Salone News

Sierra Leone: A government Minister with a difference

1 December 2020 at 03:17 | 1290 views

PV Staff

Sierra Leone’s current Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education, Dr. David Sengeh, is a Minister with a difference. Not just because he is one of the youngest Ministers in the country’s history but also the only one with dreadlocks. That makes him stand out, wherever he goes.

But appearance aside, Minister Sengeh also does a lot of things his predecessors never did, and that includes leading a digitalisation program of all data about his Ministry and all primary and secondary schools in the country. This makes it possible to know the needs and strengths of every school, which in turn leads to better planning.

Dr. Sengeh also writes a lot on social media, communicating with Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone in and out of the country.

Here is one of his writings on social media. It’s about a trip he took recently on a school bus and the opportunity it offered him to talk to the school children and get to listen to what they have to say. People, especially government Ministers, hardly ever talk to or listen to children in Sierra Leone outside the school environment. But this Minister is different. Here is Dr. Sengeh:

This morning I hopped on a Government of Sierra Leone School bus. I wanted to:

1. Understand the impact of the FQSE bus service on the lives of kids

2. Understand how students feel about the ongoing transition examination debates

3. Understand how students feel in general about the quality of education they receive daily

4. Continue my engagement with various education stakeholders

My takeaways:
1. The school buses provided by H.E President Bio as part of our Manifesto promise has transformed the lives of thousands of students daily. The cost to families is heavily subsidised at 1,000 Leones (10 cents USD) by government. All the kids I spoke to use the buses regularly.

2. The kids feel that they now have to study and work harder. The sentiment I gathered was that they were afraid that they might be punished if their colleagues engaged in malpractices at their school. They didn’t necessarily feel that there were "evil" teachers out there looking to fail them but had concerns about being prepared in time for exams.

3. There were mixed feelings on quality received daily. One kid in primary school class 5 mentioned that his teacher didn’t teach yesterday because he said he was tired. A couple students are science students or want to do sciences because they hear science is good. A few of the Annie Walsh form 1 students were very engaging and had lots of questions. The Prince of Wales students in Science streams mentioned that all their teachers show up regularly.

4. The bus driver was very kind (even though he had a large cane on his dashboard. I imagine he doesn’t use it on the pupils. I didnt ask why he had one). The rapport in the bus, which was clean, was good and albeit a bit too full, was lively and positive. Students make space for each other. I loved to see a boy give up space for a younger girl. Some of the kids knew who I was and others didn’t. Some had masks on and others didn’t.

One of them asked if I had my security with me. I said I did. They asked if he was armed. I said no. There are no arms allowed on the school bus so I had asked him to leave his arms before joining me on the ride. They said "oh" and wondered if I was ok with only one security. I smiled and said I wasn’t expecting to feel unsafe on the bus. They smiled and said well yes but maybe after I got off the bus. I assured them that I do feel safe and thanked them for their concern.

The Free Quality School Education policy of the government is a policy of inclusion, safety and equity for our children. We at the Ministry are excited about the challenges we face.

Not satisfied with the quality of education? We invite you all to hop on the bus and join us on this journey as problem solvers.
#PaopaSaloneMusBetteh
#QinFQSE

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