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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

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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.

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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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DSTI, SORA Technology, and Njala University Signed MOU for Sierra Leone Medical Drone Infrastructure

SORA Technology has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) and Njala University, by which drones and accumulated knowledge of SORA Technology contribute to improved health outcomes and human capital development in Sierra Leone.

The MOU, titled “ESTABLISHMENT OF MEDICAL DRONE INFRASTRUCTURE IN SIERRA LEONE”, is based on common views about the huge potential of drones both for solving the bottlenecks of medical supplies in Sierra Leone, and contributing to national digitalization strategies and human capital development. The parties have already been preparing a pilot of their system of drone delivery in Sierra Leone for providing appropriate service of medical supplies in rural areas.

The fixed-wing drone by SORA Technology, is designed not only for delivering medical supplies at long range, but also for aerial monitoring and data collection. The agreement will help contribute to improving drone and digital capabilities of Sierra Leone.

Moreover, SORA Technology is also collaborating with HealthGrid Sierra Leone, an initiative to provide access to electricity, internet connectivity, and other essential services to off-grid health facilities in Sierra Leone. This initiative is organized by USAID Global Development Alliance (GDA) and managed by a multi-sector consortium, including RESOLVE, Orange Sierra Leone, and bechtel.org, World Vision, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitization. Synergies with these partners will help SORA Technology realize sustainable drone operations in rural Sierra Leone, and contribute to “Digitization for All” and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) of Sierra Leone.

“We are delighted to be working with DSTI and Njala University to commit not only for medical drone delivery but also for the entire support of the national digital development. This partnership is an important step for us to kick off our mission in Africa. Our drones achieve sustainable support for improving access to medical supplies while spurring digital innovations and transformations in various sectors of Sierra Leone.” (Masaki Umeda, Africa Business Lead, SORA Technology)

“In order to exploit emerging technologies to improve health outcomes, DSTI works with multiple partners to create the enabling environment to seed and test these innovations and develop human capital to effectively engage with these technologies in a Sierra Leone centric way. This partnership will pave the way to train Sierra Leonean drone pilots and data scientists and test and seed the integration of drones into the existing medical supply chain.” (David Manley, Project Coordinator, DSTI)

“Njala University is delighted to partner with SORA Technology and DSTI in the area of drone technology and Data Science to contribute to the healthcare systems and human capital development in Sierra Leone. We are inspired by the amazing collaborative spirit to overcome the significant challenges of deploying drones safely and at scale. It’s incredibly important to build a self-sustaining ecosystem of experts that can support the deployment of drones. It is expected that the partnership will create a national Drone and Data Academy, which will build local capacity, as well as provide young people with the skills to analyse aerial imagery, build and operate drones.” (Thomas Songu, Director of Information & Communication Technology, Njala University)

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 are able to 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 centred on drones not only for safe, reliable, and timely transportation of goods but also for the effective management of digital information.

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USING DRONE LITERACY TO BUILD SIERRA LEONE’S DRONE ECOSYSTEM

In the 21st Century, digital skills will be critical for sustainable national development as Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies like 3D printers, artificial intelligence and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) become increasingly pervasive. Young people who will become exposed to the applications of these advanced scientific and technology tools will need to be equipped with the right skills. 

In an effort to nurture and optimise digital literacy in Sierra Leone, DSTI and UNICEF SL, organised a one-day training session for 40 drone enthusiasts at the Njala University Innovation Center, Mokonde Campus. The training session brought together people from diverse academic disciplines, including Government workers, geographers, environment conservationists, engineers, multimedia creatives, etc. who each are seeking to apply the technology to their various disciplines.

The training was facilitated by DSTI’s UAV Technical Lead and certified drone pilot, Hafsatu Rakie Sesay. Participants received an introductory lesson on the basics of drone flight, types of drones, general statistics on drone technology, different drone use cases, and laws regulating drone use within Sierra Leone. The training also focused on safety in drone aviation, with a primary goal of ensuring that life and property are protected during any use of drones. In addition to learning about specific use cases, the training emphasised the use of UAVs as data collection tools across sectors. 

“People must tap into the wave of opportunity that drone technology offers. Training set the stage grooming and empowering Sierra Leone’s young drone ecosystem.” – Hafsatu Rakie Sesay, DSTI’s UAV Technical Lead and Certified Drone Pilot.

