May 30, 2018
By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of Parliament have called on the Ministers of Health, Water, Education, and the Judiciary to implement laws that would discourage teenage pregnancy across the country.
The lawmakers made the above call whilst making their contributions to the debate on the speech delivered by President Bio at the State Opening of the Fifth Session of Parliament on 10th May.
According to Hon. Alice Jebbeh Kumabeh, representing Constituency 92 in Bonthe district, the increase in teenage pregnancy in the country was not a novelty, adding that although certain measures have been put in place a lot more needed to be done.
“I am calling on the Ministers of Education, Health and Water Resources to vigorously implement laws that protect the right of children and also prevent them from early pregnancy. I am saying this because you all are contributing factors to the betterment of our nation building,” she said.
She argued that the lack of adequate water supply in most district headquarter towns and big cities have contributed to high rate of teenage pregnancy.
She explained that: “Mattru Jong, which has the highest number of population in Bonthe district, doesn’t have adequate water supply. The other towns are mining areas and all of these areas have grown into bigger towns and need attention,” adding that school children travel for almost four to five miles to nearby schools.
Hon. Kumabeh noted that, “The previous government enacted the Sexual Offences Act 2012 but failed to implement it thoroughly. There is no Resident Magistrate in some townships, thereby causing the parent of the girls to be compromised by the perpetrators thus leaving the matter unresolved.”
She remarked that the lapses in sexual abuse cases were numerous, noting that perpetrators should be held responsible for their uncanny behaviour.
She alleged that some girls were allegedly impregnated by their teachers, who go unpunished in the name of ‘fighting shame for the school’ and leaving the girls to take the blame.
“There are education laws that are set aside to address such issues. I am urging the minister responsible to address the issue with immediate effect,” she urged.
The lawmaker also called on the Ministry of Water Resources to work hard to providing water in big cities and township as lack of water has contributed to the high rate of teenage pregnancy.
“Children have to fetch water late in the night or early in the morning. These are the time when sexual intercourse does take place without perpetrators being punished. I am pleading that family planning be reinstituted in all the schools and communities despite the traditional beliefs bestowed in some township,” she said.
She urged that awareness on teenage pregnancy should be a priority, especially in the ‘New Direction’ agenda.
The Member of Parliament also called on the Education Ministry to enforce the implementation of the compulsory girl child education as it was ‘horrible that 60% of adults were illiterates’
Hon. Titus Kamara of the National Grand Coalition representing Constituency 61 in Kambia district said quality of education in the country has been a tough challenge and that the national examination body should be given prompt attention.
“Teachers marking scripts for external exams are sometimes not paid for almost two to three months after the process. This is bad. Because of non-payment, they will have to demand monies from pupils that write the exams,” he said.
He observed that it was impossible for one to live without their salary and that sometimes a paltry amount was paid to examiners per script, adding that “supervisors are not paid on time which could force them to be influenced by the pupils when exams are going on.”
Hon. Kamara claimed that Mambolo town in Kambia district used to produce the highest amount of rice foe export, pepper and other products, but for the past ten years they have been dependent on imported rice.
“When you look at the attention given to the agricultural sector, you will see that there has been a political interference in the sector. I am pleading that the new minister focuses his attention on agro-industry as they contribute greatly in that sector,” he said, adding that external market cannot be traced any longer in the sector.
“The country lacks certain benchmark that would attract international market standard. I am pleading that a Sanitary Department, National Agro and Agricultural Department be instituted in the ministry in order to meet international market standard,” he noted.
Hon. Rolan F. Kargbo of the APC said the proposed U-turn from 6-3-4-4 to the old system of 6-3-3-4 was a good idea, but that there was a need to hold serious consultations with teachers and community stakeholders in education.
The opposition lawmaker urged the minister to swiftly approve 47 schools that were constructed by a non-governmental organization in his constituency.
“There are 47 schools in Tambaka Chiefdom, the Karene district, that were constructed by a non-governmental organisation. But those schools haven’t been approved by the ministry. I urge the minister to address this issue as those children living in that part of the country should also benefit from the free education scheme,” he urged.
Hon. Kargbo maintained that the president failed to include in his speech the role of parliament in the dispensation of his ‘New Direction’ policy, thus noting that parliament was a very important partner not only on oversight but also monitoring of ministries, departments and agencies.
Meanwhile, the presidential debate is expected to continue until Friday, 1 June.