Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education To Promote Lifelong Learning Opportunities

Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE) with Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) Hold a Two-Day Project Implementation Workshop on Sierra Leone Education Sector Support Project (SLESSP) – October 19 – 20, 2021.

The Ministries of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE) and Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), have held a two-day implementation workshop for the Sierra Leone Education Sector Support Project (SLESSP) on the theme “Ensuring Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promoting Lifelong Learning Opportunities for All.” The workshop spanned from 19th to 20th October 2021 at Golden Tulip Hotel, Kimbima Essential, Aberdeen.

Being a project which aims at providing support to the education sector to improve quality and accessibility to education in hard-to-reach communities of the country, the SLESSP got its approval in June 2019. On 28th July 2021, the two beneficiary Ministries (MTHE and MBSSE) had a signing ceremony with two consulting firms (IDEAS Ltd, a local firm in joint venture with ALHABSHREE JV based in Kuwait, as well as Engineering Consultants Group [ECG] based in Egypt) regarding the project at the Ministry of Finance, George Street.

The SLESSP, a $68 Million funded project, got its funding from the Saudi Development Fund (SDF).  The sum of $25 million came from the OPC Fund for International Development (IFID).   Another sum of $20 million came from the African Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) and Sierra Leone’s Government with a counterpart funding of $3 Million.

MTHE’s Deputy Minister, Mr. Sarjoh Aziz-Kamara, noted that since they had the signing ceremony with the consulting firms on 28th July this year, the project has seen significant progress. He stated that the project has been well-conceived under the leadership of H.E. President Bio. “The theme for our medium-term national development plan 2019-2023 is ‘education for development, and for the Government to add its resources to this is a direct commitment to H.E’s intent that for this country to move, we have to give education the priority it deserves,” he said. He expressed delight over the steps taken by key players in ensuring that the funds are made available in time. According to Mr. Aziz-Kamara, the project is coming in when education is taking a different trajectory. The country could not have had it at a more significant time than now. “We have seen massive enrolment. We have seen dropouts coming back to school. To address that, we need to have a project of this nature to be able to accommodate those pupils that will be merging from the schools,” he said.

In giving a brief overview of the project, SLESSP’s Project Coordinator, Ing. Neilford Rose, noted that the project aims to contribute to achieving Objective Four of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all.  He said that there are six major beneficiaries of the project (four regional schools and two higher learning institutions).

According to Engineer Rose, the project, which focuses on the promotion of quality education at both basic and senior secondary level & technical and higher level, will target the reconstruction as well as the construction of two higher learning institutions (Bunumbu Teachers’ College and Milton Margai Technical University respectively).  The reconstruction of four public secondary schools (Bo Government Secondary School, Kenema Secondary School, Magburaka Boys Secondary School, and Prince of Wales School) and a seven-story administrative building for both MTHE and MBSSE. He noted that there is a commitment of $50 Million to civil works infrastructure, which constitutes a huge percentage of the overall cost of the project, adding that plans are already in place to have a project launch at the regional and district level where the beneficiary institutions are located in a bid to further inform the public about the existence of such an infrastructural project.

MBSSE’s Deputy Minister, Madam Emily Kadiatu Gogra, expressed gratitude to H.E. President Bio for pioneering the project and putting a premium on human capital development. She commended all the donor agencies for putting money into the project, especially the construction of a seven-story administrative building which would create the atmosphere for MTHE and MBSSE to strengthen their partnership. She admonished all key players to accelerate the programme through community engagement and augmentation of quality so as to enhance the sustainability of the project. “Let us engage and coordinate with one and another to implement this programme faithfully and successfully,” she entreated members.

According to the Project Coordinator of Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), Mr. Mohamed Aziz, BADEA was established pursuant to the 6th Arab Summit at Algiers in November 1973, and it began operations in March 1975. He mentioned that the Bank was established with an overriding aim of strengthening economic, financial, and technical cooperation within the Arab-African Region, specifically to participate in financing economic development in Africa, stimulate the contribution of Arab capital to African development, and help provide the technical assistance required for the development in Africa. He assured members of their continued commitment to strengthening the friendly cooperation that exists between BADEA and the Government of Sierra Leone.

In his keynote address, the Senior Deputy Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Samuel E.B. Momoh, pointed out that the SLESSP is one of the priorities of the Government of Sierra Leone, as it falls within the framework of the country’s human capital development strategy and the promotion of education, which is line of the country’s education plan that aims to make education accessible to all. “This project aims to contribute to the implementation of the strategic plan of the education sector to improve free and comprehensive basic education and to promote higher and technical education in the different regions of the country which suffer from the low level of services and their low distribution,” he said. According to Mr. Momoh, the design stage of the project is expected to last for 90 days. After which, the complete design, drawings, and specifications, together with tender documents, will be submitted for the commencement of the tender stage in November 2021. He urged all stakeholders, especially the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) and the beneficiary institutions, to ensure that their needs were met per the project objectives.