Dr Bah - the Hon. Minister of Education - Waterloo - 10 February 2011

CODEP were honoured and delighted that Dr Bah, the Hon. Minister of Education, Science and Technology agreed to give the opening address at the National Festival of Literacy and Culture which was held at Waterloo between 10-12 February 2011.

We thought you might like to read that address in full, and it is set out below:

I am honoured that you have invited me to deliver the keynote address. When I received the invitation to this programme and saw London Mining on the attached Complimentary Card I thought I had been invited to witness the first iron ore shipment by the company. I was thrilled to find out that contrary to my thought this was indeed about education.

I am pleased to witness this new trend of cooperation between companies, NGOs and communities and would like to thank London Mining and CODEP UK very sincerely for this laudable initiative of funding the building of libraries in our communities.

I am compelled to believe that this initiative was borne out of the realization that literacy in our country is abysmally low. The reasons for higher illiteracy rate among girls are entrenched in our culture which relegates women and girls to the kitchen and the back yard. This trend is unacceptable; hence, Government and its partners have rolled out a series of interventions to salvage the situation.

Government education package is fairly comprehensive and makes provision for free primary education, which embraces the supply of core text books and payment of fees subsidies for every child in public primary schools, the payment of external examination fees for all candidates in public schools and our special package in support of girl child education are very deliberate and are designed to address this issue.

As a government, we believe that literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling, individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.

The government and the people of Sierra Leone are determined to build an enduring, meaningful, and functional educational system. A strong and functional educational system will promote citizenship, ensure democratic gains, and enhance socio-economic stability.

In today’s global world the role of libraries in providing unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources cannot be over stated. I hope that the magnificent facility that will be provided here will extend services beyond the physical walls of this building by providing materials accessible by electronic means, and by providing the assistance of librarians in navigating and analyzing tremendous amounts of information with variety digital tools.

Mr. Chairman, please permit me to recall the words of His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma when he said in the recent past, that the children of Sierra Leone are our diamonds and it is with quality education that we polish and give them value. A good education transforms childrens’ lives over time; it also has a significant impact on the standard of living and quality of life in their local communities and wider society. The importance of the teacher in this respect cannot be over emphasized.

Our children must be seen as an integral part of our society and the school is one of society’s institutions. To attempt to educate the child without some awareness of the nature of the society and its cultural values would be totally unrealistic.

There are various societal and cultural factors which influence the climate in which the education of any society takes place. These include the land and its people, the political, religious and aesthetic values, the national ideologies and aspirations as well as the changes in society which have either taken place recently or seen to be emerging.

Although these factors arise in the adult world, they inevitably influence the world of the child. They set the tone of all educational philosophies and also dictate their practice.

We can say that these cultural values and national aspirations provide the background environment from the day-to-day living that the child experiences and also for educational ideas.

I note at this point that educational policies generally reflect social policies. Consequently those of us in the business of education must, of necessity, examine continually the communities in which the education institutions function so that they are able to create the link that is so vital for the survival of the institution.

As renowned educationist (R S Peter) puts it, ‘Education is nothing more than the intentional transmission of what the society considers worthwhile to its young ones’. Things that are worthwhile are never static and this explains why our aims and objectives of education change from time to time.

I hope that this three day conference on Literacy and Culture will draw attention to a number of features of the cultural environment which bear on education in Sierra Leone. This knowledge, I believe, will enable all of us to function effectively as we prepare our children for life.

I challenge you to make a diagnostic analysis of our education policy or programmes as they relate to our socio-cultural circumstance.

Thank you very much and may God bless us all.

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