The training featured an interactive Q&A session during which participants asked questions and discussed areas of interest, including employment opportunities for drone pilots, policy implications for unlicensed drone use, use of drones in construction, industrial deployment of drones and use of drones for disaster response. 

The possibility of drones being deployed in almost every area of development is simply fascinating, John Alhaji Senessie, one of the participants declared. Speaking on his experiences, he furthered that, “‘up-scaling radical tech interventions such as drones is what Sierra Leone needs to cultivate cutting-edge digital solutions for a more robust nation-building drive.”

Next steps:

Ms. Sesay affirmed plans to complete the theoretical training with hands-on a live demo of safe uses of UAVs by all the participants/  DSTI maintains a drone corridor at the Mokonde campus of Njala University. Future initiatives will also include networking with professionals in drone space.

In line with the objective of developing Sierra Leone’s drone ecosystem organically, DSTI, in partnership with UNICEF Sierra Leone and the Njala University, remains invested in the business of enhancing the latent potential of human capital development to transform Sierra Leone into an innovation and entrepreneurship hub. 

Media Contact:

Mariama Rogers: Communications and Business Development Officer – Email mariama.rogers@dsti.gov.sl or Media@dsti.gov.sl, Tel +23275709963

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The Digital Learning Hub Opens Its Doors To The National Commission For Children.

12th February 2022 – The National Commission for Children organised teaching sessions for secondary school pupils from the Children Forum Network (CFN), on the use and associated benefits of the Sierra Leone Learning Passport and E-Upshift Program available at the Digital Learning Hub

The Learning Hub is an establishment that aims to address the existing challenge of skills gaps within the workforce by providing more digital learning opportunities. It includes a conducive workspace with free access to 30 computers and a reliable internet connection. The hub is open from Mondays to Fridays from 9 AM- 5 PM at IPAM’s New Building. 

Project Coordinator, Bani Foster pictured with some secondary students from CFN

“One of DSTI’s cardinal responsibilities is to foster the sustainable improvement of Sierra Leone’s educational ecosystem through the deployment of digital tools to supplement existing teaching and learning methods.”- Bani Foster, Project Coordinator. 

The Sierra Leone Learning Passport is an online/offline and mobile digital learning platform that provides students with access to past exam questions, and other learning resources to close the gaps in learning disparities and provide digital learning opportunities to all.   

The E-Upshift program contains several essential courses designed to provoke critical thought processes which inspire the resolve to swiftly provide solutions to community problems. Hence, it will feature prominently as a course on another Learning Passport which is tailored to bolster Human Capital Development.

This engagement was conceived to support the pilot phase of Sierra Leone’s Learning Passport recently announced by Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) and Minister of Education, David Sengeh, in partnership with UNICEF on the 1st of February, 2022.

Students were able to explore contents of the Learning Passport.

“We are pleased to be part of the process of building a digital future for tomorrow’s leaders.”- Mahmoud Keita, Outreach Child Welfare Officer, NCC. Keita further pledged the commission’s abiding commitment to ensuring that pupils from different schools pay routine visits to the hub and maximize this opportunity.

An alumnus from the Annie Walsh Secondary School, Marion Yeanor Samura noted that the session was very timely and educational, and caters not only for pupils preparing for public exams but also to those interested in acquiring knowledge of computers and digital skills.

The world has grown rapidly towards digital knowledge and with the establishment of 3 more hubs to be announced this month, the Government of Sierra Leone affirms its commitments to boost Human Capital Development to ensure that we are the pioneers of Sierra Leone’s digital future.

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Nurturing Sierra Leone’s Drone Ecosystem; An Exercise For Reducing Skills Deficit and Boosting Workforce Development.

As the proud destination of Africa’s 2nd drone corridor and home to the only corridor in West Africa, Sierra Leone has etched its name on the world stage as a committed advocate for integrating drone technology into many aspects of development such as Health, Agriculture, Disaster Response and many more.

In line with this vision to foster drone technology and cultivate Sierra Leone’s first generation of drone/UAV pilots and technicians, the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation devised and executed a two-day training session on the basics of drone technology at the newly established Digital Learning Hub located at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM).

The Learning Hub is an establishment that aims to address the existing challenge of skills gaps within the workforce by providing more digital learning opportunities. It includes a conducive workspace with free access to 30 computers and a reliable internet connection. 

The cardinal purpose of these drone training sessions was to curate, encourage and incentivize a group of drone enthusiasts to join the fledgling drone ecosystem. The training sessions were conducted over two days. 

