The Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Basic and Senior Secondary Education chaired by Hon. Dominic J. Lavalie Tshombe, commenced effective oversight activities in the Eastern Region, on Monday 14th October 2019, to obtain first-hand information on the general implementation of the Free Quality Education (FQE) in the country.
The committee took interest in the judicious use of fees subsidy, the management and distribution of the teaching and learning materials, payment of refunds to the girl child, the management and approval of teachers, the status of approved schools that were left out in the disbursement of fee subsidies for the 2018/2019 Academic Year.
Prominent among stakeholders engaged by the Committee was the Chief Administrators of the respective District and City Councils, Deputy Directors of Education, School Administrators, Inspectors and Supervisors of Schools.
The MPs undertook the exercise to have first-hand knowledge on the status and operations of schools under the Free Quality Education.
Hon. Tshombe spoke of the importance of engaging school authorities in the Eastern Region and commended UNICEF for the support given to his Committee to carrying out the oversight function. Hon. Tshombe informed stakeholders in the education sector, that the Committee is focused on investigating issues relating to school subsides; the supply of teaching and learning materials; the management of schools; teachers recruitment or replacement; the girl-child education funds; the school feeding program and the challenges faced by school administrators in the implementation of the Free Quality Education program.
In her statement, the Deputy Director of Education in Kenema District, Madam Francess Nanah Kamara, updated MPs on the status of the FQE in the entire Kenema Distrikct, as well as the challenges she faced in the performance of her duties. She applauded the effort of government in prioritizing education for the development of the country.
On the other hand, the Deputy Director of Education for Kailahun District, Foday Konteh, briefed MPs and other stakeholders that were present, on the status of the on-going distribution of teaching and learning materials meant for their district, as well as the school fees subsidy and other related funding for the girl-child. He said the school materials for the 2018/2019 Academic Year were distributed successfully. However, unlike the previous academic year, he added, materials for the 2019/2020 School Year were still locked in stores pending distribution to their expected destinations due to the lack of funding.
Both the Chief Administrators of Kenema City and Kailahun District, Maada,Vivian Senesie and John Lahai Swaray applauded the intervention of the Parliamentary Committee for undertaking such a fact finding task aimed at exposing the challenges that have the potential to undermine the initiative of the President. Both of them highlighted the challenges they faced as councils with regards the disbursement of funds needed to support the operations of the various sectors devolved to them. They similarly pointed out the challenges faced in the management of the school buses allocated to their districts.
UNICEF Rep. Andrew .T. Sellu, who is the Chief UNICEF Field Officer, commended the Basic Education Committee in Parliament for the oversight function and registered their commitment to supporting the development of the education system in the country. He promised that, UNICEF would continue to collaborate with government to support the education sector and pleaded with school authorities to be effective in the promotion of education in the country.
In his submission, the Deputy Director of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) in Kenema District, Tamba S. Bockerie and his counterpart Kailahun District, Stella M. Ansumana, highlighted the challenges of the education sector in the Eastern Region; ranging from the lack of adequate trained and qualified teachers, especially female teachers, the compilation of data for teachers and a host of other educational related challenges.
Chairman Conference of Principal Eastern Region, Septimus S. Vandi, commended Parliament for visiting them in the Filed in other to have first-hand information’s on the activities of schools and teachers. He called on the committee to upgrade the conditions of service for teachers and addressed the bottlenecks affecting the smooth running of the education sector.
Councilor, Civil society organization representatives praised the education committee for visiting stakeholders in education to know their challenges and finding solution to address teacher’s grievances.
In concluding, the Deputy Chairman of the Basic Education Committee Hon. Joseph William Lamin, pleaded with teachers and school authorities to take their work very seriously and promote the education system in the country.
The committee inspected stores of FQE materials and was disappointed over the delay in supplying the school learning materials.