Fifty-one percent of Sierra Leone’s population consists of women, yet more than half are illiterate,” said Elfreda Scott, the chairperson of the National Symposium on Girl and Young Women Empowerment and Education.
Scott was joined by a large group of young women, government minister representatives and non-governmental organization members at the “Girl Power Project” program held at the British Council on Tuesday.
As a former principal at the Government Municipal Secondary School and member of the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Sierra Leone, Scott spoke from experience when describing the need to focus on education, the key to development. Scott, who is a mother of two adult men, fondly referred to all the young girls as her daughters. She emphasized the role of dynamic youths as the catalyst in promoting change in the current gender status quo and working towards success.
“Youth, you make up a bulk of the population; you contribute your energy; your zest for life; your exuberance,” encouraged Scott. “It’s about developing the right attitude towards success and striving for excellence in whatever you do.”
Although many young Sierra Leonean women are driven and inspired to complete their education, there are many structural issues in the landscape of Sierra Leone education. This was made clear through the speech of a young woman named ZakiatuSesay, a Youth and Child Advocacy Network (YACAN) member.
Sesay, who spoke boldly with a loud voice, listed the challenges of peer pressure, poverty and young male teachers, which can all pose as stumbling blocks to academic success for young women in Sierra Leone.
Some of her concerns were addressed by the Deputy Minister of Education, Lansana Nyalley. He called for increased parent involvement in child education as deterrence from peer pressure and a source of information.
Nyalley emphasized the need for increasing social education at schools, at homes and through the media to provide information discouraging early marriages and unwanted pregnancies.
In his speech, Nyalley emphasized the vision of “100 percent girl education,” which calls for 100 percent of enrollment of all girls of school age and also 100 percent coverage of women’s education expenses.”
Nyalley, a cheery and jovial man, earnestly conveyed the government’s efforts to work towards building a better world and partnering with youth while focusing on women’s education and the empowerment of young women. He cited these efforts, such as implementing more pre-schools, developing more schools with less walking distance and providing scholarships for young women pursuing math and science studies.
Nyalley conveyed that we must all work together for the common good of Sierra Leone. “A better world is when a girl child attends the highest level of education and is well-trained; when the opportunities are equal for all to develop skills,” said Nyalley. “It will not come from discussing; it will come from you and I changing our attitudes.”
By Sandi Halimuddin