In June 2020, World Vision’s leadership promised to support the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education and the Teaching Service Commission radio teaching programme. The organisation paid scriptwriters, and committed to procuring solar-powered radios for school-going children. The commitment is part of the organisation's support to the Government’s free quality education programme and the national COVID-19 response.
On 24th June 2021, representatives from 37 chiefdoms in the six districts where World Vision is operating gathered to witness the handing over of 34,000 solar-powered radios to the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education, at a ceremony held in Gbaama Sorogbema Chiefdom, southern Sierra Leone.
World Vision's Operations Director, Grace Kargbo in her opening remarks noted that the ceremony is to actualise the dream of the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education and World Vision. “Accepting the challenge to support the radio teaching programme is a giant leap in boosting the Government’s free quality education flagship programme", she said. "If children do not have radios, if they have radios and do not have batteries, or if they have radios with power and lack the required family support, they cannot benefit from the radio teaching programmes and this donation will be a mere waste of resources. To beat all of these challenges, the radios we are distributing are winding and solar-powered; bringing no cost to the families.”
Handing over the consignment of radios, World Vision's Interim National Director Sagane Thiaw informed the gathering that the event is national but there could be no better location than to have it in the community in full view of the beneficiaries. Sagane elucidated on World Vision's transition from providing relief in 1996 during the Sierra Leone Civil War to its present development programming. “World Vision is one of the leading international non-governmental organisations operating in the country, responding to the needs of communities in this COVID-19 period while it continues its development programmes", he shared.
Today, World Vision is intervening in six districts, across 37 Chiefdoms and implementing 28 area programmes. These are community development programmes with an average span of 15 years, focused on the well-being of children across multiple sectors including education, health and nutrition, child protection, livelihoods and household resilience, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
Sagane further shared that “these customised solar-powered radios will have immense effect as they will keep children busy and safer during this COVID-19 pandemic, as the country is now experiencing the third wave. Though schools are still open, the radios will complement the children learning at home as education does not end in the classroom. There is a need to take education to the doorstep of children in our operational communities."
Parents and teachers will also benefit from the radio teaching programme through the solar-powered radios. The devices will help prevent students, especially girls, from wandering outside of their homes during their free time and reduce their risk of being lured into teenage pregnancy. "Children will be provided with memory sticks loaded with various lessons, so that when education radio is off air, they can continue their learning with the memory sticks instead of going out and getting involved in situations that will hurt them”, shared Sagane.
The Interim National Director further beseeched the Deputy Minister of Education, who represented the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education, to ensure that the ministry supports community radios in remote communities to air radio teaching programmes and outlining other challenges of schools in remote communities. “Madam Deputy Minister, we are in Ahmadiyya Primary School Gbaama in Sowa Chiefdom. This school and several primary schools across our operational districts have challenges that require the attention of education stakeholders; the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School, the teaching service commission, international non-governmental organisations, national and civil society organisations, parents and community teachers", he shared.
A shortage of trained and qualified teachers and school supplies are emerging problems that need an urgent solution in remote locations such as Gbaama. This community and others deserve to have teachers who are trained and qualified and are on the Government’s payroll. "All these strides we make and money spent will not have its desired effect if the teachers are not trained and properly motivated". shared Sagane as he appealed for more support to schools in World Vision intervention areas, adding that the organisation is doing its, best but that other organisations and the Government can also make some add-ons.
He further appealed for internet connectivity to aid technological advancement in education, and made a case to the deputy minister for a duty-free waiver on the importation of education-related materials or equipment. “World Vision is doing a lot in bringing in materials that will support in the education, and health sectors from our offices in the United States and Canada but we are experiencing huge challenges in terms of duty-free. The savings the organisation will make will be used to support education, health and child protection sectors”, he noted, before concluding by thanking the children, paramount chiefs from the various chiefdoms, section chiefs, local council chairmen, and community stakeholders for honouring the occasion.
While accepting the consignment of radios, Madam Emily Kadiatu Gorgra, Deputy Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education, extended the felicitations of the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education Dr. David Moinina Sengeh to World Vision. She shared: “World Vision has shown that they have a vision for learning, for children, the environment and families in vulnerable communities. During the Ebola response before I became a politician, I was contracted by World Vision to support literacy in this very remote location. Though Ebola was raging, they did all they could to ensure that I was safe and I was able to deliver. You must consider your district blessed to have World Vision's support –they do not stop halfway; they ensure that communities are transformed before they exit”.
Madam Gorgra further intreated community stakeholders to ensure that their children embrace the radios and teaching programme, as they will play a huge role in their educational transformation. “What World Vision has done is to add credence to our education strides as a responsible Government. Some children are willing to learn but they find themselves in communities that are very difficult to reach or with untrained and unqualified teachers. Now with these radio sets, they can access quality learning through the radio teaching programme. It is our greatest desire as a ministry to train our teachers, but we have some constraints and we know that World Vision has also been supportive in that area. Therefore on behalf of the Minister, I am appealing that you continue the good work for the benefit of our children”, she added.
She concluded by emphasising the need to train more female teachers, as the current statistics show that the ratio between males and females is huge. She called on other organisations to emulate the good work of World Vision and assured the Interim National Director that his concerns for a duty waiver and education support to remote communities will be shared with the Minister of Education.
Eleven-year-old class six pupil Mary attends the Ahmadiyya Primary School Gbaama in Sowa Chiefdom. In her message of thanks, she appreciated World Vision for the gesture, noting that the radios will go a long way in supporting children's education. “On behalf of myself and all the children around the country, I want to say a very big thank you to World Vision for providing us with this much-needed gift. I was always yearning to listen to the radio teaching programme, but sometimes my family is without money to buy batteries so I missed several lessons. I believe with this radio my family will be able to support me to listen at no extra cost. World Vision, thank you for saving our lives. We will no longer be forced to go and play outside even as COVID-19 is raging. Because of this gesture, we will gladly stay home after school to join the radio teaching programme”, Mary shared.
World Vision continues to partner with the Government of Sierra Leone in its free and quality education programme and acknowledges that COVID-19 is still raging and children should not be moving around after school, but rather stay home and be gainfully engaged.