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The 2020 Mid-Term Population and Housing Census Technical Committee has held its maiden meeting to discuss pertinent technical issues relating to the upcoming Mid-Term Population and Housing Census scheduled for December 2020. The Meeting which was held at the Stats SL Headquarters at AJ Momoh Street in Freetown on Thursday 27th August 2020, attracted nominated technical committee members from Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Universities, Non-Governmental Organisations, The UN Country Teams and Embassies.

In welcoming the committee and spelling out its terms of reference, the Director Of Censuses and GIS who also doubles as the National Census Coordinator, Abdulai Brima, mentioned that the committee is charged with the responsibility to oversee all the technical aspects of the 2020 Mid-Term Census, guided by input from the National Census Advisory Committee. He furthered that the committee’s key mandate shall be but not limited to: Reviewing and Finalizing the Census Instrument which includes Questionnaires and Manuals; Pre-testing the Data Collection Tools and ensuring Quality Control measures are in place; Ensuring that all Cartographic Preparations including training of mappers, Cartographic Data Collection and delineation of Enumeration Areas are done as stipulated and Enhancing Data Management in the area of pre-field activities Data Capture, Editing and Analysis.

In his presentation to the committee on the WHY,HOW and WHEN of the 2020 Mid-Term Population and Housing Census, the Statistician-General of Stats SL who is also the Chief Census officer, Prof Osman Sankoh (Mallam O),said that the main purpose of the Mid-Term Population and Housing Census was to amongst other things: Evaluate progress made since the last primary census in 2015;Review the last census exercise, look at any of its reported challenges, and try to address them; Test the use of Computer-Assisted Personal Interview Data Collection (CAPI) in a census for the first time in Sierra Leone; Rehearse for the next full/primary census in 5 years’ time in 2025; Provide reliable baseline data to assess the impact of the Government’s key development interventions in respect of the Medium Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) and the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals especially SDG 4 which focuses on Education; and to more especially update and take stock of significant gaps in the 2015 Population and Housing

Prof Sankoh espoused that, the 2020 Mid-Term Census was proposed by Stats SL to The Government of Sierra Leone purely out of a technical need in the sense that, For the Type 3 localities representing 59% of the country, the total populations of the enumeration areas are known. However, the populations of the individual localities that form the enumeration areas cannot be determined due to coding errors in the last census. He clarified that such errors will not recur due to the technological intervention of Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) which will be used to augment the data collection which totally replaces paper-based data collection. He intimated all that CAPI comes with GPS coordinates which tell where the data are being collected and the data are then sent from the field directly to a server at Stats SL HQ in Freetown with additional monitoring mechanisms put in place. He concluded by saying that Stats SL is prepared as this is not the first time it has used CAPI having previously used it during the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) in 2017, The Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey (SLIHS) in 2018, The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and the Annual Economic Survey of Enterprises (AESE) which were both conducted in 2019.

However, he said that this will be the first time in Sierra Leone that census-taking will be done with the use of computers.

In setting the stage for the technical discussions, the Director of Demographic, Health and Social Statistics, Sonnia Jabbi, said that the committee will have to closely look at areas where the questionnaire can be improved to especially cater for indicators that were not captured in the last census as well as removing those areas that might have become obsolete. He noted that this is the main reason why experts in respective fields have been conglomerated to provide the required expertise via constructive inclusion in the committee. The technical committee was presented with the last census questionnaire to aid the discussions which brought forth many strategic points that will be crucial in agreeing on the key contents of the 2020 Mid-Term Population and housing census questionnaire at the next meeting of the committee.

Other meaningful contributions in the meeting emanated from the Chairman of the Statistics Council, Moses Williams, The Director of the National Accounts and Economic Statistics Division, Mwaluma Andrew Brima Gegbe and the Director of Communications and PR, Samuel Ansumana who moderated the meeting

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