By Lawrence Williams
Before the introduction of the free quality education programme, nearly half of the population 15years and above had never attended school. And since it began, there has been an increase in school enrolment at both primary and secondary levels. It is estimated that more than 2 million children will be enrolled during the first phase of the implementation.
The lack of adequate facilities, poor sitting accommodation, overcrowding are some of the challenges identified from the outset of the programme. To address these problems, the government has committed 21 percent of the national budget toward the free education programme. But this is simply not enough. More effort is required to galvanize support from donor partners.
In view thereof, Mercury International Company Sierra Leone Limited last year pledged 1.5 million dollars toward the construction of 90 classrooms in identified priority areas for four years. Since that time the company has been constantly engaging the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to develop the project and map out the designs for modern-day school infrastructure. This has finally culminated in the awarding of the first contract to Ideas Limited for the construction of a Government Secondary School in Port Loko District, North West Region.
This building will be comprised of 6 classroom blocks, science laboratories, principal and staff offices, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and a playground for pupils.
During the signing ceremony past Wednesday, Mercury International Managing Director Martin Michael said the building will cost a little over 5 billion leones and it will be completed before the start of the 2020/2021 academic year. He said Ideas Limited is an indigenous company with a good track record of service delivery.
He said: “…we are finally ready to sign the first contract for the construction of the first all-girls school in Port Loko.”
He said Port Loko was chosen because they want to actualize the promise President Bio made to the people in the district. But not only that.
The Northern Region is estimated to have the highest illiterate population in Sierra Leone. Statistical analyses of the 2015 Population and Housing Census show that the percentage of illiterate females far exceeds that of males across all regions.
The project, when completed, will promote literacy outcomes and contribute to achieving gender parity in education.