Environmental scan on education i...
Environmental Scan on Education in Sierra Leone with Particular Reference to Open and Distance Learning and Information and Communication Technologies Prepared by: A.M. Alghali Edward D.A. Turay Ekundayo J.D. Thompson Joseph B.A. Kandeh This work was undertaken by the consultants on behalf of the Commonwealth of Learning for presentation at a national forum in Freetown, Sierra Leone, February 16���18, 2005.
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Table of Contents Page 1.0 Sierra Leone and Its Current Educational Situation 1 1.1 The country and its people 1 1.2 Recovery in the education system 2 1.3 Use of distance education in Sierra Leone���s formal education system 10 1.4 A profile of current primary and adult literacy educational programmes in Sierra Leone 12 1.5 An overview of current tertiary institutions in Sierra Leone 15 2.0 Sierra Leone���s Current Policy on Formal and Non-Formal Education 22 2.1 Significant educational reforms 22 2.2 Distance education and ICT-mediated learning 25 2.3 Initiatives to support ODL policies 26 3.0 Current Policies to Support Use of ICTs in Formal Education in Sierra Leone 29 3.1 Objectives and strategies to facilitate widespread use of ICTs 29 3.2 Implementation of policy objectives and strategies in support of ICTs 30 4.0 How ODL and ICTs Are Currently Being Used in Outreach and Extension Programmes in Sierra Leone 32 4.1 Minimal use of ODL and ICTs in national education programmes 32 4.2 Potential use of ODL and ICTs in outreach and extension programmes 37 5.0 Priority Areas for Implementation of ODL Initiatives in Sierra Leone 39 6.0 Plan of Action for Implementation of ODL Initiatives in Sierra Leone 42 7.0 Recommendations to Government on ODL Usage 44 8.0 References 45 Appendices 1���11 : Data on Education in Sierra Leone 47
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1.0 Sierra Leone and Its Current Educational Situation 1.1 The country and its people Sierra Leone became a British Colony after Portuguese explorers became the first Europeans to arrive in 1492. It gained independence in 1961 and became a republic in 1971. The country has experienced a mixture of democratic, civilian and military dictatorships in its 43 years of independence. Currently, civilian democracy is the political dispensation. A devastating civil war, spanning 11 years, ended in 2002. The main reasons put forward by the perpetrators of the civil war were lack of social-economic opportunities overall, lack of access by many citizens to what economic life there was, and tyrannical political rule. Today, Sierra Leone enjoys a liberalised economy and relative peace. The country, which shares borders with Liberia and Guinea, is located on the west coast of Africa, facing the Atlantic Ocean. It has about 71,640 square kilometres of land and 71,620 square kilometres of water. A large part of the coastline of Sierra Leone consists of mangrove swamps. Freetown, the capital city, is situated on a peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean. Sierra Leone is mostly plateau about 300 metres above sea level. It includes rain forests, grasslands, wetlands and mountains. The climate is tropical (hot and humid) with two distinct seasons: a rainy season between May and November and a dry spell between December and April. The natural resources include diamonds, gold, titanium ore, bauxite and iron ore. The main agricultural products are rice, coffee, cocoa, cassava, sweet potatoes and palm oil. Besides Freetown, the major cities are the regional headquarters of Bo, Kenema and Makeni in the southern, eastern and northern provinces, respectively. Some of 1
the environmental issues affecting the country include rapid population growth, over-harvesting of timber, high soil weathering from intensified crop farming and extensive cattle grazing, soil erosion and water pollution as a result of poor garbage and sewage disposal systems. Sierra Leone has a population of about 5 million, the higher proportion being female. The population is growing at an annual rate of about 4.0%. The birth rate is 46/1,000 and the death rate is 20/1,000. Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and one of the lowest life expectancy rates. About 13 indigenous African ethnic groups in the country make up about 90% of the population. The Mende and Temne and associated groups form the greatest proportion of the ethnic groups from the southeastern and northern parts of Sierra Leone, respectively. Each accounts for about 30% each of the population. A sizeable number of Creoles live in the western area, where Krio is the lingua franca. The official language of Sierra Leone is English. Christianity and Islam are the predominant religions practised by the people. A minority of the population tenaciously cling to African religious beliefs. A third of the population live in the capital and other urban areas the rest live in the rural areas. The western and eastern areas of the country are the densest. 1.2 Recovery in the education system Sierra Leone���s educational system, which attracted several West African students in the colonial and post-independent period, was in crisis by the early 1990s for various reasons, including poor financial support, inappropriate curricula, the start and intensification of the rebel war, and a dim view of the value of education by the youths. The decline in enrolment at the primary and secondary levels and the near stagnation at the tertiary level left many existing and prospective students 2
