Tech-MODE in Sierra Leone

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search
Sierra Leone Title Page 16-06-08.jpg

Executive summary

Agricultural education and training has seen a great deal of evolution over the years in Sierra Leone, and with emerging trends and improvements in science and technology, one cannot help but move along these trends. The mode of delivery of basic information in agriculture had been seen to play a pivotal role in the adoption of new technologies and innovations. Although there is presently no national policy on information and communication technologies (ICT) in Sierra Leone, provisions for ICT utilisation are embedded in the National Science and Technology Policy. At the same time, the National Education Master Plan 1997–2006 outlines plans for upgrading teachers through the mode of distance education.

Despite all the difficulties the country faces, i.e., poor infrastructure, limited degree of stability and lack of a national ICT strategy, private sector activities have led to some efforts at developing a robust ICT infrastructure. Given the present state of the country, this paper attempts to highlight the preparedness of Sierra Leone in adopting technology-mediated open and distance education (Tech-MODE) in agricultural education and training.


Executive summary  
Principal acronyms  

1  Importance of agriculture  
2  Sierra Leone – Country data  
3  Agricultural education at primary and secondary schools  
4  Formal degree and post-graduate education  
5  Problems of agricultural education and training in Sierra Leone  
   5.1  Finance and resources  
   5.2  Extension method  
   5.3  Staff shortage  
   5.4  Poor women participation  
   5.5  Toward Tech-MODE – Is Sierra Leone prepared?  
6  Policy options for agricultural education in Sierra Leone  
   6.1  National ICT policy  
   6.2  Problems and emerging trends  
7  Policy recommendations for agricultural education and training  
8  References

Related information 

Principal acronyms

COL        Commonwealth of Learning 
ICT        information and communication technology 
NGO        non-governmental organisation 
Tech-MODE  technology-mediated open and distance education 
T&V        Training and Visit (system) 

1 Importance of agriculture

Agricultural education training (AET), information and communication for agricultural research and development in combination with information and communication technologies (ICT) cover a wide range of educational activities with the primary aim of achieving human resource development throughout the rural economy of any nation. AET and ITC form part of the opportunities for the training of the rural producers, their household members and workers, for the preparation and upgrading of the professional and para-professionals who serve them and for the streaming of national agricultural programmes within international development.

During the past three decades, international attention has been directed at agricultural production in general, and specifically at the development of the agricultural sectors of the world’s lesser developed nations. Characteristically, these nations (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America) are heavily dependent on agriculture as their primary economic activity. Agricultural development for these countries is crucial. These nations have been typically found to:

  • have extremely high percentages of their populations engaged in agriculture;
  • maintain a high percentage of agricultural exports in relation to total exports;
  • contribute heavily to the gross domestic product (GDP) through their agricultural products.

Ironically though, agricultural GDP per agricultural worker rarely exceeds even half the per capita GDP. Thus, although developing nations are highly dependent on agriculture, agriculture remains a weak sector of their economics. Sierra Leone is no exception.

2 Sierra Leone – Country data

Sierra Leone has a population of about 5 million, with more females than males. An annual increase rate in population of about 4.0% has been recorded (Statistics Sierra Leone, 2006). Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and one of the lowest life expectancy rates. There are about 13 indigenous African ethnic groups in the country make up about 90% of the population. The Mende and Temne form the greatest proportion of the ethnic groups from the South-Eastern and Northern parts of Sierra Leone, respectively. Each accounts for about 30% each of the population. A sizeable number of Creoles live in the Western area, where Krio is the lingua franca. About one third of the population lives in the capital and other urban areas; the rest live in the rural areas. The Western and Eastern areas of the country are the densest in terms of distribution of population.

In 1992, although about 75% of the nation was engaged in agriculture as their main source of livelihood, this sector contributed to only 38% of the GDP. Food aid increased from 36,000 tons in 1979/1980 to 45,000 tons in 1992/1992. During that same period, Cereal imports too increased from 83,000 tons to 133,000 tons. A four-fold increase in these aids has been seen in the recent years.

