Often, I meet people who want to say they do not benefit from the Free Quality School Education policy in Sierra Leone. Firstly, everyone and I mean, every child in Sierra Leone benefits from FQSE.

Well over 2.6m children directly (through school fee payments and teaching and learning material supplies); over 600,000 directly through school means; over 300,000 through school bus use; over 82,000 teachers directly through payroll, subsidy stipends or teacher training; and everyone through curriculum and policy reforms. There are more ways, but today I want to focus on those who benefit from the examination fee payments.

During the 2021/2022 academic year alone, the government paid over Le 84 Billion as transition exam fees to WAEC for 472,999 candidates nationwide; that is 161.5k for NPSE, 128.8k for BECE and 182.6k for WASSCE. For NPSE and BECE, whether you are in private school or public school, the government pays for you. For WASSCE, the government paid for 183k out of 206k students (not those in private school) this year.

Is this a big deal?

Well, we all know the story of someone, perhaps the most brilliant kid in class who was flogged for not paying school fees on time (no more corporal punishment in schools). Their crime? For being poor.

We all know someone who was pulled out at a school assembly for not paying their exam fees or who didn’t get the school prize they deserved. Their crime? Poverty.

We all know someone who knows someone who dropped out of school after 12 years because they could not pay their exam fees to WAEC. I mean, just 3 yrs ago, this was still the case until the FQSE program.

Yes, there are many things we are working on but when you think about these students… and if you never had the privilege to know them or their stories, ask a friend… who today have a chance of 13 years public education that can open their way into a future of opportunities no matter their economic status, it’s ok to say, yup, President Bio is truly investing into the future of our country. In a country where literacy rate is 50% and adult female literacy as low as 10%, it is imperative to put education as our priority. And I do not say this because I am the Minister. I say this because I believe it to the core.

Is FQSE perfect? No but by God’s grace we are moving forward in unbelievable ways!