Public education on public education: inclusive rural development and (…)


By Dr. David Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Secondary Secondary Education, Sierra Leone

I had the privilege of joining the entourage of HE President Bio this past weekend as he visited communities in Kenema District. Beyond many tangible and valuable results: he commissioned a community center; opened a STEM university; opened a STEM center of excellence for girls; visited the Dodo dam; and got first-hand citizen experience on its human capital development projects. In public meetings, the chiefs spoke of having examination centers for the first time since independence in their villages; the young people explained how they harvest rice from the chiefdom farms; and the women thanked the government for sweeping advances on gender issues, including the Gender Equity Bill, Hands Off Our Daughters and the Radical Inclusion Policy.

In Blama, I met around twenty school principals where we got involved on tangible issues. They noted the impact of the outcome auditor; the early exit from the BECE (the first time since the start of the BECE in 1996 that the results were announced before the start of the school year); then asked for more teachers on the payroll.

Based on these engagements with the President and my side meetings, it’s no surprise that Kenema District has risen to the top of the rankings since our free quality school education program. For example

1. Kenema finished second at NPSE in 2021

2. Kenema was first at BECE in 2021

3. Kenema won the National Presidential Award for Best Teacher in 2021

A few people recently told me; “David, you’re too political now. Leave politics to the politicians.” These were said as I shared my updates on civic engagement.

If understanding people’s needs is what politics is …

If seeing the impact of our policies on the ground is what politics is:

If being inspired with the citizens by the president on the importance of the HCD and the protection of the environment, this is what politics is:

If sleeping in rural towns and getting stuck behind a truck on bad back roads in a convoy, this is the policy:

If eating with local actors and hiring people who had never seen a president or a minister, that’s the policy …

If serving the people is what politics is:

So yes, I drank the juice. Because for me my technical work is all of the above which is defined as political. So instead of telling me to stop being a politician, maybe it would make sense to update your ideas on what it means to be a politician:

For me, being a politician is making cool palm leaf glasses with a girl waiting to see her president:

Being a politician means engaging teachers and school principals in the community who do not have stores to continue providing teaching and learning materials:

Being a politician is talking to an illiterate grandmother about the value of education for her grandchildren:

To be a politician is to be inspired again and again by the President of Sierra Leone for his commitment to transformational and inclusive national development.

About Keneth T. Graves

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