By George Philip Jambawai
Saffa Jusu – Chairman SLTU Kailahun Branch
Sierra Leone Teachers Union in Kailahun district has expressed happiness about the reopening of schools on 1st July 2020 as slated by government for public examination classes.
Though the Union is willing and has expressed readiness to honor government’s demands, it has not failed to raise concerns about safety, payment of subsidies, travelling restrictions, approval and payment of teachers.
Schools in Sierra Leone were prematurely closed in March on the instruction of government to curtail covid19 which still hasn’t any sing of departing the country soon.
It has pleases government again to reopen schools but only for pupils taking public examinations, that is class six, JSS 3 and SSS3. Class six is taking the National Primary Examinations, which is domestic.
Basic Education Certificate Examinations and the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination are standardized tests in West Africa for pupils in JSS3 and SSS 3. So if Sierra Leone fails to participate in this year’s examination because of covid19, Ghana and Nigeria will have to proceed
This means, candidates in Sierra Leone will have to wait a year to write to any of the examinations. Government wants to avoid the consequences and has mandated ministry of basic educations to reopen schools for the three set of classes
Teachers and pupils in Kailahun District are excited about the news but are concern over their safety since covid19 is still around.
Saffa Jusu, the chairman of Sierra Leone Teacher Union Kailahun Branch said they are desperate to teach but are not willing to take their pupils into an unsafe environment. Therefore, he said they are waiting on the ministry of education to come up with guiding principles to ensure safety in addition to the use of face masks, regular hand washing, and social distancing
He said due to the free quality education in the country, schools are over populated in the district with limited furniture. So reducing the over populated classes to match the ideal teacher/pupil ratio (35 per class) is adding pressure on human resource and seating accommodation.
Payment of fee subsidies is one of their urgent needs. Without this he said they can’t run the schools and it will be impossible for them to even start classes. He said ministry of finance has not paid subsidy to any school in Kailahun district during this era of covid19
This is the money principals and heads teachers use to give stipends to those teachers that are not pin coded and none teaching staff, these monies he said have not been paid by government for months now
The district shares border with Guinea and Liberia and most of them trade and conduct their agricultural activities in those countries. Before the inter district and international border lockdown to curtail the spread of covid19 most of the pupils in the district had travel out of the district. So getting them into the district before July 1st is a serious concern. The vice chairman of SLTU Kailahun Branch Edward Alieu said most of their pupils went to Liberia and Guinea; they cannot come back due to the covid19 travelling ban. They want government to do something about it
He further asked that government lift the inter district travelling ban to enable pupils in the country who went on holidays to be relocated
The Vice Chairman praised government for the 30 percent increment to their salaries but also drew their attention to approved teachers without salaries. Such categories of teachers he was part of the five thousand teachers’ government approved in the past two years
Parents and pupils are equally excited about the reopening of schools but were also concern about the safety of the school environment
Mohamed S. Jalloh a pupil of Methodist Senior Secondary Schools said he can’t wait to wear uniform again after avoiding it for about three months. He is not worried about complying with the precautionary measures to avoid the disease because he has gotten used to the sensitization messages in the district. However, he was concern about teachers’ effectiveness when schools shall have reopened
Sia Nyuma, a parent said their pupils are currently idle in the district. SO the reopening of schools in her view is a risk worth taking against the criminal activities some have already indulged into
The Ministry of Basic Education is still working on hygiene principles to fit the current trend of prevention. But an unanswered question is what if schools reopen and a child is diagnosing positive, will the entire school be quarantined.