Other basic indicators for development including health, education, manufacturing and development of infrastructure have not been encouraging (World Bank 2004). It is against this backdrop that the authorities in Sierra Leone developed the Agricultural Master Plan.

3 Agricultural education at primary and secondary schools

Primary school level. The first role of primary school education in any community is to shape and strengthen children as members of the society in relation to their natural environment (the parents, teacher, peers and the world at large). The first stage of development at this age, therefore, is crucial in reforming them to be useful members of the society. Children with a good primary education in agriculture are more likely to be:

  • able to identify the uses of different farm implements,
  • able to combine farm inputs better than their illiterate counterparts,
  • well prepared to appreciate continued agricultural education at secondary level and determine better-input selection (because of their ability in basic literacy and numeracy) which their illiterate counterparts lack.

Research has shown that four years of primary schooling can lead to an increase in agricultural output by 8%. This schooling is helpful in many ways. For instance, it increases the awareness amongst children, which will in turn have positive effects on the health, life expectancy and population growth of the society.

Furthermore, when a child starts schooling early, it greatly enhances his/her cognitive and non-cognitive attributes. These advantages become even more apparent when the curriculum includes agricultural sciences right at the primary school level. Agricultural education at the primary school level in Africa is probably of utmost importance to the child because of its numerous benefits.

As the first formal education the child receives, it helps him/her to perceive the world, his/her peers, environment and the society in which he/she lives. Since Sierra Leone now has the 6-3-3-4 education system with agricultural education being offered at the primary school with the aim of teaching the child appropriate methods of simple cultivation of crops and rearing of animals; a combination of this with simple rudiments of literacy and numeracy and civic education all form the rubric of basic education that can help the child to be a useful citizen in the rural society.

The UN declaration of Universal Primary Education projected that by the year 2000, all primary school-going children should be in school, and that it was mandatory on all governments to work towards this objective. Despite this pledge, many African children of primary school-going age are out of school. Some have dropped out of school or have never entered one.

For those unfortunate ones in Sierra Leone, the reasons are similar to those in other countries in the entire continent: lack of resources (social and physical infrastructure), lack of funds, poor motivation and incoherent educational policies. The ten-year rebel war further exacerbated the appalling situation among all primary schools; those in the rural areas are particularly the most disadvantaged. As there are limited prospects for any decent life for the rural communities, the urban pull has become a major factor, all but in a negative way.

Although it is difficult to address the rural-urban migration in general, the case of primary school dropouts could be minimised. One plausible way of addressing this issue is to revisit the agricultural science curriculum for primary schools. The curriculum should be made more attractive in the sense that after graduation the students can be gainfully employed in the rural areas. The curriculum should, therefore, be broad-based rather than specific.

Secondary school level. In some countries, agricultural education and training is taken as a vocational subject in the sense that after completing the secondary school programme, the graduates will leave school and enter into employment. In other countries, however, agricultural education is taken as a general subject so that after completing secondary school, the student continues into higher education.

In Sierra Leone, agricultural education and training has been serving the needs of both the general and vocational students. Programmes in agricultural education at secondary level, therefore, have been broad-based so as to meet the needs of both the groups. Before the civil war broke out in 1991 (and probably to date), over 70% of the nation’s population lived in the rural areas and over 80% of the secondary school pupils had rural backgrounds – agriculture being the dominant economic activity in these areas. Agricultural education is therefore an important subject in the Sierra Leone school curriculum.

It is against this background that agricultural education is a compulsory subject in all senior secondary schools in Sierra Leone. As there are limited opportunities for school graduates in Sierra Leone, agricultural education and training is a vital route to self-employment. It equips pupils with basic skills, knowledge and aptitudes in crop production, livestock management, crop and livestock protection processing, and distribution and marketing, surveying, soil and water management, and agricultural cooperatives.

Despite the above advantages agricultural education is supposed to offer to the rural people, research has shown that most of the school graduates, especially males, migrate to the cities and engage in ‘better’ jobs than those offered by agriculture in the rural areas.

