CEO of NP-SL Ltd Crowned Goodwill Ambassador
The Erudite Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Petroleum Company Sierra Leone Limited (NP- SL Ltd) Kobi Walker has on Tuesday 12th October 2021 crowned as Goodwill Ambassador for the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4(UNSDG 4); Quality Education in Sierra Leone at the prestigious National Petroleum (NP) Auditorium, opposite Cotton Tree. Applicable to his consistent input in the sector of education in Sierra Leone, the Ambassadorial title was conferred upon him in tandem with EDUCON21.
Ambassador Walker dilated on the topic “Role of the Private Sector in Promoting and Advancing the UNSDG 4 in Sierra Leone”. He updated that one week ago (5th October 2021) President Dr. Julius Maada Bio, the Government of Sierra Leone and development partners celebrated the World Teacher’s Day at the Freetown International Conference Centre recognizing teachers and their tremendous efforts in the promotion and advancement of education.
In a rather jubilant mood, he had this to say “Today, I am honored to deliver keynote address on the theme: Role of the Private Sector in Promoting and Advancing the UNSDG 4 in Sierra Leone. Education is a human right, which states have the responsibility to ensure. But they need not be the sole provider. Private involvement can increase financial resources committed to education and supplement state capacity to absorb growing demand while assuring standards. While there are various ways in which the private sector can be involved, a strong regulatory framework is vital to ensure high quality and equity, at the same time encouraging investment and competition. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4 or Global Goal 4) is about Quality Education and is among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in September 2015. The full title of SDG 4 is “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
It is worthy to note that the SDG 4 has ten (10) targets which are measured by 11 indicators. The seven “outcome-oriented targets” are free primary and secondary education; equal access to quality pre-primary education; affordable technical, vocational and higher education; increased number of people with relevant skills for financial success; elimination of all discrimination in education; universal literacy and numeracy and education for sustainable development and Global citizenship.
The private or non-state sector, in education can include independent, community-based, NGOs, faith-based organizations, trade union, private companies, small-scale informal providers and individual practitioners.
In a developing country like Sierra Leone, prevalence of extreme poverty, insurgency, conflicts and other factors has significantly reduced the progress of educational development as compared to many other developing countries in the sub-region. The good news is that, a lot of transformation had happened in the education sector, of which he said there had been more than 30% increase in enrolment and about 22% annual budget allocation to strengthen education in the country.
Government has attracted more funding such as Global Education Summit in London where Sierra Leone is now eligible for a 40$ million grants for the education sector. More teachers have been recruited and trained, more school inspectors have been empowered and more students are encouraged to stay in schools and colleges. Post University programs such as the National Youth Service has recruited and placed over 1,800 graduates into various institutions whilst providing national service and attracting employment. While government are, and should continue to be, the stewards of education systems, it is very important to acknowledge and understand both the potential of the private sector and the reality that non sector is supplying significant education services in many spheres in the country.
Private involvement in education can help to increase the level of financial resources committed to the sector and supplement the limited capacity of government institutions to absorb growing demand. There is also increasing evidence to suggest that the private sector is well equipped to meet the growing differentiated demands of specific groups, for example, religious ones-even when the state provides sufficient places in public schools and universities. Education is basic human right and government has the responsibility to ensure and provide this, but the state needs not be the sole provider. An education that acknowledges public and private providers and has accountability mechanisms to strengthen service delivery amongst the various education stakeholders.
Government can guarantee access to education through finance and private provision. Good ideas need to be piloted and subjected to vigorous assessments, the result of which should then be used to adjust programs accordingly and successful pilots then scale up as appropriate.
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Apart from providing corporate support to government through funding of educational programs and projects, the private sector has trained more students through internship and mentorship programs. Built more schools and universities over the last two decades and provided support to at risk and low earning communities.
As CEO of NP SL Limited, we have built schools for the Police, Military and have built good toilet facility for the Government Independent Memorial Secondary School. As CEO, we have squash courts at various schools (St Edwards, POW, FBC etc.)
In order to understand the role which, the private sector could play and realize the potential benefits that its involvements could provide, an understanding of how government is currently engaging with the private sector is required. Government has several options involving different financing and provision solutions such as the establishment of an independent private schools, government-funded private schools and privately managed schools”.
In his concluding statement, the Goodwill Ambassador pleasantly stated that through his support to various educational institutions and organizations in Sierra Leone, he is a co-chair of a special development committee of the University of Sierra Leone (USL) delegated with the responsibility to identify and seek funding for developmental projects and programs. He continued that whatever its apparent advantages, private sector engagement in education, nonetheless, requires a strong regulatory framework to ensure high-quality delivery and equity while at the same time encouraging investment and competition. The investment-oriented Ambassador enunciated that for too often, regulation is poorly developed and discourages private investment without any gain in educational quality. He says indeed, enforced standards are key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the private education sector and its credibility in the market. The newest Ambassador as he was fondly called went further to state that perceptions of the quality of private education are fundamental and could be easily damaged- bad publicity about private sector providers offering poor quality can harm the reputation of the whole sector. In a rather patriotic tone, the education promoter intimated that in a strong regulatory environment, holding providers accountable comes both from the government, as well as parents, students and communities in which the schools operate. He stressed on the fact that empowering parents, students and communities simply means that parents are aware of the learning or the lack of it, taking place in their child’s school. And they should also be able to use their voices to hold the school and government accountable regardless of their socio-economic background because it will have some effects on learning, teacher motivation, student attendance etc.
The young dynamic Initiator of EDUCON21, Ambassador and Chartered Manager Dr. Alex Bangura extended profound thanks and appreciation to President Bio for facilitating the Free Quality Education (FQE) and working towards achieving the FQE and combating challenges to achieve the desired outcome. He laid emphasis on the fact that to be educated is good and the essence is to influence society but if that is not done, and then education is misconception. Ambassador Alex affirmed that Ambassador Kobi Walker is determined to take the lead to liberate the system of learning in Sierra Leone and that managing our natural resources will go a long way towards national development.
The Master of Ceremony, Dr. M.Y. Bangura recognized the exemplary performances of Ambassador Walker and elucidated that quality education has started since year 2000 and to date. He hypothesized that Girl Child Education is improving and that by 2030; boys and girls should be competing freely. Dr. Bangura authoritatively stated that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) intends to train 1000 teachers across the country.
The astute Proprietor and Principal of Washington College of Management and Technology (WANTECH), Dr. James Matthew unveiled that WANTECH has been affiliated to the University of Sierra Leone (USL). He recommended that innovation should be adopted into the educational system in Sierra Leone and updated that for the FQE to be successful, three things should be done; infrastructure (transportation and starvation), human resource and curriculum planning. Curriculum development and planning are key towards sustaining the FQE. He ended by stating that it is saddened to know that university students could not work with MS Word.
However, Ambassador Ibrahim Alpha Moigua closed down the curtains with thanks and appreciation to all members present to grace the occasion.