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REPORT ON BASIC EDUCATION IN SIERRA LEONE

By Norma Thompson,2014-05-14 11:56
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REPORT ON BASIC EDUCATION IN SIERRA LEONE

Leh Di Pipul Tכk

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     PAGE NO.

    Introduction and Background…………………………………………4-6 Present Educational Status…………………………………………….5-7 Project Objectives………………………………………………………8 Methods of Data Collection…………………………………………….8-9 Limitations of the Study………………………………………………..9-10 Time Frame……………………………………………………………..11 Executive Summary…………………………………………………….10-15

Analysis of Research Findings

    Teaching and Learning Materials……………………………………...15-17 Fees Subsidies……………………………………………………………17-18 Infrastructure…………………………………………………………….18 Furniture…………………………………………………………………18-19 Health Facility and Sanitation…………………………………………..19-20 Quality of Teachers………………………………………………………20-21 Gender Imbalance in the Teaching Profession…………………………22 Promotion………………………………………………………………....22 Salaries and Conditions of Service for Teachers……………………….22-24 Teacher Retention in Schools……………………………………………24-25 School Charges……………………………………………………............25-26 Enrollment and Dropout rate………………………………………….....2-27 Teacher-Pupil and Boy-Girl Ratio…………………………………….....27-28 Extra Lessons………………………………………………………………2-30 Recreational Facilities……………………………………………………..30-31 Punishment for Pupils……………………………………………………..31 Challenges in the Educational System……………………………………31-33

Annexes

    ? Research Questionnaires

    ? List of Sampled Schools

    ? Profile of Lead Researcher

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    It cannot be overemphasized that education is a conduit to development in any given state. As Sierra Leone is going through a critical recovery process, the provision of basic education for all her children is essential. Mustering and analyzing data on such a large and complex service delivery sector (Education) was an uphill task. Inordinate time, energy and resources were harnessed to assemble this report. Some individuals and institutions provided support (financial and otherwise) to make this project a success. In this vein, it is germane to acknowledge all those who in direct or indirect ways supported the successful execution of this enterprise.

    The first acknowledgement goes to the United States' Embassy which has been providing support in the past (2002/2003) through the Democracy and Human Rights Fund for the undertaking of opinion polls and surveys with the aim of improving the socio-economic and political lives of Sierra Leoneans. This time round, we as usual express our appreciation for the funds provided to undertake this exercise. We strongly believe that this report would influence policies and radically change the mind-set and behavioral patterns of the relevant stake-holders in the Education system; which in turn would engender basic quality education for all Sierra Leonean children.

    We also render accolades to the battery of CGG Field Officers and other contracted researchers (from Community Based Organizations and local Non-Governmental Organizations) in the six pilot Districts who unreservedly utilized their energies, knowledge and experience to collect and present the data in a professional manner. The gamut of relevant information they provided went a long way to determine the quality of the report.

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At independence in 1961, Sierra Leone due to its seemingly unparalleled track-record in

    education and maintaining a vibrant and productive bureaucracy was rated as one of the

    success stories of new African states. Fourah Bay College established in 1829, made

    commendable strides in providing enviable quality education not only for Sierra

    Leoneans, but for other West Africans. Sierra Leone became known as the „Athens of

    West Africa‟ in recognition of its provision of quality education in the African continent.

    Sadly, forty-two later (2003) Sierra Leone was rated as having one of the highest

    illiteracy rates in the world. 1 in the Education System. In 1999, the present government in an effort to give education a further boost instituted a In 1994 a major policy shift saw the introduction of the 6334Free Education Policy. The present government embarked on an ambitious and laudable

    venture to provide education to an increased number of children. In consonance with the

    September 2000 United Nations Millennium Summit which „challenged‟ 189 countries of

    the world to provide basic education for all by 2015, the Sierra Leone government

    designed several policies to improve access to and quality of education in the country.