Secondly, girls are not often encouraged to enrol in agricultural education and training, as it is often regarded as a male job. The subject being offered as an alternative to home economics further gives girls little scope of taking agriculture in secondary schools. Perhaps, this has been the most important reason why the participation of women in agricultural education and training at all levels has been low since the colonial era.

However, the present curriculum mandates all pupils to take agricultural science at both primary and secondary levels. It is hoped that this will create more awareness about the importance of the subject amongst girls in schools.

4 Formal degree and post-graduate education

In Sierra Leone, the role of agricultural education in the training colleges is to train teachers to teach agricultural science in both primary and junior secondary schools. The programmes in training colleges are not skill-specific but rather general. The programmes at the agricultural training centres (Makali, Makama, Njala National Agricultural Training Centre, Rokupr, etc.) are practical-oriented because the clientele are usually extension workers or agricultural ‘Instructors’.

Agricultural education at the university level is more broad-based. It prepares students to teach in senior secondary schools, training colleges, agricultural institutes and to take up agricultural leadership careers in the ministries of agriculture and education.

Here, little attention is paid to the training programmes for farmers. It was not until in the 1980s that some consideration was given to the implementation of university outreach programmes for rural farmers, the Out of School Project in Agriculture. Even where this programme has been designed, no special attention has been paid to rural women who produce most of the food for the nation. Sierra Leone is endowed with vast natural resources (fertile land, optimum climate and acceptable crops), for sustainable agricultural production. The effective use of these resources could only be achieved through research, training and extension education both at formal and non-formal levels.

Colleges and universities of agriculture are therefore seen as being primarily responsible for the preparation and career development of personnel for generation of agricultural knowledge, dissemination and application of the knowledge systems to appropriately target farming needs. Non-formal education as a means of reaching the rural poor for effective rural development is therefore the need of the hour.

This being so, there are several institutions of higher education in Sierra Leone which offer agricultural education. Some of these are listed here.

Njala University: Njala University was established as a public institution in Sierra Leone, by the Universities Act of 2005 with a responsibility to undertake training in agriculture, education, environmental sciences, social sciences, community health sciences and technology at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This institution came into existence on the 1st August 2005, when the Universities Act of 2005 became operational. The university operates on two campuses, i.e. Bo and Njala campuses. The Bo campus constitutes the Schools of Education, Community Health Sciences and Social Sciences while the Njala campus houses the Schools of Agriculture, Environmental Sciences and Technology. The Bonthe Polytechnic Institute is an affiliate of Njala University. The major objectives of the university are teaching, research and public services.

The precursor, Njala University College, has its origins in the government-established agricultural station built in 1912 at Njala in the Southern Region of the country. The station trained agricultural technicians and extension agents. In 1964, with the support of the government of Sierra Leone and the University of Illinois in the USA, the station was upgraded to a university college with two faculties, education and agriculture.

Milton Margai College of Education and Technology: The Milton Margai College of Education and Technology (MMCET) has a student enrolment of about 3,000. It has the status of a polytechnic and brings together the Milton Margai College of Education, the Freetown Technical Institute and the Hotel and Tourism Training Centre. MMCET offers courses leading to the Higher Teacher’s Certificates and B.Ed. degrees. There are also certificate and diploma courses in engineering, hotel and catering, performing arts, agriculture and social sciences.

Makeni Teachers’ College: The Makeni Teachers’ College was upgraded, through the Polytechnics Act of 2001, to the Northern Polytechnic, incorporating the Islamic College Magburaka and the Magburaka Trade Centre. Since 2004, it has, resumed operations in Makeni after the rebel war. The student population is currently about 1,000. Programmes offered include the Teacher’s Certificate and Higher Teacher’s Certificate, with courses in agriculture, practical and creative arts, home sciences and others.

Eastern Polytechnic: The Eastern Polytechnic, established in 2001 under the Polytechnics Act, is made up of the Bunumbu Teachers’ College and the Kenema Trade Centre, both in the Eastern Region. It has about 1,500 students pursing various technical, vocational and teacher education courses for Teacher’s Certificate, Higher Teacher’s Certificate and Bachelor of Science degrees in agriculture and a wide range of courses.

