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10 Things to learn from DSTI and UNICEF’s Hackathon

Over the past decade, companies across industries have digitised their operations and processes. Even now, businesses are employing artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline workflows and supply chains. 

As a result, today’s job seekers require specialised skills to help them stand out from the crowd. While some colleges, universities and training providers have modified or expanded their curriculum to meet the growing demand for digital know-how, many educators struggle to provide the essential skills students need.

In an effort to prepare young tech enthusiasts for tomorrow’s fast-paced digital job market; DSTI and UNICEF have staged a Digital Public Goods Hackathon to bring together young people from different backgrounds to collaborate and build digital solutions in relation to improving online public services.

Here Are 10 Key Takeaways From The DPG Hackathon; 

  1. Increase awareness of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s (4IR) career options for students.
  1. Contribute to human capital development by targeting 700+ students. 
  1. Improve critical thinking skills for young people venturing into the tech space.
  1. Fostering experiential learning among tech enthusiasts.
  1. Expanding the student’s worldview through extended discussions and Q&A sessions.
  1. Conducting Practical training for students with an introduction to 4AIR skills (data science, software development artificial intelligence, communications in tech, etc.) 
  1. Foster a stronger bond between student DPG champions and DSTI by increasing the awareness of open-sourced environments in Sierra Leone.
  1. Collect data that helps DSTI understand aspects of local culture that stereotype gender roles and prevent young girls from embarking on a career in STEM. 
  1. Encourage students to practicalize theories and engage in brainstorming sessions.  
  1. Help students develop a critical intellect for creative problem-solving.

Digital transformation is already gradually coming into all spheres of life. Every day we feel the importance of remotely accessible and community-friendly public services, which are critical to providing seamless, convenient and transparent services to people, especially for the most vulnerable groups of population.” David Manley, Lead Project Coordinator, DSTI.

What Are DPG’s?

Digital public goods are public goods in the form of open-source software, data sets, AI models, standards or content that are generally free and contribute to sustainable national and international digital development to tackle real-world challenges.

Learn More Here 

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Sierra Leone’s Team Lorem emerge as 1 of 20 country teams to win Generation Unlimited ImaGen Ventures Global Youth Challenge

The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Sierra Leone, and the  Ministry of Youth Affairs (MoYA) is pleased to officially celebrate the young innovators who represented Sierra Leone at the Generation Unlimited imaGen Ventures Global Youth Challenge. Team Lorem competed against 10,000 global submissions from 37 countries and won 15,000 USD in seed money and mentorship for their e-Learning intervention.

The team of three (L-R Abdul Rahim Jalloh, Emmanuel Kamanda & Lovetta Bangura) comprising of 3rd Year students from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, pitched the intervention of the “EASY S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) SERVER’‘. 

The easy stem server is a database server which gives college students access to massive S.T.E.M learning content offline. The intervention received high commendation for its unique business model which laid premium on affordability, reliability, and personalised content curation as its enduring hallmarks.

The announcement which took place at the COP27 Climate Summit in Egypt on the 10th November 2022 was live-streamed at a well-attended event in Freetown. The star-studded audience featured Government Ministers, Students, Civil Society Activists, Private Sector Executives, Representatives from Non- Governmental Organisations,  Journalists and many more.

Speaking on this amazing feat, Mohamed Orman Bangura, Minister of Youth Affairs, commended the participants for making the nation proud on the world stage. He also pledged the government’s commitment to building youth capacity and cementing hard-won gains in youth affairs. He continued by saying that this win is a testament to the fact that the government’s youth-centred agenda is bearing fruits. 

“It is a joy to see young people embracing the wave of opportunity, growth, and progress that technology offers. Interventions of this nature set the tone for a more extensive and robust youth agenda. Congratulations to Team LOREM. We are proud of you.” – Dr. Sulaiman Braimoh, UNICEF Representative In Sierra Leone.

“DSTI is grateful for the continued collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Youth Affairs. The Generation Unlimited project aligns with the Government’s flagship Human Capital Development agenda. The success of these young people shows our relenting commitment to transmit the message of hope and development through education for every child in Sierra Leone” – Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer,  DSTI & Minister of Basic Education.

After an exciting event, Team Captain, Abdul Rahim Jalloh, was overjoyed;

“I am thrilled to have been part of this transformative experience, especially at a time when Africa longs and thirsts for a generation of creatives. I am very proud of our team, and all we have been able to achieve thus far. Big Thanks To DSTI, UNICEF, GenU, and MoYA. We are very excited for our next chapter.” – said Abdul Rahim Jalloh, Team Lead, LOREM.

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Project Giga; Redefining Digital Education for every school in Sierra Leone.

It’s a hot Friday afternoon, and lunch break at the Dr. S M Broderick Municipal school is set to begin. Within seconds, after the bell tolls, the air is buzzing with throngs of excited school children rushing to annex the most coveted spots on the playground. 

Children At Play During Lunch Break

Whether this excitement is in anticipation of the thrills of life at home on weekends or whether they were just happy to be out in the open enjoying their favorite pastimes is anyone’s guess. 

