Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio At Global Education Summit in UK, Assures of Girls’ Access to Quality Education
President Julius Maada Bio, Thursday addressed the Global Education Summit, the biggest of such events to encourage donors to raise $5 billion in the next 5 years, along with commitments from partner countries on domestic financing for education.
The President is one of only four African leaders participating in the 2021 Global Education Summit: Financing GPE 2021-2025 being co-hosted today by the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
“I want to start off by saying that access to quality education is a fundamental human right. Besides, my government, has already stated the human capital development piece of it. But also, we want to make sure that human capital development is inclusive. For women or girls in particular, there is, of course, gender disparity, especially in the schools.
“And certain norms and discrimination have not allowed the girls to be able to continue to do their education. So, we have to take care of that. And, again, when you think about the number of girls who dropped out of school, I thought that it would be a big failure, on my part as a leader who is very passionate about education, to leave any girl behind,” he said.
The President also addressed the question of why did Sierra Leone recently overturn a law so that pregnant girls would never again be banned from classrooms. Julia Gillard, who is chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education, also asked the question of how did that action change the lives of girls across the country and increase access for all girls to quality education?
President Dr Julius Maada Bio said his government’s policy was to make sure that all girls, irrespective of the fact that they were pregnant, or not able to continue school, go back to school after childbirth.
“It was for this reason that we brought in this new policy. What has it done? Well, of course, it’s been difficult, we are trying to narrow the gender disparity gap, especially for pregnant girls. So, we had to bespeak this particular policy to make sure that those gender norms that militate against pregnant schoolgirls are taken care of. That is why we did this.
“What has it done? It has given confidence to girls, not to be pregnant, but to know that when they are pregnant, they still have another chance. That’s a huge number in Sierra Leone. Last year alone, from school census, we had about over 2000 girls who were registered pregnant schoolgirls. Normally, all of them will drop out of school, but because of this policy they have the chance to continue school. And our policy is about making sure that they stay in school as long as possible, and that they can return to school after childbirth.
You know, on a lot of occasions, we have put the burden on the girls, little girls in their formative years. We look at them to be sexual gatekeepers, who would have to say no. That is victimisation. We are being unreasonable. And of course, after they get pregnant, we accused them again. And that means secondary victimisation. What our policy has done is, it has gotten rid of the secondary victimisation.
We are doing everything to prevent early pregnancy. My wife is a big campaigner. She goes all over Sierra Leone. ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ is a campaign on her part, which means we don’t want anybody to tamper with these girls. But should they fall victims, we should not secondarily victimise them. And that is what this policy is about,” he said.