May 25, 2015 By Joseph S. Margai
Pregnant and lactating girls who are currently taking remedial classes in Port Loko district have complained about hunger at dropping centres established by the Ministry of Education to leave their children while in class.
The pregnant and lactating girls’ education project came about after hundreds of school girls became pregnant during the Ebola outbreak and were not allowed to take their exams when schools re-opened. The controversial decision irked many child and human rights activists within and outside the country.
According to Deputy Director of Education in Port Loko district, Brima Thaimu Koroma, the girls have also complained about the location of the centres and distance they have to cover to attend classes.
“There are some girls that are living in distant places and so to get to the centres on time for teaching is a great difficulty. Besides these, we have a problem of logistics to monitor all the centres, especially when some of the roads leading to most of the terrains are horrible,” he noted.
Despite these challenges, he said, the Ministry of Education has succeeded in returning some of the girls to school even though there are still good many of them at some remedial centres.
He disclosed that there are 28 centres in the district, adding that one of the centres, which is situated in the Koya chiefdom, has 102 pregnant and lactating girls.
He said the girls are given psycho-social support apart from the normal subjects that are taught, adding that they also receive sexual and reproductive health talk from the District Health Management Team (DHMT) in Port Loko.
“We selected the teachers from schools in the district and we gave them refresher training so as to help them meet the demands of the project,” he explained.
He disclosed that the project should end in August 2016 and that by that time they are hopeful of getting all the girls back to school.
In another development, Mr. Koroma disclosed that with the help of World Food Programme they have recently introduced a ‘take home ration’ school feeding programme in the district. He added that a bag of rice and five litres of cooking oil are shared among five students in the school.
He said the project targets seven chiefdoms in the district and has helped increase the rate of attendance in primary schools, adding that it has also helped retain children in school, with the hope that they would complete their primary education.
“We have established a situation room in order to monitor education at community level. We have school inspectors but there is a delay to inspect the schools because of the bad terrain,”he disclosed, adding that the calls could be made to and from the situation room and concerns are addressed promptly.