By Amin Kef-Ranger
The Government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Basic & Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) has disbursed the sum of ($1.2 million) Fifteen Billion Seven Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million and Two Thousand Leones (Le 15,729,002,000) as school grants directly to 5,058 public schools running a full cycle primary education from classes 1 through 6.
It was learnt that the grants, based on data collected in March 2022, were disbursed on the 15th June 2022 as Performance Based Financing for Term 2 of the 2021/22 academic year, and are disbursed to improve various components of quality education at the school level.
According to the Education Ministry, the Government of Sierra Leone currently provides large scale support, including provision of teaching and learning materials, and financing (fee subsidies) to ‘Government’ and ‘Government-Assisted’ schools at all levels.
It was mentioned that, however, those resources are not always adequate to cover all the expenses and needs of beneficiary schools and ‘unapproved’ schools do not currently receive such mainstream Government financial support.
Stated was that it is worth noting that the Performance-Based Financing (PBF) school grants are innovative additional resource-support packages to schools that amplify specific learning and administrative outcomes. The size of the support is dependent strictly on performance metrics – the school gets more of the standard PBF grant if it improves student attendance, retention and progression and improves teaching and learning outcomes.
Schools with special needs and circumstances (i.e., unapproved or small schools, schools in poor communities, or schools with students with disabilities) also receive extra funds.
Guidelines for the use of PBF Grants are available in the PBF Manual on which all School Management Committees (SMCs) and Head Teachers have been trained. Parts of the resources could be used for payment of stipends to community and volunteer teachers, payment of staff bonuses based on performance, and supporting school operations.
The MBSSE said, as part of the project implementation, it has received technical assistance under the Free Education Project from the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovations (DSTI) to introduce the Open ‘Government to Person’ (G2P) framework to accelerate cash transfers to the schools.
That platform integrates the data collection on the schools’ performances on the PBF indicators, calculation of the grants, and transfer of funds to the schools’ accounts in real time in a secure manner.
It must also be noted that the Government of Sierra Leone Free Education Project / Multi-Donor Trust Fund is implemented by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education through the Free Education Project Secretariat and is supported by the World Bank (IDA), European Union, Irish Aid, Foreign Commonwealth Development Office, and the Global Partnership for Education.
Already, as a pilot from the collaboration between MBSSE, DSTI and the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, One Hundred and Fifty-Seven Million Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Thousand Five Hundred and Ten Leones (Le157,766,510) of the total amount was transferred to 58 out of the 5058 school accounts using the (G2P) payment mechanism.
It is expected that the automation and digitization will provide rigor, transparency and efficiency to the system when scaled in the future.