Our team, however, comprising UNICEF and DSTI staff, had a different reason for being excited. The project to connect 11,000+ schools to the internet across Sierra Leone had begun, and here we were finding out how this intervention is amplifying EdTech and improving learning outcomes in the first three connected schools; Dr. S. M Broderick Junior Secondary School at Ferguson Street, Saint John’s Primary School at Savage Street, and Mabella Municipal Primary School at Sani Abacha Street.

Children In Class 3 At The Dr. S. M Broderick Junior Secondary School

Project Giga is a global initiative launched in 2019 by UNICEF and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to connect every school worldwide to the Internet by 2030. With 2.9 billion people still offline and 96% of these people living in developing countries, such an intervention comes as welcomed news, noting that the lack of connectivity could significantly diminish learning opportunities for children in underprivileged communities and limit the ability to fulfill their potential in the coming years.

Children In Class At The Dr. S. M Broderick Junior Secondary School

The Government of Sierra Leone, as part of its Medium Term National Development Plan (2019-2023), seeks to not only address traditional challenges in the education sector but equip young learners with the skills and tools needed to be productive in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). This objective perfectly dovetails with the larger agenda of achieving its Human Capital Development aspirations, especially in skills acquisition and enhancing the overall quality of education in the country. 

Computer Lab At Saint John’s Primary School Provided By Bridge The Digital Divide Also Known As ST Foundation

“Connecting schools allows children to develop digital skills and enhance access to online learning content. In the process, schools can also become anchor points for surrounding communities: if you can connect the school, you can also connect local businesses and essential services.  This creates opportunities for service providers to generate revenue from paying users, making connectivity more sustainable and enriching the local digital economy” – Norman Muhwezi, Innovation Specialist, UNICEF.

A Child In Class At Saint John’s Primary School 

Speaking to the children at Saint John’s school, one recurring theme is that the internet represents more than screens and keyboards; for these children,  the internet literally translates to information, choice, opportunity and most importantly hope for a brighter future. When asked what they’ll do now that they are connected to the internet, one kid excitedly exclaimed “EVERYTHING”.

Mrs. Florence Collier in charge of Class Three (3) Red at the Dr. S. M Broderick Nursery, Preparatory, and Junior Secondary School stated:

“As one of the first beneficiaries, I am deeply moved and strongly in support of this initiative to provide free internet to every school across the country. This will bridge the digital divide with access to teaching and learning materials, particularly for teachers to keep up with contemporary techniques. For instance, young children learn better in fun and exciting settings, so with the installation of this internet, I can download nursery rhymes and play them in class for the children. This initiative will spark creativity in young children for years to come”. 

Mrs. Florence Collier, Class 3 teacher, S.M. Broderick  

Following the successful connection of these three initial schools, Project Lead for Giga at DSTI, Hafsatu Rakie Sesay, indicated that the project’s next phase would involve connecting 39 schools, particularly in the provinces.

DSTI prioritizes human capital development as one of the key pathways for achieving the goal of transforming Sierra Leone into an innovation and entrepreneurial hub. Our approach to digital education is based on the core principles of Universal Access, Radical Inclusion, Accelerated Service Delivery, and Quality Learning.  Our entire team feels incredibly passionate about this, and there’s much enthusiasm, energy, and hard work currently being invested in making sure the project makes the desired impact”, she concluded. 

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SORA Technology joins the support of the Government Of Sierra Leone in quality health care delivery

On December 24th, 2021, the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), and Njala University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SORA Technology, to support the government of Sierra Leone’s initiative to improve health care delivery through the use of drone technology, for the delivery of life-saving medical supplies. 

The MoU, titled “ESTABLISHMENT OF MEDICAL DRONE INFRASTRUCTURE IN SIERRA LEONE”,  solidified the common interest in improving health care outcomes, and the use of digital technologies to catapult the country’s human capital development. 

DSTI’s Project Coordinator and 4IR Lead, David Manley, had stressed on collaborating with multiple partners to create enabling environments to seed and test innovations and develop human capacity to effectively engage with these technologies in a Sierra Leone centric way. 

Since the inked MoU, all parties are in discussions geared towards establishing a national Drone and Data Academy, to build local capacity, as well as skills development for young people in the areas of aerial imagery analysis, building and operating drones. 

“Since the inception of the drones project at DSTI, the vision has always been to create the building blocks for the growth of the national drone ecosystem. With the recognition that the players in that space are many and their interests are varied, collaborations like this are all the more necessary for the growth and strengthening of the ecosystem.”- David Manley.

A research team from SORA Tech has also been utilizing the drone corridor, located at Njala University’s Mokonde campus, for testing and conducting further research on Malaria Control so that they can support the progress of Malaria Control Strategic Plan of Sierra Leone.

“We SORA Technology have been providing a new service that can detect and treat high-risk breeding sites of mosquito larvae, using drone and AI. The MoU with DSTI and Njala University strongly accelerated the project, from speedy tests for technical details to collaboration in building original AI. Localization of our technical knowledge is one of our top priorities for sustainable operations of our service, through which we would like to contribute to encourage various innovations and improved healthcare systems in Sierra Leone.” – Masaki Umeda, Africa Business Lead.

SORA continues their ongoing collaboration with HealthGrid Sierra Leone to provide access to electricity, internet connectivity, and other essential services to off-grid health facilities in the country, organized by USAID Global Development Alliance (GDA) and managed by a multi-sector consortium, including the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. 

