Hon. P.C Bai Kurr Kanagbaro Sank III, remarked that the President’s speech contained a lot of good about education, but that government should consider whether all the supporting infrastructure and financing are available for the flagship programme to succeed.

“It is too early to criticise President Bio’s agenda as it is every challenging now for them to succeed. There are many goodies in the speech about education but one should consider whether all the supporting infrastructures and financing have been put in place for the flagship programme to succeed. We should consider how to have the monies to support qualified teachers, supervisors and provide enough classrooms to accommodate children in all areas,” he said.

Chief Bai Kurr said: “We should graciously thank him [President Bio] and hold him accountable to deliver all what he stated to us. He will not deliver if Sierra Leoneans do not give him the necessary support. We do hope that he can deliver. As Sierra Leoneans on both sides, we should hope that failure should not be an option for him, backwardness should not be considered for him. We must be thinking about how to build the nation as Rome was not built in a day. Let us all continue to build the nation now and not to criticize.”

He said the speech covered all the 17 goals in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations and that if he succeeds, the country would earn respect once again.

The traditional ruler urged the ruling party to stop attacking the former president and continue the task of nation-building, adding that they should employ new ideas to move the country forward.

All People’s Congress Member of Parliament, Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara, representing Constituency 59 in Kambia district, said Sierra Leone would experience a new beginning if the ruling government recognises the good deeds of the previous regime.

He said government should work very hard to instill discipline as there is an increased indiscipline among the citizenry across the country.

“We cannot move to a New Direction when people are roaming about the street breaking poor market women’s tables, relocating people from their original residences even when elections are over and government is yet to make a statement on the issue,” he said

He said that the recent attack on the Freetown Mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, was a testament of indiscipline by some youth.

“Our democracy is said to be the worse according to the ruling SLPP but if immediate actions are not taken to address the current spate of violence, it will continue to be worse than what we are seeing now,” said Hon. Kamara.

President Bio noted in his speech that his new administration would review key ‘failure projects’ implemented by the previous administration, but Hon. Kamara remarked that if those projects failed, then the new administration could be headed for failure.

He called on the government to restore the youth farm as the ‘New Direction’ was committed to supporting the youth albeit yet to reflect on the number of ministerial positions that have been approved in parliament.

“The youth are not satisfied with the deputy ministers’ positions. The ‘New Direction’ does not have a destination as to where they are heading to. The new Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs deserves more than that as he worked very hard for the party to win elections,” he said.

Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh of Constituency 132 in the Western Urban argued that the All Peoples Congress (APC) party could take credit for road infrastructure but that funding for majority of the roads was sourced during the era of Sierra Leone Peoples Party’s late President Tejan Kabbah.

The ruling party lawmaker stated that the cost of the roads was inflated at the detriment of citizens, adding that the Wilkinson Road reconstruction is the most expensive road in the world.

“The Lumley-Tokeh road was estimated at $10 million under the SLPP government. But when the APC took over in 2007, the figure rose to $100 million. Also, $20.4million was used to expand the Wilkinson Road which makes it the most expensive road in the world,” said Hon. Conteh.

Meanwhile, before the Speaker, Hon. Dr. Abass Bundu adjourned the debate to today, he cautioned Members of Parliament to be factual in their presentation. He re-echoed that the Single Treasury Account was established by the immediate past government and that it was the duty of the current government to implement it.

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