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The relevance of technology in the improvement of education in Sierra Leone

10 November 2019 at 17:29 | 2467 views

By Sallieu Kabba, Freetown

Last week, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone announced the appointment of a new Minister of Basic and Senior Education, Dr David M. Sengeh, who has played a significant role in the establishment and development of the one year old Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation (DSTI).

Initially, this appointment came as a shock to many including me, as barely two weeks ago, in his capacity as the Chief Innovation Officer, Dr David M. Sengeh launched the country’s first National Innovation and Digital Strategy at the Bintumani Conference Centre where he showcased some of the pioneering work done by the DSTI in collaboration with other stakeholders. The projects implemented by the DSTI generally revolved around using data in decision making for government’s development agenda.

In the past, data was kept and analysed in silos by various independent government institutions without a centralized and holistic framework. DSTI is creating the platform to sanitize this process and institute a consistent and universal experience in government’s handling of its data. Some of these projects can be found at: https://www.dsti.gov.sl/project/. The ultimate vision of the DSTI in its strategic objectives is to ensure knowledge transfer for sustainable growth and empowerment of the people of Sierra Leone. To achieve this, the government seems to have thought it fit to appoint Dr. David M. Sengeh (photo), who with his team at DSTI has facilitated the establishment of the foundation for the digital transformation of the country, to the Ministry of Basic and Senior Education. One would allude that this is a deliberate effort to also create a solid basis for sustainable quality education, by using technology to create this reform. If this necessary revamping of our educational system is not done in time to catch up with current day technology, all the best efforts of the DSTI will end up going in vain.

Our local colleges and universities have not demonstrated a convincing clear interest in adopting technology in their transformations. All over the world, educational portals and distant learning platforms have created access to affordable education in the most remote places. Most professionals are now able to study from renowned academic institutions abroad through distant learning. This is all due to the marriage between technology and education. It is also obvious that with the advent of mobile devices, kids have been introduced to various educative platforms where they can spend a lot of their time acquiring knowledge. The use of technology as a key enabler for educational and human resource development cannot be emphasized enough. Hence based on his work at the DSTI, the appointment of Dr. David Sengeh appears to be a move that will bring in the needed reform and create a fresh perspective in the curricula of our educational system.

Imagine how teachers, students and parents would be aided, if the DSTI in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Education were to develop an app that has all the various school teaching material published on line. . The possibility of teachers submitting questions to a digital question data bank is not an unrealizable goal, which could bring sanity to examinations in the country. Digitization of standardized curricula and teaching materials will ensure that pupils in rural areas have access to the same content value as their compatriots in the urban areas. With free internet to approximately 5,000 schools nationwide, these same materials can be access by rural schools. The problems of providing this access have not gone unnoticed, however meeting these challenges head on is the job that awaits Dr. Sengeh.

The need for the introduction of ICT as part of our school curriculum is long overdue. We cannot introduce access to technology in schools without the necessary knowledge and skills to use them. The DSTI has done a great job by developing the education data hub. There is much to tell about our educational standard and challenges from this platform. Unfortunately, I have not yet seen the required national debates being sparked by the use of the portal on how to address the issues raised from its analytics.

I am optimistic and look forward to the use of technology in the transformation of the Basic and Secondary Education sector with the appointment of the Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. David M. Sengeh.

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