In her statement yesterday at the official opening of a two classroom block and toilet system at FAWE Girls’ Junior Secondary School at Waterloo, UNICEF goodwill ambassador, Angelique Kidjo has stressed the need for education.
“Education is key for us in Africa to get out of poverty,” she said.
The goodwill ambassador who has a foundation called ‘Batonga’ to help pupils of the school explained that she was brought up from a parent who strongly believed in education; “my father often said, ‘if you are not educated you will be the fool of the people’”.
“You’ve got to be educated to be able to stand for yourself,” she stressed.
She appealed to government to demonstrate the political will to ensure that girls are protected so that they will develop their full potentials.
The UNICEF goodwill ambassador promised to rally funds to support girl child education saying “I have big dreams for these girls,” she said.
Giving an overview of the project Mrs Eileen Hanciles explained that the FAWE Batonga relationship started in April 2007 by a path finding group of people from USA.
“The initial proposal was for the construction of a junior secondary school at Fourth Street, Freetown – however due to logistic constrains the site was moved to waterloo,” she said. Under the agreement, Mrs Hanciles revealed that “Batonga was to provide bursary to 60 girls entering junior secondary school here and a total of $60 per child was awarded.”
She revealed that “the amount might seem very small to some people, but in our Sierra Leonean context it covers tuition for a year a pair of school shoes and a uniform, school bag, seven core text books, exercise books etc. $2,400 was to go towards school furniture”.
Mrs Hanciles further disclosed that on the 16th of December 2007, “60 girls – the poorest of the poor out here in waterloo orphans, and prostitute received their Batonga scholarship items.”
She maintained that of the initial 60 students a total of 48 will be going on to JSS II, “four of them dropped out because they were relocated,” she revealed. “All the core text books given to the children were collected at the end of the academic year, for incoming students to make use of,” Mrs Hanciles said.
“Batonga has committed itself to providing scholarship to 60 students for the next three years,” she disclosed. “In May a total of $17,000 was sent for the construction of a six compartment toilet and water well to pump water to the toilet. We are grateful to Kidjo for the contribution. This is a manifestation of a commitment to liberating African women,” Mrs Hanciles said.
In his remarks Minister of Education, Youths and Sports Dr Minkailu Bah noted that after the war parents realized the importance of education.
“Our wealth as a nation is the education we give to our children, – as a government education is one of our priorities,” he said.
The Minister however explained, “We’ve realized that there is disparity between male and female education in this country, particularly when you enter the junior secondary school.” At primary school level, he said, “we realized that there are less disparity between boys and girls in school, but in senior secondary school level the disparity is great. “That is why we are encouraging developing partners in education to come to the aid of the government – we realized the government alone cannot do it,” the minister emphasized.
He also disclosed that the government has now included in its programme that all girls who passed the NPSC examination will be given scholarships and school materials. “We did not only stop there because girls are frowning from the sciences, we now have a policy to give girls scholarships that are entering tertiary institution to read sciences,” the minister said.
In her keynote address, first lady Mrs Sia Koroma advised the pupils to ensure that they make good use of the building “the facilities are going to last well after your time here,” she said. By Ophaniel Gooding