On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: Nar party politiks put we behen

Sometimes we take two steps forward and three steps backwards in our governance and developmental strides. That is because we have compatriots who take great delight in drifting from the truth and the more they do this the more they hate those who speak the truth.
With the free quality education initiative kicking off in September, conversations among citizens remains divided. Those who oppose the program do so because of their partisan stance and throw objectivity to the wind. We, as a nation, need to take this program seriously and support it.
Over the weekend, the main criticism of the Miss Sierra Leone Beauty Pageant was largely the contestants’ inability to articulate their thoughts in English and even understand the questions. We have people who have university degrees but still have issues with fluency of language. All this begins at the school level.
The 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) led by Statistics Sierra Leone with support from UNICEF and the Government of Sierra Leone has some interesting data on women and children. Although it says school attendance has improved, we still need to do more to this end. At the primary school level we have 81.8% attendance, junior secondary is 36.2% and for senior secondary school the attendance is 26.6%. There is still a huge number of our children who are of school-going age but are out of school and a large percentage of our children have dropped out of school. Of course, the situation is dicey when it comes to the pre-school or preparatory years. Only 11.5% attend early childhood education classes. These statistics are appalling.
How many people care about truth and honesty? Take the judiciary, which we depend on to vindicate honest people when they are wrongfully dragged to court. What happens? The legal profession is not anchored in morality, so he or she argues the case on the merits of evidence and how well he or she can argue and convince the magistrate or judge.
I well remember in the early 80s when two Fourah Bay College students were arrested for allegedly stoning and breaking the windscreen of the then sitting Vice President. At the time, the majority of our police personnel had very low educational levels. The lawyer who defended the students won the case because the prosecuting police officer could not speak proper English and could not distinguish between the words “opposition” and “apposition”.
It is sad to say but it is true that partisan political fanaticism has kept us behind like King Fisher sings in his hit song, “Nar politiks don put we behen.” The political sibling rivalry that this nation has seen throughout its history has been between the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). We have never had a viable third force to challenge either of these two parties. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), National Grand Alliance (NGC) and Coalition for Change (C4C) have all tried but did not succeed in uprooting one of the main political parties. What is interesting is that these potential Third Force Parties sometimes lose their key members to one of the two main parties. It happened with the PDP when Ernest Koroma left and gunned for the APC flag-bearer position. He later won the Presidency. In the case of PMDC, Mohamed Bangura left the party, formed the United Democratic Movement (UDM). He later abandoned the UDM and joined the APC.
This trend points to the fact that the APC and the SLPP will be exchanging power for a very long time to come. This definitely is the plain reality in our polity, whether we like it or not.
Now what do we do with these two leading parties, if no other party can beat them? If you ask me, I’ll tell you. Let us support them to practice good governance and follow the rule of law with all the accompanying tenets. On this score we saw how the Constitution of the APC led them to both sins of commission and omission.
Even where the national Constitution advises that parties should adhere to sound democratic principles in their systems and processes. For their part the SLPP spent years haggling over leadership, which belies latent loop holes in their modus operandi. In short, both parties have flaws although of different chemistries.
So, what do we do as a nation? Do those supporting the APC and the SLPP fight to bring down the other when the opponent is in power? No! What is deepening the animosity among the two main parties is their erroneous thinking that the country’s political life is in their hands and theirs alone. At campaign time it is always the APC and the SLPP that claim to have all the solutions to Sierra Leone’s myriad of challenges. They are voted in and when they leave office we see the two steps forward and three steps backwards!
Of course, there is a vast difference between campaigning and actually governing a state. Also, not all that took part actively in a Party’s campaign are placed at top positions in Government when they win. Having said all this, what do we do with the SLPP that is now in power in a very difficult circumstance?
Thank God the heavy rebuttal from the APC of no wrong doing, has simmered down a bit perhaps mainly because of the many voices at home and abroad shouting against impunity and that people holding public office should account. One interesting thing about accountability is that it does not come voluntarily; it has to be prodded, cajoled and worked on.
Given that the Government has launched the free quality education program what we need do is whole-heartedly support it for the potential benefits it offers to our children and grandchildren. I find this flagship program very strategic as there can be no development without education. Most countries that are highly developed have high levels of education. Also, the program touches almost all households.
Perhaps we need to look back into the administration of the schools that either aided or marred the successful running of the education sector. For this the most credible information is from the various Audit reports over the years. Generally, people have the propensity to be averse to change. With the free quality education (FQE), we expect school administrators to adhere to the new dispensation. In fact I think the program will make things better and easier for school administrations. Now, fees and subsidies will be paid in advance into the school accounts. No more slow-flow of fees like it used to be.
Like I wrote in a previous article the structures that support the running of schools like the School Management Committee, the Community-Teachers Association and Boards are vital. The school administrators should really visit the Audit reports on education. The 2013 Audit report had this to say, “…we continue to believe that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) has done little to ensure that corrective action is taken to address administrative and financial management in the secondary school system.” The Audit report also said that the payroll administration in secondary schools was weak. It is stressed that the systems have to be strengthened in order to make effective the delivery of educational services.
The role of the public service is to deliver goods and services with integrity and economy as well as with efficiency and effectiveness. In these efforts, Civil Servants are to comply as approved by Parliament. The Audit Service expressed concerns over how government expenditure is accounted for and equally with the orderly and equitable collection of government revenue from all sources.
We need to support the new education program in order to turn around the dire education situation that currently exists. Like the SLPP Manifesto said, only 13% of children between 3 and 5-years are enrolled in pre-primary level. Enrolment rates drop from primary to secondary. In 2016, 34.5% of children between 12 and 14-years did not attend school. At senior secondary level, 70.5% between 14 and 17-years are not enrolled in school. After the budgetary allocation, the actual disbursements are usually are lower thereby stifling effective implementation and impact. Bear in mind; the task ahead of us can never be greater than the power within us. Go, Go, Go… education!
By Beny Sam
Wednesday August 29, 2018.

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