First Published on State House Website on October 16th 2006 during the SLPP Government of former President Kabbah
Kenema, October 16th 2006: Girls of Sierra Leone have since the introduction of Western education in the country trailed behind boys in terms of access to and retention in school. The dropout and the low enrolment rates of girls have been largely blamed on parents' failure to provide for girls' education. Due to the high incidence of poverty in the country, most families in the rural areas preferred to let their boy children stay in school because of meagre resources, while the girl children are often left at home to assist in domestic chores and later to be given out in marriage. This situation had resulted in the very low percentage of educated women as compared to men in the country, and to the overall low literacy statistic in the country.
In a bid to reverse this situation, government has embarked on thefunding of girls' education through the Sababu Education Project. Due to the very low rate of girl's enrolment and retention in schools in the Eastern and Northern regions in particular, government had selected those areas for the first phase of the project implementation, which involves the payment of school fees, donation of books and other relevant school materials in respect of girls who pass the National Primary School Examination (NPSE), until they complete the first three years of junior secondary school or JSS3.
SLPP Presidential Aspirant and then Education Minister sits
next to then President Kabbah at the epoch-making occassion.
The President, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was in Kenema to officiate at the 2004 Sababu Education Project Implementation in Kenema, Eastern Sierra Leone, at an impressive and colourful ceremony held at the Holy Rosary Secondary School hall. Each girl child in Junior Secondary School is entitled to receive textbooks, pens, pencils, rulers, a geometry set, exercise books and two pairs of uniforms including her school fees for the year.
Welcoming guests to the ceremony, the Resident Minister, East, Hon. Sahr Randolph Fillie-Faboe, said this is the first time in the history of Sierra Leone for a government to pay not only school fees for all the school going girls in Junior Secondary School, but also provide books and other school materials including uniforms. He called on the parents to ensure that their girl-children are sent to school and advised the school children to make the best use of the opportunity.
All these children benefitted as did thousands of others in
Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sierra Leone
The Acting Director of the project, Dr. Chuku Dupiny, informed his audience that all funds for the project are provided by government through a World Bank loan, and that both local and International ngos have been engaged as partners to help implement the project. The Sababu Education Project, Dr. Dupiny said, also includes the construction of schools in areas where there are no schools or not enough schools to serve the locality or chiefdom, and to build at least one junior secondary school in every chiefdom throughout the country.
Dr. Dupiny also stated that they at the project coordinating unit are aware of the fact that the nation has entrusted them with a responsibility that is beyond the US$40 million value of the project because the nation has entrusted them with the education of its children, and therefore, the future of the nation. He pledged on behalf of his team to do all within their powers to ensure that the project is not only successful in meeting all of its goals, but that it is transparent and fully accountable to all.
President Kabbah enters the compound to loud cheers!
Mr. Jacob Saffa, the Acting Manager of the World Bank Sierra Leone Country office, observed that the launching of the project by President Kabbah himself is a sign of his commitment to girls' education in the country. He noted that the Sababu Project is a means of building capacity for the government under the education recovery programme.
The Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Alpha Wurie, explained that out of the US$40 million for the Sababu Education Project, $13 million will be spent for the eastern region alone. He said they have already identified fourteen sites for the building of schools in the Kenema district alone. He reiterated the fact that all the school materials for the project are being bought by the government of Sierra Leone and emphasized that government is spending money on education because of the faith they have in the children of Sierra Leone. Dr. Wurie informed his audience that by 2006 a total of eighty-five schools will have been built in the eastern region and every chiefdom in the country will have at least one Junior Secondary School.
Former Finance Minister and by then Presidential Adviser, J.B. Dauda
is shown in this photo helping to distribute school items. Today, informants say that JBDis all set to replace Zainab Bangura as next
APC Foreign Minister in President's anticipated upcoming Reshuffle.
Minister Wurie expressed great satisfaction that the children in the eastern region did very well in the last National Primary School Examination and the West African School Certificate Examination. He advised them to keep working hard and come out with even better results in the subsequent examinations.
The President, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, praised Dr. Alpha Wurie and his colleagues at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for undertaking the Sababu Education Project, which he described as a noble venture.
The jam-packed hall with the school items shown in foreground
President Kabbah said the children will have to take over from the adults, and that parents count on their children and regard them as security for their old age. To have the children as security, the President said, we must be able to provide them with the necessary education. He said "Sababu" is a cross-ethnic word in Sierra Leone, meaning 'opportunity', and that all Sierra Leoneans must be provided with this opportunity.
He cautioned parents, who because of lack of resources to pay school fees for their children, particularly the girl child, marry them off, making them incapable of using their intelligence for their own development and consequently the development of the country. He said parents no longer have an excuse. He obliged them to ensure that they send their girl child to school.
President Kabbah also advised the children to be good members of their families and communities, and be obedient to their parents, and not to use their education to become disrespectful to their parents.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.