The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) with support from United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) and IrishAid has re-integrated two thousand and fifteen (2015) out of school girls into formal education from four districts in the country.
In July 2023 UNFPA supported the Directorate of Non-Formal to identify 2,015 girls to return to formal school. Girls were selected using the criteria of Radical Inclusion from 19 communities across four districts namely, Moyamba, Kambia, Koinadugu and Pujehun.
These girls came from eleven communities across four districts. The girls represented some of the most vulnerable with 15 girls being pregnant at the time of identification, 127 being adolescent mothers and 26 having a form of functional difficulties (disability).
“Let me commend the staff of my ministry and our partners for their role in ensuring that these girls return to school. President Bio remains committed to the Free Quality School Education (FQSE) and access to education for all is key in this drive. For us as a government, education is not an expenditure but an investment of which the returns is a positive learning outcome,” according to the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education Mr Conrad Sackey.
Minister Sackey encourages the girls to make use of the opportunity by staying in school, encouraging them to break the glasses sealing by competing with their male counterpart, noting that women should take advantage of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Act.
Building on and learning from the previous reintegration, a pre-reintegration package of three times a week in literacy, numeracy and life skills classes over a two-month period prior to the reintegration. In order to ease the financial burden of return to school, and in line with the National Policy on Radical Inclusion in School, UNFPA supported the MBSSE to procure, assemble and distribute back-to-school kits to each of the girls chosen for reintegration.
The re-integration package includes; two sets of uniforms, one pair of school shoes, one school bag, three pens, two exercise books and one copy of the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy and Child Marriage’s Adolescent Info Pack.
The UNFPA Country Representative Madam Nadia Rasheed says, “The courage of returning to school is a very bold step that you have taken and I want to encourage you all to stay in school. Let me take this opportunity to thank the teachers and also the Ministry for the role they have played in ensuring that these girls return to school. For UNFPA, we want a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child lives and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”
The Ireland Ambassador to Sierra Leone Aidan Fitzpatrick congratulates Sierra Leone for lifting the ban on pregnant girls, noting that Sierra Leone is attracting external support on education because of the government investment in education which is 22% budgetary allocation and this is the highest in Africa.
Ambassador highlighted some of IrishAid interventions in Sierra Leone’s education system.
In September 2022, UNFPA supported the MBSSE to reintegrate an additional 600 out of school girls into formal education. At the time of identification 79 girls were pregnant, 322 were adolescent mothers, 104 were learners with disability (trouble hearing, 37; trouble seeing 32; trouble with mobility, 13, trouble remembering or concentrating, 22) and all 600 girls were living in underserved communities.
Augustine Sankoh Strategic Communications Analyst MBSSE