Over the years it has been indisputably recognized that at the heart of any development agenda, education should be firmly planted as the prerequisite engine that successfully drives the system with precision. Also for participation, community ownership and peaceful coexistence to obtain, all critical sectors of the society need to be brought on board in a non discriminating and non-marginalizational manner.
Long before Dr Condom discovered condom, named after him, there were various ways in which people prevented pregnancies like following up the menstrual cycle and plotting the dry and wet days. There used to be a center manned by the Catholic Church way back in the early 80s situated at the St. Joseph’s Primary School on Howe Street. This center did workshops on fertility awareness. Of course you should know that the Catholic Church is not in favor of the use of condoms to prevent pregnancies. There used to be two beautiful ladies running that center, Miss Louisa Stevens and Miss Val-Carcel .
Deep rooted in our culture and tradition, the girl child is meant to be prepared for marriage, but we all know today that that is a thing of the past. We know today that equal opportunity should be given to both girls and boys and this should be seen to be done. The many negative cultural and traditional trappings in respect of girl child education led to the gross imbalance in ratio today, weighing heavily against the girl child.
The typical African craves to have boy children, rather than girls. This is mainly because girls will invariably end up getting married off and become part of another family. On the other hand boys will remain and continue bearing the family name even after marriage. Things are changing a bit in some European countries where a woman may not necessarily need to change her maiden name after marriage.
What has been discovered over the years is that both girls and boys can perform equally and some times girls can excel over boys. However the greatest challenge in the girl child education has been getting them retained in school and at the same time successfully fishing in flying colors. The drop out rate in girls is still high today for reasons like early marriage, unwanted pregnancies and child labor. So you will find out that as kids progress in school, the numbers of girls keep dwindling.
Now there is this often repeated expression that if you educate a girl child, you educate a nation. They used to say that behind every successful man, there is a woman. Now we say beside any successful man, is a woman. Everything is being done today to level the playing field for both girls and boys.. The days when women were to be seen and not heard are far gone and today many women are holding their own. There are many big establishments and Agencies headed by female Chief Executive Officers..
One very interesting thing I have learnt recently is the description of females as hoes and males as shovels. Interesting eh/ Hoes because women plough back whatever resources they get into the family whereas like shovels men are said to throw off their resources away from the family. Well whether you agree or not, the truth is there is a whole lot of truth in the assertion.
By the biological make-up of people, there are some who by nature carry things around and you have the others who characteristically receive.
That is how nature is. You know what; God used man’s rib to create the woman so that she can protect his heart. Again at marriage ceremonies the Priests insist that the woman should be on the left said of the man where the man’s heart is lodged. Do you see the significance? Sure you have. When you consider the number of domestic chores that the woman performs, you will see that they are far more than the ones the men perform.
A whole lot of researches have been done and all point to the fact that educating the girl child is of great necessity. This is where the Kabbah and Koroma Governments have done quite a lot. But definitely so much more needs to be done. The Agenda for Change gives four main priority areas as Energy, Agriculture, and Infrastructure/transportand Human development. Under the human development, I am pretty sure that education takes pre-eminence. Good governance has three main ingredients namely acquisition of knowledge, access to resources and a healthy life.
In Sierra Leone the odds against the girl child finishing school successfully are just too huge this is why girl child education is being stressed. While efforts are being made to increase women’s participation at all levels of the country’s development, girl child education becomes a prerequisite to that process. It is clearly complimentary. They often say that women’s empowerment is very critical to child development.
If you are a girl in Sierra Leone, you have one out of six chances of attending Secondary school. Women and girls can lead change in their communities if supported especially through education. With still so much promotion of culture in many communities, there is a 62% chance that the Sierra Leonean girl will get married before the age of 18. We have had the case of girls having children at the tender ages of between 12 and 15. If the bulk of our girls are married off like flies, you can imagine the sort of future this nation will have. Most unlucky girls are actually betrothed from birth. Here the issue of education is shattered and thus destroy the girl’s right to an education that can guarantee a decent livelihood.
In the area of abuse, girls also stand a very high disadvantage. Many are likely to be abused before the age of 18 years. When it happens, in most cases family members cover it up and keep it secret. Girls that are abused in their teen may develop many complications and may die in child birth or live with serious problems. If all this is to be avoided, education for the girl child has to be a must. When the girl child is educated,, marriage will be deferred and she will have fewer and healthier children. An educated girl will contribute greatly in changing the world and is also three times less likely to contract HIV. Research has shown that for every extra year of school, the girl child’s income will increase by 10 to 25%.
Another reason why girl child education should be taken serious by governments is the fact that it is believed that 90% of her income will be ploughed back. This ties up with this hoe image of the girl. My God if you go to some rural areas in our country, especially boundary Districts, you will really feel sorry for them. Some drop out of school for reasons of lack of support from the society in meeting basic need like medical attention.
This is why the myriad of problems the education sector is having definitely spells some ill omen for development in general. One very sore issue is that of the non payment of salaries for teachers and the non approval of teachers even when they have taught for several years. It is clear that for all aspects of development, some level of education is needed.
Let us remember that we will remain on the poverty list for a long time mainly because of the high level of illiteracy among women. We better do all we can to improve girl child education so that we can face our future without regret and are also able to prepare for the future without fear. Let us leave the legacy of drastically raising the level of girl child education and thus secure a better Salone with a sustained peaceful co-existence.
By S. Beny SAM