His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio has celebrated this year’s World Teachers’ Day at the presidential national best teacher award ceremony, organised by the country’s Teaching Service Commission.

“If a bare-footed, five-year-old village boy, who stared in awe and with great curiosity on his first day at school, today holds degrees from institutions of higher learning, can speak English and French, use technology, think critically, interact freely with world leaders, and is today President of this Republic of Sierra Leone, it is all because of the sacrifice, care, nurture, and patience of teachers,” he said.

He added that as a President, he had prioritised investing in people because it was the only enduring, inclusive, and sustainable pathway to developing the country, noting that central to that investment was the free quality education that was universally and equally accessible to all.

“Therefore, on this day set aside as World Teachers’ Day, it is all appropriate to celebrate, to honour, and to thank every teacher for all they have done. Through war and through pestilence, teachers have been at the very heart of our nation’s resilience and recovery. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, they kept schools open, imparted knowledge with characteristic selflessness, patiently prepared students for transitional examinations, and continued to mould and open minds as they are wont,” he said.

President Bio said it was important to honour those teachers who might have been mocked, ridiculed, and under-appreciated for choosing a profession that did not bestow instant monetary wealth upon them.

“Today is about recognising communicators, influencers, opinion makers, caregivers; people who serve with empathy; who mould character, instill discipline and respect; who empower; who give passions, imaginations, hopes, and dreams an opportunity to blossom,” he noted, adding that the day was also about thanking those who when children had doubts, made mistakes, were unsure and frustrated, would patiently stand by and assure them that the best was always in them.

Giving an overview of the selection process that led to the winners of the Presidential National Teachers Awards, the Chief Executive Officer for Teach For Salone, Madam Josephine Saidu said she was honoured and delighted to have been a part of the selection process, saying that many stakeholders like members of Council of Principals, Members of Parliament, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the Inter-religious Council and chiefdom stakeholders which she said made the process very transparent and credible.

The World Bank Country Manager, Abdu Muwonge, expressed gratitude and congratulated the government for what he called the huge accomplishments in the education sector, adding that the achievement of the country in transforming education was being echoed everywhere around the world.

“It is important to note that as we gather here today to honour teachers, parents too have a role to play to keep the children in school. Teachers have played a critical role in this country, he stated.

World Bank Country boss affirmed that the bank and other partners would continue to work together to improve the condition of service for the teachers, and make the learning environment more comfortable for all actors.

The Minister of Basic and Secondary School Education, Dr Moinina David Sengeh told the gathering that the Award Ceremony was a fulfillment of a manifesto promise in 2018 by President Julius Maada Bio, when he was a presidential aspirant.

Dr Sengeh noted that since the SLPP came to power in 2018, a lot of transformation had happened in the education sector, of which he said there had been more than a 30% increase in enrolment and about 22% annual budget allocation to strengthen education in the country.

“Our work and the progress have attracted more funding. Very recently the Global Education Summit in London, Sierra Leone is now eligible for a $40 million grant for the education sector. We have trained more teachers, recruited more teachers and we have empowered Inspectors of Schools to monitor teachers’ performance. We have done a lot, and more is to be done,” he assured.