MBSSE & EOF launch Sierra Leone education innovative challenge

Nancy, Emma Spicer, Min. MBSSE, Alie Inam, Samuella, Yormie Charles & Madiana

By Emmanuel Gborie

Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education (MBSSE), the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Education Outcome Fund (EOF), together with service providers/ educators, local and international partners, on  September 1st, launched the Sierra Leone Education Innovation Challenge (SLEIC) at Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.

The Sierra Leone Education Challenge is an outcome-based fund programme undertaken by the MBSSE and EOF to improve literacy and numeracy for over 134,000 children attending 325 public primary schools in Sierra Leone. The project will be implemented by 5 credible organizations (service providers/educators), EducAid, Street Child, Rising Academy Network, Save the Children and the National Youth Awareness Forum-KIZAZI, who have immensely contributed to education in Sierra Leone,

In a keynote address, Dr. Yatta Kanu, CEO of MBSSE,  stated that teachers and educators are not just mere service providers because the relationship they have with children is far more complicated and deeper than just service providing as they stand with children along with their parents to help them find dreams to acquire.

She  said when she returned home two and half years ago, Minister Sengeh who is also the Director of the DSTI had just put up a call and a challenge to educators – experienced and seasoned educators around the country to bring forth great innovative ideas that could be incubated and nurtured to enhance the literacy, numeracy and quicker thinking skills of young children in Sierra Leone.

She said they scrutinized those ideas properly and ended up selecting the ones they saw as the ideas that have the highest potential and had promises for the goals that had been set out to achieve.

“Today, here we are this afternoon on the verge of launching the SLEIC which is the largest education outcome fund in the developing world and in the education sector globally. This is all born out of the commitment of the President who is a forward looking president and government which has placed education at the centre of human capital development of its people. The Free Quality education was launched in 2018 and since then because of the free condition and other government support, the system has added over 700,000 children to the education sector in the classrooms across the country,” she stated.

Milena Castellnou, Chief Programmes Officer, EOF, stated that the launching of SLEIC was very exciting for the EOF because that was the first programme  they were launching at EOF and it was also the biggest programme of that type in the world.

She said Sierra Leone was really leading the way and it’s a programme that is aiming at improving learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy for 134 thousand children across the whole of Sierra Leone and that they were doing  that using what call result based financing.

According to her, the EOF is an independent trust fund hosted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and that the fund works to help achieve the United Nations UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) of inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

 She said they have worked in different countries around the world, Ghana and even currently in Ukraine in the midst of the ongoing crises.

“We’ve talked and worked with the government and the MBSSE to define what the outcomes that we want to achieve and how we will measure them and only when we can show that there has been an improvement in literacy and numeracy then we will pay the organization. It is a completely different way of funding a program, it’s something that has been done internationally already but never at that scale. So, Sierra Leone is really here a trail blazer and that why it’s so exciting for us at EOF and for everybody and obviously for the government of Sierra Leone,” she said.

After her statetment, presentations was done by Educ Aid, Street Child, Rising Academy Network, Save the Children, National Youth Awareness Forum (NYAF SL – KIZAZI  on their works and what they have done and achieved so far in improving education in Sierra Leone and other parts of West Africa as a guarantee and assurance to deliver on what is expected of them in carrying out this project.

 Marian Mason –Sesay, Country Director presented on behalf of EducAid Sierra Leone, Tuffnel Pratt, Programme Manager, presented on behalf of Rising Academy Network, Country Director Kelfa Kargbo, on behalf of Street Child, and George Foday, Program Manager, presented on behalf of NYAF-SL.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion on the future of education in Sierra Leone that comprised of 6 panelist, David Moinina Sengeh, Minister of MBSSE, Samuella Yembe Mansaray, a pupil and a youth advocate, Yormie Charles, a long serving Head Teacher, Alie Inam, Special Investment Expert, Emma Spicer, British High Commission, Nancy Abie Cooper, an educator working with Rising Academy and the chair of the panel was Madiana Samba who also represented the EOF.

Dr. Sengeh on his vision on education stated that the day was  remarkable because it shows what vision can do and what great partnership can do and collaborations at all levels, NGO level, community levels, with stakeholders, government school and children. We are here today because of the vision the president has or had which is around educational access, for the United Nation (UN) SDG Goal 4 of accessible to inclusive equitable quality education.

He referenced that in 2018 when they launched the Free Quality School Education (FQSE) Program to increase access to education, people thought that it will not be possible, but today there is an addition of 1.3 million kids who are in school and in the pre-primary school we have well over an 100% additional kids who are in school and in the senior secondary level we have a significant amount as well who are in school,” he said.

“There will never be a point in time when everybody will say now there is quality education because even in some countries like Finland where he was talking to a colleague minister, they still want improvement in quality and in Denmark as well they have children who don’t know how to read. He said UNICEF Report that came out recently suggested that about 80% 0f 10 year old cannot read and understand a simple sentence but with programs like this, there a future where our children can read and right and employ critical thinking, creativity and civic education. However, I am confident that we will get there soon,” he said.

The Minister expressed how he is excited to see  that just in few years everyone was gathered at the launching of a program which stated back in 2018 from a discussion the president had with Bill Gate on his desire for Educational Innovation in Sierra Leone which the government began working towards and investing into. According to him, the initial funding was an investment of about $1.3 million and today in 2022 the SLEIC has increased to about $ 8million funding program where over 134,000 children in about 125 schools are going to benefit from in the country. The program was climaxed with the launching of SLEIC immediately after the Minister’s closing remark.