frustrated and disenchanted. Several student and other riots protesting the lethargy of the government in power at the time (1968���1992) served as a prelude to the crisis of the rebel war and the euphoria that greeted the advent of a military regime that promised to revamp the country���s economic and social fabric. This regime ��� the National Provisional Ruling Council ��� was in power from 1992 to 1996. It ushered in the New Education System (the ���6-3-3-4,��� discussed later) in 1993, issued the New Education Policy (1995), promulgated the Basic Education Decree (1994) and advanced the National Education Action Plan (1994). The return to civilian rule in 1996 initially provided an enabling environment for the new government to build on the foundation laid by the military regime. This the new government did by providing short-, medium- and long-term strategies for implementing various aspects of the New Education Policy. The National Education Master Plan A major document in this regard is the National Education Master Plan 1997��� 2006. The plan deals with all aspects of the formal and non-formal sectors of the education system, providing support for basic education, education for the physically challenged, disadvantaged and gifted learners, women and girls��� education, technical/vocational and science education, tertiary education, adult continuing education, national languages, and the administration and management of education. The focus of the current government has been on implementing the 6-3-3-4 system of education which the policy regards as the key to Sierra Leone���s economic development. The ���6-3-3-4 education system��� was introduced in 1993. It consists of nine years of basic education. At the end of six years of primary education, all students sit for 3
the National Primary School Examination (NPSE). If successful, they proceed to junior secondary education for three years and then sit for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). Successful BECE candidates proceed to three years of senior secondary school, at the end of which they sit for the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). Those who fail the BECE may either repeat the examination or turn to technical and vocational institutions or employment. On the basis of performance in the WASSCE, students who meet the requirements for undergraduate work may proceed to the university to take a four-year degree course. The three externally moderated examinations (i.e., NPSE, BECE and WASSCE) emphasise Mathematics, the sciences and a number of new subjects. The government pays the examination fees for all candidates in government-assisted schools who take these examinations. The reason for this payment policy is to mitigate the financial burden on parents, guardians and students and to ensure that all students are externally assessed to ascertain their level of learning achievement. A summary of the goals and targets enunciated for education by the government are shown in the sidebar. 4
Goal and targets of Sierra Leone���s National Education Master Plan The goals and targets enunciated for education by the government include: ��� Promotion of quality basic education (i.e., the 6-3 in the 6-3-3- 4 system) that is free and compulsory by 2015. ��� Significantly increasing the present 36% literacy rate, up to at least 50% by 2015, in consonance with Goal Four of the Dakar Education for All (EFA) initiative. This is expected to be achieved through establishment of community education and technical/vocational centres. ��� Elimination of gender disparity in access to, and participation in, education through the operation of free junior secondary education for girls by 2006. ��� Provision of opportunities for increased access to education for the physically challenged and citizens in difficult circumstances. ��� Creation of an environment that favours the empowerment of youths through education. ��� Use of education as a tool for poverty alleviation. ��� Encouragement of active community participation in ownership of schools through increased decentralization. ��� Increasing the number of qualified teachers by 30% by 2015 using conventional and distance education approaches. ��� The far reaching reorganization and expansion of tertiary education by 2007. To further its goals and targets, government allocated 23% of the national budget to the education sector and thus achieved the following: ��� Starting in 2000, parents of children attending primary schools in classes 1 to 6 were relieved of the burden of paying tuition fees and government provided core textbooks. These costs previously served as a deterrent to many children accessing basic education. 5
��� Starting in 2001, government paid examination fees for all children in government-assisted schools taking the three levels of examinations. ��� Grants in Aid, scholarships and study leave were provided for many students (about 80%) in tertiary institutions. Up to 95% of costs are currently provided to all the public institutions such as university, polytechnics and teachers��� colleges. As a result of these interventions, there has been a massive increase in primary school enrolment since the 1996/1997 academic year ��� from 367,920 to 1,110,000 in 2003/2004. The number of students passing the National Primary School Examination has increased from 16,972 in 1999 to 37,117 in 2003. In the area of tertiary level awards of Grants in Aid, the total for 11 institutions rose from 829 in 1995/1996 to 3,509 in 2002/2003. As well, to minimise regional differences in girls��� access to secondary education, an affirmative action was initiated in 2003 whereby tuition fees were waived and uniforms and learning materials were provided free of charge for girls in the Northern and Eastern Regions. A total of 4,975 girls have so far benefited. In other areas of formal and non-formal education, government has collaborated with a variety of local and international development partners to train teachers and construct or rehabilitate educational structures destroyed during the 11-year civil war. The emphasis of the 6-3-3-4 system education on technical and vocational skills training led to the establishment, by Act of Parliament, of the National Council for Technical, Vocational and Other Academic Awards (NCTVA) by in 2001 to set examinations and ensure parity of esteem for all technical and vocational 6