On the first day, participants were instructed on the rudimentary elements of drone technology with detailed descriptions of drone modification and use case adaptation. The second day continued with an informative and thoroughgoing review of the different ways data collected by drones can be leveraged and utilized for public and private sector benefits.

Hafsatu Rakie Sesay is DSTI’s UAV Technical Lead and Sierra Leone’s only certified drone pilot. Speaking on the prospects of the session, she affirmed that she is intrigued by the possibility of mentoring the group and nurturing their budding interests in drones.

Hafsatu Rakie Sesay, Course facilitator holding a certificate

When queried on the next steps for the sustainability of this initiative; She confirmed that plans were already in the works to invite this crop of participants to a drone demonstration at the corridor. This demonstration, she continued, will not only allow these participants to interact with international drone pilots and technicians but will similarly put the theories discussed during the training sessions to ardent practice.

Furthermore, all participants will receive a completion certificate. This is undoubtedly a crucial first step in getting these young people to own the process, inspire and transmit these ideas to their colleagues. This feeds directly into the government’s youth-centred agenda and capacitation priorities.

Iyemary Brimah Sallu receiving her certificate

Iyemary Brimah Sallu is the business developer at ECOMED Sierra Leone and is one of the participants. Iyemary is fascinated by drones and hopes to take up a career in aviation.

Courses like this can empower students with access to information, job opportunities, and services that invariably improve their living standard whilst enhancing opportunities for data gathering and analysis for more targeted and effective problem-solving strategies. – Iyemary Brimah Sallu

In hindsight, the timeliness of this training cannot be overemphasized because as government rethinks and realigns its development strategy around innovative solutions, there be will be a surge in the demand for these skills, this demand will in essence achieve the overarching objective of the learning hub which is to reduce skills deficit for tomorrow’s job market squarely.

Blog

Healthcare Innovation Programme Makes First-Ever Medical Drone Delivery In Sierra Leone

On 19th November, the Directorate of Science Technology & Innovation (DSTI) celebrated the first delivery of medicines by drone in Sierra Leone.  The drone delivery was completed by UK-based UAVaid as part of the MDDP project to improve access to medicines in remote parts of the country.  The delivery was conducted to test and demonstrate the use-case of the Medical Drone Delivery Project (MDDP) at the Mabang Community Health Post in Sierra Leone’s Moyamba District, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, partnered with The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), and Crown Agents.

The maiden flight from Rotifunk village to Mabang MCHP took just 13 minutes, a journey which normally takes 2 hours via vehicle, and was celebrated by the local community. In attendance were dignitaries and ministers, including the CIO of Sierra Leone, Dr.Sengeh, who explained the role of innovation and technology in improving access to medicines.  The event also brought together officials from The Ministry of Health and agencies including the National Medical Supplies Agency, Ministry of Basic and Senior Education, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Fisheries, UNICEF, and other development partners and community stakeholders.

UAV Drone landing with medical supplies at Mabang MCHP.

CIO, David Sengeh and other stakeholders at Mabang MCHP

David Manley, MDDP Project-Lead at DSTI, explained that initially, the MDDP project would focus on improving medicine deliveries to 250 Community Health Centers (CHCs) and hospitals nationwide, and there are plans to expand this to other health posts, significantly improving access to medicines for communities in remote and hard to reach areas of Sierra Leone. He added, “Specifically, in addition to contributing to the reduction of maternal-related deaths, the use of drones presents the possibility of numerous cross-sectoral use-cases and fosters informed decision-making at the highest levels of government.”  

Daniel Ronen, co-founder of UAVAid, said “We are extremely proud to be partnering with the government of Sierra Leone on such an important project and helping to improve the healthcare systems of the nation.  The use of drones helps overcome the numerous transport and data gathering challenges inherent in operating in such complex contexts.”  UAVaid was selected as the preferred drone supplier following a rigorous and transparent selection process from over 30 international companies.

UAV Aid Team with UAV Technical Lead, Rakie Sesay

Dr. Lawrence Sandi, Managing Director of the NMSA, whose agency’s mandate is to procure, warehouse, and distribute drugs and medical supplies nationwide said We are pleased to collaborate with DSTI in bringing this landmark medical intervention to actuality. We are making good progress in transforming healthcare in Sierra Leone with undimmed confidence. We salute all partners involved in the incredible hard work invested in this exercise. This is a win for all of us.”

During the event, Mr. James Houghton, MDDP team member from Crown Agents, explained how the multiple use-case drone operating model would enhance sustainability, a point reinforced by DSTI.

