PuDSA thrills pupils, stakeholders in Pujehun


July 3, 2018

By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

Umaru Fofana addressing pupils and stakeholders at the district council hall

Hundreds of pupils and stakeholders were over the weekend thrilled by the innovation of the Pujehun District Students Association (PuDSA) which hosted BBC stringer Umara Fofana in Pujehun to talk on the topic “Invest in Education to Increase Sustainable Access to Quality Education in the district.”

The Public Lecture, which took place at the district council hall in Pujehun, attracted pupils from across the districts, students from various universities and colleges in the country, local authorities in the district, plus security personnel, teachers and parents.

Fofana, who was the keynote speaker at the event, started off by telling his audience that his maternal grandfather left Bombali and settled in Fairo, Sorogbema chiefdom, Pujehun district to spread Islam, where he met his grandmother.

He told the crowded hall that he believes strongly and passionately that education is not the best gift for a child but rather the only gift that parents should give to their children.

Fofana denounced parents who claim poverty has barred them from sending their children to school, thus making an allusion to himself that he was born to uneducated parents but was able to go to school.

“It is wrong for a child to drop out of school because of his or her parents are poor and cannot afford to pay their school fees. Therefore, if you as a parent fail to send your child to school because you are poor, you are sentencing yourself to more poverty. That is why you must do everything to ensure you send your child to school,” he said.

Citing the recent United Nations Children Agency report, Fofana said the district is one of those in Sierra Leone where poverty is most acute among children.

“Pujehun also unfortunately has that unenviable title of recording lots of sexual offences. That is why I am now urging the new Local Unit Commander to fight sexual offences cases. And to you parents, please stop compromising those cases because it is criminal for any man to sleep with a child,” he said.

He re-echoed government’s commitment to allocating 20% of the country’s budget to the free education programme and cautioned that community people should take ownership of the scheme.

“The government is going to offer free education but President Maada Bio or Minister Alpha Timbo will not be available to monitor the free education in all areas across the country, so I implore you all to be monitoring the free education when it start in September,” he appealed.

The BBC stringer, who is also Executive Editor of Politico newspaper, called on government to provide more incentives to teachers in remote communities so that they would have the courage to stay in those areas.

The media guru also urged local and international non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and other development partners to work with the district council to ensure that the free education succeeds.

Fofana also pledged Le5million for this year’s summer school and promised to pay 50% university fees for pupils with the best five West Africa Senior Schools Certificate Examination result.

Secretary to the Vice President, Barba Fortune, said the theme for the occasion was timely as President Bio’s flagship scheme – the free education – coincides with PuDSA’s fight to increase quality education in the district.

He said education is recognised all over the world as a powerful tool for development and that through education the government can improve the welfare of its citizens.

“Motivation of teachers, putting up more structures, and increasing salaries are some of the ways of promoting the free education,” he stated.

Pujehun District Council Chairman, Sheikh Shaubu Sowa, explained that the district has 21 pre-schools, 285 primary, 21 junior secondary and 5 senior secondary schools.

He said some children cover over 14 kilometres daily to access schools in some remote communities, adding that some six villages in the district do not a single school.

He noted that though the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is collecting data of educational institutions across the country, his council would also collect theirs.

“We need more schools and quality teachers in the district so that our district will stop topping reports on teenage pregnancies, child marriage and rape,” he appealed.

National President of PuDSA, Mohamed Kallon, described the Public Lecture as a fundamental platform for stakeholders, students, pupils and citizens to discuss roles and responsibilities that would encourage them to invest in education and increase sustainable access to quality education in the district.

Kallon extended thanks and appreciation to all stakeholders in the district for their continued support to PuDSA’s activities, adding that the public lecture demonstrates a strong foundation to strengthen transparency, accountability, love and unity among indigenes of the district.

Member of Parliament in Constituency 104, Hon. Siaka Musa Sama, said the district needs to focus on the needs of residents and provide a monitoring role in the area of education.

He urged government to include other packages in the free education agenda, including infrastructure, reading materials and supervision, which he said would ensure sustainability of the project.

Speaking on behalf of women in the district, Deputy Chairperson, Women of Wanjama, Madam Josephine Sowa said women and children are more vulnerable in any difficult situation.

She said the promotion of girl child education is moving very slow in the district due to teenage pregnancy, early marriage and child abuse.

The Deputy Minister of Transportation and Aviation, Sadiq Silla, who had served as president of the association in the ‘90s, said education is the priority area of intervention under the New Direction.

Meanwhile, also in attendance were the Director of Communication at State House, Tanu Jalloh, Director of Institute of Library and Information Studies at Fourah Bay College, Isaac Massaquoi, and Hon. Suahilio Koroma.