If anyone has been paying attention to happenings in Freetown, Paris and New York over the last four years and especially the last eight months, you’ll have noticed that Sierra Leone is playing a leadership role in Global Education across the board. It did not happen overnight. It happened over four years of intense policy reform, increased investment, sustained advocacy, and new and deeper glocal partnerships in spite of political and financial challenges.

Here are some specific examples where we have pushed ourselves to the limit, in pursuit of our shared goals, because we believe that an investment in education is the best thing a nation could do.

1. Financing: President Bio and Sierra Leone lead on the call for financing education (Sierra Leone is board member of Global Partnership for Education and President Bio led the voice of world leaders asking for an increase in domestic financing at the Global Education Summit in London in 2021). Sierra Leone puts its money where its mouth is by expanding the education sector budget to 22% during COVID, including raising teacher salaries 3 times in 5 years. We are doubling down and will invest $1 billion USD over next five years.

2. Gender Equality in Education: Sierra Leone achieved gender parity in schools over 3 years through its Radical Inclusion policy which complements the Free Quality School Education Initiative making school and examination fees free to parents; providing feeding to the rural poor, core textbooks books and other teaching and learning materials.

Sierra Leone hosted 14 African countries and several global organizations to develop the Freetown Manifesto for Gender-Transformative Leadership in and through Education. There are more girls in schools, taking exams and transitioning into technical and higher education than ever before. A girl pursuing STEM can access education for 17 years tuition free in public institutions in Sierra Leone.

3. Advocacy: Sierra Leone is the Co-Chair of the SDG 4 High-Level Steering Committee; Minister Sengeh is the Co-Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Transforming Education Summit; and President Bio is the UN Secretary-General’s Global Champion for Foundational Learning. Sierra Leone Co-Chaired the Transforming Education Summit- the largest ever convening of global leaders, civil society and youth actors on education. At home, the government holds regular consultations at all levels starting from the Presidency, to chiefs and with students and parents.

3. Monitoring: Minister Sengeh is Chair of the Global Education Monitoring Report to UNESCO which is the independent monitoring mechanism for SDG 4. Sierra Leone remains an active advocate for monitoring around the world. This also happens through its role on the High-Level Steering Committee. The Annual School Census is digitized and linked from 2015-2022. This data is made public for improved and community level monitoring.

4. Policy Reforms: From integrated homegrown school feeding, to integrated early childhood education, to Radical Inclusion, curriculum reform, school safety, school health, school catchment area, teacher guidelines and codes of conduct, and more; the Cabinet of Sierra Leone has passed more large scale education policy reforms over the last 4 years that supercedes the last 2 decades combined! And all these policies are cross sectoral and many are already in implementation.

5. Innovation: Sierra Leone launched the Education Innovation Challenge in 2019 to test, seed and scale Innovations. This has now expanded ten-fold with the largest education outcomes fund anywhere in the world ($18m). Hybrid solutions and mobile solutions are used millions of times by hundreds of thousands of parents and learners nationwide. Other innovative solutions including the OpenG2P digital public good, Digital Learning Hubs, Project Giga, are all geared to promoting Digital Transformation in Education in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone will work with Qatar, World Bank and other partners to test debt swaps for education sector financing- again pushing the boundary on policy and practice innovation.

6. Partnerships: Partnerships within government and across government; with private sector; and global research and financing institutions has brought tens of millions directly to Sierra Leone; led to academic research and pioneering new alliances like the Sierra Leone Alliance for Foundational Learning. The current GPE Compact in development; the additional World Bank IDA financing for Sierra Leone and the Multi-Donor Trust Fund will close the $230 million financing gap in our Education Sector Plan (22-26). Other partnerships with EdTech institutions and global policy think thanks complement bilateral relations with other countries providing new knowledge and expertise to our system.

From the following highlight events over the past four years:
– Goalkeepers, New York, 2018
– Global Citizens, Johannesburg, 2019
– Global Education Summit, London 2020
– Dubai Expos, Dubai, 2021
– TES Pre-Summit, Paris, 2022; and others, President Bio and his government have remained consistent, focused and committed to making Sierra Leone the place where anyone interested in accelerating learning outcomes can come.

We are hopeful and we are committed to the course of human capital development. There is absolutely no one in Sierra Leone today who has not benefitted from improved education services. We know there’s lots more to do and the results won’t be immediately apparent. However, the signals are clear that we are on the right path.
Every independent data and review indicates overall positive outcomes for learners (assessments like EGRA/EGMA show exponential improvements, etc) and the system (human capital development index, US MCC and other UN indices show improvements). We welcome others to come and study what’s happening in Sierra Leone and most importantly, come join us on this transformation journey!

It is possible and we are committed to accelerating towards the SDG 4 targets.

Ps- yes I largely focus only on Basic Education and there even more great things to celebrate in higher and technical education