How can the Ministry of Education in Sierra Leone improve?

Opinion piece:

Sierra Leone News: Split Up The Education Ministry

Current issues around the education system are rather confusing and complex enough to get stakeholders concerned. Just now, we have so many things to handle: Increased university fees; government’s option to subsidize those fees; ghost teachers; inadequacy of teachers; school and University perceived uncanny manoeuvres; limited supervision by authorities; promotion of sexually and monetarily generated marks, and a host of others.
In all this, I still strongly feel that it is the Education Ministry that should have been split instead of the Energy and Water Resources. But then, they will horridly tell me that it is the President’s prerogative. Sometimes, I wonder so very much at the average Sierra Leonean’s often manifested naivety.
A whole decade and three years after the cessation of hostilities, occasioned by the rebel carnage, we are still blaming everything on the war.
When will we really come to terms with the fact that as a nation, we should be running and not walking?   Talk about the overpopulation of Freetown and they will tell you it is the war. Talk about Street trading, they will tell you, it is the war.
If you dare complain about the proliferation of the right hand drive vehicles, they will retort that the war created poverty that forced people to buy cheap RHD cars. In fact they will also tell you that it is the war and poverty that moved the cars to pass through the quay and SLRTA scrutiny to contravene the traffic laws and illegally register the right hand vehicles and then shamelessly turn round and say the owners should not run them! Tell me what kind of country is this? Do we really have to continue to blame the war for everything? For me this is absurd to say the least. No country will develop beyond the level of the education of its citizens. Check out a country like Israel, apart from their Divine protection, it is their education that makes them live with very high standards.
One very important element in democracy is citizen’s participation in the decision making processes especially those that impact on their very livelihoods and survival. When this is absent, then you cannot talk about ownership and therefore sustainability.
Everybody rather agrees that our education standard has dropped to very low ebb.
This year, the universities decided to increase their tuition fees. Government decided to pay the difference. We are told that University authorities decided to increase the fees further, thereby passing part of the burden to the students.
What one may ask, is how much information was actually shared with the students and at what time?
The other issue is, does an increase in fees means the university standards will rise overnight. Does it guarantee better facilities? Can university authorities just wake up and announce increase in fees? If you listened to Monologue of January 25, 2014, you would have got the Minister of Education’s clarifications. It appears the main problem is with the School and University authorities and not so much with the Minister, as is often claimed. According to the Minister, they are simply trying to implement the policies governing education. Quality education of course will not come about when false results are used to enter university or when schools register unqualified pupils to take public exams.
Thank God the process of reviewing our National Constitution has begun? We have a big opportunity to chart a better way forward.
I wonder how the Minister of Education’s 60- day ultimatum for Schools to validate information/ data on them or may not be attended to, went. Quite a few things are at stake here. Non-compliance will mean that salaries will not be paid and thus school work will be adversely affected. Of course I think the Minister is right to insist on compliance.  Well, someone just whispered to me about the BECE leakage and the refusal for pupils to take the WASSCE, unless they had passed the BECE.
What is interesting is that schools had gone ahead and taken examination fees from unqualified pupils. Now they could not even refund the fees.
The government is bashed left right and center for more the right reasons than the wrong. However the parents and the school authorities also have a big part in the blame. What beats me is that the malaise of the Public schools seems to be creeping into the private schools. Recently when the ACC arrested teachers in some schools in Freetown for taking money from pupils before they issue results, I really thought they should have also arrested some from the Private schools because they are doing the same. When you look at the National budget you notice that not enough provision is made for education and compared to so many other less crucial areas. Consider the amount of moneys allocated to various ministries and their varied strategic standing. Like I have earlier said, I really think the Presidency should have split up the Ministry of Education into two, instead of splitting the energy and Youth ministries respectively. Why do I say so? Reason number one: The youth employment dilemma is caused mainly because of the lack of certain levels of education or call them skills. A reasonable level of education is one major thing that ensures youth employment. Tell me what difference has it made in splitting the Youth and Sports Ministry? After a whole three months of waiting without a Minister, the appointments were made for two separate ministries. I challenge any fanatic to tell me it was the best decision in the circumstance. At best it was for political expedience and not really for development. Incidentally the head of a youth servicing civil society who once gave this government the ultimatum to appoint the Youth Commission was made Deputy Sports Minister. This is really not uncommon in our political landscape over the years.
By any standard you cannot really compare these ministries to that of Education? Do not tell me he has two deputies. You know in this country, the deputy functions only when the number one man wants it so. Even in associations, the Vice Chairmen are near redundant. Which African really wants to share power with someone else. It is all tokenistic. Can authorities put things right in order to save our young generation… .Please….please.
By Ben Cambayma
Wednesday Janauary 29, 2014

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