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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

June 16 commemoration: Save the Children hobnobs with pupils

By Alfred Koroma

In commemorating the Day of the Africa Child (DAC) this year, Save the Children Sierra Leone, converged children from various schools and communities in a one day training workshop to help the children understand and be able to speak against harmful practices affecting them.

“Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children” was the theme for the commemoration workshop which was laced with a puzzle game competition and series of activities illustrating harmful practices affecting children in the country. The theme has its origin in 2013 when the African Committee on the Rights of children came up with it.

 Speaking at the event, Ramatu Jalloh, Advocacy and Communications Director for Save the Children said they organized the workshop to help the children understand the essence of commemorating DAC, give children the space to be able to understand what harmful practice means in the Sierra Leonean context, and to let them have equal voices to speak against those practices. 

“It was a platform created for children to speak to each other about harmful practices, understand what is going on in their countries and be able to become advocates themselves against harmful practices,” she added.

 The International Day of the African Child is usually observed on June 16 every year since 1991 when it was first designated by the Organization of the African Union. It is a day widely commemorated in Africa to honor the courage of black school children who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 against the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their language.

Dozens of the children involved were killed and dozens left injured. Today, the June 16 is also observed to draw attention to the lives of African children and to raise awareness about the need for improvement of the education provided for African children.

Interacting with the children in her welcome remarks, Ramatu Jalloh advised them to consider the day as theirs, interact and treat each other equally. Activities of the interactive program were largely undertaken by children.

 13-year old Kolleh Sesay, a visually impaired disable from Murry Town Army Senior Secondary School chaired the program. In interview, Sesay told this medium it was his first time of ever moderating a program. He thanked the organization for giving him the opportunity and for prioritizing the role of the children in the workshop.

“…I want to give kudos to Save the Children for giving us the priority as children to be in charge of the program,” he said, adding “Today is my first of sitting before people moderating a program. “I give that great honor to Save the Children for giving me the chance.”

“They gave us the chance on the program. They gave us the chance to ask them questions. They gave us the chance to talk on things that are going bad with children,” Sesay explained. He said the workshop helped him understand what Save the Children is doing in Sierra Leone, and he learned a lot from the program.

Established in the UK in 1919, the over a century old children organization started operating in Sierra Lone in 1999 and has maintained it focus on  seeking solutions to the challenges faced by children in Sierra Leone through it  development and humanitarian support.

Save the Children which is present in 120 countries also works to improve the lives of children through better education, health care, and economic opportunities, as well as providing emergency aid in natural disasters, war, and other conflicts.

In her presentation on the organization’s Child Protection and Safeguarding policy, Matta Kanu Allieu, Safeguarding Officer for Save the Children said their organization is committed to protect children from intentional and unintentional harm, reduce the likelihood of risk and abuse, and committed to ensuring that all children are safe.

 Save the Children has a toll free line (922) as one of its child protection mechanisms, Allieu said while encouraging children and adults to call the line whenever there is a safeguarding concern in their communities.

 To gather feedback on harmful practices affecting children and child protection activities in the country, Save the Children grouped participants of the workshop and employed various group work activities on topics such as “Frank Talk: Harmful practices affecting children in Sierra Leone where groups were required to brainstorm practices affecting children, and proffer possible solutions to mitigate them. Draw your child heroes and define them, evaluation of the program etc., were all activities undertaken by various groups of participants during the workshop.  

To get more feedbacks from the participants, Concord Times further spoke to some of the participants of the interactive workshop who expressed their feelings and lessons they acquired from the program.

Mariama Jalloh, a pupil of Free Town Secondary School for Girls (FSSG) said she learned about her rights as a child which must not be violated.  “I learned that it is my right to go school and I should not get married when my time has not reached,” she said. When asked what she will do with the lesson, Jalloh responded she is taking the message to her friends who were not fortunate to attend the workshop.

Responding to a question about his experience from the workshop, Saffa M Marrah, 15, said he learned a lot. Specifically saying he learned that as a child no matter your age, your situation, there is still hope in life. Marrah appeared to have a keen interest in the toll free line which he had already memorized, emphasizing he would ensure all his friends and relatives have the line.

For Zainab M Kargbo, a 15-year old girl from Fatarahman Junior Secondary School, the workshop was the first ever workshop she’s been lucky to attend in her life. The cheerful teen said she acquired a wealth of knowledge about harmful practices against children from the workshop while expressing for being a participant in the workshop.

 “I feel so happy for being here today; I have never attended a workshop in my life. Save the Children made my day great,” she expressed.

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