Freetown Teachers’ College: The Freetown Teachers’ College has a student enrolment of about 1,000. Recently, it became a dual mode institution, training teachers both by conventional and distance modes for the Teacher’s Certificate and Higher Teacher’s Certificate. The college will soon be merged with the Freetown Trade Centre to form the Freetown Polytechnic. In the meantime, Freetown Teachers’ College continues to offer courses in agriculture and other subjects at the Teachers’ Certificate and Higher Teachers’ Certificate levels.

Port Loko Teachers’ College: Port Loko Teachers’ College is located in the northwest of the country, and trains teachers for the Teacher’s Certificate and Higher Teacher’s Certificate, with courses in agriculture, practical and creative arts and home science. It will be upgraded into a polytechnic in the near future.

National Agricultural Training Centre: This is supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, but forms part of the Faculty of Agriculture of Njala University.

5 Problems of agricultural education and training in Sierra Leone

Agricultural Education and training is faced with a lot of problems in Sierra Leone. These problems include lack of national and local policies and policy environments, delivery methods of agricultural education extension and farmer training, research and extension linkages, institutional bureaucracies, finance and resources, and poor women participation. The most crucial problems are presented here.

5.1 Finance and resources

Financing farmer’s education programmes is a crucial factor in all developing countries. Providing adequate budget for education at both formal and non-formal levels in Sierra Leone has been a problem for the past three decades. This has been largely due to resource constraints.

Sierra Leone ranks as the least developed in the world: The per capita Gross National Product (GNP) currently stands less than $130 with only 1.4% of the total annual budget allocated to education. (World Development Report, 2004). With this small budget allocation, procurement of resources has been extremely difficult.

Grossly inadequate resources have hampered the teaching of agricultural education. Most schools that offer agriculture as a subject lack adequate facilities like agricultural machinery, chemicals and other teaching aids and facilities (the Sierra Leone Government Report 1995). Most schools continue to use crude tools with the result that practical agriculture is relegated to manual labour thus making the subject unpopular in Sierra Leone nowadays.

One other major problem is that in most rural schools, classrooms are overcrowded and seating accommodation is inadequate. Research shows that crowded classroom situations have negative effects on the academic achievement of the child. With overcrowded and large classes, the teacher’s job becomes even more tedious and unpleasant. Getting all of the pupils’ attention is often problematic because of the following:

  • the sheer size of classes makes monitoring of students work difficult;
  • administering regular tests and assignments is tedious;
  • roll-calls and other attendance checking is strenuous;
  • pupils distraction is common;
  • disciplinary problems are common.

The teaching of modern agriculture is stressed because of the poor resource situation in schools. In the university and other higher educational institutions, the use of crude tools is also common. Modest beginnings were made to equip institutions in the early 1970s. Foreign governments and other donor agencies, in their bid to equip the newly established colleges and the university generously donated tools and equipment to these institutions.

However, the culture of poor management and maintenance has left most of the tools and equipment out-dated and dilapidated. With no money for maintenance or replacement through donated aid packages or otherwise, these institutions continue to use what they have. This has not only affected the teaching of the subject but also dissuaded many students from enrolling for the programme.

The Department of Agricultural Education at the Njala University is currently in a state of resource crisis. There are no overhead projectors, computers, machinery in teaching laboratories, etc. As a result, the teaching process is predominantly theoretical with little meaningful practical work. This had and continues to have serious effects not only on the quality of the graduates but also on the teaching and research processes. This apparently had seriously affected the participation of farmers in training programmes.

5.2 Extension method

The introduction of extension education dates as far back as the colonial era. During that time, the role of extension was not so much for improving the standard of peasant agriculture as it was for enabling the farmers to earn more money to pay more taxes to the then colonial government.

These early methods which were seen to ‘improve production in agriculture’ did not benefit the farmers very much but they did benefit the colonial commercial firms. This was so because in these situations, extension services provided packages of practice to be followed while coordinator services supplied necessary inputs (seeds, fertilizers, insecticides, etc.) and marketing services usually through marketing boards or private companies.

