With over 1.5 million school pupils expected to benefit from the Free Quality Education package announced by President Bio last Monday 20 August, it is apparent that some parents/guardians will come into conflict with the law for failing to send their children to school but rather to engage in street trading.
President Bio while launching the Free Quality Education Initiative at the Miattia Conference center, warned parents who prefers sending their children to sell on the streets instead of school, saying he would not hesitate to use the 2004 Education Act to target defaulters.
With reference to the said Act, President Bio maintained that it is compulsory for all parents/guardians to send their children to school, while warning that those who act contrary to what is expected of them will face the full force of the law.
He stressed that many children are out of school because of the high rate of poverty in the country, adding that with the introduction of the free education in September, school dropout will be a thing of the past.
The president reiterated that education is a fundamental human right of every Sierra Leonean child and therefore urged all and sundry to put hands of deck in ensuring that the free education succeeds.
He also commended donor partners for their continued support to his flagship program of providing free education, but however expressed optimism that their beautiful words will be transformed into beautiful actions.
President Bio recalled that during his campaign, when he promised to provide free quality education, his adversaries like the APC dismissed it as a political gimmick that is impossible to achieve.
He maintained that like the battered economy, he also inherited a nose-diving educational system that failed to provide free quality education for every Sierra Leonean child that could have led to personal and national development was not around.
The president berated the idea of two pupils sharing one examination question paper, saying that is why as espoused in his manifesto- The New Direction and his speech during the State Opening of Parliament, he prioritized the provision of free quality education because according to him, ‘’it is the vehicle for development.”
He said it is because of the aforementioned that his government has allocated 21% of the national budget to education, adding that come September there will be no more SSS 4 as part of the overhauling process of the entire schooling system in the next 5 years.
Among other things in the Free Education package, President Bio said there will be no school fess and admission charges at all government and government assisted schools, no BECE, NPSE and WASSCE fees, adding that government will also provide the core text books for English, Mathematics, Integrated Science and Social Studies, learning and teaching materials and exercise books.
In addition, President Bio also assured to increase the salaries of teachers from Grade 1 to 6, introduce school feeding program, supply school furniture, recruit more trained and qualified teachers, rehabilitate and construct more class rooms.
The Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa, promised to provide the necessary funds to support the free education, while the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Alpha Timbo assured that all is now set for the commencement of the program come September but however stressed that it is a 5 year program that cannot be fully realized over night.
Donation climaxed the occasion.