By Jariatu Bangura
Parliament yesterday approved two grant agreements worth twenty-three million United States dollars (US$23m) for the improvement of learning environment and opportunities in targeted areas, as well as strengthening educational service delivery. The agreements were signed between the government of Sierra Leone and the International Development Association (IDA).
In his presentation, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Foday B.L. Mansaray, said even though the country is now in sadness and pain but “there is hope built on a foundation of trust in God and also hope that through education we will defeat the pestilence in our midst and banish it forever in the country”.
He said with inputs from stakeholders nationwide coupled with the support of partners, the country was able to successfully task and attract funding for the implementation of both projects, adding that the two grants will provide funding for the implementation of what is referred to as ‘Revitalizing Education Development Project’ in the country.
He explained that through this project, “We have a source of funding additional to that provided by the government of Sierra Leone for the implementation of some aspects of the Education Sector Plan (ESP), which is a component of the educational sector’s Agenda for Prosperity”.
According to the minister, the project will be used to better the targeted group and source funds for schools and students who are in dire need of government support, adding that certain pilot projects would be implemented within the wider framework of the project for lessons to be learnt before full scale implementation, using government funds.
“The utilization of both grants is to be within a three-year period and as soon as the grants are successfully utilized, an application can be made for further support,” he said. “This process could start when approximately 75% of the funds have been disbursed. An additional multi-donor trust fund support is dependent on how well the grant is utilized and confidence of donors in its effectiveness.”
Mr. Mansaray maintained that the Ministry of Education would, for the first time, be able to try out performance-based school grants with the aim of improving access and learning environments in primary and junior secondary schools in targeted districts; reduce inequities and increase capacities of local councils and districts education offices (DEOs); increase school readiness in targeted areas; strengthen early grade reading outcomes, and also improve on teacher management with a focus on the Teaching Service Commission; as well as ensure effective monitoring and evaluation of the education sector plan implementation.
In his contribution, Hon. Komba E. Koedoyoma said “for far too long the country’s educational system has gone to the mortuary, but with the help of officials of the Education Ministry, great improvement has been made through such supporting agreements”.
He said the implementation aspect should be well taken care of as the school system has a lot of challenges compared to the past performance records of schools.
“This document is not controversial as it is meant to revitalize the educational problem. The document will help improve the learning environment as well as help in strengthening the environment,” he said.