    One such policy was the Education For All, Action Plan (EFA). Under the EFA Action

    Plan, the government in September 2001 undertook the task of providing Universal

    Primary Education. One of the major provisions of the EFA Action Plan was the

    abolition of Primary school tuition fees which was replaced with fee subsidy of 2,000

    Leones per pupil (per term) for the three terms. The EFA-Action Plan included the

    provision of teaching and learning materials. The thrust of the policy was to ensure that

    all children from Class 1 to JSS 3 should have „unfettered‟ access to education in spite of

    their gender, social, cultural or economic backgrounds. The objectives of the policies are:

    ? free Junior Secondary Education by the year 2007

    ? salary increase to motivate and encourage the retention of teachers in the

    profession.

    Since the policy was made to date, anecdotal evidence reveal that great success can be

    counted on the area of enrolment of pupils (especially at the Primary school level); but

    not much has been done to improve the quality of education in the schools. At the time

    the research was conducted, most pupils in the sampled schools were overcrowded in

    less-ventilated classrooms; forced by school authorities to pay exorbitant school and extra

    charges; and taught by unqualified teachers or non at all. One thing is certain here: the

    government needs additional technical and otherwise capacity to implement its ambitious

    educational policies. Though the political will to implement the educational policies does

    not seem to be wavering so far, but in order to convince most poor, desperate and

    despondent parents that the new educational policies would mitigate their economic

    burden (cost of putting and maintaining their children in schools) and make a positive

    difference in the lives of their children, prompt and realistic measures should be taken to

    improve not only the enrolment, but the quality of education as well. Granted that the

    government does not have the wherewithal or a „magical wand‟ to realize its plans, but

1 6334 is the number of years in each part of a student‟s education from Primary, Junior Secondary, Senior

    Secondary, to University.

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    more focus should be directed towards utilizing the limited resources to increase enrolment and create the enabling environment to foster quality education for all pupils within the basic education bracket. Expectations among Sierra Leoneans are currently high, and they need to be managed well and on time if the whole scheme should not be negatively perceived by them as a mirage.

    Government‟s expenditure on education has increased tremendously. The present Government recognized that basic education and health are critical to enhance government‟s enthusiasm to radically improve education in the country is conspicuously economic growth, increase income-earning opportunities and reduce poverty. stated in the 2003 budget: In this regard, an amount of 44.2 billion Leones is provided to the Education Sector of which 14.0 billion is allocated to Primary Education to enhance

     the supply of teaching and learning materials, textbooks, school fee subsidies

     and the payment of examination fees for the NPSE.

    To make a comparison between the 2003 and 2006 Budgets, an extract of the 2006 National Budget for education reads:

     …Government remains committed to the goals of delivering Universal Primary

     Education and improving the quality of basic education….In support of these

     objectives, Le 58.7 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Education from

     the current budget. Of this total, Le 14.3 billion is allocated to primary education

     to cater for the provision of textbooks, teaching and learning materials and fees

     subsidy for primary schools; Le 5.0 billion examination fee (NPSE, BECE and

     WASCE); and the promotion of the girl child policy.

    From the above extracts, it is seen that from 2003 to 2006, government‟s expenditure on education went up from 44.2 billion to 58.7 billion (which is about 32.81%). Of the 44.2 billion Leones allocated to the education sector in 2003, 14.0 billion, (which is about 32.35% of the total sum) was allocated for Primary education. Also, of the 58.7 billion Leones allocated to the education sector in 2006, 14.3 billion Leones (which is about 24.36% of the total sum) was allocated for Primary school education. In essence, the government‟s expenditure on education has been increasing year after year.

