UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Education Youths and Sports (MEYS) yesterday released a report which revealed that there are about 300,000 children who are out of school in Sierra Leone.
The report, which is titled: ‘The Out-of-School Children in Sierra Leone’ examines the causes and categories of children who are not going to school and makes recommendations to tackle the issue.
Sheku Ahmed Tejan Tanu who chaired the launching ceremony of the report said research plays an important role in the socio-economic development of any country.
He explained that it is only through research that problems could be identified and solutions found.
The chairman called on all to read and digest the recommendations made in the report, so that children out of school in Sierra Leone will be a thing of the past.
Deputy UNICEF Representative Vidhya Ganesh reaffirmed their institutional commitments.
She said, “What this country needs is human capacity, after the civil war and brain drain.” Vidhya Ganesh explained that the quality of education does not come out as a major factor but “I do know that it is another problem… teachers need to be trained.”
She averred, “The recommendations are quite practical. The actions are possible and durable.”
She however noted that what is unclear is how fast work can be done to get out of the vicious cycle.
In his keynote address the Deputy Minister of Education Dr Lansana Nyalla spoke about government’s position; policies and programmes to ensure access to quality and free primary education for all.
Though the government has policy on compulsory free primary education, yet the often high indirect cost levied on poor families was reported as another cause of children dropping out of school.
The children out of school are likely to be the disabled, orphans or those living away from their biological parents.
Furthermore, children especially those in remote rural areas find it difficult to walk long distances to school.
Teenage pregnancy is also another major factor that keeps children out of school.
The increase in teenage pregnancies in both rural and urban communities, that tends to lead impoverished parents into not only stopping the educational support of these teenage parents but also other girl children in their families.
The report offers all stakeholders in the educational sector an opportunity to develop better targeted programmes and advocate for stronger policies so that children can go and stay in school.
The report revealed that poverty is the primary factor that keeps children out of school; many poor families desperately need the assistance of their children to generate income to help feed their families instead of going school.
Among schooling and non-schooling children interviewed, 87 per cent were found to be engaged in some form of income generating activities.
Sierra Leone remains at the bottom of the UNDP Human Development Index out of 177 countries in the world. Over two-thirds of the country’s 5.3 million people live below the poverty line earning less than $1 a day.
The average poor household spends 37 per cent below the required amount to meet their basic needs. By Ophaniel Gooding