A huge overhaul of Sierra Leone’s education system is underway. Broken by the decade-long civil war and then battered by the effects of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, it has been slowly recovering.
Now a raft of reforms have been brought in by new President Julius Maada Bio. A promise of free primary and secondary schooling for all was part of the campaign that helped him sweep to victory last month. Now he has announced that will start in September.
He also revealed that education’s share of the annual spending budget will be almost doubled from 11% to 20%.
There was thunderous applause when Bio outlined his plans at the state opening of parliament – and the proposed improvements to education have been widely welcomed across Sierra Leone.
“The amount of excitement and relief families have expressed is beyond imagination. Education is one of the biggest problems that our country is facing,” said Bamine Charlie Boye, a Global Youth Ambassador for Theirworld from Sierra Leone.
“This announcement was widely received by all – regardless of political party affiliation – because many parents who can’t afford to pay their children’s tuition fees will now have the opportunity to send their children to school.”
Bio’s announcement is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals target of every country providing free, quality education for every child by 2030. The increase on education spending to 20% is also what the Education Commission says developing countries should be aiming for.
As well as free schooling and increased budgets, the president said there is a need for more qualified teachers in Sierra Leone, where only 42% of primary teachers are qualified.