Therefore, extension approaches were not popular in the colonial era. The colonial masters dictated what to plant and where to sell the produce. Often the packages of practice were compulsory. Farmers were not merely taught, they were ordered under pain or penalty to observe certain soil conservation rules, to cultivate specific land with specific crops, to follow prescribed cultivation practices and time schedules and to sell their product only to designated organisations at designated prices. It was therefore little wonder that the farmers generally viewed the extension agent less as a friend and more as a representative of a distant government that was out to exploit the masses.

Currently, the main extension approach is the Training and Visit (T&V) system introduced with the support of the World Bank. In this system, extension packages in the form of improved farming techniques, fertilizers and improved planting materials, etc. are transferred to farmers. This system evolved from the growing needs of the farmers for information on improved farming techniques.

This transfer of technology, as it is usually called, had come under fierce criticism over the past decades (Chambers, 1983). Chambers specifically advanced the following criticisms against the training and visit system:

  • focus of extension on elite farmers rather than the poorer ones for whom the packages may be more meaningful (elitism);
  • failure of the extension staff to visit farmers during the rainy season (dry season-bias extension);
  • exclusion of women from extension exercises (male-bias extension);
  • selection of specific sites for extension exercises (site-bias extension).

In Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, rural development projects, non-governmental organisations and, to a lesser extent, the university department of extension and rural development and research institutions carry out extension services. A modified training and visit system is the main method of extension practised.

However, modern approaches to extension are currently shifting towards the participatory approach, which often advocates the active involvement of the farmers in identifying their own problems and using their indigenous knowledge in combination with research packages to solve their problems. In this case, the extension practitioners are seen more as facilitators than teachers. This approach needs to be rigorously followed by extension personnel. Proponents of the participatory approach argue that farmers are more likely to adopt a system of farming in which they have participated in its formulation than in one that is trainer-centred and is being commandeered by “strangers”.

Although farmers in Sierra Leone had often come under criticisms by the extension officers for their reluctance to adopt innovation packages, a close examination of their situation will justify their reluctance. The fact that most of the farmers are illiterate does not mean that they are conservative. They are intelligent people with a wealth of experience and therefore are careful with whatever farming decisions they make.

Indeed, it is true that essential inputs such as improved seeds, fertilizers, crop rotation, are vital in agricultural improvement but experience shows that the improved seeds, though may be high yielding, are often vulnerable to local environment pests, diseases, weeds and climate. Moreover, farmers consider other qualities such as palatability, storage and consumer acceptability as key factors. Where new crops fail to meet these qualities, no matter how high yielding they might be, they will be rejected by most farmers. They do so because of the risks involved.

In this case, the farmers will prefer their local varieties, as there is assurance of some harvest at the end of the season. What the extension personnel must do is to combine research, farmer empowerment and other emerging innovations to the farmers’ advantage.

Innovations such as crop rotation have been widely recommended as an alternative to shifting cultivation or brush fallow. However, proponents usually fail to realise that this demands the use of fertilizers, which our local farmers cannot afford. Even for those farmers who can afford the costs, the fertilizers are often not available on the market when most needed. In addition, the application of crop rotation itself demands technical skills for which our local farmers need special training. Where such training is not adequately provided, one cannot blame the farmers if they fail to adopt the new technologies.

In Sierra Leone, the most effective farming season is during the rainy season because peasant agriculture is highly dependent upon rain-fed conditions. Extension services are appreciated most during this time. However, poor road networks lack of transportation and poor communication networks limit the activities of the extension workers limit the activities of the extension workers.

Furthermore, extension workers usually have large areas to cover. With the current extension worker to farmer ratio of 1:1200 - 1500, it is difficult to accomplish their tasks effectively (Williams, 1989).

Elitism in extension has been widespread in Sierra Leone since its introduction. Extension packages are usually directed to richer farmers because they are more and clearly specified, and achievable goals must be built into project agreements. These need to be based on open discussions between all the parties involved (including the beneficiaries institutions) at the pre-planning phase.

