The United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Sierra Leone, Mahimbo Mdoe on Thursday 4th November told news men that Sierra Leone remains well below the indicator line gearing towards the Millennium Development Goals in universal access to education which states that children will be able to achieve primary education by 2015. He made this statement at the media conference on Nationwide Community Sensitization on Enrollment and Retention of out-of- school and vulnerable children organized by Action Aid Sierra Leone at the Bamoi Hotel in Freetown.
Mr. Mdoe disclosed that about 50% of the Sierra Leonean population is under the age of 18, according to statistics. He said 31% of the primary school age children are not enrolled in schools, and 40% of those children who are enrolled never complete primary schools.
He informed that their mandate as UNICEF is to ensure the survival of the principles of the convention on the Right of the Child. He said UNICEF has been supportive to all children’s affairs which is always very close to their hearts. “Education is not just sending a child to school but keeping them in schools and making sure that they learn the skills for success that every other child needs and deserves,” he underpinned.
He further underscored the need for Government and other important stakeholders to come together to work hard to increase access to education so that ‘Universal Primary Education can be obtained.’ He expressed demand for adequate number of qualified teachers, the provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in all schools.
He said in 2008, UNICEF was able to gather evidence from “Out of School Study” survey from which the Community Sensitization project came into being and since then, education partners including Action Aid Sierra Leone, Chibuzor Human Development Organsation and World Vision were identified to enhance the project. “We are to say that the partners are working assiduously with UNICEF and the government of Sierra Leone to implement this project in communities,” he noted.
Several other speakers including the deputy Major of Freetown, Mr. Gibril Kanu, the Executive Director of Action Aid, Mr. Mohamed Sillah and the Deputy Minister of Education Youth and Sports made statements all pinging on serious national problem of access to education by children in the country.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.