In a bid to achieve universal primary education by strengthening education system management in Bonthe district, the European Union (EU) has provided support to the Bonthe District Council in the tune of five hundred and ninety-four thousand, two hundred and nineteen Euro (€594, 219), which would benefit 10,000 pupils and 500 teachers.
The total cost of the project is sixty-six hundred and sixty thousand, two hundred and forty-four Euro (€660,244), with Bonthe District Council expected to make an input of sixty-six thousand and twenty-five Euro (€66, 025) from internally generated revenue, representing 90 percent and 10 percent inputs respectively.
At an event marking the launch of the EU supported project at the Bonthe District Council Hall on Tuesday, 24th January, 2017 Rita Ngadie Savage, chairperson of the council, said poor quality education in the district was of concern to the council, hence they sought support of the EU to intervene so as to improve on the already falling standard of education in the district.
She disclosed that the project would benefit 10,000 pupils, further training of 500 teachers, construct school toilets, provide clean and safe drinking water facility for schools, and rehabilitate schools that are in deplorable condition.
"The Boarding Home of the Centennial Secondary School, which was destroyed during the war, will be rehabilitated under this project. We have got situations where most pupils have been impregnated while in school because they were not on campus. We want to provide a place that they can call home while learning at the same time," she explained.
She urged residents of Bonthe district to take ownership of the project so that it would benefit all pupils.
Magnus Musa, a representative of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, said education in Bonthe district currently face numerous challenges including bad terrain, lack of trained and qualified teachers and poor infrastructure.
"Bonthe has 11 chiefdoms plus the Island. Five of those chiefdoms are situated in riverine areas and are difficult to reach. Most of the schools are make-shift structures and sometimes get destroyed by heavy rains," he said.
He said the EU supported project would help to address some of the challenges affecting education in Bonthe district.
Head of EU Delegation to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Peter Versteeg, said the re-introduction of Local Councils was playing an important role and providing greater opportunity for the establishment of a centralised system of governance by devolving key functions from the central government.
He said that, more importantly, decentralisation allows people to actively participate in their own development, adding that it lays the foundation for improved accountability in governance and ensure local leadership of development by the Districts and City Councils.
"It is on that basis the EU has committed €594,219 to Bonthe District Council in order to help improve quality primary education by strengthening education system management in the district," he said.
He said the project has ambitious targets and that it would strengthen the capacity of various institutional and societal stakeholders in education, noting that it would facilitate the training of 500 teachers and supports 10,000 children in 50 schools.
"The project will rehabilitate structures, provide furniture and build WASH facilities for children to have a better environment to learn. The building up of capacities for better service delivery and better access to primary education is vital for the country's development. Primary education has an important place in the government's agenda and the world's Sustainable Development Goals," he said.
He assured that the EU would act as a partner in supporting Bonthe District Council to achieve the objectives of the project and called on beneficiaries to make judicious use of the project resources and fully commit themselves to implementing activities.
In her keynote address, Sunkarie Kabba-Kamara, Mayor of Makeni City Council, said government was committed to achieving universal primary education, noting that education was the bedrock of development of the country.
"The problem with education is lack of ownership. We should change our mindset and take ownership of what we have. Child-centered teaching techniques should be strengthened. Teachers should be instructors. They should identify the problems in education and reverse them for the better," she said.
She implored heads of schools to monitor teachers to ensure that right information is being disseminated to pupils, adding that teachers should manage school resources very well and repair those that ware and tear.
She noted that Bonthe district was one of the most deplorable districts in the country, and that some of the bottlenecks hindering education included teenage pregnancy and early marriage.