    The government claims to be making considerable strides in promoting education in the country since the EFA Action Plan was launched. Indeed, there were 687 additional Primary schools in the country in 2003 than there were in 2002. Also, enrolment in class one went up by 2.2% from 292,896 to 299,496 from 2002 to 2003 respectively. In the recent 2006 National Budget, efforts were made to recount some of the government‟s successes and future plans in its drive to foster basic education in the country:

     following the introduction of Universal Primary Education, primary school

     enrollment rate has increased substantially from just over half a million in 2000

     /2001 to over one million in the current school year, and is expected to increase

     Further in the coming year….To meet the increasing accommodation needs of

     Primary school children and with support from the Islamic Development Bank,

     Government has awarded contracts for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of

     143 Primary schools throughout the country. The SABABU Education Project is

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     also undertaking the reconstruction and rehabilitation of basic education

     facilities including primary and Junior Secondary Schools. School furniture,

    Given the retrogressive teaching and learning facilities that had plagued the education sector, a Coalition constituting the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Search for Common Grounds (SFCG), Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU), OXFAM and the

    Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) embarked on a campaign on issues bordering around the promotion of basic quality education in the country.

    This research exercise by CGG is part of civil society effort to campaign for the promotion of basic quality education in the country, hold government accountable for its policy commitments, and monitor progress in education sector, among other things. This research focuses on issues on pupil enrolment and drop-out rates, subsidies, teacher-pupil and boy-girl ratios, qualification of teachers and job satisfaction, proximity of pupils to schools, school charges, recreational facilities, monitoring and evaluation, salaries and conditions of service of teachers, records management, and education policies among others. These are essential in actualizing basic quality education for all Sierra Leonean

    pupils by 2015.

    This report explores the issues of increased access to basic education without addressing other critical issues in the education sector. One of the prime motives of this research was to dilate and critique the successes and challenges in the Education Sector in a broader perspective; and through recommendations join the national campaign to complement the government‟s endeavour to provide basic education for all by 2015.

    It should be borne in mind that parents, government and the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) community have made several commendable efforts to foster quality education in the country. These efforts emanated from the acknowledgement of the significance of education to the recovery process in the country. The number of Primary schools as well as girls‟ enrolment has swelled considerably. In spite of this

    progress, the Education Sector is punctuated with challenges like:

    ? inadequate institutional capacity to address the burgeoning demands of such a

    large service delivery sector;

    ? lack of accountability;

    ? and grinding poverty.

    It is prudent to note that the Education Sector, especially as it relate to basic education has been given less attention over the years. Essential ingredients like infrastructure to enhance the learning process are grossly insufficient. Another malaise is the managerial and professional capacity deficit which graphically explains why quality education is yet to be provided for many Sierra Leonean children. It is not uncommon to see pupils being taught by unqualified teachers (especially in peripheral areas of the country). Pupils are usually “sardined” in classrooms and in some areas, especially in the Kailahun District,

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    took classes under trees and huts. The teacher-pupil ratio on the average is frighteningly high.

    Another problem affecting the Education Sector is the lack of thorough accountability mechanisms to checkmate leakages in the system. A considerable quantum of the teaching and learning materials and money (for school subsidies) do not filter down to the schools. Evidences abound that teachers (even trained and qualified ones) do not receive their salaries on time. Additionally, many teachers due to administrative bottlenecks in the system do not receive their salaries notwithstanding the relatively long period some have taught.

     The introduction of fee subsidies has greatly helped parents though it has generated some complex and daunting challenges in the Education Sector as well. The findings reveal that most school authorities find it „profitable‟ to deliberately inflate school registers in a bid to lure more subsidies. A by-product of this insidious act is the mushrooming of what is dubbed as “ghost teachers and children” practice in schools. Huge quantum of monies destined to be paid as school subsidies were usually unaccounted for due to the corrupt practices of some school authorities and officials of Ministry of Education Science and Technology - MEST.