training. Five polytechnics, of which three are now operational, were also established with the aim of diversifying human resource training for various middle cadre vocations and careers. Specific projects within the Ministry are also worth mentioning for their actual and potential contribution to the overall national socio-economic development. ��� The Rehabilitation of Basic Education Project, more popularly known by the name SABABU (a local name meaning ���opportunity���). This project has been hailed as the largest funding in aid of education since independence, valued at US$ 42 million. It aims to construct and rehabilitate basic education facilities for 30% of schools nationwide. An estimated 600 junior secondary and primary schools are targeted for this intervention, which also includes funding for textbooks and furniture. Training of 6,000 untrained and unqualified teachers is also targeted for this project, which is funded by the World Bank and African Development Bank. ��� The Islamic Development Bank with a further US$ 7 million aid package will also assist in the rehabilitation of 143 partly or totally destroyed primary schools. ��� The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) has earmarked a sum of US$ 7.2 million for rehabilitating the campus of Njala University College. ��� Under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiatives (HIPC), US$ 9 million was approved by Parliament and used for reconstructing 83 primary, secondary and technical/vocational institutions, teachers��� colleges and inspectorate offices. School furniture was also part of the package. Non-formal education, largely undertaken by non-governmental and community- based organization such as Partners in Adult Education (PADE), have also been receiving inputs from government. For example: 7
��� Through the Islamic Development Bank intervention, 6,000 non-literates in three chiefdoms in the provinces have been trained yearly since 2003 in literacy and livelihood skills. ��� With UNICEF support, the government is implementing a three-year non- formal primary education project targeting learners, especially girls aged 6���14 years in settlements without formal school. ��� The government is also taking over schools of the Complementary Rapid Education for Primary Schools Project (CREPS), which target illiterate children who missed years of schooling during the war. Most of these initiatives are spin-offs of recent legislation affecting various sectors of education, the most recent being the Education Act of 2004, which seeks to entrench basic education provision, including measures to tackle non-compliance in access to education. A further step in ensuring community participation and ownership of education at the local level is the Local Government Act of 2004. Taken together with the Education Act 2004, the MEST is expected to devolve to District Education Committees the authority for supervision of pre-primary and primary schools, junior secondary schools, and centres for Adult Literacy and Community Education under the technical advice of the District Inspectorate Division. The Universities Act of 2004 provides for the creation of multiple public universities to replace the current unitary university system and also to provide opportunities for the establishment of private universities. The activities of the new universities and existing polytechnics are to be regulated by provisions of an earlier legislation, the Tertiary Education Commission Act of 2001. 8
Overview: Sierra Leone���s 14-year journey towards ���Education for All��� In March 1990, Sierra Leone participated in the World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA), held in Jomtien, Thailand. The conference proceedings served as the primary impetus for the development of programmes to increase access to education for disadvantaged groups, particularly in the Third World countries. In the 10-year period leading to the next major international gathering on education ���the World Education Forum held in Dakar in April 2000 ��� Sierra Leone achieved several steps towards meeting the Jomtien goals. The 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone currently in use mentions the provision of free adult literacy programmes. However, concerned about the large number of out-of-school children, particularly in the rural areas, UNICEF, in collaboration with the People���s Educational Association of Sierra Leone (PEASL a local non-governmental organization), launched the Non-Formal Primary Education Project (NFPEP) in 1992 to reach such children. Girls aged 6���14 years were specifically targeted for a three-year basic education course, after which they would gain access to formal schools in other settlements. The country���s education, long patterned after the colonial system, was revamped in 1993 with the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 education paradigm with its emphasis on basic education for all during the first nine years of schooling. The overriding concern with providing basic education for all was further