Next Steps:

  • SORA will be building capacity by training Sierra Leonean on drones in collaboration with DSTI and Njala University.
  • Design and test drone technologies across multiple use cases in Sierra Leone.

About the Sierra Leone National Drone Corridor

Sierra Leone’s drone corridor is one of six supported by UNICEF in the world. Launched in November 2019 by DSTI, UNICEF, Njala University, Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority. As a sandbox where industry, universities, and individuals can test the use of drones for imagery, connectivity, and transport. It has so far provided opportunities for learning and exploration of the use of drones in Sierra Leone and continues to work on creating research opportunities for students and fellows.

About Njala University

Njala University (or simply Njala, as it is fondly called), is a rural comprehensive public research university in Sierra Leone, is committed to providing the highest standards of excellence in higher education in Sierra Leone and beyond, fostering intellectual and personal development, and stimulating meaningful research and service to humankind. Njala University has had a rich history since its establishment in 1964 as a university college based on the model of the American Land Grant University. Since then, it has metamorphosed into one of the leading universities in the country, preparing undergraduate and postgraduate students for careers in a wide variety of specializations including Education, Agricultural Research and Extension, Agricultural Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Community Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Law, Natural Resources Management and in Information Technology, among others. Njala University is a multi-disciplinary university with three campuses–the Njala campus in the Moyamba District, the Bo campus in the Bo District and the newly established Bonthe campus in the Bonthe District. We also operate a location in Freetown.

About SORA Technology

SORA Technology is a Japanese company that utilizes drones and air mobility to promote social transformation after the pandemic of COVID-19. With the purpose of the realization of Universal Health Coverage and Digital Transformation in Africa and Asia, we build and operate drone-based infrastructure, including their flight management systems. We contribute to solving the problems of inaccessibility and inefficiencies by developing completely new infrastructure centered on drones not only for safe, reliable, and timely transportation of goods but also for the effective management of digital information.

Mariama Rogers

Communications Lead 

The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation 

E: mariama.rogers@dsti.gov.sl 

P: +(232) 75709963

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DSTI, UNICEF and MBSSE Train 84 Education Stakeholders across 4 Districts on the use and Benefits of the Learning Passport

The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic & Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) and the  United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)   delivered a four (4) day training to 84 senior education stakeholders on the use of the – MBSSE Learning Passport (MBSSE-LP). The training took place across four districts; Port Loko,  Makeni, Bo and Kenema from the 26th – 30th of August 2022.

(DSTI’s LP Project Lead, Bani Forster Gives LP Overview Before Live Demo)

This training of education stakeholders promises to enhance examination preparedness amongst school children and improve general learning outcomes nationwide. This is one of those rare occasions where the promise of practical solutions is being shared with those who need it most.

(Training Participants With Staff From UNICEF, DSTI & MBSSE In Port Loko)

From the very start, the training which featured presentations on varied use cases and practical breakout sessions on the use of the platform held the promise of exploring a new frontier in digital education and dispel myths about leveraging tech for public education in Sierra Leone.

(Janice Williams, UNICEF’s LP Coordinator, Aiding Participants With The Mobile LP During Breakout Session In Port Loko)

The Learning Passport (LP) is a UNICEF and Microsoft-supported digital education platform that provides online, offline and mobile access to educational resources via technology devices. Learning Passport (LP) forms part of UNICEF’s ReImagine Education agenda under the flagship program Generation Unlimited

(UNICEF’s Innovation Officer, Janice Williams, Making The Opening Statement In Port Loko)

“Projects that advance digital learning like the Learning Passport, Digital Learning Hubs (DLH) and Giga provide the unique opportunity for Sierra Leone to adopt a dynamic, fluid and progressive approach towards innovation and digitization’’. – Janice Kaday Williams, Innovation Officer, UNICEF.

In line with the Government’s Free Quality School Education (FQSE) Programme, the MBSSE LP looks to make learning opportunities accessible, equitable and available on a large scale. The platform was launched in February 2022 and has recorded a consistent increase in its use with over 10,000 registered users. 

(Training Participants With Staff From UNICEF’s, DSTI & MBSSE In Bo District)

‘‘Building sustainable solutions to address critical skills deficits and prepare young people for a fast-paced digital future remains one of our compelling priorities at DSTI. The MBSSE-Learning Passport seeks to equip learners with digitized learning materials, past questions and most importantly mock exams with automated results.’’ – Jasper Sembie, Head of Operations & Finance, DSTI.

The training brought together personnel from the Teaching Service commission (TSC) and senior education staff from the respective districts for extended discussions on how this platform can be integrated into the learning process and used by school children for improved performance in public examinations. This will particularly provide access to quality learning resources for children in less privileged communities and help parents save money previously used to purchase past exam questions.

(Training Participant From TSC in Makeni Making A Contribution)

Speaking on the outcome of the trainings, Regional Coordinator (North) FSQE, Mr. Allieu Dausy Wurie and Director of Curriculum & Research MBSSE, Mr. Osman Kamara jointly emphasised that the training ‘is testament to the shared will and unsullied commitment between government and its development partners to increase access to quality learning opportunities in Sierra Leone. We will ensure that the knowledge acquired from this training trickles down into communities’’.