There were still marked disparities in the „enjoyment‟ of quality education between

    geographical regions, as well as between males and females. A grave but real fact is that even at this stage in the recovery process, sufficient data reveal that some parents because they cannot afford to retain their children remove them from schools; while others do not send theirs due to their impecunious state to meet the relatively high costs or demands of the school authorities. Taking cognisance of the sky-rocketing increase in the prices of uniforms and books; and the increasingly high school charges and cost of maintaining a child in school (especially in big towns like Freetown), it is safe to conclude that education is gradually becoming a luxury for poor parents. The situation becomes more unbearable when one considers the high unemployment rate and the low household income in the country. Even in the capital city Freetown, most school authorities levy

    unreasonably high extra and illegal school charges on pupils, risking very little or no punishment at all from MEST. Frankly, it seems as if parents and pupils are at the mercy of Head Teachers and Principals who could in a way determine whether they would benefit from the fruits of basic education in the country. For example, the on-going arrangement to privatize the Sierra Leone Grammar School in Freetown which is said to be the oldest Secondary school in „British West Africa‟ is unequivocally a big

    disappointment for many Sierra Leonean, especially the poor ones. Poor parents who presently have their brilliant children attending the school and who could not meet the extraordinarily high cost of fees that has already been determined by the authorities starting 2006 2007 Academic year (about 275,000.00 (two hundred and seventy-five

    thousand Leones) for one pupil per term) may not be able to retain them. Even those brilliant poor children who would eventually pass the forth-coming National Primary School Education NPSE with impressive grades may have their hopes and aspirations

    dashed if their parents could not be able to cover the high cost of fees and other charges demanded by school authorities. Would that not deprive many poor and intelligent Sierra

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    Leonean children access to schools of their choice? Should money become a stumbling-block for Sierra Leonean children to actualize their dreams of attending the schools of their choice? This is a food for thought. All stakeholders concerned should critically look at the present educational trend and put mechanisms in place to ensure that pupils in spite of their economic, social and cultural status are given an equal opportunity to develop their talents and knowledge in school.

    Enrolment rate in schools have risen to astronomical proportions, though the Education Sector is bedeviled with critical challenges of ineptitude, low standard of teaching and learning environment, institutionalized corruption, weak monitoring and evaluation systems, and the like. Consequently, the teaching and learning outcomes are unsatisfactory, which in a way has put a big question mark to the delivery of quality education to Sierra Leonean pupils. This report asserts that increased access to basic education without addressing other critical issues to augment quality would rob the whole education action plan of real meaning. The report would also posit that access to free basic quality education is the only vehicle through which education can be meaningful to Sierra Leonean children.

    The overall objective of this research is to ascertain how far the government has gone to provide basic quality education for Sierra Leonean children; and proffer recommendations/suggestions to help government, development partners and other key stakeholders design strategies to overcome the inherent and future challenges.

Primary:

    Six Districts were used as pilot areas for the exercise. The pilot Districts selected were: Bombali and Port Loko (for the North); Bo and Moyamba (for the South) and Kenema and Kailahun (for the East). The methods utilized to elicit information were separate focus group discussions with parents and school children, observation, and interviews with teachers and school authorities. All the researchers for the project were persons who had resided in the pilot Districts for an appreciable period of time. Another criterion for the selection of researchers was that they should have done some work on issues bordering on education. A total of 30 carefully selected prospective researchers were intensively trained for two days on the rubrics of conducting a research of this nature, general techniques involved in conducting social research; the purpose of the research; use of answer-sheet; criteria for selecting participants for the focus group discussions; and the importance of meeting deadlines in research.

    Twelve of those that went through the training were eventually contracted (two per

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District) to conduct the research. The research covered Primary and Junior Secondary

    School - JSS 3 (basic education bracket). Four sets of questionnaires were designed for

    the interviews and focus group discussions with teachers in Primary and Senior

    Secondary Schools, Head Teachers and Principals, and school children and parents. In

    each of the six pilot District, a total of 30 teachers in the Primary and JSS (including

    Head Teachers and Principals) were interviewed for the exercise. A total of 180 pupils;

    (30 per District) in Primary and JSS were interviewed for the research; and 30 focus

    group discussions (5 per District) were conducted. Each focus group comprised of 11

    respondents. The questionnaires entailed both structured and unstructured questions.

    Researchers were given the leverage to randomly select only government and

    government assisted Primary and Junior Secondary Schools within their Districts for the

    research. Efforts were made to ensure that the selection of participants for the parents‟

    focus group discussions was gender, occupation and age sensitive.

