After a heavy political battle, the people of Sierra Leone have spoken. They have elected Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio to steer the ship of the country for the next five years. From the day he was sworn in as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, President Bio had entered into a bond with the entire citizenry-a social contract upon which he would rest his presidency. While in opposition, President Bio was at liberty to say whatever he wanted -including promising the nation of a better and brighter future. I believe in his quiet moment, he would now be thinking of all the promises he had made to the people of Sierra Leone. While in opposition, he had all the solutions to the country's problems and now is the time to walk the talks and prove to the public that he can deliver on promise.
In his 2018 political campaign, President Bio promised to provide free education from primary to secondary schools. He also promised to provide free education for students offering sciences and medical studies in colleges and other universities across the country. Despite the fact that many would have voted against the All Peoples Congress administration under Ernest Bai for various reasons, arguments are that a large majority of voters might have absolutely fell for the free education bait and subsequently caught on the hook by voting for Bio overwhelmingly. Among his promises that are entrenched in his party's manifesto, the provision of free education resonated with voters and subsequently raised their expectations. The expectations are high and even those who have dropped out of schools for one reason or the other, are now hoping to go back to school and enjoy the free education as promised by President Bio.'Paopa Salone for betteh' through free education.
Over the years, criticism has been that the educational sector seemingly was rotten under the Ernest Bai Koroma administration and that the quality of education significantly dropped to the level of mediocrity. That Sierra Leone lost its past glory of being the Athens of West Africa-the country where the first university in Sub -Saharan Africa was established-Fourah Bay College. Fourah Bay College, they said has lost its past glory of producing quality graduates that contributed to nation building. That children were dropping out of schools due to extreme poverty-a situation they argued was created by the Ernest Koroma administration as a result of bad economic governance. The now ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party was then at liberty in highlighting all the problems that bedeviled the education sector and the ball is now in their court to fix all the problems they had highlighted while in opposition.
Cleverly, the party, in their manifesto running for the 2018 elections,prioritised education as one of the key areas they would handle, hence they promised free education. One thing that should be made clear though, is that free primary education had been in existence and was implemented under the Ernest Koroma, although many are of the view that the implementation was very poor as parents were subjected to paying extra charges that were not approved by government. Many are of the view that the problem of our past government is that they were good at crafting policies but very poor at implementation and monitoring, hence the failure. Some teachers and heads of schools had a field day in extorting monies from parents with a reckless abandon, while government was doing little or nothing about it. By all indications, we don't need free education to attain quality education and restore the past glory of the country as the Athens of West Africa. Professor PLO Lumumba, a well-known African commentator noted in one of his presentations that, African Government are good at establishing social policies like free medical, but that highly placed government officials would always travel to overseas to seek medical attention. The same goes to the provision of free education in Africa in which public officials prefer sending their children to private schools to achieve quality education instead of public schools. A bizarre situation indeed. If President Bio is really serious about transforming the educational sector and attaining quality education apart from providing free education, he should use a holistic approach to get rid of the messes that have pervaded the sector for the past years.
In the first place, he should put in place proper monitoring mechanism to ensure that teachers are committed to their work instead of extorting monies from parents and pupils. Nowadays; some teachers seek pride in extorting monies from pupils more than doing the work they are paid for. Instead of preparing lesson notes for classes, some teachers would print out pamphlet and psychologically forcing pupils to buy and those who could not afford, stand to suffer some severe consequences. This issue of selling pamphlet to children and pegging a condition to it should be stopped henceforth. Several complaints have been made by pupils against some teachers who are in the habit of blacklisting pupils who cannot afford to purchase printed pamphlet. I think some of the principals and heads of schools are accomplices to that exploitation and should be properly checked.
Also, the issue of extra lessons in schools and other private places should be checked. It is glaring that this has contributed immensely to the rottenness of education in the country. It would interest you to note that some teachers would prefer teaching important topics in private lessons rather than in schools where they owe obligation.Infact, Saturday lessons are now popular in schools and it is undoubtedly one of the major causes of teenage pregnancy in the country. Dozens of girl have dropped out of school basically as a result of teenage pregnancy. If ever the government would tolerate Saturday lessons in schools, it should be limited to pupils who are in external examination classes-Basic Education Certificate Examinations and the West Africa Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations-and pupils, especially girls, must be in their uniforms to avoid morphological attraction by diabolic teachers. I believe if implemented, this would lay to rest the reported harassment of school girls by their teachers.
Finally, the people's expectations are high and the promised free education would rightly be in place because it would absolutely ameliorate the plights of many, if properly implemented. As earlier stated, people might have overwhelmingly voted for President Maada Bio in the 2018 election as a result of the promised free education and it would be a disservice to him if he fails to implement it to the letter. Mind you, the people have wisen up and should not be taken for granted. They would definitely vote the SLPP government out in 2023, if you fail to deliver on promise. President Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, now is time to walk the talk and prove to the public and the entire international community that you can deliver on promise.
Watch out for the part two of this edition on Food on the table