Education

Education in Sierra Leone

In 2006, Campaign for Good Governance, a Sierra Leonean organisation, produced a research report on basic education in the country. One of the key recommendations of the research was:

Fair distribution of teaching and learning materials

  • Given the inadequacy of books and other essential teaching and learning materials, a committee should be formed in every school consisting of Head Teachers, parents and community representatives to design a strategy for fair distribution of resources.
  • NGOs and other institutions and stakeholders that may want to donate such materials to schools should work within the framework of the committees on the distribution of textbooks and other resources.

In the 2008 public examinations for junior and senior high schools, 90 percent of pupils failed. It was widely blamed on the lack of learning resources for schools. In 2010 the government produced a white paper that proposed the phasing out of the shift system in schools after that disastrous national performance in 2008.

In 2010 it was recorded in the North and East of Sierra Leone that 56% of primary school pupils, and over 60% of secondary school pupils were dropping-out. Since 1994 the teaching of science subjects has dropped drastically. In 1994 only four students took General Science as a subject at GCSE level, and not one of those students passed. Today, institutions such as Milton Margai College of Education and Technology, a teacher training college in Freetown, do not even have science materials for practical work for those training to be science teachers.

According to IBIS (a Danish non-governmental organisation), over half a million children in Sierra Leone are without formal education – based on research done in cities. IBIS also stated that a large number of youths have no skills, and that the education sector needs a lot of support and attention.

Many children drop out of school because of the lack of educational resources such as exercise books, pens, pencils, and textbooks. Though education is supposed to be free in Sierra Leone, parents have to buy these resources in order to enable their children to learn. Parents who cannot afford to buy these items take their children, particularly girls, out of school. It is some of these children who get involved in acquisitive or food theft. For girls from very poor families, the alternative of not attending school is prostitution.

What we do

Practical Tools Initiative aims to give educational support to deprived schools through the provision of learning materials (textbooks, teaching resources, exercise books, pens & pencils, mathematical sets etc. computers, and the setting up of science labs to enable children to remain at school, learn and progress through the education system. Earlier intervention has proved that support for schools is key to increasing enrolment and retention, excellent performance at exams, and keeping children away from the streets.

Interchangeable Educational Support Programme Circles for Community Schools in Sierra Leone

Circles interchange within the support programme where we detect that a particular circle is most effective (as the two diagrams show).
Circles interchange within the support programme where we detect that a particular circle is most effective (as the two diagrams show).

Our focus is not just on school enrolment and retention, but also on quality learning and enablment through building the capacity of schools and teachers. UNESCO report in 2012 mentioned that one of the reasons for the poor result was the 6% fall in aid to basic education funding by five of the ten international funders. In previous interventions, emphasis, through the directives of the international funders as prerequisite for funding, were solely placed on enrolment. This was later questioned by UNESCO; “We are at a critical juncture. The world must move beyond helping children enter school to also ensure that they actually learn the basics when they are there,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova.

One of our key aims is to be the leading educational support services providers to deprived community schools in Sierra Leone.

Our Sierra Leone partners

We are working with many schools in three regions in Sierra Leone. Nationally the number is likely to increase to several dozens over the next few years. In Eastern Sierra Leone alone we are supporting ten schools (five primary and five secondary schools – this number will increase considerably within the next two years as this region is the most deprived of the four). We are just in the process of extending to Northern Sierra Leone where we will partner with a similar grouping of deprived community schools.

International partners

We have partnered with leading international educational support providers including Pearson Education, Derwent Pencils (over two tonnes of writing materials, other resources providers, and UK schools and educational institutions.

For example in May 2015 we received a large consignment of senior secondary schools textbooks from Pearson Education through its Monrovia, Liberia office (STAR Books, West Africa) for our schools in Sierra Leone.

Programme Director - James Fallah-Williams (right) and Eastern Regional Project Coordinator – Osman Saffa (left) at the STAR Books, West Africa’s warehouse in Monrovia, Liberia receiving Pearson Education’s support.
Programme Director – James Fallah-Williams (right) and Eastern Regional Project Coordinator – Osman Saffa (left) at the STAR Books, West Africa’s warehouse in Monrovia, Liberia receiving Pearson Education’s support.

This is passing another milestone in our quest to reach out to extremely deprived community schools in Sierra Leone. We are also making sure that the resources are managed in a way that benefits all. This is done through rigorous monitoring and supervision by our regional coordinators, parent-teacher associations and volunteers.

For example all our books are stamped five times to prevent misuse.

Case Studies