OCTOBER 29, 2014 By Mohamed Massaquoi from Kono
Paramount Chief of Tankoro Chiefdom in Kono District has said that despite efforts by the government to mitigate the impact of the Ebola outbreak on education, via electronic learning, he is worried that a good number of pupils in remote communities would be deprived of the services, thus appealing to the Minister of Education, Science and Technology to place special focus on children in remote rural communities.
PC Paul Ngaba Saquee said the Ebola outbreak is very worrisome because the disease has serious negative impact on the lives of Sierra Leoneans and the country’s economy.
The government of Sierra Leone had ordered the indefinite closure of schools, cinemas and nightclubs to halt the spread of the disease. The decision to close all public schools came after the virus had overwhelmed health officials in Kailahun and Kenema districts – former epicentres of the disease – in August, forcing government to declare a public health emergency.
In order to mitigate the effects of the closure of schools around the country, the Ministry of Education and partners have begun a pilot scheme on radio and television, which is broadcast throughout the week for the different categories of primary, junior and senior high school pupils.
While Chief Saquee applauded the government for introducing the electronic education system, he however noted that children in remote rural villages do not have access to transistor radio sets to follow up on the electronic learning.
“I don’t think the electronic education system is effective. It cannot be an adequate substitution to the normal educational system. First of all, there are a lot of categories of students involved with different subject areas. It will be difficult to handle all of these,” the traditional leader observed. “A good number of students in remote communities do not have access to radio sets. They cannot afford to even buy batteries for those radio sets but more importantly remote communities can’t receive TV or radio frequencies in their villages.”
The chief therefore urged the government to re-examine the programme for the benefit of vulnerable children.
However, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Minkailu Bah, while addressing education stakeholders last Wednesday at the Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown, commended teachers who are involved in the e-learning process for their excellent presentation of lessons broadcast on partner stations comprising the Independent Radio Network (IRN).
Dr. Bah noted that the experience with teaching via radio and television was necessitated by the Ebola outbreak, and acknowledged that the system may not be perfect yet it offers a temporary solution to pupils across the country to keep up with their school work.
Meanwhile, speaking on agriculture, Chief Saquee said the sector has been seriously affected as farmers no longer have access to loans from banks following the closure of most community banks.
He said one of the biggest challenges the country would face immediately after the outbreak is hunger, as most farmers now eat reserve seedlings meant for the next planting season.
The paramount chief further noted that financiers of small and large scale mining activities have left the diamond rich district of Kono for fear of contracting the virus.
“In the formal mining sector I don’t know the number of companies currently operating in the district. For example, I know that the OCTEA mining company is currently operating on a small scale because it is having a lot of logistical problems. It is unfortunate to note that most of the experts have left the country,” said the PC Saquee.
“For the past months over 40 of them have gone on vacation and could not come back because of the decisions by their respective governments. The Philipinnos are not coming in for now and these are the experts who were greatly helping the company to carry out its activities.”