Education is important for everyone. But girls’ education is particularly important in Sierra Leone because if you educate a girl you can educate a nation. Girls are the ones who will think ‘I cannot leave people behind; I will take care of people, I will take care of my siblings, of my children, of my parents.’ Educated girls help their community.
But in rural communities many girls struggle to go to school. Getting an education is not easy, there are many things that can distract you; – some parents don’t value education – they prefer their children to be traders and therefore don’t encourage their children to go to school. Other girls have the potential but it’s poverty that is stopping them; we have so many people living in abject poverty – many families aren’t working and so can’t afford to send their children to school. When mining came to this community many girls dropped out of school to earn fast money. Some girls are forced into early marriage instead of going to school – there are 15 and 16 year old girls who are married – when you are that young, you suffer in marriage particularly if you are not educated.
Teenage pregnancy is another reason girls drop out of school. These girls are coming to school and they are eager to learn but because they don’t have their basic needs provided for, they are easily led astray by men. They can be convinced by men especially when they are not sensitised and don’t have a mentor. So girls become pregnant at 13, 14 and 15 years old and once you are pregnant you will drop out of school, even if you want to go, because classmates will laugh at you – that’s what kills their spirit. Sometimes through mentoring girls will continue, but without that, they just drop out – it’s really concerning that we have so many pregnant girls.
Male teachers are also part of the problem. Some are impregnating girls in schools. This is a state crime but it still occurs. Teachers are spoiling a girls’ future – girls who will be women tomorrow with positive characters who will contribute to the positive development of this nation and teachers are taking that away.
I want to change this situation. We need to give girls supportive care. Many girls want to learn, many are brilliant – it’s just that they don’t have the fees for school, they don’t have their basic needs provided for, we need to provide supportive care for these girls to learn –to help them understand the importance of education – let them see role models of women who have achieved and are successful and let them believe.
Men and women need to come together to develop. Men want to be at the forefront, leaving the women behind. We say no to that – what they can do we can do, what rights they have, we have. We need to be side by side – men should understand that we should not be left behind. Women can do a lot if we were given a chance – we have a lot to contribute.