Education Minister, David Moinina Sengeh Narrates Why His Partnership With American Yale University is an Excellent Collaboration

If you cut me, I bleed Crimson. We all do anyway but our partnership with Yale is an excellent example of policy and action collaboration between academia and governments.

Less than 3 years ago, President Bio of Sierra Leone went to visit Yale to establish links. We met the President of Yale, Peter Salovey, and engaged several faculty and departments.

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Soon after, several partnerships emerged. I started collaborating with Clare Lockhart of the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs at Yale. Over the last two and half years, her students have collaborated with my teams and other government departments to develop three amazing policies including a Guidance Counselling Framework and a Civic Education Framework. But allow me to speak about their work on Civics.

Together we developed a phenomenal “Values-Anchored Framework for Civic Education”. That work was done with MBSSE, NaCCED and others in and out of Sierra Leone. It was driven by President Bio’s call for the inclusion of Civic Education in schools. Not just did my team use the framework, our Research and Curriculum Unit under the leadership of Dr Yatta Kanu, with support and leadership from Kalilu Totangi and his Commission, developed a comprehensive civics syllabus. We then printed textbooks for all children and added Civics back to the syllabus. As we speak, millions of Civics books spanning Class 1 to JSS 3 are in the field.

In addition, we have trained teachers who have been training other teachers as well. We even wrote about it with GPE blog and other nations have been using our framework (my colleague ministers tell me).

Anyway, yesterday I went back to Yale and did three things:

A. I engaged the students of Clare’s class this semester. They are helping us assess our relationship and our approach to the reformation of WAEC. Amazing what practical policy can do for students.

B. I presented to a cross section of students and faculty from the Yale community. I spoke on the topic of “Transforming Education in Times of Emegencies”. While it seems 190+ countries were shocked with school closures during covid, in SL we were ready. In fact, we did what no one did or experienced!
1. We wrapped up our term before schools closed (and shut down schools on first day covid was reported).

2. We opened schools safely for exam classes and transitioned everyone with no covid outbreaks in schools. We supplied thermometers to all schools, hand washing stations, masks, dry ration to class 6 students, trained 2 teachers in emergency preparedness, etc. We deployed wholistic and comprehensive solutions.
3. We reopened schools for all students who only missed one full term though we provided radio teaching for them.

The results? We had more students return to school, we have gender Parity (fewer pregnant girls compared to the past and other countries) and we don’t report learning loss. In fact we’ve had several independent assessments consequently from FCDO in SSS and JSS, UNICEF in Primary and our 3 national exams. We registered more students and more passed. It’s not by magic. It’s hard work by many many people.

Sierra Leone is one of the few countries to expand its education financing in the time of covid. We had been here during the war and during ebola. We were ready, we planned with our Emergency Education Plan, and we innovated! We did more teacher trainings, increased teacher salaries in 2020 and did best teacher awards in 2021. Unlike the world, Sierra Leone’s teachers are in a better place post covid than before. I will share the talk later but the event was here.

Transforming Education in times of Emergencies: Perspectives from Sierra Leone

C. Then I met with President Salovey as a follow up from what he had with Pressident Bio. We explored more partnerships. Then he said something I wasn’t expecting. “WE need Civics here at Yale. You need to come and teach America how to engage in Civics. We need to learn from you.” He was serious. He mentioned how there was a civic breakdown on campus last week when a student shouted down a speaker he didn’t agree with. I couldn’t agree more- the world needs Radical Inclusion and Civic Education and Sierra Leone has a tonne of experience in doing this at scale thanks to President Bio. Those two are foundational for democracy.

We agreed to have a conversation with other university leaders which I’ll drive in my role as Co-Chair of the Advisory Group for the UN Transforming Education Summit and for the UNESCO High-Level Steering Committee.

I then had a discussion with Clare again about how we’ll get this done in and out of her class. Jackson will soon become a school and we are sure to send other Sierra Leoneans there to study.

I met with a section of African students at Yale. We spoke about everything from environment to microbiology to taxes, but I stressed the importance of them returning home to lead one day. There are too many critics. Too many naysayers. Too many people who criticize those politicians. Maybe some of these “good” people should just get in the ring. Not everything is perfect but the destiny of our development is in our hands. We need more young people here in the ring with us. In Sierra Leone, the best person to lead us is President Bio. The numbers don’t lie. Laying foundations take time but they are the structural inputs needed for long term investment. Is this politics? Yes, i hope its good politics because i know that we are better able to expand the walls and raise the ceilings by being in the room and seated at the table!

Come and bamba! Come into the room. Come sit at the table. Let’s expand these walls and raise the ceiling!

MORE ABOUT: David Moinina Sengeh


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