The Southern Region Manager of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has described ‘Bribery’ “as a major deterrent to the attainment of quality education in Sierra Leone”.
Momodu Sittar made this statement while addressing over 900 pupils and teachers of the Saint Joseph’s Technical and Vocational Secondary School in a sensitization meeting dubbed “Meet the School Campaign” on Wednesday 16th February 2022 at the school compound, Mattru, Bonthe District.
Mr Sittar said that despite the huge resources Government and its development partners have directed towards improving the quality aspect of education it would be unattainable if it is inundated with corruption. He described education as the engine of a country’s growth because it is the hub where professionals from all walks of life are nurtured. He appreciated the efforts of many good teachers who remain selfless to impart the lives of pupils with the requisite knowledge and morals and affirmed the Commission’s determination to work with education stakeholders to build integrity systems in schools in order to restore dignity in the country’s education sector and punish rogues who benefit from illicit practices.
Public Education Officer Yangie Deborah Sesay said that, over the years, the country’s education system witnessed a gradual decline due to corrupt practices that are perpetrated by parents, pupils and teachers. She catalogued a number of prohibited practices that are of concern to the public and that can trigger investigation by the ACC- such as bribery for grade, demanding money for extra class, extorting moneys to collect report cards and illegal admission. She assured them of ACC’s resolve to continue to dialogue with education stakeholders, share integrity messages to pupils and remind teachers of their sacred responsibility to mould and look after the country’s human resources. Miss Sesay called on them to resist, reject, and report any incidence of corruption to the ACC.
Speaking at the engagement, ACC’s Senior Public Education Office, Abdulai Saccoh, recounted some of the Commission’s intervention to ensure the country’s education sector takes it respectable place amongst progressive nation across the world. Mr Saccoh mentioned that no single effort is enough to weed corrupt practices out of the school environment, noting that until citizens decide to pull together in one direction to beat corruption, progress in the sector would be short-lived.
Mr. Saccoh explained some of the offences in the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019. He admonished pupils to abstain from any form of academic malpractices because any person convicted of such offence would pay a fine of not less than Fifty Million Leones, or not less than five years prison term or both fine and imprisonment. He appealed to them not to turn a blind eye on corruption as the scourge does not only rob them of a better living condition but also leads to the collapse of social order.
The Senior Public Education Officer shared the reporting phone lines, explained the benefits of reporting corruption and assured them of confidentiality and protection from victimization.
The Principal of Saint Joseph’s Technical and Vocational Secondary School, Lahai Sowonie, heaped praises on the Commission for its timely intervention to help shape the attitudes and thoughts of the pupils. He assured the ACC of their unflinching support in combating graft and called on the staff and pupils to heed to the ACC messages, which he described as “food for thought”.