(Director of Curriculum & Research at MBSSE, Mr. Osman Kamara, Outlining The Goals of The Training in Port Loko)

NEXT STEPS

When asked “What’s Next ?”,  LP & DLH Project Coordinator at DSTI, Bani Forster,  confirmed that the wider team is currently holding consultations on the possibility of upscaling the training to include teachers and cover more provincial areas for targeted impact.  

He further explained that three (3) new learning hubs are set to be opened and these centres will provide users with access to the internet and computers where the LP can be used with ease and convenience.

“Learning Passport has the latent potential to redefine existing notions about the role of tech in accelerating learning outcomes. Our goal is to provide every child with choice, opportunities and quality education. These training sessions revealed so much excitement, positive energy and avenues for development; digital learning in Sierra Leone can only get better from here onward.” – Bani Forster, LP Project Lead, DSTI.

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Sierra Leone Organises First Mining Community Innovation Challenge Hackathon 

Freetown, September 27th, 2022—With the goal of creating innovative opportunities and driving sustainable skills development for youth, the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the BHP Foundation, the National Minerals Agency (NMA), and Sensi Tech Hub, will host Sierra Leone’s first-ever Mining Community Innovation Challenge (MCIC) Hackathon. The event, part of the IFC’s From Disclosure to Development (D2D) Program, will be held September 27th–29th 2022, from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm GMT at  Sensi Tech Innovation Hub in Freetown. 

The focus of the three-day hackathon aligns with the theme of this year’s International Youth Day, “Intergenerational Solidarity; Creating a World for All Ages.” United Nations Secretary-General António- Guterres has highlighted the importance of action across all generations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), leaving no one behind.

Specifically, the MCIC hackathon targets innovators who will develop sustainable and data-informed solutions for challenges facing Sierra Leone’s mining communities. Participants will identify solutions in several key areas, including:

  • Community engagement and social responsibility
  • Financial transparency and economic advantage 
  • Youth employment
  • Health and safety 
  • Land management and regulatory compliance 
  • Equal opportunity for women and girls in mining communities 

“IFC is delighted to support the government of Sierra Leone through the From Disclosure to Development program to strengthen the digital entrepreneurship ecosystem, with a focus on mining communities,” said Alexandra Celestin, IFC’s resident representative for Sierra Leone. “In line with IFC’s strong commitment to supporting sustainable mining, as well as the country’s youth and entrepreneurs, we hope that the Mining Community Innovation Challenge will support the development of innovative, data-driven solutions that will improve the well-being of people in mining communities.”

The event is open to community representatives, stakeholders, NGOs, development partners, and industry professionals, including tech developers, data analysts, media content creators, and entrepreneurs. The format is designed to encourage dialogue and collaboration to collectively map out ideas and development solutions to mitigate key challenges. 

The hackathon also presents an opportunity for the government of Sierra Leone and mining industry stakeholders to promote best global practices and enhance transparency by improving mining communities’ understanding of the industry’s contributions to local economic development and to the strengthening of the overall mining ecosystem.

Morris Marrah, Country Director for Sensi Tech Innovation Hub, said, “One of our key objectives is to build a technology innovation community in Sierra Leone that drives economic and social development by creating an enabling and stimulating community hub for technologists, creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders.” The hackathon is a way to bring everyone together to develop their ideas and access cutting-edge tech, grants funding, events, incubation and acceleration programs, networking, training, and job opportunities, he added.

Noted DSTI data scientist Glenna Wilson, “Such initiatives that leverage skills, engage the creative minds of the youths, and promote the importance of data in innovation in Sierra Leone are welcomed.” 

The top five teams to emerge from the hackathon will have the opportunity to work with industry- leading experts and receive mentorship in a robust, post-event boot camp program, which will help them scale up their concepts. The boot camp program will also teach participants how to pitch their solutions and interface with potential investors, public-private partners, and the press. A panel of esteemed judges will select the two top teams, which will win the equivalent of cash prizes: first prize, $2,000; second prize, $1,000.

Sponsors and organisers

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) — a member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2022, IFC committed a record $32.8 billion to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity as economies grapple with the impacts of global compounding crises. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.

The BHP Foundation  works to address some of the world’s most critical sustainable development challenges. It is a charitable foundation funded by BHP and through its programs, the Foundation addresses challenges that are directly relevant to the resources sector. (https://www.bhp.com/sustainability/communities/bhp-foundation

  

The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) sits in the Office of the President and executes its functions through the Office of the Chief Minister. The Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) serves as an Advisor to the President and Chief Minister of Sierra Leone. DSTI’s vision is to use science, technology, and innovation to support the Government of Sierra Leone to deliver on its national development plan effectively and efficiently; and to help transform Sierra Leone into an innovation and entrepreneurship hub. (https://www.dsti.gov.sl) 

Sensi Tech Innovation Hub  is the first hub of its kind to be established in Sierra Leone since the country gained its independence in 1961. Its main objective is to build a technology innovation community in Sierra Leone that drives economic and social development by providing an open and stimulating community hub for technologists, entrepreneurs, and creatives to come together, develop their ideas, and access cutting-edge tech, grants funding, events, incubation and acceleration programs, networking, training and jobs opportunities. (http://sensi-sl.org/)   

