As COVID-19 exacerbates an already severe learning crisis in Africa and the Middle East, innovative approaches to education are at the forefront of discussions. With this context in mind, we hosted our “Shaping Education for the Future” webinar earlier this month, as part of the Skoll World Forum online. The webinar focused on our new program supporting the Sierra Leonean government to scale their Education Innovation Challenge (EIC).
EIC is an initiative to tackle the learning crisis in Sierra Leone and is currently a $1.5 million three-year national pilot for 170 schools. Our joint program will help scale the EIC to more than 800 schools across the country and will be designed as an outcomes program.
Under the technical supervision of the Human Capital Development (HCD) Incubator at the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), the program brings together the private sector, academia, and government agencies to find new ways to improve learning at the primary school level. Rigorous evaluations will determine the relative changes in learning outcomes.
We were thrilled that the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) and Chief Innovation Officer at the DSTI, Minister Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, and Aissatou Bah, Head of Global Partnerships at DSTI were able to join the Skoll panel.
Aissatou Bah emphasized the need to scale solutions to provide lasting improvements in education: “We’re making sure that this is sustainable from the get-go, for us it is ideal and paramount to work with the Ministry [of Education], the Teaching Service Commission and other providers in the ecosystem to build our program.”
Minister Sengeh spoke about the strong partnership with EOF that has been fostered through development of the Sierra Leone program. He also highlighted the need for innovation to find the most effective interventions in the education sector. Minister Sengeh confirmed that funding for the program would be on top of the 21% of the national budget already allocated for education. “As a government at a cabinet level we [are] fully invested and involved in this […] Education is our flagship program.”
Minister Sengeh also shared how his ministry is adapting to ensure that children continue to learn during the coronavirus crisis: "A lot of what we are doing as a ministry is focusing on distance learning and [...] I imagine that different implementing partners [in EIC] will focus on out of school or mentorship or support [that] can work very well where there is limited contact. Our objectives remain the same whether kids are in school [or] not in school because in the crisis they still need to be able to read, they still need to be able to do math and they still need to be able to engage in critical thinking."
We were heartened to see such strong support for innovation in the education sector during the webinar. During these challenging times, ensuring that children have access to learning is more important than ever. We look forward to working with governments and communities to make this happen.
If you are an outcome funder, investor or provider interested in supporting the Sierra Leonean government deliver on its vision, you can contact us here and we will keep you informed of how the programme develops and invite you to early market engagements.