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Sierra Leone News: Early marriage disrupts girl’s education

A 10 year old girl in Koinadugu District is not going to school. Her right to free quality education was allegedly infringed by her parents. The girl says she wants to go to school. “I still think I can make it if given the chance to attend school,” she said. Her father, Alpha Conteh, never wanted her to go to school because she can marry to an elderly man that would help the family financially. The girl lives with her parents in Kamabama Village, which is situated in the Karasa Section located in Kosongo Chiefdom in the Koinadugu District. “A few elderly men have approached me for her hand in marriage,” her father, Alpha Conteh confirmed. Conteh preferred his daughter to marry young because of the economic benefits to the family. The girl is refusing her father’s decision to send her out into early marriage because she too wants to access education. Her mother, Mariama Bangura, alleged that her husband Alpha Conteh deliberately refused to send the girl to school. The family is farming for a living and they have four children. The third child is already married to an elderly man. Article 26 (1) of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights says everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. After several telephone conversations duty bearers of Koinadugu District confirmed that they would do everything in their might to send the girl to school. The Koinadugu District Council Chair, Alex Conteh, said the Council has an obligation to ensure the education of the girl and that she is not an exception. He said the Council would do all it can to ensure she goes to school. The Education Policy says every child should go to school. The parents would meet the force of the law if they refuse to send her to school,” he said. Chair Conteh confirmed that this is the first case reported in the district for many years. “My message to the parents is that they should send the girl to school soon or they would face the full penalty of the law,” he said. The goal of Koinadugu District Council is to eradicate or minimize illiteracy in the district where every child is entitled to go to school without any hindrance. The Koinadugu District Deputy Director of Education, Abubakarr Kuyateh, said the issue is a surprise to him because no one has reported it. “All head teachers of the district have been mandated to do community sensitization for parents to send the girls to school,” he said. Koinadugu District Coordinator for women advocacy network, Hawa Conteh, said such issues are common in the district. “Sending girls to early marriage instead of going to school is not happening in the main centre of the district but in the villages,” she said. Conteh revealed a case where a class 4 pupil was sent to be married by her parents. “Jointly collaborating with the Sierra Leone Police, the girl returned to school again,” she said. She informed, “At civil society level we have done a lot of outreach programs and radio talk shows to change the behaviour of people and allow the girls to go to school,” she said. Many people in the district think laws punishing parents who are not sending their girls to school should be implemented at village and chiefdom levels of the district.


By Matthew Kanu in Makeni

Tuesday April 23, 2019.



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