March 2018, a new president was elected in Sierra Leone. After 10 years, the opposing party had garnered another opportunity to rule the country. While the previous party was known for a focus on business, the current party put their highest value on education. The new president, Julius Maada Bio, quickly presented a platform that the country was more than happy with. There were many questions on how it would come to pass – Free Education. Sierra Leone does not have the systems other countries have to support free education. Maada Bio was hoping to look to foreign investors.
August 2018, a month before a new school year began in Sierra Leone, all eyes were on Maada Bio’s Free Education manifesto. Maada Bio promised free education to any child if they attended a government (public) school. Unfortunately, the free education did not cover mandatory school uniforms or school materials. Tutoring and special school events continued to be additional costs. Disappointment was high and tensions were thick. By the time school closed for the Christmas holiday, many government school workers were sending their students home to collect money from parents and caretakers to cover their salaries! It has been quite the learning experience for everyone with children in the Sierra Leone school system, along with much frustration over unfulfilled promises.
The 25 Project was hopeful we might reduce some of our sponsorship costs when we heard of this free education. Many of our children were enrolled in private, Christian schools in the past academic years. While we were hopeful this free education would reduce costs, we did not want to compromise the quality of our sponsored children’s education. And, as it turns out, there would be only a very small savings, with little in return.
Tenki (Thank You in Krio)
We are so thankful for each of you who sponsor a child in Sierra Leone. Because of your sponsorship, our children are able to attend quality schools. Because of your sponsorship our children’s caretakers did not experience the financial stress of so many others who were relying on the promise of free education. With the school year wrapping up in July, we will see what improvements may be in store for this “free” education in the 2019-2020 school year. We will keep you posted!
An article by our Director of Operations in Sierra Leone, Shara Johnson.