The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is arguably one of the most controversial ministries in Sierra Leone. During the reign of the SLPP (1996-2007), hardly an Academic Calendar passes without teachers embarking on strike action(s).
In Paris, where Sierra Leone’s current Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Minkailu Bah is attending a UNESCO conference, he took time off his busy schedule, to throw light on some issues that have been making the rounds on the social media when put to him by Yours Truly.
Firstly, according to Dr. Bah, since President Ernest Bai Koroma assumed power in 2007, there has never been a teachers’ strike action called by the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU), which is the umbrella organisation for teachers in Sierra Leone.“Teachers salaries are paid into their schools accounts on the 25th and 26th of every month. There are certain months we even pay salaries of teachers on the 15th. Throughout the Ebola crisis, we never delayed in paying teachers’ salaries, not to talk of not paying their salaries”.
DR. MINKAILU BAH
Touching on the issue of the non-recruitment of teachers, the Education Minister who has been holding the office since 2007 when the APC government of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma came to power explained that, the Ministry recruits hundreds of trained and qualified teachers every year. However, according to Dr. Bah, some Heads of schools deliberately failed to inform the Ministry of Education when a teacher dies or leaves the school for another employment. “They (Head Teachers), continue to forward vouchers containing the names of these ghost teachers. They pocket the salaries of these ghost teachers at the same time blaming the Ministry of Education for not recruiting new teachers. Unless and until School Heads, Principals and Proprietors demonstrate honesty and sincerity, the issue of ghost teachers will still continue in the education sector”.
Dr. Bah furthered that, schools that are complying with the rules by reporting teacher’s vacancies through the districts Deputy Directors of Education, have teachers recruited and sent to those schools.
Shedding light on the discrepancies of teachers salaries based on newly acquired academic qualifications, the Minister said when a teacher acquires a new academic qualification, it is the duty of that teacher to report to the school head, who in turn will write to the Ministry of Education for a reassessment of that teacher’s salary based on the new qualification. “Once that is done, the reassessment will be carried out without further delay. But an individual teacher has no right to come directly to the Ministry and ask for reassessment of his/her salary without going through the school head”.
The Education Minister further disclosed that the payment of school fees for school going pupils as promised by the government for the next two years is in progress, with 1.1 million children already paid for in both Primary, Junior and Senior Secondary Schools, out of an estimated total of 1.2 million children, adding that the schools that have not yet received their subventions are those who were either late to submit their school’s Bank Accounts or those whose Heads had submitted their own personal bank accounts . “We are however processing the payments of those late submissions”.
The government, according to Minister Bah, is currently constructing 203 classroom expansions in various schools across the country to address the issue of congestion in schools.
“Though we still have challenges in the education sector, but we have made tremendous progress since 2007”, the academic engineer and former FBC Lecturer concluded.
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