The National Mineral Agency (NMA)  was established by an act of parliament in 2012, The National Minerals Agency Act (2012), and on 7th March 2013 by His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. The creation of the National Minerals Agency (NMA) was based on Government approval of a transformation plan to restructure the institutional governance of the mining sector so that the governance role is separated from the operational role.  The NMA is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the Mines and Minerals Act (2009) and other mining acts and related regulations. This includes responsibility for mineral rights management, collecting and disseminating geological information, and regulating the trading of precious minerals. (https://www.nma.gov.sl) 

Media Contact

If you would like to get in touch or speak to any of our spokespeople for an interview, please contact: 

Mariama Rogers

Communications Lead 

The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation 

E: mariama.rogers@dsti.gov.sl 

P: +(232) 75709963

Or 

Mohamed Hemoh

MCIC Hackathon Challenge Project Manager

Sensi Tech Innovation Hub

E: mohamedhemoh@sensi-sl.org

P: + (232) 79030735

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Sierra Leone Launches $18 million USD Education Innovation Challenge with Global Partners

September 1, 2022 Freetown, Sierra Leone – The Ministry of Basic, Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), in partnership with the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), and the Education Outcomes Fund (EOF), a hosted trust fund at UNICEF, have officially launched the largest ever national outcomes fund for education in the world. This program will help a target 134,000 children in 325 public primary schools in Sierra Leone over the next three years. The Sierra Leone Education Innovation Challenge (SLEIC) is a scale up from the Education Innovation Challenge (EIC). In 2018, President Bio had a vision to increase access to quality and inclusive education with the launch of the Free Quality School Education Program (FQSE), and in an effort to create sustainable and impactful outcomes of FQSE, the Human Capital Development Incubator embedded at DSTI, designed the EIC to test, seed and scale up interventions that improve literacy and numeracy learning outcomes of students at the primary level. 

On June 24, 2019, the EIC was officially launched, inviting organizations and key stakeholders in the education sector to submit innovative ideas for working with students, teachers, and head teachers in government and government supported primary schools across 15 out of 16 districts in Sierra Leone. 

The EIC Service Providers have collaborated with government and schools to design, test, and implement creative and novel teaching approaches, as well as introducing teaching and learning resources, to improve numeracy and literacy levels in chosen schools. Data from the  baseline and midterm evaluations, as well as qualitative data from the  termly Monitoring and Evaluation  assessments, reveal that there has been progress and growth in learning as well as behavioral changes among students, teachers, headteachers, parents, and community elders. 

The EIC, which was seeded with $1.5M USD is now scaling up with the $18M USD SLEIC program, co-financed by the government of Sierra Leone and international donors. The program will fund five organizations to improve children’s literacy and numeracy outcomes in government-assisted primary schools, with a particular focus on improving girls education outcomes.

This is a testament to the use of data for informed decision making and sustainable interventions as echoed by Minister Sengeh, who said that: “the EIC has empowered students with access to opportunities that invariably improve learning outcomes through targeted and transformative  basic education strategies. Now that we have scaled to country level, we hope the new lessons will be taken globally.

The program has sustainability at its core. The interventions are designed to be both affordable and scalable so that the government can incorporate them into future education policy and scale up the most impactful approaches to a national and globam levels after the program finishes in 2025.

Amel Karboul, CEO of EOF said:

We face an unprecedented global learning crisis that requires a different approach to funding education programs and measuring their impact. Access to quality education improves lives and livelihoods. Education equals opportunity. We are working with the Sierra Leonean government to develop programs that are evidence-driven, enable innovation, and most importantly, measurably improve the quality of education for children and young people in the country.”

Joined by Emma Spicer of the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), at the launch,  Minister Sengeh said,

“The Government of Sierra Leone is excited about partnering with EOF to launch the Sierra Leone Education Innovation Challenge. The program will directly support children across the country and generate important evidence on which innovative education interventions can help drive foundational learning outcomes for all children. It is a perfect example of how we leverage innovation to transform our education service delivery and financing to deliver on the government’s promise of free quality school education for all.”

How will the SLEIC work?

  • Using an outcomes-based approach, organizations involved will be paid once their interventions have shown improvements in children’s literacy and numeracy. They are a mix of local and global providers, including National Youth Awareness Forum, Rising Academies, Street Child, EducAID and Save the Children. The program will be rigorously evaluated to understand their impact on learning, enabling evaluators to identify the approaches that are most effective.
  • The approach utilizes social impact bonds whose model has been successfully implemented in other sectors on a smaller scale. EOF has taken the steps in its programmatic approach to help scale up the output of impact bonds for its program

Who is funding the programme:

  • The Government of Sierra Leone – $1.5M USD
  • The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office of the United Kingdom (FCDO) – $14M USD
  • Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) – $1M US
  • Bank of America – $0.5M USD
  • Waterloo Foundation – $0.210 USD
  • Hempel Foundation – $1.179M USD 

About the Education Outcomes Fund: There are few greater challenges faced by the global community than the twin crises of learning poverty and youth unemployment. In response, the Education Commission (chaired by Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Global Education) and the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen) came together with our founding CEO (Her Excellency Dr.) Amel Karboul to create EOF end of 2017. EOF aims to improve the education and employment outcomes of 10 million children and youth, by supporting governments to utilize a range of innovative finance instruments at scale. EOF is the first outcomes fund hosted by the United Nations within UNICEF, as a scalable platform to partner with governments, donors, implementing partners, and investors around the world. EOF pays primarily on the basis of the results achieved, ensuring that taxpayer-funded domestic resources, aid, and philanthropic funds are only used to pay for what works. This is a game-changing way to finance results in education, focusing attention and realigning systems on the most challenging but most important measure of a program’s performance: whether it is improving lives.

