The new Head of the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Manuel Muller, has reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to supporting the education sector to help develop the country’s human capital potential.
Ambassador Muller joined His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, Government officials, development partners and other dignitaries on Friday 10th September 2021, to commission the newly constructed school buildings and Library of the National Islamic Junior Secondary School in Gerihun, Baoma chiefdom in Bo district. The European Union has provided funds through the National Authorising Office (NAO) for the construction/rehabilitation and upgrading of 100 Junior Secondary Schools across the four regions in rural areas including Bo, Kenema, Port Loko and Bombali districts, under the project “EU Support to Education Project in Sierra Leone.”
Speaking at the event, the EU Ambassador said the EU and Sierra Leone are strategically investing in the future of school-going children, as education is crucial to national development.
“Our support aims at improving equitable access to primary and secondary education in the country,” he said.
Ambassador Muller further mentioned that human development is at the core of the European Union’s commitment towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, noting that investing in education and skills development, in particular for children, women and youth, is amongst the five priorities of the new European Union’s strategy with Africa.
He said the EU has been actively supporting the Government’s strategy to ensure free quality education for all, in line with its Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019-2023), which prioritises education and human capital development. He mentioned that the European Union’s support to the Education Sector aims at strengthening institutional and human resources capacity to deliver quality educational services, targeting key institutions like the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, Ministry of Tertiary and Higher Education, Teaching Service commission or the District Education Offices.
Ambassador Muller said the EU and its Member States would continue to support Government's efforts to strengthen national education systems and the quality of learning, as well as skills development programmes, to support employability, entrepreneurship and income generation opportunities, in particular for youth and women.
The Director of the National Authorising Office, Ambrose James, explained that the EU provided the funds to support the Government’s flagship Free Quality Education Programme which aims to give children access to education, as well as to expand school facilities with the provision of science and computer laboratories, water, sanitation and solar-powered electricity facilities and libraries to improve learning environment.
He said the project entailed the rehabilitation and upgrading of 155 school buildings, 19 new buildings, 282 toilet facilities to cater for both boys and girls, 78 wells, 9 staff quarters and 50 solar units and laboratory equipment that would benefit 35,000 pupils including teachers and other school staff across 49 chiefdoms in the 4 regions of Sierra Leone.
Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education (MBSSE), Dr David Moinina Sengeh, thanked the EU and other stakeholders for working together in achieving the project results. He stressed that the schools will significantly contribute to improving learning for the beneficiaries.
Minister of Planning and Economic Development (MoPED), Dr. Francis Kai-Kai, said the event showed the European Union’s contribution to support the Free Quality Education Programme with a total funding of 7.75 million Euros (around Le 95 billion).
Addressing schoolchildren and community stakeholders at the event, President Bio welcomed Ambassador Muller to the country and especially the EU support to the education sector, which he said lays a solid foundation for the sustainable socio-economic development of Sierra Leone.
The President Bio highlighted that for the first time in the recent history of Sierra Leone children go to school tuition-free and take public exams free, and his dream is to ensure every child gets quality education irrespective of his/her family’s religion, region, ethnic or political affiliation. He also noted that the recent decision to end the ban on pregnant girls attending school was taken because this ban was discriminatory and discouraged girls from continuing their education after giving birth.