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World Bank leads support in Education Sector Development

World Bank is leading development partners to support education sector development in Sierra Leone through the Free Education Project.

The project, which was officially launched on Monday October 5, 2020 by President Julius Maada Bio, intended to support the government’s flagship human capital initiative, the Free Quality School Education Program.

The World Bank, European Union (EU), United Kingdom Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and Irish Aid have signed agreements committing to support education sector development through a Multi-Donor Trust Fund administered by the World Bank.

The project will be financed by a $50 million World Bank grant and grant funds from development partners with the EU contributing €13 million, Ireland contributing €5 million, and UKAID contributing £2 million to the Fund.

Education, and human capital development more generally, is one of the Government’s national priorities as articulated in the Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019-2023). In 2018, the Government launched the Free Quality School Education Program to ensure free quality education for all basic and senior secondary students in the country.

Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh said: “His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has led a vision of national transformation through broad investments in human capital. As a Government, our priorities as stated in the National Development Plan titled ‘Education for Development’ are clear and focused on our people, in particular our school children. The only way to achieve these goals is through collaboration and accelerated delivery of quality learning to all children.”

He added: “We are aware of our constraints and we will continue to be impatient as we systematically address these perennial challenges informed by evidence and robust policies.”

Sierra Leone has made significant gains in school enrollment, but education outcomes and skills acquisition are among the lowest in Africa. The education sector also faces issues of deep inequities in access between urban and rural communities, weak sector governance, and inefficient public spending and management. Such education challenges are further complicated by the COVID-19 crisis. The project will help address these challenges, as well as support the Government in their efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the education sector while strengthening the education workforce.

Specifically, the project will finance the construction of approximately 510 furnished classrooms to meet the immediate infrastructure needs in basic education and provide community-managed and performance-based grants to primary schools for improved school performance and accountability.

“This project will support the government’s commitment toward achieving a more inclusive approach to quality education, increasing the retention of girls, especially in secondary school, and improving the learning environment for children with disabilities,” said Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “Therefore, the World Bank is happy to collaborate with other development partners to improve the management of the education system in the country.”

The Fund will use a pooled funding mechanism and is expected to increase the coordination and harmonization of policy development and investment in the education sector and emphasize the government leadership in strengthening country systems to deliver education services.

Access to quality education is a key driver for sustainable development. The European Union has been and will remain at the forefront of supporting education worldwide,” said Tom Vens, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Sierra Leone. “We cannot afford that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic jeopardizes progress made so far in access to education. Being able to enjoy quality education is a basic right for every girl and boy in Sierra Leone. By joining hands, we can do more and better.”

The Trust Fund will assist in addressing key challenges facing the education sector, and will contribute to achieving the Government’s larger strategic objectives in the sector, while also supporting analytical and advisory services associated with monitoring and evaluation, technical assistance, and research and studies.

“This project will increase the participation of girls in quality education, which is a key priority for Ireland in Sierra Leone. It will also enhance the education policy framework,” said Lesley Ní Bhriain, Ambassador of Ireland to Sierra Leone. “Ireland is delighted to contribute to this transformative initiative and, with other development partners, to support the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education in its rollout of the landmark Free Quality Education Programme.”

“The UK sees the Free Education Project Multi-Donor Trust Fund as catalytic. In its development, strong partnerships have been built. In its delivery, the project will bring the communication, coordination and implementing drive to ensure this partnership delivers to maximum impact – changing the lives and opportunities of girls and boys around the country,” said Sandra Baldwin, Acting Development Director, FCDO, British High Commission to Sierra Leone. “The project’s objectives are Government of Sierra Leone’s objectives – and they fully align with the UK Government’s position of supporting every girl to 12 years of quality education and reducing maternal and child mortality. As such, this project will be a focal point around which the UK’s continuing bi-lateral support to both health and education will be developed – complementing and amplifying efforts to ensure the collective sum is greater than all the parts.”

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