By Poindexter Sama
Sierra Leone was once referred to as the “Athens of Africa” by virtue of the high quality education it offered to nationals of various African countries in those glorious days. But over the years, marred by the unproductive period of the civil war and the previous years when education seemed less considered, the country had since lost that glory- and it is now grappling with ways to retain this lost accolade.
The brain-drain the country suffered during the war and certainly before the war started could be attributed to the socio-economic hardship that left Charles Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” into play and it was this situation that sent many of the brains of the country to seek greener pastures abroad.
Gainfully, that brain-drain injury that the country suffered is seemingly beginning to heal up (even though it involves a lot), as well-meaning Sierra Leoneans living in the Diaspora are bringing up programmes that would partly address this dire need.
The Sierra Leone Diaspora Education Forum (SLEDEF) yesterday revealed a research that clearly pointed out reasons that have contributed to the downfall of the country’s educational system.
Alex Blanshard (Dr.) who heads SLEDEF’s research unit in a power-point presentation at the Miatta Conference Hall unraveled statistics showing the awful performance of students both at external and internal exams.
He squarely blamed these “unspeakable performances” on the non availability of up-to-date materials that would enhance quality education for all, coupled up with the less attention that has been given to education over the years.
As explained by Blanshard, SLEDEF seeks to create the enabling condition in which effective learning can thrive; help in the addressing of effective teaching strategies and continuing professional development, while help in the area of designing and implementing of curricula structure, content and organisation to ensure that learners grow and the needs of the country are met.
He said they will help in the establishment of “a culture of quality assurance” as a means of embedding accountability and ensuring effective interventions, and promote governance and finance.
Alex Blanshard also commented seriously on the massive pamphlet productions in schools which he said “are very substandard” and “mostly do not have much effect on the positive outcomes of students in schools and colleges”. He said even though there is need to produce pamphlets, SLEDEF would recommend that pamphlets produced be developed and standardized to match up with the modern educational system.
Horatio Nelson-Williams who serves as Executive Secretary for the Basic Education Commission at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology re-emphasized the need to improve education through innovative techniques, and assured that SLEDEF’s help would essentially be needed to make progress on the appalling educational system for the betterment of present generation and generations yet unborn.
A student of the Annie Walsh Memorial School, Deborah Koroma expressed bitterness over “teachers’ negligence in their subject areas”. She claimed that most teachers are not practically qualified to teach areas they claim they qualify. She exemplified her claim on the teaching of French in which she said some teachers are employed to teach French just because they speak, read and write French, when in actual fact they do not have any practical teaching experience of French.
As part of her disgust, she claimed that some teachers have more than one school they teach. She said they teach in private schools and pay more attention on them, neglecting public schools on the excuse that government does not pay them salaries on time.
The Head of Sierra Leone Healthcare Professional Organization in London, Mrs. Elizabeth Conte, emphasizing on the fact that health and learning are two sides of a coin, she said that education needs to be provided in the area of health care, especially to its providers. She said they set up the organization in the UK to help develop the capacities of their compatriots so that in return they would be in position to assist the country in the area of proving learning facilities and equipment to boost the healthcare system.
The Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Algassimu Jah, before the launch of the forum, noted that “there are massive educational reforms going on in the country”, and that “these are projects the government is vesting lot of interest in a bid to actualize the need for education”.
He expressed optimism that sooner than later the country will begin to make desirable progress in education, considering the “immeasurable contributions Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora have started making”, the Minister noted.