World Bank Senior Director for Education Global Practice, Jaime Saavedra, has noted that the government flagship Free Quality Education Program is a very important initiative and that the World Bank is supportive of the policy to provide quality education for all.
Director Jaime Saavedra had made three-day visitation to Sierra Leone between July 4th and 6th 2018, with the objective to reinforce the Bank's commitment to support the country to increase access to quality education in early childhood, primary and secondary education and to discuss government financing policy for education and skills development and the implementation of the Human Capital Project.
He reiterated that the World Bank was willing to supporting the government education agenda and that they were committing about $USD40 million United States Dollars to education.
He added that they have approved the first ten million United States Dollars in December 2017 for basic education and that in September 2018 they would approve $20 million for technical education.
Jaime Saavedra further that they were working now with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance to give another $10 million that is expect to be approved in 2021.
He said in December, 2017, the World Bank committed ten Million United States Dollars ($10m) towards Basic Education to support school grants to 1,800 primary schools under the Revitalizing Education in Sierra Leone (REDiSL).
Addressing the press in the Bank's Office in Freetown, Director Jaime Saavedra said he was in the country for three days and that he had visited schools and vocational centres across the country and also had meetings with President Julius Maada Bio, the Ministry Finance and the Ministry of Education.
He said a World Bank Report launched last year showed that more children were in school in developing countries but many of them were not learning because they don't have the fundamental skills to read and write, adding that the situation remains a huge challenge for the African continent.
He said government would be embarking on a very challenging task to providing free quality education for all, would not be easy because it would require huge resources.
He noted that it was good that government was committing twenty percent budget into the initiative.
He disclosed that the World Bank together with the leadership of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance, will prepare a new project Focusing Resources on Equity and Excellence in Education Project (FREE Education) to support the government flagship program to provide Free Quality Education.
The World Bank representative said the project will use the new multi-phase approach lending instrument of the World Bank, which allows for a longer-term engagement support by the World Bank in the education sector.
He said the Free Education project will be based on a three-phased approach of four years each, where the first phase of the funds will amount to $10 million over a four-year period, the second phase will be discussed following strong implementation progress of the first phase and so on.
He said the World Bank commends the government for prioritizing education investments including the commitment to allocate 20 percent of the budget to education sector, adding that the huge commitment is commendable given the large education agenda in the country.
He said in addition to the domestic resource mobilization, the World Bank encourages the government to use the platform to mobilize additional funds from interested development partners to support the government led Free Education program.
He reiterated that given the commitment to increase budgetary resources to the sector was important and that there was a strong implementation plan to support the agenda, thus committing to support the government in capacity building.
Jaime Saavedra further noted that the World Bank has completed the appraisal of the Skills Development Project for a $20 million project to increase access to demand-led skills training and build the foundations for a demand-led skills development system in Sierra Leone.
According to him, the project includes the establishment of a Skills Development Fund (SDF) that will support training institutions and enterprises to obtain resources to delivery technical vocational training and skills in both the formal and non-formal sectors.
He said the project will support training and skills development in productive sectors of the economy including agriculture, fisheries, tourism and mining, adding that the project is expected to be established by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Technical Higher Education in October 2018.