Updated: Jan 27
Earlier today, I served as a panelist at an event in recognition of International Day of Education. It was organised by the Sierra Leone National Commission for UNESCO, and sponsored by Free Quality School Education and United Bank for Africa. The event was held in FSSG's school hall and was attended by 35 FSSG pupils who are members of the UNESCO club and approximately another 30 pupils. The objective of the event was to discuss how COVID-19 affects education in Sierra Leone and what needs to be done to "Recover and Revitalise Education for the COVID-19 Generation". Other panelists were a representative from the Ministry of Basic and Secondary School Education and the Teacher Rep of the UNESCO Club.
According to UNESCO, "250 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school."
The statistics are rather concerning, but instead of seeing it as a hopeless situation, we have to work in a collaborative manner to ensure education in Sierra Leone is inclusive, equitable, and of high quality, and that there are lifelong opportunities for all.
My takeaway from the event is as follows:
We need more leaders in Sierra Leone; people who are not afraid to speak up when they feel something is wrong, who do not feel uncomfortable when they are the only person doing the right thing, who are willing to lead by example even if it takes sacrifice.
We have a lot more work to do with time-keeping.
A large number of our pupils are very smart and eloquent.
People are aware that COVID-19 exists, and even though most know what to do to protect themselves and others from it, there appears to be an unwillingness to do so.
There are various roles in the huge task of ensuring that learning takes place. Developing, funding, supporting and implementing ideas is a collective effort by the Government, Development Partners, Funding Agencies, Learning Institutions and their alumni, Private Sector organisations, Pupils/Students, Parents/Guardians and Concerned Citizens. Regular engagement would help each individual or organisation recognise their role and step up to assume responsibility.
Some skills, behaviours and personal qualities that are vital for recovery and revitalisation of education for COVID-19 generation are:
A genuine interest in learning
Critical thinking/ Problem solving skills
The ability to collaborate
We need financial and intellectual resources - lots of it
There is hope!!