5.3 Staff shortage

Agricultural education at all levels in Sierra Leone suffers greatly from acute staff shortages. The causes of shortages are usually due to poor motivation in the public services, especially in the teaching profession. Most agricultural schools and colleges are situated in the provinces where social amenities are poor. Electricity shortages, poor accommodation, poor transportation facilities and the generally low salary structures make teaching in the rural areas unattractive. This does not only dissuade new graduates from taking up teaching appointments but also continue to trigger mass exodus of agricultural science teachers from the classrooms to other professions.

5.4 Poor women participation

Women are the key architects of agricultural development in this predominantly agrarian and less developed nation. Despite the huge contribution they make, women’s participation in agricultural education and training is by far lower than their male counterparts.

Women farmers in rural Sierra Leone are the most disadvantaged. They are the poorest, most illiterate and are normally discriminated against in terms of extension and education. The average illiterate rate currently stands at 79% for men and 89% for women (World Development Report, 2004). Buvinic (1994) argues that for effective participation of women in the development process, they should be provided with the necessary logistics because; “…the constant demand for women in the participation of national development should be accompanied by continued availability of the necessary facilities that would enable them to carryout their activities more effectively with less difficulties…”.

5.5 Toward Tech-MODE – Is Sierra Leone prepared?

Given the present situation where the T&V system of extension service cannot adequately address the needs of the farming population of the country, the imminent use of “better” means of reaching a wider public becomes imperative. The present information, communication technology systems offer such opportunity, but its affordability and sustainability becomes the bigger question in a country with little or no electricity supply. This notwithstanding, the proliferation of community radio in all district headquarters of the country has, in the most recent past brought farmers and their extension worker a little more closer. Telephoning-in programmes have been incorporated in radio discussions, and questions that would have waited in the minds of the farmer for a much longer period could be addressed by the discussion panel that may comprise both farmers and experts.

However, in the tertiary educational system, the use of computers and the internet has become the vogue, such that teaching/learning materials can now be posted on the network of schools or on the World Wide Web. These and other policy-related issues offer opportunities for moving Sierra Leone towards Tech-MODE as implemented in other parts of the world.

6 Policy options for agricultural education in Sierra Leone

6.1 National ICT policy

The formulation of a national policy on ICT began in 2006 and was expected to be finalized by 2007. A Telecommunications Act of 2006 has however been passed, which has set the pace for the establishment of a regulator National Telecommunications Commission, with the responsibility for licensing and spectrum management among others.

Although there is presently no national policy on ICT, provisions for ICT utilisation are embedded in the National Science and Technology Policy. At the same time the National Education Master Plan 1997–2006 outlines plans for upgrading teachers through the mode of distance education. Despite all the difficulties that the country faces, private sector activities have led to some efforts at developing a robust ICT infrastructure.

The present National Science and Technology Policy of Sierra Leone makes provision for the development of ICT through collaboration and partnerships with organisations both within and outside the country. The proliferation of the providers of Internet connectivity through the satellite, the mobile phone service providers and the subscribers as also the reduction in tariffs on their usage are the possible indicators of the government’s commitment to the expansion of ICT in the country. The formulation of an independent ICT policy is thus imminent. Table 1 shows statistics on ICT infrastructure and usage. Table 2 contains an analysis of the factors influencing ICT adoption in Sierra Leone.

Table 1. Statistics on ICT infrastructure and usage

Fixed Line Operators
Total Fixed Line Telephone Subscribers
Cellular Mobile Operators
Total Cellular Mobile Subscribers (2005)
Mobile subscribers (per 1,000 people) (2004)
Internet users per 100 inhabitants (2004)
Personal Computers per 1000 inhabitants (2004)


Table 2. Analysis of factors influencing ICT adoption

Factors Enabling Features Constraints
Policy framework and implementation plans A commitment in the education master plan Lack of a national and educational ICT policy
Gender equity and access to ICTs Emphasis on girl-child education Inequality in access to education between boys and girls
Infrastructure and access Commitment to the completion of the Bumbuna Hydro Electric power by the end of 2008 Erratic supply of electricity/ high costs of telephone connection and the long-distance charges
Collaborating mechanisms Partnerships and opportunities with other organisations Slow pace of feedbacks
Human resource capacity Increase in private initiatives providing ICT training Inadequate supply of skilled ICT labour in Sierra Leone
Fiscal resources Free primary education Lack of adequate government resources for education
Learning content Increased level of capacity building Lack of any standardised ICT curricula
Procurement regulations National Procurement Policy instituted Unregistered trading
Attitudes Strong commitment on the part of teachers and administrators Lack of adequate teaching/learning materials
Sustainability A positive political will Heavy reliance on donor projects

