7 March 2017

Sierra Leone: 'EU Is a Truly Dependable Partner' - President Koroma

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has described the European Union as a truly dependable partner - steadfast and strategically aligned to Sierra Leone's development agenda.

The president was speaking during the official launch of the EU support programme to the education sector in Sierra Leone under the 11thEuropean Development Fund (EDF) on Tuesday March 7th, 2017 at State House in Freetown.

"An investment of EUROs 29 million in the education sector for the first time in our development cooperation is bold and represents a massive boost to the achievement of my government's objective to raise the education standards of this country," President Koroma said, and stated that Accelerating Human Development, as encapsulated in Pillar 3 of the Agenda for Prosperity, is fundamental to improving living conditions, increasing national prosperity, building international competitiveness and creating the enabling environment for economic growth.

The president also maintained that his government has invested in the reform of the educational system more than any other government in the history of Sierra Leone. "We have built more schools, established new universities and repositioning the oldest of them all," he said. President Koroma went on to note that although this support to the education sector will be implemented well beyond his tenure, "it clearly resonates with my vision of raising Sierra Leone to a middle income country by 2035."

President Koroma recalled that when he took over office in 2007, his government inherited a country whose roads were in a state of disrepair. "Our city, Freetown, had become overburdened with narrow and pothole-laden passage ways. Our district headquarter towns had no real roads, they had footpaths," he stated and thanked the EU for its unwavering support in transforming the country's road network. He also lauded the EU for the ongoing project to expand four major bridges in the country - Magbele, Mabang, Moyamba and Gbangbaya - and added that the EU remains the bedrock to the transformation of Sierra Leone's national and international highways, such as the link to Guinea and Liberia.

Minister of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), Dr Minkailu Bah, described the signing of the MoU between the EU and the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) as another important event in the development cooperation between the GoSL and the EU. According to Dr Bah, MEST has been working with the EU delegation since early 2014 to prepare the action plan that is to start implementation shortly. "The Action Plan itself has four broad strategic objectives that were framed in discussion with MEST and are closely aligned with strategic objectives of the 2014-2018 Education Sector Plan (ESP) - Learning to Succeed as well as the Agenda for Prosperity," Dr Bah commented. The four objectives are to strengthen education system management in order to improve equity and quality, improve primary school teaching and learning, improve management and delivery of technical and vocational education and improve equitable access to secondary education.

The Head of the European Union to Sierra Leone, Peter Versteeg, said that the EU technical assistance team of four experts who will strengthen the capacity of the sector in the coming years - are currently in the country to support the MEST and the Teacher Service Commission in defining action programmes for the course of 2017 and beyond, with a firm view of complementing and building on achievements made to date. "In parallel we are finalising a programme with the German Development Agency (GIZ) to support technical and vocational training in Sierra Leone, which will come on stream soon," he mentioned. Mr Versteeg also noted that the MoU signed with the GoSL will set out the management methods for the implementation of the programme, the steering structure, and mechanisms for coordination with other donors in the education sector to ensure an efficient division of labour.

The EU Head of Delegation commended the MEST for embarking on the exercise of cleaning the teacher's payroll with support provided by the donor partners. "In the medium term, we hope that a reviewed payroll would open up the way for adding active teachers who are delivering services in communities across the country," he said, and added that the EU is prepared to join forces with the Government to take on the challenges facing the education sector.

GoSL was represented in the signing of the MoU by Mr Momodu Kargbo, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, and Dr Minkailu Bah, Minister of Education, Science and Technology. The EU was represented by the Head of Delegation, Mr Peter Versteeg.

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