Sierra Leone: Teachers mobilise to elevate the profession through the Go Public! Fund Education campaign

published 18 March 2024 updated 21 March 2024

The Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) is on a mission to transform the landscape of education in their country. During a recent two-day Go Public! Fund Education national planning meeting, SLTU leaders rallied around a shared vision: to elevate the status of teachers and secure better working conditions.

Undervalued, underpaid, but undeterred

“We are undervalued, underpaid, and underestimated,” SLTU members expressed during the gathering March 12 and 13, yet at the same time they made clear their resolve to effect change that reverberates across classrooms and communities.

Prioritising teachers: a critical imperative

Key to SLTU's advocacy is improving salaries and conditions of service for teachers. Sierra Leone has approximately 82,000 teachers, yet only two-thirds are qualified. Approximately 20,000 qualified teachers remain untapped, exacerbating the teacher shortage.

Teresa Agnes Saccoh, Vice President of the Western Region of the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union, was clear on their demands. “For us to have quality education, the government needs to invest in teachers, especially in professional teachers. The Go Public! Fund Education campaign is very relevant to Sierra Leone because it addresses the teacher shortage.”

Awareness, advocacy, and action

During the two days of meetings, the SLTU charted a strategic course to move forward:

  1. Raising awareness: The first step involves disseminating the recommendations of the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession. These proposals are key to ending the teacher shortage.
  2. District-level engagement: SLTU leaders will engage with district representatives across the country’s four regions. These localised dialogues will bolster the union’s capacity to drive change.
  3. Allies and stakeholders: Collaborative efforts extend beyond union walls. The SLTU plans to convene meetings with allies and stakeholders, fostering a united front for public education.
  4. Parliamentary advocacy: The parliamentary education committee will be a crucial partner. The SLTU aims to amplify their voice and secure policy changes.

Pay Parity and Incentives: A Path Forward

In Sierra Leone, inadequate pay and challenging conditions perpetuate the teacher shortage. The SLTU embraces the United Nations’ recommendations, particularly those advocating for:

  • Salary Parity: Teachers’ salaries and benefits must align with those of professions requiring similar educational qualifications (Recommendation 36).
  • Incentives for rural and hardship settings: Experienced teachers willing to serve in remote areas deserve additional bonuses and incentives (Recommendation 11).
  • Phasing out contract teachers: Governments must take swift action to replace contract teachers with qualified personnel (Recommendation 19).
  • Recommendation 55 also echoed the demands of members in Sierra Leone. International Financial Institutions should end all public sector wage bill constraints and austerity measures that impact education spending, in particular teacher recruitment, retention, and wages. This recommendations is particularly important in Sierra Leone, a country that has been subjected to International Monetary Fund conditions on national budgets including wage constraints.

Go Public! Fund Education

Education International’s Go Public! Fund Education campaign is an urgent call for governments to fully fund public education, a fundamental human right and public good, and to invest more in teachers, the single most important factor in achieving quality education. Education unionists from around the world are rallying to this call, bringing the campaign to their countries and advocating for inclusive quality public education for all.