6.2 Problems and emerging trends

Research has shown that agricultural educational policies are major factors that affect the delivery of agricultural education and implementation of agricultural innovations. The following policy-related issues were identical in redefining agricultural education and training delivery system in Sierra Leone:

  • There is a lack of any coherent policy framework for agricultural education, due in part to the lack of coordination amongst the various agencies involved, and the fact that responsibility for implementation is usually shared amongst several ministries, as well as various private sector bodies including non-governmental organisations (NGOs). There is also a frequent lack of any coherent dialogue on policy issues, either between donors and beneficiaries, or amongst donors themselves.

  • Agricultural education and training systems require strong linkages; amongst the various institutions involved, across the formal/non-formal divide, and between the different organisations responsible for training research and extension. These are often weak or non-existent in Sierra Leone.

  • While it is apparent that projects which link European and other foreign training institutions with those in Sierra Leone could achieve some “success” in terms of objectives set, there is often a lack of external evaluation. The long-term impacts of links are rarely assessed.

  • The identification of training needs should be the natural starting point for policy formulation, and for institutional reform and curriculum development. However, there is often a lack of labour market studies for the renewable natural resource sector, and of training needs assessment amongst rural producers and their households. There are particular needs for the identification of new target audiences, and for the assessment of particular training needs of women. The needs assessment process itself ought to be of a participatory nature, but often it is not.

  • Curriculum development is a common entry point for intervention in agricultural education and training systems, and tends to lead to relatively stable innovations. However it is beset by dangers of irrelevance, of modelling the past and of the failure to provide for dynamic adaptation to the changes in the external environment. Increasingly, agricultural education curricula need to address emerging global issues (sustainability, environmental issues, gender, etc.) and to deliver job-related and transferable skills.

  • The revitalisation of agricultural extension training requires the development of institutional management capabilities, including skills for strategic planning, pre-appraisal, monitoring and evaluation. There is frequently a lack of entrepreneurial leadership, which is able to innovate in areas such as developing outreach programmes, and management of linkages and network building.

  • Human resource development must be a priority area. In particular training institutions need to be able to recruit staff with the right background, aptitudes and commitment for the whole range of activities (teaching, research, outreach, networking, etc.

  • Several link projects have illustrated the importance of creating a critical mass of change-oriented staff, through provision of “training of trainers programmes either in-country or overseas. In the same way, leadership development can be facilitated through a balance of in-country and overseas training. Much potential exists for the further development of a split-site PhD programme.

  • The achievement of sustainability should be a primary aim of all donor support for agricultural education and training projects as well as capacity building strategies.

  • Agricultural education and training programmes for Sierra Leone are in need of rationalization, in the light of current social and economic trends. In some cases, private initiatives are on the increase, and there is frequently a growth of NGO involvement, especially in the “village-level” and farmer training programmes. Part of the rationalization process has led to the creation of more integrated learning systems, with strong formal/non-formal linkages affected through the field schools, new partnerships between public and private sector institutions and the exploitation of new potentials for distance learning. The latter can provide more cost-effective delivery systems, and can be targeted at more remote and vulnerable groups not reached by the conventional methods of agricultural education and training.

  • There is also a need to seek new roles for existing institutions, with greater diversification of function and the exploitation of partnership between the public and private sectors as well as among the different types of training institutions. The notion of creating interactive learning networks amongst tertiary institutions, school, local NGOs and the rural people’s organizations also need to be explored.

  • The wider dissemination of the results of agricultural education and training research, as well as of successful innovations and models, could contribute to the process of revitalisation This needs to include greater cross-fertilisation between the different regions of Sierra Leone.

