President Julius Maada Bio has today donated three months of his net salary to the Multi-Donor Free Education Basket Trust Fund.
President Bio made this donation during the official launch of the Free Quality School Education at the Miatta conference hall, youyi building in Freetown.
In the Supplementary Budget presented to Parliament by Sierra Leone’s Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa the “total budgetary allocation to the free education programme for the first term of 2018/2019 academic year is Le.190.9 billion of which Le. 119.7 is for pre-primary and junior secondary school and Le. 71.2 billion for senior secondary school.”
This commitment by President Bio is in fulfilment of his innate passion for free, but quality education for all, according to Sierra Leone’s Chief Minister who doubles as the Chairman of the ceremony-Professor David Francis.
Delivering his Keynote address on the theme: “education for development,” President Bio said, “what my political opponents described as a political gimmick and deception is today a political reality.”
He affirmed that his unwavered commitment has today made free education possible with 21 percent budgetary allocation.
He further described education as an investment for personal and national development. Without education, President Bio said, a nation cannot get the much needed manpower for socio-economic advancement and development.
He bemoaned the use of one examination paper by two or more pupils and a single desk to be shared by pupils during normal school session.
“We cannot do it alone,” he said, whilst calling on development partners to support his flagship program for national development.
He announced that he inherited a declining educational system with 6 years in primary school, 3 years in junior secondary school, 3 years in senior secondary school and 4 years in university. This system, President Bio said has been reversed henceforth to the 6-3-3-4 system of education.
He assured, “there will be no more SSS 4.”
He thanked the development partners for their timely intervention and practical support to the free quality education scheme.
The President’s commitment has been dubbed as part of the global efforts to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all as enshrined in goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Announcing the much awaited package(s), the President said the free education covers tuition for pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in all government owned and government assisted schools effective next academic year which starts in September 2018. Provision of learning and teaching materials including exercise books and text books in four core subjects. Recruitment of more trained and qualified teachers and the construction of more schools to cater for the expected high enrollment.
Before his ascendancy to political power, he campaigned on a platform of change and free quality education for all Sierra Leoneans devoid of partisan affiliations or religious beliefs.
Donating on behalf of the Julius Maada and Fatima Bio Foundation, the Country’s First Lady-Mrs. Fatima Bio said, “I hereby donate one hundred million Leones to the Trust Fund.”
She noted that, “to that child who only saw going to school as a dream, I want to humbly assure you that your dream and wish have become a reality.”
The Minister of Senior Secondary Education, Lawyer Alpha Timbo called on all Sierra Leoneans to make ample use of this opportunity, a novelty since independence (27 April 1961).
He said what many skeptics believed to have been impossible is today possible, adding that global evidence shows that free education has improved on access to quality education.
It is believed that over 1.5 million school children are expected to benefit from the Free Quality School Education initiative at the start of the school year.
Many people including the Vice President-Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh pledged and donated their salaries for the enhancement of quality.
By Elkass Sannoh in Freetown-Sierra Leone.