October 12, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
A new education project called ‘Girls Access to Education’ (GATE) which has been introduced by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) would benefit nearly 200,000 girls across Sierra Leone, according to a press release from UNICEF.
According to the release, the project was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), led by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), and would be implemented in collaboration with UNICEF and partners, to improve the transition and completion rates of girls in secondary school.
The release continued that the USD 6.7 million DFID funded project was launched by the government on the International Day of the Girl on 11 October, this year and would be implemented within 18 months.
It further stated that the project would support more than nine hundred (900) Junior Secondary Schools to address the safety of girls from violence, support girls from disadvantaged households, and also help out-of-school girls back into education.
“School data shows there are roughly equal numbers of boys and girls in primary schools, but transition rates are lower for girls from one level to the next at secondary level,” said Dr. Minkailu Bah, Minister of Education, Science and Technology.
He added that by tackling the issue from various fronts, the ministry would hope to reduce barriers including school violence, poverty and low awareness on the importance of girls being in school.
The release noted that the project would also ensure partnership with local NGOs, and that communities would be helped to come up with their own solutions to support girls to stay in school.
“I am delighted that the UK people are supporting the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in their work to enable adolescent girls to stay in school. Helping girls finish their education is vital for every girl. It is also critical for Sierra Leone, paving the way for women to play a full part in Sierra Leone’s development,” said Sally Taylor, Head of DFID Sierra Leone.
Project partner, UNICEF also used the International Day of the Girl to highlight a new UNICEF global report, which for the first time quantified that challenges of household chores for girls – something that can be a factor in girls dropping out of school or performing poorly.
“The report found out that girls between 5 and 14 years old spent 40 per cent more time, or 160 million more hours a day, on unpaid household chores and collecting water and firewood compared to boys,” UNICEF noted.
“The overburden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood and intensifies as girls reach adolescence,” said Geoff Wiffin, UNICEF Sierra Leone Representative.
“As a result, girls sacrifice important opportunities to learn, grow, and just enjoy their childhood. In the GATE project, communities will be incentivized to support girls to stay in school. We hope this will help girls reach their full potentials in schools,” he said.