The UN children’s fund, UNICEF, has supported the Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MEST) to sensitize stakeholders in education on gender awareness, with an emphasis on the need for the girl child to be enrolled in schools.
The sensitization took the form of a one-day workshop in Kenema, Bo and Makeni. The Kenema workshop also catered for participants from Kono, Kailahun and Blama, while the Bo workshop also brought together stakeholders from Bonthe, Moyamba, and Pujeh. And in Makeni, participants were also drawn from Port Loko, Kambia and Koinadugu.
The UNICEF Assistant Project Officer, John Paul Conteh told Awoko that his organization was aware that girl child education especially in the North and the Eastern part of Sierra Leone was at a low ebb, and as a result his organization was concentrating in those areas.
He said they were helping the ministry of education to achieve equity in education for both boys and girls in the country.
Mr Conteh stressed that “Education is a right and not a privilege,” emphasizing that the adage also goes for the girl child.
The Assistant Project Officer promised that UNICEF would continue to support the Ministry to meet this challenge.
He added that they were currently rehabilitating schools and building new ones in communities were government could not penetrate.
Mrs Gloria Johnson, the Gender Desk Officer from the Ministry of Education said government had made great gains in the enrolment of girls into schools especially in the east and north where the school used to be a no-go area for most of them.
She told Awoko that her ministry was now focusing on the retention of girls throughout the schooling system.
She stated that the workshops aimed to look into the factors inhibiting the enrolment and retention of girls in schools.
Participants identified traditional leaders, who also participated in the workshops, as major stakeholders in ensuring that girls be enrolled and retained in schools.
They agreed that traditional practices encouraged by these traditional leaders such as female genital mutilation (Bondo) and early marriage are the major inhibition to girl education, hence pivotal in the campaign.
Robert Coker Seilolo Papawe III of Bagruwa chiefdom, Moyamba District and Sheku Amadu Tejan Fasuiluku Sansiyama III of Sandor Chiefdom in Kono District who are traditional leaders accepted that as paramount chiefs they have a role to play.
They promised to raise awareness among their colleague chiefs to improve girl child education.