About the programs partner organizations

National Youths Awareness Forum Sierra Leone (NYAFSL) is a local NGO engaged in educational, socio-economic, and sustainable development activities in Sierra Leone. They aim to integrate the community and Government into their educational program and ensure the holistic development of all people involved. They will provide training for teachers and headteachers, and supplementary materials and create a culture of joy and inclusion throughout the schools.

Rising Academies

Founded in Sierra Leone in 2014, Rising Academy Network is a growing network of inspiring schools in West Africa. Their mission is to unleash the full potential of every student, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and character to succeed in further study, work, and day-to-day life.

Street Child

Street Child works across 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Europe. They work with an expanding network of 95+ local organizations to harness the power and purpose of local-level organizations. Street Child aims to improve learning opportunities for students through a Transformation Model. This model utilizes multiple core components including individualized student support; student-centered instruction; strong school leadership; and shared school ownership, reinforced through a focus on data driven structures and strategies.

EducAid

EducAid has been working to strengthen education in Sierra Leone for more than 25 years, running free, high quality schools and sustainable school improvement projects. EducAid’s intervention focuses on teacher and school leader training with ongoing in-school and community support to implementation to build a common understanding of what excellence in respect-focused effective education looks like and how we can hold each other accountable and support each other to achieve this vision.

Save the Children

Save the Children have been in Sierra Leone since 1999, at first working in Kailahun to support children who were displaced during the civil war. They have since expanded their operations to four more districts.

Save the Children will build teacher capacity in literacy and numeracy teaching techniques, increase children’s access to reading and math materials, and provide support to communities and caregivers for supplementary learning that will enable children to practice math and reading at home. They will also train teachers in child protection and positive discipline strategies to create a safer environment for children in school. Their Community Learning Facilitators will support school communities to conduct sessions with parents and caregivers on children’s right to education, the value of education (particularly for girls), and the protection needs of girls and boys.

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Generation Unlimited Sierra Leone; A Blueprint for stumulating creativity and Upscaling Opportunities for young people in Sierra Leone

Youths across the globe stand on the brink of creating a revolution that will usher in the dawn of a new era. An era marked by resourcefulness, positive change, and sustainable development. Hence, an overarching need exists to create platforms that guarantee exposure, opportunities for creative problem-solving, and skills acquisition for young people.

(Young People at The Exhibition)

Through the Generation Unlimited Sierra Leone (GenU SL) initiative, the Ministry of Youth Affairs (MoYa), in partnership with the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF SL), hosted an exhibition and Bootcamp to showcase the impacts of various projects designed to expand opportunities for career development, entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years.

GENERATION UNLIMITED EXHIBITION

The exhibition, which took place on the 5th of March, 2022, at the Occasions Villa, Lakka, in Freetown, brought together over 150 participants from government agencies, UN Agencies, development partners, the private sector, and young people, who demonstrated some of their on-going projects and how these interventions are poised to positively impact the lives of children and young people in Sierra Leone.

(Young People At The Exhibition)

The quest to be part of this impactful process commenced 5 months earlier for these participants. On October 28th, 2021, the GenU SL National Partnership Committee put out a nationwide call for applications inviting young innovators across the country to submit solutions in a Youth Challenge that aims to address social challenges and improve the quality of life in their communities.

(Young People At The Exhibition)

15 teams were selected from over 400 team applications. On March 5th, 2022, an eager crop of young innovators began the week-long journey through workshops and team-building exercises designed to sculpt their ideas into practical products and solutions that can be taken to scale.

(Kids From Saint Joseph’s School For The Hearing Impaired)

“I am thrilled to be part of this transformative experience, especially when Africa longs and thirsts for a generation full of creative and innovative youth who show passion in everything they do. If we choose to develop in the best way possible, investing in our youth is the right course of action.” – Eliza Gloria Wilson, Exhibition & Bootcamp Participant.

The exhibition was a well-attended opening event that brought together leading experts from the professional spectrum. The star-studded audience featured Government Ministers, Civil Society Activists, Private Sector Executives, Representatives from Non- Governmental Organisations such as Plan International, Restless Development, One Family People, Journalists, and many more.

(UNICEF Country Representative Dr. Suleiman Braimoh & Hon. Min of Youth Affairs Mohamed Orman Bangura)

The exhibition’s central theme sought to promote public awareness about existing skills acquisition programs, shared learning, networking, and employment opportunities for young people in the public-private-youth partnership. In addition, young people could interact and engage with stakeholders on models for optimising large-scale investment opportunities, programmes, and innovations that could help young people become productive in life.

