Past governments in Sierra Leone had not paid the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) the attention it deserves as an organisation that covers all facets of development.
But that seems to be changing when Sierra Leone’s president Julius Maada Bio (elected in April last year) recently met with Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Director-General and discussed his government’s flagship programme, Free and Quality Education and other issues with her in Paris,France.
Indeed the free education program has been accepted and applauded by even the usually very critical Sierra Leonean opposition and civil society groups although it still needs more funding and human resources. Computerization of the country’s educational and other institutions is also part of the priorities of the Bio government.
Here is a report from Sierra Leone state media of what transpired when president Bio met with Azoulay:
His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has engaged the Director-General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay, on the significant impact of the Free Quality Education Programme and the establishment of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, DSTI.
During the engagement on the margins of the 40th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference, the President also disclosed his government had prioritised education as the foundation to support all other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He added that the investment in education was an investment into the future and not about winning votes, noting that the expansion of the country’s fibre optic was in readiness for digital education.
President Bio also highlighted the government’s commitment to improving heritage sites, biodiversity and culture in Sierra Leone.
On her part, the UNESCO Director-General commended the President for prioritising education, particularly access to universal education and girls’ education. She spoke about the ongoing collaboration between her organisation and the government on a diagnostic of the education system.
Ms Azoulay also informed the President that UNESCO would support various areas such as providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, support for planning and advocacy for more funding, support for teacher professional development and curriculum development and partner on Artificial Intelligence.
Earlier, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio also took part in a high-level panel discussion on the theme: “Youth Perspectives on Multilateralism”. During the discussion, he called for young people to be involved in the governance of the state and be agents of multilateralism.
Arolyn I Koroma
Author & Chief Editor