One does not need to be a soothsayer or witchdoctor or even a voodoo priest or priestess to comment without hesitation that the SABABU education project initiated by the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and implemented through various agencies is nothing but a beautiful sepulchre.
We have written it many times and we will write it today for the umpteenth time that the so-called “free education” for our primary schools is one of the most expensive in West Africa. Yes, it may be true that parents and guardians do not pay school fees for their children and wards but the amount of monies they pay for “little things” throughout the academic year are no doubt fortunes to average Sierra Leoneans (in fact are there average Sierra Leoneans? We don’t think so, because either you are up there or down there).
The government may want to convince us that it is doing its best to build more schools and put in place other educational infrastructures to up the rate of literacy in the country. But here again we found out that the SABABU education project, which aims at building more schools and rehabilitating old ones, is also a sham. Most of these projects, we are told by the Kailahun District Council chairman, Augustine Nyuma Kurtu, “never took off after foundation levels.” And even in some parts of the country where this project does kick-off, we see misplaced priorities because it does not make any sense to erect an eight-classroom block school at a village where there are less than 15 school-going children. And in other areas where the priorities are in place, we found out that the new beautiful SABABU buildings are there but do not have the teachers and learning material to make them meaningful.
And while we are trying to come to terms with this nonsense another beautiful nonsense (to borrow the phrase of our Desktop man) has reared its head, calling itself “Reference Fee” at the Njala University College in Bo. Apart from the uncountable number of pamphlets which are forced on students, the lecturers have now found a euphemistic RUF-style “Operation Pay Yourself” in the form of this reference fee of which, we are told, they have their own percentages!
Can you beat that? Lecturers giving out references like Christmas candies with the aim of cutting out enough percentages from the fees! We believe Sierra Leone is one of the few countries in the world where lecturers gloat when the bulk of their students get references in or fail their exams.
But we are not surprised at the downward trend of our educational standards because when education is by ‘Sababu’, it drops drastically. No wonder we have cascaded from the Athens of West Africa” to…please help us for we are short of epithets.