300,000 children are out of school in Sierra Leone
Freetown, Sierra Leone, 18 August 2009 –The Ministry of Education, Youths and Sports (MEYS) in collaboration with UNICEF, today releases a report on the factors that keep children out of school in Sierra Leone.
The report, which is titled, The Out of School Children of Sierra Leone, examines the causes and categories of children who are not going to school and makes recommendations to tackle the issues.
According to the report, poverty is the primary factor that keeps children out of school. Many poor families desperately need the assistance of their children to generate income to help feed their families instead of going to school.
Among schooling and non-schooling children interviewed, 87 per cent were found to be engaged in some form of income generating activities.
Sierra Leone remains at the bottom of the UNDP Human Development Index out of 177 countries in the world. Over two-thirds of the country’s 5.3 million people live below the poverty line earning less than $ 1 a day.
The average poor household spends 37 per cent below the required amount to meet their basic needs.
Though the Government of Sierra Leone has a policy on compulsory free primary education, yet the often high indirect costs levied on poor families was reported as another cause for children dropping out of school.
"As a government, it is essential that we stop violence in schools and wipe out age-old factors such as ‘illegal school charges’, ‘ghost schools’ and ‘ghost teachers’ that have contributed in keeping our children out of school", said Hon Dr Minkailu Bah, Minister of Education, Youths and Sports. "The verification exercise of teachers which we started last year shows our commitment to improve the education system".
The children out of school are likely to be disabled, orphans or to be living away from their biological parents. Furthermore, children, especially those in remote rural areas, found it difficult to walk long distances to school.
Teenage pregnancy is also another major factor that keeps children out of school. The increase in teenage pregnancies in both rural and urban communities, tend to lead impoverished parents into not only stopping the educational support of these teenage parents but also other girl children in their families.
"Though it is common knowledge that many children are out of school in Sierra Leone, it is important for us to learn the striking evidences and causes that keep them out of school", said Geert Capperlaere, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone.
"This report offers all stakeholders in the educational sector an opportunity to develop better targeted programmes and advocate for stronger policies so that children can go and stay in school".
The report calls for a stronger governmental commitment and leadership in addressing the problems of children who are not in school.
It is vital to have more transparent, equitable and efficient resource allocation to address the prevailing economic disparities.
Another important recommendation of the study is the integration of child labour and child protection into the Education Sector Plan to provide increased awareness of the issues and thus advocate for increased budget allocations at all levels.
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