Realizing that such issues as determining overcrowding in classrooms, assessing the

    availability, sufficiency and state of furniture and infrastructure could better be obtained

    through observation, researchers were trained to utilize this technique for the exercise.

    Secondary data: Published reports, audio visual tapes, textbooks, internet and radio were harnessed for

    this work.

    Data for this exercise is presented qualitatively and quantitatively.

    Surprisingly and unfortunately, the researchers despite their familiarity with the Districts, found it difficult to generate the interests of some parents to willingly partake in the focus group discussions. Parents expressed disillusionment with and frustration at what they

    referred to as a „fake education scheme‟2. Parents confessed that the previous system in

    which they were required to pay tuition fees for their children was comparatively better than this new supposedly fees-free system. They admitted that some school authorities have resorted to the habit of deliberately doubling or tripling existing charges and „manufacturing‟ extra ones. The domino effect of this situation was that it took an unreasonably long period for the researchers to complete their work; which in turn put inordinate pressures on the lead researcher to compile and publish the report.

Obtaining information from some school authorities was also an uphill task. In spite of

the periodic conduct of the Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS) exercise, record

management in some schools was poor at the time the survey was conducted. For

example, some school authorities did not have records of enrolment and drop-out rates of

pupils. This made it difficult for the researchers to document reliable information in some

areas. Some school authorities simply guessed answers. Researchers had to go the extra

    2 What they meant was that instead of their children enjoying free basic education (which could relieve them form the financial burden of admitting and maintaining them in schools), they are still at the mercy of most school authorities who unreasonably coerce them to pay very high school and extra charges. 9

mile to practically count pupils during school hours and soliciting help from other

    teachers to provide statistical information in a bid to obtain a more reliable data.

Since the government‟s policies center on providing basic education for all Sierra

    Leonean children, it would have been prudent to conduct the research in every District in

    the country to get a more representative data. Unfortunately, adequate funding was

    unavailable to go that far. A nation-wide examination would have enhanced a more

    comparative analysis. th February 2006.

The period the research was conducted was 2nd August 2005 28

Government has a policy commitment to provide free basic education. Huge financial

    and material resources have been poured into the education sector. This has reflected in

    what may seem an impressive increase in the number of schools and pupil enrollment.

    For example, there were 687 additional Primary schools in the country in 2003 than there

    were in 2002. Also, enrolment in class one went up by 2.2% from 292,896 to 299,496

    from 2002 to 2003 respectively. Beyond these figures however huge challenges remain in

    government‟s education targets.

The official number of pupils that should be in a class is 45. An attempt was made to

    attest whether this was case the in the sampled schools. In Moyamba it was discovered

    that the average number of pupils in class was 65; while in Bonthe it was 57. In Kenema

    and Kailahun Districts, the number of pupils in class was 64 and 71; while in Port Loko

    and Bombali Districts, the numbers stood at 54 and 70 respectively.

The researchers elicited information from Head Teachers and Principals on the boy-girl

    ratio in their schools. On the average, the boy-girl ratio in schools stood at 3 1 in

    Kailahun; 2 1 in Moyamba; 3 1 in Port Loko; 2 1 in Bombali; 3 1 in Kenema; and

    2 1 in Bonthe.

Researchers posed questions to the teachers in the sampled schools to ascertain the drop-

    out rate in schools. The findings were that in Kailahun 82%; in Kenema 78%; in Bombali

    53%; in Port Loko 63%; in Moyamba 45%; and in Bonthe 63% of the respondents

    believed the drop-out rate was high and likely to go up if effective measures are not

    urgently instituted to address it.

Head Teachers and Principals were asked whether they requested school charges from

    pupils in the 2004/2005 Academic Year. In Bombali 62%; in Port Loko 57%; in Kailahun

    64%; in Kenema 49%; in Moyamba 78%; and in Bonthe 73%, said yes. The same

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