Sir, permit me to use this opportunity to establish communication with you on behalf of colleague principals in your ministry. In the first place I want to congratulate you on your appointment to serve as the political head for the above mentioned ministry. May you gain favour from His Excellency even as you steer one of the most difficult and sensitive ministries in state governance.
Mr. Minister, may I draw your attention to the embarrassing situations which heads of schools in your ministry are undergoing as a result of the non-payment of school fee subsidies of which I am no exception to the package.
Firstly, you can agree with me that a single cent has not been remitted to no school account for second term since January unto date. It is not a hidden secret that the average Sierra Leonean knows that the provision of Free Quality Education is the president’s flagship trumpeted program which most level-headed persons wholeheartedly embraces. If we can honorably accept that education is one of the key pillars for growth and development then suffice it to say that the president’s vision is not out of track and can as well establish again that there is a link with one of the outcomes of the Geneva conference on Basic Human Rights (Provision/access to education as a basic fundamental human right as embedded in both the put-aside MDGs as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Referencing the just forgone statements Mr. Minister, the provision of textbooks, exercise books for pupils in our various schools is a laudable effort from the side of the government but the non-payment of school fees has triggered so many unanswered questions in the eyes of school heads including Head teachers and Principals nationwide. How can we run our schools without funds from government in the form of school fees subsidies?
Secondly, it is crystal clear that schools in big towns are always breeding ground for thieves and can therefore not divorce the services of security guards to keep most Free Quality Education supplied materials and furniture safe. Guards are only willing to do the dirty job as a result of the monthly salaries that are paid to them. Mr. Minister where do you expect heads of schools to source money to pay such securities? My school for instance, I am a victim of situational liar to my securities for always giving them confidence of paying them with words such as “una patient me small, sometimes government go pay we next week “. This I have been saying to them countless number of times not until when their patience cannot hold any longer. I wish that day would never come again when both of them appeared at my residence with no ripples of mercy on their faces requesting for their monthly salaries of January, February and March accounting for three million Leones when in fact even what to eat on that day with my family was a big problem for me. I was almost going to jump over the high walls of the fence to hide from them. I felt so embarrassed and downgraded on the eyes of my neighbors.
Thirdly, in a bid to reason out with government on the current state of economic hardship, most heads of schools were able to run their schools using personal funds, loans from close friends, micro-finance agencies, relatives and many more to pre-finance school functions with the expectation of refunds when fees are paid. Unfortunately, this has led most heads of schools being dragged to local courts and police stations for such generous ventures. Was it a mistake on the side of school heads to have done the needful? Mr. Minister where are you? Where are your expertises? Are your expertises just limited to computing which everybody knows you for? Must you sit down and see your workers perish as well as languish in the hands of traumatic situations like these?
Furthermore, in 2018 I the writer of this article personally donated my one month salary as my contribution towards the implementation of the Free Quality Education program of His Excellency. The quantum of money as principal I donated doesn’t matter but the intent. Despite the horror perpetuated by Covid 19 pandemic that has raped not only religions and cultures but also economic trajectories, on behalf of NCPSS I was able to write a song as our moral contribution towards the fight against the Pandemic by soliciting God’s intervention. School heads were also able to provide sanitary utensils in our various schools without receiving a cent from government. These we did to demonstrate that we heads of schools are 100% always prepared to work with government in thick and thin. Mr Minister why not reciprocate.
Additionally, You can crosscheck this one Mr Minister. I have personally been reduced to cold water selling in my area as an alternative means of survival with my family. The good part about my situation is that I have been reduced to one of the most humble neighbours in my area as a way of attracting customers to buy cold water from me.
I sometimes became a prisoner of circumstance if I hear the voice of one of my community teachers at the entrance of my house gate. I will continue to stay in my room until he leaves. This is appalling and brings no good tidings to members of the profession.
Honestly I felt a sigh of relief yesterday morning when I saw the headline BIO TO LEAD THE COVID19 WAR NOW on the Night Watch newspaper. In his military raiment, the president showed alacrity in his bid to defend the state from the pervasive Corona virus pandemic and just like many citizens I am highly convinced that his strides would yield positive dividend in a month’s time and hence normalcy and business as usual. Mr. Minister what would be your reaction if upon the reopening of schools for third term school heads are found collecting school fees from parents? Would you endorse the arrest of such school heads by anti-corruption? Would you sit by and see handcuffs placed on the wrists of heads of schools and publicly shamed at the Freetown cutting tree referencing the unacceptable ill-treatments accorded teachers involved in examination malpractices? Mr. Minister though times are trying owing to Covid 19, can you please help advocate for school heads to salvage their status and for the smooth running of schools.
Finally, school heads have been subject of civil obedience to the highest degree in the implementation of the president’s flagship program (Free Quality Education). The call to national service for the absorption of over 70,000 pupils nationwide in our schools to have a re-take of the WASSC Examinations was met with no resistance from our side despite the poor state of our schools in terms of accommodation to house such a huge number without government held to task for additional classrooms nor additional teachers to increase the work force. All these we did without complaints because we know the transformation of this nation must be a collective civic responsibility. Mr. Minister, I want to encourage you to be honest with your conscience to discuss issues with the president on how to resolve this issue.
Conclusively, as a ministry dealing with 100% literates, it is incumbent on you to seek answers to most of the unanswered questions about the state of well-being of heads of schools before time is too late even as we join the government in the fight against the ravaging CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC.
Long live the President, long live our ministers as well as the people of Sierra Leone.