  • The emergence of technology-mediated open and distance education is gaining grounds in Sierra Leone. The introduction of open and distance education gives the learning population wider options of enrolment and a more convenient means of capacity building. However, the Tertiary Education Commission of Sierra Leone is faced with the task of quality assurance and accreditation. At the moment, the commission is yet to come to terms with this trend.

7 Policy recommendations for agricultural education and training

To address the problems and emerging trends listed in the preceding section, there must be coherent and realistic policies to effect the revitalization of agricultural education and training. The most crucial include the following:

  • A national mechanism is needed to ensure that agricultural education and training policy-setting is treated as an integrated whole, with clear lines of communication amongst all private and public sector agencies involved.

  • National agricultural education and training systems need strong links between formal and non-formal sectors, and also among research, teaching and extension.

  • There should be clear lines of communication amongst all donor agencies involved in supporting agricultural education and training and between donors and implementing agencies.

  • National curricula for any part of the agricultural education and training system should allow for local variability, be responsive to changes, and provide pathways for educational progression.

  • Recruitment into the public sector agricultural education and training institutions should be related to all their aims and objectives, including (where appropriate) commitment to outreach and farmer first approaches.

  • Donor support for agricultural education and training should always provide for sustainability through open discussions with beneficiaries at the pre-planning stage, and must include human resource development and capacity building elements to allow sufficient timescale for institutional change.

  • The institution of an ICT policy that makes adequate provision for the introduction of Tech-MODE at the local level in particular and international level in general is of paramount importance. Accordingly, COL and other partner institutions have to assist in the provision of technical support and advocacy role.

  • The Tertiary Education Commission of Sierra Leone has to work with COL and other partner institutions in formulating a quality assurance policy on open distance learning.

8 References

Alghali, A.M., Turay, E.D.A., Thompson, E.J.D. and Kandeh, J.B.A. (2005). Environmental Scan on Education in Sierra Leone

Chambers, R. (1993) Challenging the Professionals. London, IT Publications

Statistics Sierra Leone, (2006). The National Population Census Report

The Sierra Leone Government Report (2005).

The World Bank Report (2004).

Williams, J., Davis, Reimers, F. and Hanson, J. (1989) Supply and Demand for Trained Agriculture Manpower in the SADCC Countries. SADCC: Southern African Centre for Co-operation in Agricultural Research

Related information

Icon inter.gif

Web Resources

The Main Page on Tech-MODE in SSA is Tech-MODE_in_SSA

For brief information on the country studies see the poster presentation: Tech-MODE Poster

For information on agricultural open educational resources (AOER) see the poster presentation: AOER Poster

For a Synthesis Report on all eight country studies see Tech-MODE Synthesis

For the Country Study on:

Distance Learning for Agricultural Development in Southern Africa
Rainer Zachmann, Mungule Chikoye, Richard Siaciwena, Krishna Alluri
In 2001, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Vancouver, Canada, and the In-Service Training Trust (ISTT), Lusaka, Zambia, initiated a program for agricultural extension workers in Southern (and Eastern) Africa to develop and deliver distance-learning materials. Participants from Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia produced materials, pre-tested them with prospective learners, improved the materials in a workshop in 2002, and implemented pilot programs in their countries in 2003 and 2004.

ICT/ICM Human Resource Capacities in Agricultural Research for Development in Eastern and Central Africa
Rainer Zachmann, Vitalis O. Musewe, Sylvester D. Baguma, Dorothy Mukhebi
Human capacities are lagging behind the quickly evolving information and communication technologies and management (ICT/ICM). Therefore, the Regional Agricultural Information Network (RAIN), one of the networks of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), commissioned an assessment of ICT/ICM human resource capacities and related training needs in the context of agricultural research for development. The assessment included visits and interviews, questionnaire surveys, and desk studies at national agricultural research systems in the ASARECA subregion. We found a general lack of ICT/ICM policies which has serious consequences, and leads to a wide variety of training needs. Fortunately, most training needs can be satisfied with resources available locally, in-house, in the country, or in the ASARECA subregion.