Africa-Press – Sierra-Leone. Tucee Sarah Kollie, the teacher who emerged as the Best Teacher in Sierra Leone in the recent past has revealed how she started as a community school teacher in 2011 without a salary or stipend further mentioning how her passion for the classroom was the beacon that kept her going.
She continued that in 2019, she was among the more than 4,000 teachers approved by the Government of Sierra Leone and later went on to win the Presidential Best Teacher Award in October 2021 with a Cash Prize of Le 30 million.
Last December, she joined the Minister of Education for Basic and Senior Education to attend the Wise Summit in Qatar and the RewirED Summit in Dubai, both which are among the biggest Education platforms in the world.
“I felt overwhelmingly happy when I was informed about traveling with the Minister at an international conference. That moment I realized that gone are those days when teachers are left out and when the teaching field was just seen as a waiting ground for better jobs. I realized that the Government has overturned that. This is a turning point in my life and the turning point in the teaching profession,” said Tucee Sarah Kollie.
According to the Minister of MBSSE, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, one of the things that they aim to do as a Ministry is to include teachers in the work that they do.
“When the Ministry went to Harvard University and the World Bank for Strategic meeting in September we brought a teacher that was recommended to us by the National Council of Head Teachers. So when we have another opportunity to go to the Wise Summit in Qatar and the RewirED Summit in Dubai we invited the Presidential Best Teacher 2021 to accompany us,” said Dr. Sengeh.
Tucee started nurturing the dream of becoming a teacher when she was in Secondary School as she found joy in dictating their lesson notes to colleague students. She highlighted an instance in which she admitted to one of her teachers that she would like to become a teacher in the future and her teacher was astonished and regarded Tucce’s ambition as a novelty in her teaching career.
According to Tucce, she is not just a teacher she is an educator and a role model to children, so she doesn’t limit herself to the classroom. “There was a time when I became a nurse. Imagine teaching in a school without special facilities for children with special needs. I took up the challenge of engaging an organization called Vision Aid to screen the eyesight of pupils and provide those with severe sight problems with lenses,” she said.
For Tucee, her service as a teacher doesn’t stop at the school but at the community as well. “I am even going into the homes because you cannot teach or educate the child and leave the parents/guardians behind. So I was involved in community sensitization on how parents should care for their children’s education and health,” she said.
“Tucee is my hero, not just because she served her school every day for 8 years without being paid as a teacher and caring for thousands of pupils; she did it because she was committed to service and her community. She would visit the homes of pupils and ensure the less privileged were also included. After winning the award (which she proudly hangs in her living room), her school asked her to now teach Class 3 because it is a critical transition grade. Be like Sarah. Be a hero!” the Minister said.
Teachers make up 40% of the entire Government payroll and more than 4000 teachers have been placed on their right pay grade. More than 300 school heads have been regularized. Last year alone Government recruited 1,000 teachers. There are more than 36,000 Teachers on the government payroll and there are plans to add this number to 37,500 in the next two years.
In the build-up to the end of April 2020, there were concerns that the Government might not be able to fulfill its commitment due to the emergence of the ongoing Corona virus pandemic that forced many nations to reduce budgetary support to education. But the Government kept the promise and paid the 30% increase for up to 34,350 teachers across the country. The increment at the time meant that the payroll for teachers increased by Le 13,45 billion, from Le 42.95 billion in March 2020 to Le 56.40 billion in April 2020.
More than 500 Principals and Vice Principals have also been appointed between August 2020 and November 2021. All were previously either Acting positions or vacant. The Government is investing in school management and leadership.
“I am a community teacher and I taught for over five years without salary, and in 2019 I was fortunate to be among the more than 4,000 teachers that were approved by the Government. Six of us were approved in my school and that served as a motivation to us. Also, the learning materials they gave to us as a result of the FQSE make learning very easy for the kids,” explained Alhaji Mohamed Sesay, a teacher at Konta Kuma Senior and Junior Secondary School Port Loko District.
Meanwhile, Tucee regards the decision of becoming a teacher as the best she has ever taken and remained grateful for the leadership of MBSSE. “The children don’t believe in what you know until they believe that you care for them, especially beginners in primary schools. Dealing with beginners, they need to have confidence in you and truly believe that you care for them to foster easy and quick learning,” Tucee said.