Making their respective statements at the exhibition, several speakers notably underscored the importance of young people acting and building the future they deserve. 

(Reps From DSTI, UNICEF & MOYA)

“Every old man was once a young man but not every young man will become an old man if they don’t make use of today. As a young person, you will have yourself to blame tomorrow if you do not make the best use of today.” – Mohamed Orman Bangura, Minister of Youth Affairs.

“Young people must embrace the wave of opportunity, growth, and progress that technology offers. Initiatives of this nature set the tone for a more extensive discourse on the role and evolution of tomorrow’s leaders.” – Michala Mackay, Chief Operating Officer and Director of DSTI.

“Young people constitute a significant proportion of the population in Sierra Leone and are pivotal to the country’s development. The GenU initiative provides an opportunity for all young people to network, showcase their talents, and harness existing opportunities to realise their potential to the fullest possible extent,” said Dr. Suleiman Braimoh, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone.

THE GENU IMAGEN VENTURES BOOTCAMP

The buzz and momentum from the exhibition day activities set the stage for the BootCamp.  The Bootcamp was designed as a 5-day workshop training that utilised UPSHIFT modular curriculum to instruct young people on developing social innovation skills in response to issues affecting their communities.

(Lead Consultant at Afriqia HR Solutions; Maryam Darwich Facilitates Bootcamp Session)

(Young People Engaged Team Building Exercise At Bootcamp)

THE GENU IMAGEN VENTURES PITCH COMPETITION 1.0

The Bootcamp culminated in a pitch competition where 5 of the most promising ideas were awarded USD 1,000 each in seed funding and technical support. The five winning teams were selected, representing Makeni, Western Area, and Kenema regions whose solutions centered around solving critical issues concerning Environmental Health, Climate Change, Disabilities inclusion, Digital skills, and Online learning tools.

(Participants From Team Normalnet At Pitch Competition 1.0)

MENTORSHIP & ACCELERATION PHASE

Following a successful first pitch, the five winning teams engaged in pitch training sessions with Innovation SL designed as diagnostic exercises to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the participant’s pitch skills and the feasibility of their business plans.

(Head of Innovations SL Francis Stevens George facilitating a pitch training session)

THE GENU IMAGEN VENTURES PITCH COMPETITION 2.0

These sessions ended with a final pitch competition at Mamba Point Hotel to determine the two most promising solutions to represent Sierra Leone at the GenU global youth innovation competition.

(Judges at the Pitch Competition 2.0)

“DSTI is grateful for the continued collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Youth Affairs. The Generation Unlimited project aligns with the Government’s flagship Human Capital Development agenda. Being that the youth accounts for over 60% of the country’s population, projects like GenU awaken their entrepreneurial ingenuity and reaffirms our commitment to delivering on the National Development Plan” – Jasper Sembie, Head of Finance & Operations, DSTI.

(DSTI’s Head of Finance & Operations, Jasper Sembie, Delivering The Keynote Address)

After a heated battle of wits, teams LOREM AND TOMDACT won the pitch and will represent Sierra Leone at the global competition.

(TEAM LOREM – Pitched the idea of developing an e-learning intervention in STEM)

(TEAM TOMDACT – Pitched the idea of developing a skills training initiative for persons living with disability)

Watch the Official Live Announcement here

Tanya Phiri, Youth Innovation Specialist at UNICEF SL, speaking on the benefits and true goal of the initiative, emphasised that “As part of our robust big picture strategy, the young people will further receive mentorship opportunities to support the implementation of their projects. Ultimately, the aim is to inspire young people who possess brilliant ideas but lack the resources to actualize their dreams and make a difference in their communities”.

(Winning Teams from Pitch Competition 1.0)

NEXT STEPS

Following the completion and success of the Exhibition and Bootcamp, GenU project coordinator at DSTI, Fatmata Bangura, indicated that the project will continue with a 6-month Mentorship and  Acceleration phase. “Invariably, these are all geared towards ensuring that we adequately prepare the two most promising solutions to represent Sierra Leone at the ImaGen Ventures global youth innovation challenge,” she concluded.

About  Generation Unlimited Global

Generation Unlimited is a global multi-sector partnership designed to meet the urgent needs for expanded education, training, and employment opportunities for young people. Gen U, which prioritises young people in the development agenda, creates global public-private-youth partnerships to co-create and support large-scale investment opportunities, programmes, and innovations to become productive in life.

https://www.generationunlimited.org

Blog

DSTI Partners with UNICEF to Pilot Learning Passport for BECE Students

(Main Class Room Block, Christ The King College, Bo City)

Imagine you were born to a family of modest means, the eldest of five female children with the crushing weight of expectation constantly on your shoulders.

Many would fret at the mere thought, but 14-year-old Mamie Bindi lives and endeavours to thrive in this reality. Resilient, steadfast and hardworking, she bears the hallmarks of an ideal role model and torch bearer for her younger siblings. 

(A Smiling Mamie Bindi)

Mamie is from Bo District, in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone, and is currently a JSS 3 pupil of Vision Academy Junior Secondary School. She is preparing for the upcoming Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) which will determine her admission into Senior Secondary School. It is a welcoming opportunity for her to participate in the pilot of the Learning Passport (LP) and test her mettle against variations of the questions she will soon face.

