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Sierra Leone: Newsline

Sierra Leone: Partners take community education to children in rural areas

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©UNICEF Freetown/2005/ Westerbeek
Minister Alpha Wurrie (centre), Dr. Cream Wright (left), UNICEF Chief of Education and Dr. Waithira Gikonyo OIC UNICEF Sierra Leone.

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 26 April 2005 – “Every child must have the opportunity to access education in Sierra Leone,” said Dr. Alpha T. Wurie, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, during the launch of the Community Movement for Education (CoME) Initiative at Rogbesse Community School in northern Sierra Leone. “Should Sierra Leone make any gains in national development,” said Dr. Wurie, “education must be a key priority cutting across partisan, tribal and religious boundaries.”

The CoME project is designed by the Global Movement for Children, in partnership with local communities, to provide access to education for an estimated 375,000 school-aged children, especially in remote rural areas, within a four-year period. The initiative involves teacher training, provision of teaching and learning materials, technical assistance for supervision and monitoring, and support to communities for the establishment of low-cost school structures with water and sanitation facilities.

Mr. Leslie Scott of World Vision, who chaired the event and also serves as chairman of the Global Movement for Children in Sierra Leone, said that “it is expected that with the lessons learned from this first phase this initiative will be taken to scale with a target of 1,300 schools nationwide over four years.”

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© UNICEF Freetown/2005/ Westerbeek
Some of the children in their new school in Rogbesse.

Dignitaries at the ceremony included the UNICEF Chief of Education, Dr. Cream Wright, who is himself a Sierra Leonean. Dr. Wright expressed his pleasure at the Initiative’s emphasis on providing child-friendly learning environments in the context of a comprehensive education package. He called on all present to ensure that “no child in Sierra Leone should be out of school.”

Highlights of the event included a skit by children that outlined the benefits of education, especially for girls, and recognition of outstanding women from the Bombali District. Among the women recognised by Dr. Staneala Beckley, UNICEF Regional Education Adviser for West and Central Africa and also a Sierra Leonean, were the Inspector of Schools in Bombali, the Chief Social Development Officer, the Acting Matron of the Government Hospital and the Principal of St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Makeni.

The Paramount Chief of Bombali Shebora Chiefdom, Chief Kasanga Shebora III, was given the Global Movement for Children award for the highest level of enrolment, as well as the highest number of girls enrolled in the Bombali District during the 2003/2004 academic year. The award is designed to create competition at community level to champion children’s issues, especially in education.

Significant efforts have been made by the government to increase school enrolment and change the image of a Sierra Leonean child from soldier to student. In 1999, the government undertook the payment of school fees in all government-owned and assisted primary schools; in 2001 it waived national exam fees; and in 2003, basic education was made compulsory.

As part of its push to meet the Millennium Development Goal of ensuring quality education for all by 2015, the government has renewed its focus on educating girls in particular. Since 2003, it has provided full support to girls who are successful in their exams in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, two priority regions for boosting girls’ enrolment and retention. This support has meant full annual tuition, books, writing materials, and uniforms for each girl. By 2007, the Government of Sierra Leone asserts, Junior Secondary School education for all girls will be free.

At the Rogbesse Community School, where the Initiative was launched, 125 six and seven-year-old children are enrolled. Nearly half of these are girls. Thirty similar schools have been completed by the GMC partners and local communities using low-cost, local building materials. These schools are an upgrade of the existing makeshift community learning centres. Currently 482 such centres exist, catering to almost 45,000 children.

During the launching ceremony, five new children were enrolled by various GMC partners and representatives of multilateral and bilateral organisations. Also present were representatives from United Nations agencies, the World Bank, French Cooperation, NGOs, members of the community and schoolchildren.

The Global Movement for Children in Sierra Leone includes partners such as MEST, UNICEF, Plan Sierra Leone, CAUSE Canada, Christian Children’s Fund, the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, the Federation of African Women Educationalists and Action Aid, among others.


 

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