Bio’s Fee-Free Education Lacks A National Blueprint & Foresight
The announcement of a fee-free education by His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has generated growing interests among poor parents who sweat their way out to pay fees for their children. This painful responsibility by parents will now be seen a much sigh of relief come September 2018/2019 academic year. Fee-free education is the top priority of the SLPP’s manifesto of 2018.
The freeness of this policy is not an easy price to pay for just as one was wondering when the President was interviewed on the BBC on the strategies that will be employed to finance his fee-free education. Many would agree that the President struggled to even apportion cost to each school going child let alone knowing how many students the scheme will pay for in each academic. This is a question left unanswered.
However, President Bio’s fee-free education will be seen as a burden on tax payers’ money. We should not be surprised that Sierra Leoneans will be robbed to pay Paul. The fee-free education if at all it comes to reality Sierra Leoneans should expect increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The recent financing agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an eye opener which the SLPP was lashing the APC government for accruing debts we now see the reverse in less than hundred days he had signed a debt financing agreement just to finance their bogus promises at the expense of Sierra Leoneans. We should note that growing state debts are fine if the rate of increase is lower than the rate at which the economy (GDP) and state revenues are growing. In the case of Sierra Leone, the country’s import ratio is far higher than its export ratio.
Ill-advisedly, state revenues are declining since the closing of mining companies due to the drop in iron ore the economy has slowed down. Giving sense to the SLPP government, they should allow the country to have steady annual economic growth if they are to meet their benchmarks in providing basic social amenities as the APC did in some major sectors not excluding education.
People are wondering whether the SLPP is serious in providing a fee-free education programme considering the unrealistic nature of a fee-free education programme which has not got a blueprint to map out strategies in the years ahead. The absence of this document will have a severe consequence to the programme and expectations of parents will be shattered.
It is highly expected that the SLPP government will increase personal and corporate income taxes without considering the impacts. It is very clear that President Bio’s fee-free education policy is a supply driven mechanism; this is not a case of discouraging the idea but a case of presenting the realities to the idea. Fee-free education is not free, and much was expected of Mr. President to have created the space and time by presenting his fee-free education blueprint in the Well of Parliament during the State Opening of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic which will give Parliamentarians time to thoroughly understand the strategic plan of His Excellency’s fee-free education drive mechanism.
Sierra Leoneans should demand a blueprint of His Excellency’s fee-free education policy among them knowing whether a baseline was conducted on this to ascertain the research problem to his policy and the realities around the drive. By so doing, this will help guide the country on the roadmap to the journey of the fee-free education. The idea of the fee-free education is a very good idea, but we cannot compromise quality because much was expected to have seen a detailed analysis of schools’ and universities’ cost structures and a proper recognition of their constraints.
Inflating the salaries of teachers and paying students’ fees are inadequate to his fee-free education policy. The SLPP government should maintain the educational infrastructure and build new facilities. Our education system does not need a white elephant policy that will compromise the quality of education students get.
The fee-free education should not only attract scholarship for children or beneficiaries of teachers who have taught for ten years; the policy should also create international exchange programs for teachers and students. We also hope to see one of the oldest teacher training colleges (Milton Margai College of Education, Science and Technology) to be upgraded to a university status, giving each district a teacher training college with equipped facilities.
The past government of the APC established a Teaching Service Commission. This Commission is geared towards providing quality in the teaching field recruiting the rightful teaching minds which Sierra Leoneans hope to see the current government continues in good faith.
Analysis of the policies of the Bio administration will be continuously brought to you for a better Sierra Leone
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