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‘Without education we are losing a battle to early child marriage’

- Children’s Commissioner tells MPs

July 2, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura

Commissioner at the National Commission for Children has told Members of Parliament that Sierra Leone is fighting a losing battle without education in the country.

Ms. Olayinka Laggah was speaking after lawmakers paid her a visit. She said scores of children nationwide need educational infrastructure, especially in remote areas, where children walk long routes to school. This, she said, forces parents to give their children into early marriage.

Madam Laggah maintained that if funds given to sports and other activities are diverted to support educating children, it will be good, adding that quality education is not talked about in all areas of the country.

She informed the MPs that the commission had taken a tour of Kono, Kenema, Freetown and Makeni, and that part of their observation was that girl child education poses a problem for most parents who will rather give their children into marriage.

“We are going to tackle early marriage this year as we want to find out issues that help strengthen the system that will reduce child marriage, and without education we are losing a battle to early child marriage,” said Ms. Laggah. “There should be community structures in the chiefdoms which will protect the girl child within the communities. According to parents there is no access to education, a situation they said leads to early marriage.”

She disclosed that a meeting with traditional leaders in rural areas will soon kick-off as they are involved in marrying off young girls.

According to Commissioner Laggah, child labour is very visible in the country and they will soon look into those issues as children are walking around the streets, which should not be the case, as there are laws guiding them but are not being enforced.

Earlier, Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Emma Kowa, said they have been mandated to monitor institutions that are responsible for children and gender issues.

Hon. Foday Roland Kargbo stated that even if the schools are built in communities they need qualified teachers, which is a challenge for the ministry. He said the Education Committee is working assiduously to ensure that a multi-million programme to create rapid change in the education sector is successful, adding that they are also advocating for primary and secondary education to be separated from tertiary institutions in order to lessen the burden on the ministry.

Hon. Fredrick Sourie suggested that the commission looks into the issue of establishing boarding schools as it used to obtain in most schools, to help prevent children dropping out of school and being employed as apprentice in garages, mines and as commercial motorbike riders.