The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) is an institution established by the country’s 1991 Constitution. Its primary role is to secure, safeguard, protect, preserve the territorial integrity of the state and also participate in the development of the country.
The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, in striving to dispense their constitutional responsibilities, have placed emphasis on technical education. The RSLAF is fighting very hard to put behind its back the notion that the army has nothing to do with education.
At the Hockey Pitch Soccer Field, Wilberforce, a six classroom building, known as the Bee Man’s Preparatory School, has been erected to accommodate more space for additional number of pupils. The school houses 550 pupils who are struggling to acquire education. The school is also known as the Army Wives School, as the pupils are mostly children of army wives.
At the time nightwatch visited the school, the head teacher, Sam Kabba Kamara, identified major problems affecting the school. The problems are varied and wide ranging, and include insufficient textbooks, limited classrooms, and funding constraints, among others.
These problems are not only affecting the Bee Man Predatory School but also the secondary school at the Wilberforce Barracks.
The Services Secondary School is a Junior Secondary School with junior and senior secondary classes. It came into existence as a result of a project written by one of the teachers. The school is the only government assisted school in the community. Enrollment figure at the school has risen with over 800 pupils. Enrollment is still going on.
Principal of the school, Mrs. Kamba Massaquoi, has been running the school for years. She pointed out several factors persistently crippling the advancement of education in that part of Freetown.
“Teachers are not on salary, textbooks are old and the classes are not spacious”, she highlighted. Most of the text books, the principal continued, delve into American history and other issues that are of no relevance to the education of the pupils. It is a truism that teachers who are not on salary cannot pay attention to their work. The bulk of those teachers do not constitute a motivated workforce. Most times they arrive late for classes as they have to struggle to make ends meet. One wonders how these teachers survive.
Some pupils, among them, Hannah Williams, explained to nightwatch that she comes to school every day and expressed her eagerness to learn and contribute to society.
Hannah says classes are not ‘spacious.’
“We sit in classrooms that make it difficult to even copy our notes properly, “Hannah explains.
Similarly, Abdul Kamara, a JSS II pupil, explained about problems which are very similar to those of Hannah.
“These problems seriously affect our learning,” he said.
According to Abdul, the multifaceted problems spiral from primary to secondary schooling, dding that they also creep to enter into the army college known as the Armed Forces Technical Education.
The Army centre of higher learning was established years before the two world wars. After those wars, the school was transformed in line with the Armed Forces restructuring policy.
“Before this time, the school was meant for military personnel who cannot read and write. Now, we accept BECE and WASSCE candidates to enter the institution,” head of the institution, Lt. Colonel Richard Bockarie explains.
The institution’s head, Richard Bockarie, says the skills acquired from the school are of tremendous help to retired soldiers.
“They could use these skills to better themselves when they go on retirement. It is not like the past when soldiers were given just to Le500,000 and a bundle of zinc to start their life,“ Richard Bockarie says.
He also states that when they are not educated and go on retirement, they create a lot of social problems that border on the security of the state. The army colonel made reference to an incident in which a group of retired soldiers publicly molested the former Minister of Defence, Alimamy Pallo Conteh.
“All those things happen as a result or lack of education,” the army colonel said.
The army technical centre currently holds 50 pupils although there are plans to expand on the enrollment.
The Ministry of Defense is putting shoulders to the wheel to strengthen education, but problems continue to damage in the effort. T he goal is to wipe out illiteracy in the army.
“We can have a stable account if we have a stable army.” Richard Bockarie says. Bockarie puts the illiteracy statistics in the army at 3000 in 2007.
Currently, the army colonel says, the army has 1000 illiterate army personnel.