Sierra Leone

The Harbour of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a West African country bordered by Liberia to the southeast, Guinea to the northwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the West. Sierra Leone is richly endowed with natural resources, including forests, fisheries, land, and minerals, and is globally acclaimed for its wildlife. However, Sierra Leone’s natural resources are under pressure from population growth, overdependence on biomass for energy needs, water pollution, unsound mining activities, obsolete environmental laws, and a lack of institutional capacity to effectively implement and enforce environmental policies, regulations, and laws.

The government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, provides leadership and policy directives for environmental education and protection. The Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone (EPA-SL), the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), and other ministries, departments, and agencies collaborate with civil society organizations, international and national nongovernmental organizations, and community-based organizations such as the Conservation Society for Sierra Leone (CSSL) and Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA), to promote environmental education (EE) in school curricula and local communities through campaigns and awareness raising.

The Sierra Leone Constitution of 1991 affirms the country’s commitment to “harness all natural resources of the nation to promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self reliant economy” (Chapter II: 7 (1)(a)) and requires that all “law be consistent with the constitutional interest of … public safety, public order,… public health and the conservation of the natural resources, such as mineral, marine, forest, and other resources of Sierra Leone” (Chapter II: 18 (3)(a)).

In 2019, the government of Sierra Leone established the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change with the primary focus of developing and implementing environmental strategies and policies,  including environmental education. The Ministry provides an institutional framework for improved coordination among stakeholders responsible for environmental management and climate change mitigation. 

The Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone (EPA-SL) was established by an Act of Parliament (EPA Act 2008) in September 2008 as a body to provide for the effective protection and management of the environment and other related matters. The EPA Act was amended by Parliament in 2010 and 2022.

The main functions of EPA-SL, as described in Section 12, Part Three of the EPA Act of 2022, are as follows:

  • Environmental Impact Licensing—The Agency reviews and approves submitted environmental impact assessments 
  • Enforcement and Compliance—The EPA ensures compliance with environmental impact assessment procedures in the planning and execution of development projects, including compliance with respect to existing projects.
  • Education and Awareness Raising on the Environment—The EPA is responsible for the creation of public awareness of the environment and its importance to the economic and social life of Sierra Leoneans.
  • Pollution control—The EPA prescribes standards and guidelines relating to air, water, and soil quality, the pollution of air, water, land, and other forms of environmental pollution, including the discharge of wastes and the control of toxic substances.
  • Environmental Research—The EPA undertakes environmental studies and submits such reports and recommendations regarding the environment as considered necessary by government actors/agencies. 
  • Environmental Integration—The EPA ensures the integration of environmental and climate change concerns in overall national planning objectives by developing modalities and maintaining linkages/partnerships with relevant Government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
  • Mobilize, expedite, and monitor resources for environmental management—The EPA develops plans and programs with regard to environmental management issues. 
  • Strengthen Private Sector Involvement in Environmental Management—The EPA must liaise with the private sector, non-governmental agencies, and community-based organizations on issues relating to the environment.

In 2012, the National Protected Area Authority and Conservation Trust Fund Act was passed by an Act of Parliament to provide for the establishment of the National Protected Area Authority and Conservation Trust Fund to promote biodiversity conservation, wildlife management, research, and oversee the sale of natural resources/ecosystem services within National Protected Areas.

The New Secondary Curriculum For Sierra Leone; Subject Syllabus for Environmental Sciences

This subject syllabus is based on the National Curriculum Framework for secondary education. It was prepared by national curriculum specialists and subject experts through the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary education. 

The general learning outcomes/broad goals of this subject syllabus for environmental sciences include:

  • “To stimulate interest in the environment
  • To develop an understanding of the interdisciplinary and holistic nature of the environment
  • To develop knowledge and understanding on environmental issues and principles as well as   the ability to apply these to environmental management, particularly in the Sierra Leonean context 
  • To develop the ability to collect, analyse, and interpret environmental data
  • To provide an understanding of the interactions between people and the environment
  • To recognize and evaluate the socio-economic, political, and ethical issues in environmental sciences
  • To develop an understanding of how natural resources and the environment affects quality of life and are related to development initiatives in Sierra Leone. 

EE in K-12 Education

The New Basic Education Curriculum for Sierra Leone Environmental Sciences from Class I to JSS3 is based on the National Curriculum Framework and Guidelines for Basic Education and was prepared by national curriculum specialists, subject experts, and teachers through a series of nationwide consultations and technical workshops in December 2015 (reviewed in 2020). UNICEF supported and facilitated the preparation of the basic curriculum framework and its accompanying syllabuses. 

This curriculum includes a variety of learning outcomes, such as: 

  • General Learning Outcomes which state what learners are expected to achieve at the end of each of the stages,
  • Specific Learning Outcomes by Grade, which state what learners are expected to achieve at the end of each class in the 9 year basic education cycle, and 
  • Specific Learning outcome by topic, which state what learners should achieve in the subject at the end of the suggested themes and units

Professional Development and Certification

Sierra Leone has several higher learning institutions, including training institutions, colleges, polytechnics, and universities, that provide research and teaching opportunities for the study of environmental education. The University of Sierra Leone, Njala University, Milton Margai Technical University, and Eastern Polytechnic all provide professional training in environmental sciences at all levels and undertake applied research projects. 

National Associations

There is no national association for EE in Sierra Leone, but there is strong political will and grassroots support for its promotion. This is being manifested and grown through the efforts of professionals, youth groups, women's groups, environmental school clubs, community-based organizations, civil society organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. 

EE in the National Government

The Ministry for Environment and Climate Change and the Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone (EPA-SL) are the leading political bodies for the development and implementation of environmental education policies and curricula in Sierra Leone. Over the years, these two entities have been providing institutional frameworks and have been overseeing the coordination of different stakeholders that provide environmental education services in Sierra Leone. 

National Environmental Campaign and Funding

Public awareness raising and education related to environmental issues is undertaken by different stakeholders in Sierra Leone, including international and local nongovernmental organizations, embassies and diplomatic missions, bilateral and multilateral organizations, civil society organizations, and community-based organizations. These organizations coordinate events, campaigns, talk shows, radio discussions, television shows, public lectures, and other presentations that promote environmental education. 

There is, however,  a serious challenge in raising sustainable funds to promote EE in Sierra Leone. There are limited funding opportunities and limited capacity to develop high-quality, long-term EE programs and projects.