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Free Education Project launch: Statement by EU Ambassador Tom Vens

8 October 2020 at 18:03 | 1017 views

Statement by EU Ambassador Tom VENS on the occasion of the
FREE Education Project Launch
State House, 5 October 2020

Your Excellency,

Distinguished participants,

I very distinctly remember our first conversations when you took office Mr President. There was one recurring theme in these conversations: the need to get serious about fixing the education system and to offer a future to all Sierra Leonean children.

Today we are giving an extra boost to that ambition. To succeed, we need several ingredients: we need leadership and real commitment at the top; we need one agenda and an agreed plan; we need discipline and the pursuit of value for money in the delivery of that plan; and we need partnership. Mr President, these ingredients are in place and it is our duty to succeed.

The EU’s investment in education goes back many years including more than € 30 million just in the last years. Our contribution of € 13 million to the Multi Donor Trust Fund, is the logical next step.

We are making this commitment on the premise that this is the Government’s Flagship and the shared understanding that wastage, mismanagement and corruption will not be tolerated – they are the antidote for progress; we are making this commitment on the premise that investment in education is only meaningful if the focus is on quality and outputs and supported by a strong systems approach; we are making this commitment while embracing the notion of radical inclusion, with a strong focus on the most vulnerable – the girls, the disabled, the poorest, the disadvantaged and the stigmatised.

Today we also mark World Teachers’ Day and this year’s chosen theme is inspiring: “Teachers Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”. More than ever, also under the strain of the COVID pandemic, we must support teachers to attain the global education target of leaving no one behind and of protecting the fundamental right to education for all. When children miss out on education they are at increased risks of exploitation, violence, abuse and neglect. But when children enjoy quality education, they become voices in the establishment of democratic societies that respect human rights. Education prepares us, men and women, to become enlightened citizens.

Mr President, in the EU we know very well that if we unite, we are stronger. This is no different here and that is also why I am particularly pleased that we support the FREE programme, through a multi-donor approach. As EU we pledge to maintain a strong voice through this shared arrangement. We do this because we believe in a brighter future, one that empowers all children in Sierra Leone to realise their potential to help build your beautiful nation.

I thank you.

Photo: Tom Vens is third from left