By S .U. Thoronka…….
The Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Mr. Nelson Williams, Deputy Director of Education Kenema District, Deputy Education Secretary Pujehun District, Council of Principals and School Proprietors from both districts were on Monday the 16th of June 2014 summoned by the Committee on Education to explain the reason/s for the fall in standards.
The Chairman of the Committee, Honourable Suleiman Muluku Sesay in his introductory remarks said, among other things that the committee was very much concerned about the proliferation of private schools without recourse to the Education Act of 2004, and the ineffective functioning of the Board of Governors in most secondary schools.
The Chief Education Officer Mr. Nelson Williams informed committee members that school authorities before now failed or refused to use the Chief Examiner’s Report. This he said has contributed to a large extent to the high number of pupils who fail exams nationwide, but the CEO was quick to note that there is significant improvement in the BECE exams from 41% to over 56%. He, however, attributed the development to the syllabuses made available to the Principals by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
Mr. Nelson Williams said that teachers are responsible for what he referred to as “educational coup” as some teachers ask pupils for money before scripts are marked. In what appeared to be a frank talk, the CEO noted among others that standards were affected as a result of sexual harassment of girls by some male teachers and noted that there are more male teachers than female.
He maintained that extra charges levied by school authorities which parents below the poverty line could not afford to pay also contributed to the poor performance of the pupils.
Answering questions from members of the committee, Mr. Williams maintained that, in order to solve the problem, the three prong approach should be applied whereby the parent, teacher and government will all be involved. He said why government delay in paying fees subsidy is because of the inflation of figures by school authorities before the end of the academic year. He noted also that even when the girl-child subsidies are paid, principals refused to make refund to parents/guardians who have paid in advance for their children or wards. The issue of untrained and unqualified teachers came up as contributing factor for the fall in standards.
The Deputy Education Secretary Pujehun District, Mr. Kargbo affirmed that there is marked distinction between a child and an adult in terms of maturity, and that there is no justification for teachers to sexually harass the girl-child. He said the course contents offered by teachers are not in line with the school curriculum, hence the poor results.
Mr. Kargbo acknowledged the fact that feeder schools have created more problems in the educational sector but hastened to advise that closing down such schools might not solve the problem immediately.
Other speakers included Chairman Council of Principals Kenema District who mentioned the delay in approving qualified teachers, adding that for the entire Kenema District only 139 teachers were approved for both primary and secondary schools. He noted that if the teaching profession is made attractive the issue of private schools will be a thing of the past.