The Country Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Geert Capalaere, yesterday informed the minister of education youth and sport that the agency had increased its budget and would earmark $30 million for education for the next three years.
During a handing over ceremony of vehicles to the ministry by UNICEF, the Country Representative stated that, “education is the key priority although we have other areas like infant mortality to deal with”.
The reason why they are laying emphasis on education, Mr Capalaere disclosed, “is because of the excess work that has been going on and what should be undertaken by the ministry as 70% of children have access to primary education while few hundreds of others don’t.”
“Though it is not easy to get all the children to school but we want to ensure that most of them acquire primary education,” he said.
He added that he was very happy about the recent speech made by president Ernest Bai Koroma in parliament that education was important and that he did not only want children to go to school but also they should benefit from it.
Speaking on girls’ education, Geert Capalaere maintained that they would continue to work with the girls section of the ministry and they wanted to see girls attaining the highest educational standard.
According to survey conducted by UNICEF, it has been found that the girls are the first to drop out of school. He stressed that the seven vehicles, five of which were for the districts and two for the ministry’s headquarters in Freetown, was a gesture of the continued friendship. In his statement, the minister of education, youth and sport Dr Minkailu Bah said the visit and gift were not a surprise as he had seen the role UNICEF had played in education. He disclosed that, “it is the plan of the government to ensure that children have quality education”. He stressed that the reason for the poor performance of children was the number of untrained and unqualified teachers in these schools. “Our first response is to verify the teacher’s payroll to see the number of qualified teachers on the list.”
He agreed that enrollment had increased but that they wanted to match the number to ensure that the children had proper education. On the issue of the girl child, the minister said “we want them to make their mark. Parents also should put modalities in place to help the teachers in the education of the girl child.” He noted that, “the education of the child is not only limited to the government and partners but also to the parents as the children spend a lot of time at home.”