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Government is Giving Unprecedented Attention to Education

The Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) Report has confirmed that the Government of Sierra Leone is giving unprecedented policy and budget attention to basic and senior secondary education which is contributing to some cost-saving to households in the country.

The Report which was launched on Tuesday 2nd November is titled, ‘Financing the Free Quality School Education and its Alternatives: The Costs of Education to Government and Households in Sierra Leone.

According to the report, financing basic and secondary education has been a challenge for many low-skilled and low-literate economies. Over the last three years, Sierra Leone rose to the challenge by launching an ambitious programme aimed at providing Free Quality School Education (FQSE) to an estimated 2.7 million students.

The report stated that since the launch of the FQSE initiative in 2018, school enrolment increased by 34%; an additional 1.2 million pupils were enrolled in public schools. Actual domestic revenue spending on education increased from 7.5% in 2017 to 22% in 2020. Actual government spending on education hit a record level– from Le393Bn (US$51 million) in 2017 to Le1.4Trillion (US$ 140 million) in 2020.

The report however stated that extra charges and extortion by some school authorities are not helping to ease the financial burden of schooling. The average Sierra Leonean household paid about SLL 289,816 in 2020 in fees that could be considered extortion from parents by school administrators. These include fees for things like extra classes, gifts/tips to teachers, and art and crafts. IGR enumerators reported that this practice is institutionalised in a majority of schools, especially in urban areas.

The Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education Dr. David Moinina Sengeh said the Ministry is aware of the level of extorting by school authorities.

“One of the biggest successes we can get in the fight against corruption is to combat corruption in education. In achieving that we all have a role to play, parents that are paying bribes instead of encouraging their children to study and make good grades, pupils that are depending on examination malpractices to make good grades, and principals that are receiving bribes from parents and also extorting a lot of money from the government also have important roles to play,” he said.

He said in fighting corruption in education, the Ministry is implementing two things, one is by preventing face-to-face interaction through digitalization, and by using the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), noting that the ministry has signed a communiqué with the ACC to fight against corruption in schools.

“I am pleading with parents not to pay for admission for their children. If school authorities attempt to extort money from parents, they should call the toll-free line of 8060 or report to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC),” he said.

He encouraged parents to make use of the toll-free line if they think that school authorities are asking them to make payment for what is part of the Free and Quality School Education package.

Augustine Sankoh
Strategic Communications Analyst MBSSE
Email: asankoh@education.gov.sl

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