addressed with the establishment of the National Commission for Basic Education in March 1994 by the then military regime of the National Provisional Ruling Council (in power 1992-96). The decree emphasized the need for basic education for children, as well as a commitment to strive to drastically minimize adult illiteracy in Sierra Leone (then reckoned at 80% nationally) by 2000. A significant milestone in Sierra Leone���s development in the field of education was the publication of the New Education Policy for the country in 1995. It enthroned the 6-3-3-4 paradigm as the national education system and formulated proposals dealing with various sectors (formal and non-formal) at various levels (primary, secondary, tertiary). The decade also witnessed the implementation of other projects designed to open access to marginalised groups. Among them were the Literacy and Civic Education for Women Project to make 2,000 women literate in the rural areas and the Functional Political Literacy and Civic Education Project for slum dwellers in the Kroo Bay area in the west end of Freetown, to ensure their effective participation in local and national politics. At about the same time, a massive Accelerated Literacy Project was sponsored by the Overseas Development Agency (now Department for International Development) continued 9
through the British Council in Sierra Leone. It was aimed at conferring literacy skills on 10,000 non-literates in English in the Western Region over a period of six months. A comprehensive plan for education covering the decade 1997 to 2006, the National Education Master Plan, was crafted when the country returned to civilian rule in 1996. It dealt with the various levels of education and established links for developing the New Education Policy of 1995. The ravages of the 11-year rebel war hindered the development of the envisaged programmes, but following the Dakar World Education Forum (2000) and the signing of various peace accords with the rebel forces, the government renewed its determination to raise education to higher heights. Fee-free primary schools, establishment of new tertiary institutions for manpower development such as polytechnics, and a new role for technical and vocational training were subjects of parliamentary legislation. In 2002, the first draft of the Education for All (EFA) National Action Plan for Sierra Leone was crafted with a focus on the six goals enunciated at the Dakar Conference. The goals cut across all sectors of education. In April 2004, a new all-embracing Education Act was enacted, replacing the earlier one passed 40 years ago. In 2004, a Universities Act was promulgated by Parliament, thus making room for more than one public university and paving the way for the establishment of private universities. 1.3 Use of distance education in Sierra Leone���s formal education system There are a few references to distance education in some of the documents cited above. The New Education Policy mentions the creation of an Open University (though without elaboration) and refers to ���the use of distance learning��� as part of the low-cost training strategies envisaged by the policy. The National Education Master Plan refers to upgrading teachers through the use of the distance education mode. The Education for All National Action Plan makes a passing reference to the possible consideration of distance education as a mode in realizing education for all particularly through teacher education. And the Education Act (2004) defines distance education, but ��� unlike for other areas (e.g., non-formal) ��� suggests no policy directive. 10
Prompted by the massive growth in pupil enrolment as a result of the fee-free education provisions, the need for training and upgrading primary school teachers became acute in 2000. Teacher training through conventional face-to-face instruction was found to be inadequate to provide for the large numbers of people needing training. Thus, starting in 2001, the use of distance education to upgrade existing primary school teachers began, with support from the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), UNESCO, UNICEF and Plan Sierra Leone. There are at present about 2,000 unqualified and untrained primary school teachers enrolled in the Teacher���s Certificate Course operating in Freetown and eight districts of the country. The students follow the same syllabus as the conventional teachers��� college students for the same duration. The first batch of students for the Teacher���s Certificate graduated in 2004. In the period before the launch of the project, a needs assessment survey was conducted, followed by a COL-sponsored workshop on instructional materials design and development, including editorial skills. All of the modules now in use by tutors and students on the programme were produced during workshops funded by the Sierra Leone government, Plan Sierra Leone, COL and other donor agencies. Apart from personnel of the teachers��� colleges, University of Sierra Leone staff members also benefited from the training on materials development for distance learners. This, in a modest way, is to realize government���s aim to ensure ���the production of teachers of high quality and in sufficient quantity��� (New Education Policy, 1995, p. 19). Educational broadcasting is mentioned in the New Education Policy and its significance for the 6-3 segments of the 6-3-3-4 systems is emphasized. The civil war disrupted the communications network nationwide, leaving Sierra Leone���s Broadcasting Unit dormant for a long time. However, since the end of the war, several private and public FM broadcasting stations have been established across 11