The Learning Passport is a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Microsoft-supported digital education platform that provides online and offline access to educational resources via technology devices. LP forms part of UNICEF’s Reimagining Education agenda under the flagship program Generation Unlimited.

(ST Foundation Computer Lab Where BECE Pilot Was Conducted) 

In line with Sierra Leone’s Education Sector Plan 2018-2020, LP looks to make accessible, equitable and quality education available on a large scale. The platform was launched in Sierra Leone in February 2022 

For Mamie and many other children who live in the provinces, this initiative in Bo is a testament to the shared and unrelenting commitment between the Government and UNICEF to advance the frontiers of education for every child across Sierra Leone. The BECE pilot ran for a period of four weeks, involving 100 learners across 10 different locations, which included Christ The King College (CKC) in Bo City. 

( Participants Engaged In Pilot )

Ibrahim Sawaneh a teacher at CKC who coordinated the LP pilot at the lab,  spoke on the benefits of this initiative; “Getting the pupils to participate in simulated digital examinations with automatic results is beneficial to both teachers and pupils; it fosters preparedness of the pupils and helps teachers to identify subject areas which would require increased focus and attention.”

(Messrs. Sawaneh (Extreme Left) & Ade (Extreme Right) Pose With Participants Outside Computer Lab)

Charged with the mandate of transforming Sierra Leone into an innovation and entrepreneurship hub, Bani Forster, LP Project Coordinator at DSTI believes “strong foundations in digital education set the stage for the evolution of future technocrats, innovators and entrepreneurs, hence the need to develop robust interventions that guide their development”. 

UNICEF Sierra Leone’s Innovation Officer and Learning Passport Project Lead, Janice Williams, highlighted the progress made on upscaling access to digital opportunities for children.

With the pilot of the BECE Learning Passport, we are making progress to deliver on UNICEF’s Reimagine Education agenda. Making digital platforms like the Learning Passport available means taking a bold leap towards making digital learning one of the essential toolkits for every child and young person in Sierra Leone.”

Looking ahead into the future, Mamie hopes to pass her BECE exams and attend the Methodist Girls High School in Freetown. Empowered with the confidence provided by the simulated exams, she feels eager and prepared to attempt the exam; “I am very happy to be part of this transformative process. The pilot helps me to identify subject areas that require increased attention and builds up my computer skills” she affirmed.

It would seem her dream to become an accountant is well on its way to becoming reality.

Blog

MIT Governance Lab Associate Director of Innovation visits DSTI

Carlos Centeno, MIT Governance Lab’s (MIT GOV/LAB) Associate Director of Innovation got a first-hand look at the work being done by several partners in the public sector seeking to implement innovation in the governance structure. These engagements were facilitated by the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation(DSTI).

Centeno’s recently concluded week-long (16th-20th May 2022) visit was centred on strengthening the existing partnership between the MIT Governance Lab and DSTI, whilst examining the implementation models of governance interventions currently ongoing with the National Revenue Authority (NRA), and Office of the Administrator and Registrar General (OARG). The visit also explored the possibility of furthering the partnership between MIT GOV/LAB & the governance innovation community (within the public sector) by deploying a designer from the research lab to work closely with institutions such as DSTI, Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education(MBSSE), the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS),  and Freetown City Council (FCC).

MIT GOV/LAB, in collaboration with DSTI, had designed a two-week Governance Innovation Bootcamp in 2021 which provided an opportunity for 25 public servants from various government Institutions to learn and apply the MIT Gov/Lab Methodology to develop an innovative approach to solving governance challenges and spark a culture of innovation within governance in Sierra Leone. 

Welcoming him, DSTI’s COO, Michala Mackay, commended MIT for its continued support to Sierra Leone’s economic recovery and in particular, their support to DSTI through the Governance Innovation Project which is currently being implemented to provide accelerated services to approximately 7 plus  million Sierra Leoneans. 

“Accelerated Governance continues to face cultural barriers, bureaucratic delays, financial constraints among others. These are obstacles to achieving a whole of government approach to quality service delivery. The Governance Innovation Project is proof we can defy the odds, regardless”, Mackay explained.

Mackay told the Associate Director that DSTI is currently dialoguing with other strands of government to see how lessons drawn from Governance Innovation Project can be funnelled into other areas of development.

Making his statement, Centeno mentioned that the DSTI has been very cooperative in finding lasting solutions to problems affecting governance. He stressed that this commitment is an early hopeful sign of a prosperous future where technology can increase its responsiveness to citizens’ needs.

“We’re very interested in how DSTI is able to operate in a complex environment where technology can serve as a catalyst for positive change in the relationship between citizens and government.” He added “In that sense, we’re researching DSTI’s work at a deeper level, hoping to understand better how governance innovation works.   

Carlos met with different team leads at DSTI to form a more detailed insight about the work culture, challenges and ongoing projects. His week-long visit ended on a high note with an informal meeting with the Chief Innovation Officer. They spent time discussing innovative approaches across all sectors and how to untangle some of the problems faced. The several engagements were geared towards paving the way for meaningful steps to complement the existing dialogue for developing governance resources in Sierra Leone.

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