News / Africa

Rural Sierra Leone Needs Trained Teachers

Multimedia

Fid Thompson

Getting an education in rural Sierra Leone is difficult.  Thousands of schools were destroyed during the civil war and many teachers fled to the capital or left the country.  The biggest challenge to universal primary education is a severe shortage of trained teachers, especially in rural areas.  

With one year of secondary school under his belt, 50-year-old Francis Sao Turay is the sole teacher at the RC Primary School in Kasokra, a small village in the Sula mountains of central Sierra Leone.

Almost 50 children, from toddlers to teenagers, squeeze onto wooden benches in a makeshift structure.  Turay arranges them according to class and then teaches one class at a time, trying to keep the others quiet.

Turay says it is very difficult to teach in these conditions.  When you only have one classroom, but you have four different classes, you can only separate them by benches.  So when you talk to class four, he says, then it is difficult to teach the little kids in class one.  Turay says he finds it especially hard because he teaches just from his own experience.

The school, set up by Catholic missionaries, is registered with the government, but has no qualified teacher.  Village leaders chose Turay to teach in an effort to keep their children in school.

Sierra Leone's 2004 Education Act made primary education free in Sierra Leone.  Since the civil war, the government has increased primary school enrollment dramatically.  The number of students doubled between 2000 and 2005, due in part to the introduction of free primary education.  The government also subsidizes exam fees.

But for community schools like the one at Kasokra, there is little government support.  Parents here rely on peanut and rice farming to survive. They have little cash to pay for the indirect costs of education like school uniforms, transport, lunch money, tutoring fees and books.

Turay teaches without a salary, accepting instead offers of rice and farm-labor as payment.

Horatio Nelson-Williams is coordinator of the Education For All program at Sierra Leone's Ministry of Education.

"One of the major challenges is to get qualified teachers to teach in rural schools," said Horatio Nelson-Williams. "You know, that is the major challenge.  You know.  So recently what we did last year we organized a workshop on formulating a new remote area policy.  In the past, the remote area policy was working very well.  But with inflation and all of the economic challenges that have taken place in the world, the allowances that were given to teachers for working in the remote areas have now become ridiculously low."

Nelson-Williams says the government does not have the funds to support community schools or train community teachers.  He says they do get support from NGOs and the United Nations.

In 2009, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma launched a review of the education system following abysmal exam results at both the primary and secondary level.

Education coordinator Madiana Samba, of the advocacy organization Action Aid International, says the government must address the shortfall if they are to achieve real universal primary education.

"We need to train those teachers out there that are really not trained," said Madiana Samba. "Because if you are talking about a teaching force of over 35,000 and you are saying 40 percent of those ones are untrained and unqualified, then it is a big issue."

Turay would like to become a fully qualified teacher so he can provide a better education for the children in Kasokra and also make a decent wage.  But he cannot afford to pay for the three-year distance-learning qualification program offered by the government.

Less than half of Sierra Leone's population can read and write.  But resources are limited in this post-conflict state where the education sector says it needs almost $250 million to meet the goal of free basic education for all children.  

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More