By Cyril Barnes
Sierra Leone’s President, Julius Maada Bio, has re-echoed his government’s objective to achieve zero Out-of-School Children by continuing to invest in the Free Quality Education programme for Sierra Leone.
President Julius Maada Bio made this disclosure during his meeting with the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development in Doha.
He thanked the Foundation for the opportunity to meet and speak about shared interests in education. Recalling four months into his presidency, the President prioritised education and launched the Free Quality Education programme, realising that investing in human capital was pivotal to developing the nation.
He added that the primary objective of the Free Quality Education was to cater for free tuition; however, the scope was broadened to provide school feeding, free transportation, core textbook, teaching and learning materials and radical inclusion to break the barriers to children acquiring quality education.
“My government identified education as the key to inclusive and sustainable national development; we have initiated radical inclusion to provide access to education for pregnant girls, learners with disabilities and the poor to go to school.
“Our goal is to achieve the zero Out -Of-School-Children. My government has conducted a study on Out-of-School children and will launch a strategy to handle the problem. The strategy will inform how, as a nation, we tackle this crisis and further work to 100% access to education for all learners,” the President said.
He ended by calling for partnerships to ensure access to quality education globally.
Speaking about her role in boosting the self-esteem of the girl child, First Lady Fatima Maada Bio, disclosed that her duty during these four years has been primarily to encourage the girl child to acquire education despite the posing challenges.
She furthered that the objective was to inspire them to contribute to nation-building.
Responding to Bio’s inspirational presentation, Dr Mazen Jassim Jaidah of Qatar Foundation noted that Sierra Leone and the State of Qatar had shared aspirations of providing quality education for all.
He revealed that Qatar Foundation created the foundations for education, research, development, and innovation; and would continue its journey to make a positive impact, locally and internationally.
Mr. Fahad Al-Sulaiti, CEO of Education Above All Foundation, thanked the President for providing the political will to support quality education, adding that they had been working with Sierra Leone’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to provide support for approximately 45,000 Out-Of-School-Children (OOSC) in Sierra Leone at an estimated cost of $4 million.
He also pointed out that the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the commencement of the project during the Doha Forum in March 2022.
He assured the President of their commitment to ensuring Sierra Leone achieve the zero Out-Of-School-Children goal in partnership with the World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF and other development partners.