UAV Technical Lead, Rakie Sesay, who also explained that the overall strategy of building a drone ecosystem would encourage cross-sectoral growth across multiple industries including the use of drones in other areas such as agriculture, reforestation, and law enforcement.

Notes to editors

For more information contact:

DSTI:          Drones@dsti.gov.sl

UAVAid:     Daniel Ronen   daniel@uavaid.com

The  MDDP Project

The DSTI led Medical Drone Delivery Project (MDDP) is designed to provide improved access of medicines to parts of Sierra Leone traditionally unnavigable for some or all of the year. The MDDP incorporates a rapid dispatch capability into the existing medical supply chain. This dispatch transports 42 of the most essential commodities prioritized by The National Medical Supply Agency (NMSA) to combat maternal and infant mortality. 

Making a drastic cut to Sierra Leone’s startling maternal mortality statistics has been high on the presidential agenda since 2018. With 15% of the national budget allocated to increasing access to quality health care services, and a promise to halve maternal mortality rates by 2023, creating a space that supports drone-enabled medical supply chains seems like another step in the right direction. 

The Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation (DSTI)

www.dsti.gov.sl

The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), uses 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.

UAVAID LTD

www.uavaid.com
UAVAid is a UK-based developer and operator of specialist Unmanned Aerial Systems AKA ‘drones’ that are optimised for global development (GD) and humanitarian applications in remote and difficult to reach areas of the developing world.  They operate a mixed fleet of BVLOS drones, including their proprietary multi-role HANSARD, and VTOL aircraft supported by their technical partner SWOOP.

Blog

Sierra Leone Launches Digital Learning Hubs to boost skills Acquisition

5/11/21

The Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), in partnership with UNICEF, launches and officially announces the opening of the first Digital Learning Hub at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM).  

The establishment of the Hub aims to address the existing challenge of skills gaps for young people and within the workforce by providing more digital learning opportunities.

It also aims to boost the acquisition and retention of in-demand skills for young people intending to enter the job market and cultivate improved learning outcomes for the current workforce.

The Learning Hub will provide a conducive workspace with free access to 30 computers and reliable internet connection. The Hub’s registered users will also have access to a wide range of digital learning content via the Learning Passport platform to help learners fully capitalise on opportunities. 

The Hubs will function on a day-to-day management procedure, and operations will be facilitated by an organisation with experience establishing and operating digital learning centers.

The roll-out of these hubs is set to optimise and redefine existing notions about education meaningfully. The course content of this initiative is tailored to reflect a viable alternative to traditional learning methods and aligns with the broader objective of advancing the Human Capital Development Agenda. 

The hub at IPAM will initially have the eUPSHIFT program available, but will later feature Drones and UAV courses (theoretical and practical), Graphics Design, Multimedia and other courses.

Lead Project Coordinator at DSTI, Salima Bah, sees a great deal of promise in this initiative.

`We can only meet the demands of the 21st-century workforce if we acquire the capacity and skill sets required. With the establishment of the first DLH we are providing an opportunity for young people who are looking to enter the workforce as well as current members of the workforce to acquire the skills sets to make them competitive in the global economy. Tapping into the industry and ingenuity of the workforce through unconventional means is clearly the hallmark of this initiative.’ – Lead Project Coordinator, DSTI, Salima Bah.

UNICEF Sierra Leone’s Innovation Specialist, Shane O’Connor, highlighted the progress made on Digital Innovation.

With the launch of the 1st Digital Learning Hub, we are making progress to deliver on UNICEF’s Reimage Education agenda. Making digital platforms, like the Learning Passport, and digital content, like eUPSHIFT, available in Sierra Leone, we are taking a step towards making digital learning be part of a basic basket of essential services for every child and young person.”

UNICEF Sierra Leone’s Innovation Specialist, Shane O’Connor

Echoing on the promise of the hub in transforming skills acquisition and overall professional development of citizens is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of IPAM, Prof. Samuel Nonie

We salute the efforts of DSTI and Unicef for breathing life into the aspirations of increased workforce development designed to foster job market competitiveness and reduce skills deficit. We are thrilled to host the first digital learning hub in Sierra Leone and we are certain that its use will be maximized to its fullest potential” – Deputy Vice-Chancellor of IPAM, Prof. Samuel Nonie

Want to know more about the Learning Hub or how to be a member? Go to https://www.dsti.gov.sl/project/

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