Today, Politicosl reported that the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in Sierra Leone said they would need Le44 billion for the payment of the West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Exam (WASSCE) in 2020. This budget will cater to about 172,000 pupils in all public schools in Sierra Leone.
The Ministry of Education announced during the presentation of its budget for 2020. Howbeit, this money could increase drastically after the Ministry of Finance instructed them to factor in pupils who will be writing the examinations in private schools.
The Deputy Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, Mathew Dingie, said government pays examination fee for every pupil for all three public examinations in Sierra Leone; NPSE, BECE, and WASSCE.
“We want to guide Education [Ministry] to make their budget comprehensive because as far as it stands, the government pays for all public examination for all public and private schools for the NPSE, BECE, and WASSCE. So where normally the discrepancy happens is when Education only submits for the public schools, but when WAEC sends us their claim, they take into consideration all schools. That is what we pay for, and that brings some difference when we try to do the accounting,” Dingie told journalists after the presentation.
“So, for now until a policy is taken on whether the government should continue paying for private school or not let us budget for everything,” he added
The WASSCE examination fee for a pupil is Le 270,000. Some 115,000 of the 172,000 pupils who sat in the last examinations will be rewriting them, after the massive failure in the WASSCE examinations this year.
National Projects Coordinator, Free Quality Education, Amara Sowa told Politico after the presentation that the only reason they did not factor in private schools was that their primary focus in drawing their plans was on public schools.
“The number we gave are all from public schools. Usually, we don’t recommend the payment of fees for private schools,” Sowa said.
But Sowa said they would make the necessary addition as requested by the Ministry of Finance.
This is not the only addition that will be made to the Education budget. According to their presentation, the Education ministry will need 500% more than the Le162 billion budget cap they were giving for the year under discussion. The gap between their budget cap and their actual budget is a difference of Le 527 billion.
However, this difference can be narrowed down, considering most of what they included in their budget are not amounts of money that they will be getting. Some of the money will go to the local councils since some education functions have been devolved as part of the local council devolution process.
One of the figures that raised their budget drastically is the payment of arrears to the West Africa Exam Council (WAEC). Education authorities say the government has not been paying a subscription for almost a decade. That debt accumulated to US$12 million.
Dingie said the Ministry of Education must work on a payment plan because the government cannot afford to pay all the money at once.
“They budgeted for all that US$12 million to be paid at a go, and we know that is not possible. So, we have advised them to go and develop a payment plan wherein we can pay over the next three to four years. Hence, we pay, and we continue to pay the current subscription. WAEC will be ok with that. But we don’t want to commit to paying all the money in one year for arrears that have accumulated over the last five to six years.”
Education is the flagship program of the current government. Last year the sector was given up to 21% of the budget, more than any other sector. Dingie hinted that this year, the sector might get around the same amount after some extra costs have been trimmed from their current projections.
He said, on the whole, the budget is comprehensive enough.
“So far, we are satisfied with the submission they made today; it is very detailed. They explained all the programs they have in the Free Quality Education and especially the other big programs that they undertake. We will look at them and see whether they are ok,” Dingie said.