By Alhaji Haruna Sani
Following a media tour across four (4) districts in Sierra Leone to gauge the impact of the back to schools campaign, heads of schools, community stakeholders and teachers testified to newsmen that the campaign led to a significant increase in schools’ enrollment.
During the back to school campaign vulnerable pupils, including those with disability were supplied with assistive devices including wheelchairs, orthopedic boots, eyes-lenses, ear and eye drops and learning materials including books, pen, pencils, sharpener, geometry set and school bag. Close to 4000 pupils received school learning materials with 2800 solar radios supplied to them.
Pupils benefited from the solar radios by listening to the school teaching program, jingles on Covid-19 sensitization and back to schools campaign which was going on across all 16 districts in the country. With very bright lights on the solar radios, pupils use the lights to study at home.
The solar radios were also used as a teaching tool during learning circle classes. Learning Circle was a special learning session introduced by the consortium led by Street Child, were the most vulnerable pupils including those with disabilities who were identified by Teachers and School Management Committees (SMCs) received special round table teaching sessions.
Musa Sao is a 12 year old pupil at the Roman Catholic Primary School at Panguma in Kenema District. Sao was suffering from myopia that he almost gave-up schooling. “I was not seeing objects properly, I was not able to read neither write well and I almost gave up schooling until when Handicap International through the GPE project supplied me with some eye drops after conducting a test. I was also given sunglasses.
Abu Kamara of Saint Kizito Junior Secondary School Panguma, a 14 year old pupil also testified how his eye site was resuscitated after receiving a lens from Handicap International through the GPE project.
“I was not regular in School because of the provocation and the constraint until after receiving the lens from Handicap International. A test was conducted on my eyes before the lens was donated to me. I am pleading to GPE to please extend the project so that my colleagues who do not benefit from the project will in the future benefit from it,” Kamara expressed.
“I was using a shopping plastic as school bag until Save the Children and GPE supplied me with school bag, books, pens, pencil, sharpener, and geometry set. The school bag has been helping me protect my learning maters,” 11 years Joseph Mansaray explained.
Mansaray who attend the Bo District Education Committee Primary School in Mano, Jaiama Chiefdom also informed newsmen that the materials supplied to him and some other colleagues attracted more children to attend school.
The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) in an innovative partnership with a Consortium of seven experienced International and National NGOs led by Save the Children Sierra Leone to implementing some components of the COVID-19 Education Emergency Response across Sierra Leone which the Ministry is implementing with support from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) through the World Bank and as part of the ongoing Free Education Project. The seven NGO Consortiums include Save the Children International, Concern Worldwide, Handicap International, Plan International, Focus 1000, FoRUT and Street Child
The Project which will end in June this year have been implemented in all 16 districts of Sierra Leone with a target beneficiary of 101,336 children (54,556 girls and 46,780 boys) in more than 500 primary and Junior Secondary Schools.
The project seeks to address barriers to equitable access to safe, inclusive, quality learning opportunities for girls and boys, including children living with disabilities in primary and Junior Secondary Schools in remote and marginalized communities in Sierra Leone.