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HomeFeaturedReappointment of Minkailu Bah – a seemingly unpopular but wise decision

Reappointment of Minkailu Bah – a seemingly unpopular but wise decision

Reappointment of Minkailu Bah – a seemingly unpopular but wise decision

President Ernest Bai Koroma late last week announced majority of his nominations for his new cabinet. Again, as is always expected, there are some ministers from the old cabinet who are retained in their incumbent positions, while others are transferred and a few people coming in for the first time. The President used his powers vested in him by the Constitution of Sierra Leone to make the nominations which are subject to the approval of the Parliament of Sierra Leone. However, if we are to go by what is portrayed in the media (mostly through text messages sent by a particular set of individuals), it would seem that two of the most unpopular ministers retained in the cabinet are former Internal Affairs minister, who has been nominated to serve in the Ministry of Lands, and the incumbent Minister of Education Dr Minkailu Bah (in photo), who is retained in the same ministry. I would use this piece to advance reasons why I think the latter was retained and why he seems unpopular (if we were to go by media reports, because there have not been any credible surveys to suggest this).

One of the most diverse and complex government ministries is that of education. This is mainly because of the large number of people (in tens of thousands) employed and supervised by the ministry. Therefore, it is not uncommon for the media to occasionally report about strikes by teachers, lecturers or students. Some of the reasons usually advanced are as perennial as the word itself: demands for improvement of conditions of service, late payment of salaries, non-recruitment of unapproved teachers, to name but a few. Whenever such things come up, the minister-in-charge is always at the receiving end. I was a student at Fourah Bay College between 2001 and 2007 and I know there were countless strike actions by these forces, who most times called for the resignation of the then education minister, Dr. Alpha Wurie.  These are some of the challenges Dr Bah has been grappling with since he was appointed to that ministry. It is sometimes surprising to know that the minister is blamed for even some of the petty disputes in the Sierra Leone Teachers Union.  However, the government, has in the recent past, addressed some of the more important issues by improving the wages of both lecturers and teachers, and by ensuring that salaries are paid almost on a timely basis.

Another criticism sometimes levied against Minkailu Bah is the assertion that during his reign, standards of education have gone to the drains. As I said earlier, what is most time lacking in some of the things reported in the media is their non-reference to evidence based research.  It pains me, as a policy analyst, to know that some of our so-called public commentators make such conclusions not based on research based facts, but because of sentiments or dislike of certain people. Even when such research is not available, I think people should be asking questions such as whether there has been an increase in the number of school children (in both primary and secondary levels); what is the enrollment of students in tertiary institutions like and whether the number of graduates produced every year has been dwindling or increasing; how much money has government recovered from the perennial problem of “ghost teachers, ghost schools and ghost pupils”?  I can challenge anyone that the answers to these questions will be resoundingly positive for Minkailu Bah. When did we last hear about teachers or lecturers strike over late payment of salaries? What about the minister’s effort in ensuring educational empowerment for women and the disabled? It is only now that we are hearing about disabled students enrolled in government-owned tertiary institutions being awarded automatic government-grant-in-aid. The same is also for female students enrolled in the sciences. This is mainly as a result of policies initiated by Dr. Bah.

The introduction of the 6-3-4-4 System of Education seems so unpopular among the opposition and SSS 3 pupils who were thinking of writing their exams this year. It was surprising to me that the SLPP took the denunciation of the new system as one of their main campaign strategies in the just concluded elections. From a policy point of view, I would now safely say that the fine victory President Koroma earned showed, partly, that the people of Sierra Leone endorsed the 6-3-4-4. We all know that the previous system which saw pupils spending three years in senior secondary has not been helpful to the state which pays for the public exams. The government would pay hundreds of millions of Leones to the West African Examinations Council, yet a large number of the candidates would not make it to tertiary institutions. This is partly because of the flaws in the system itself which the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry has helped to correct. It is unthinkable that the previous 6-3-3-4 stayed for that long (almost two decades) without any major evaluation. In modern day policy making and implementation, this should not be allowed to happen especially when there are glaring examples to show that the policy has developed some loopholes over the years. Also, another reason why I think the extra year is necessary is that a good number of the pupils who attempt the exams nowadays are too young and immature for the exams. It is the case that a good number of these pupils normally ended up retaking the private WASSCE exams in order for them to make it to tertiary institutions. I believe these and some of the reasons highlighted in the Commission’s report resulted in the addition of one more year at the senior secondary school level. By the way, pupils who think they are strong enough to take the exams by the third year of their senior secondary school education have the option of taking the private WASSCE. I don’t know why some public commentators think the revised system is a failure even before the start of its implementation. I would advise any critic of the revised system to wait the evaluation of the system in five or ten years’ time before they could conclude on its impact. And I think the President did the right thing to retain Dr Bah in the ministry to ensure that he oversees the implementation of the revised policy.

Let me conclude by saying that the country needs people like Dr Minkailu Bah, who is ready to serve this country faithfully, honestly and with integrity and a disciplined mind regardless of the parochial sentiments some people might hold about him. One thing that has always come clear from all the criticisms against Dr Bah is the fact that he has never been accused of corruption or mismanagement of public funds. He, in fact, has helped a lot in tackling some of the financial loopholes that the education ministry was notorious for in the past. And in trying to bring sanity to his ministry, he has become an enemy to all of those who were benefiting from the corrupt old games in the ministry.

How I wish we could get public officials who would always stand to work for what is right and in the interest of the country, but sometimes unpopular to the media, than take decisions which though applauded by the media but detrimental to society in general.

Let me finally state that I want to believe President Koroma knows the ministers that are achieving results and sincerely working in the interest of the state; and hence his decision to retain them.

By Abubakarr Turay

Abubakarr Turay (ABT) is a journalist and public administrator and policy analyst. He holds a degree in Mass Communication and a Master in Public Administration.

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