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Implement the Educational Act of 1991 in the new Constitutional Review of Sierra Leone

Implement the Educational Act of 1991 in the new Constitutional Review of Sierra Leone

The 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone which stipulates educational objectives of the government of Sierra Leone states in  Chapter II, article 9a, b and c that the government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal rights and adequate educational opportunities for all citizens at all levels by:

a. ensuring that every citizen is given the opportunity to be educated to the best of his ability, aptitude and inclination by providing educational facilities at all levels and aspects of education such as primary, secondary, vocational, technical, college and university;

 b. safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups, such as children, women and the disabled in security educational facilities; and

c. providing the necessary structures, finance and supportive facilities for education as and when practicable.

(2) The Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy, and to this end, shall direct its educational policy towards achieving—

a. free adult literacy program;

 b. free compulsory basic education at primary and junior secondary school levels; and

c. free senior secondary education as and when practicable

However, since the coming to power of successive governments in Sierra Leone, education has been side-tracked and serious investment have been lacking in the development of human resources and an urgent need to improve the relevance and quality of the education that children receive.  Over the last three decades, questions have been raised on why many developing countries are not experiencing significant growth and development especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Explanations have included a combination of poor technology, bad governments, extractive institutions, weak policy choices, health crises and poor education.  In the last ten years several authors have considered these hypotheses regarding lack of growth in several African countries.  The education sector has been examined extensively, but one important question, the return to education, is still unresolved.

Education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. For poor parents, the opportunity to obtain primary education for their offspring is the first empowering step in their long journey out of poverty (Holyfield, 2002).  Missed schooling opportunities or poor performance in schools are `irreversible disinvestments’. Children born into poor families often have poor educational outcomes. Studies exist pointing at parental poverty as the main reason for poor performance in schools. However, poverty is not only about income; it is also about inequitable access to services, lack of opportunities, reduced outcomes, and reduced hopes and expectations. The poverty experienced by the youth is often linked to childhood multidimensional deprivation and parental poverty: that in one way or another, the ‘older’ generation is unable to provide the assets required by the ‘younger’ generation to prepare it to effectively meet challenges faced during their youth. Parental poverty has always been associated with escalating rates of school drop outs, as pupils from poor parental backgrounds go to school on empty stomachs and dressed in tatters, making it difficult for them to concentrate on their lessons or participate in school activities.  Government intervention can lead to enhanced access to education, effectively affording the younger generation from poor households an equitable chance to escape from poverty in the future

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) everyone has the right to education and it shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. The UNESCO World Declaration on Education for All (1990) created a framework for providing education to all children by: Constituting a global recognition of education as a fundamental right and necessity for overall human and national development; Ensuring a commitment to meeting the basic learning needs of all children, youth, and adults; and Serving as a platform for launching a new and expanded vision of basic education including skills, knowledge, competencies, and attitudes recognizing that basic education extends far beyond schooling and can occur in the family, the community, and the workplace.

 Child labor is one of the major obstacles to universalizing elementary education, since children who are working full time cannot go to school. For those who combine work and school, their educational achievement will suffer and there is a strong tendency for them to drop out of school to go into fulltime employment. There is a pressing need to build the capacities in education to work towards the reduction of child labor through increased enrolment and completion for child laborers and subsequent elimination of the menace. Interventions at this level should help to ensure that educational policies and programs are responsive to the needs of children at risk and that there is further development of a strong knowledge base on the issue of child labor.

 As the international community rallies around the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a comprehensive vision for development, child labor stands as a serious obstacle to achieving a number of the goals including universal primary education. In the Dakar Conference (2000), the international community committed to Education for All (EFA), partnership to achieve education for every citizen in every society. This initiative will not meet its objectives by focusing only on the education system itself. Because of its implications for schooling, child labor must be addressed if the rights to education at the heart of EFA are implemented meaningfully.  Currently there are two important and complementary international agreements that provide a cohesive framework for policy and progress in linking education and the issue of child labor. The ILO Minimum Age Convention 138 and Recommendations 146 (1973), linked education and children’s work by:

  • Recognizing the link between the age of primary school completion and the minimum age for employment;  Obliging member states to ensure that no child is employed in full-time work below the age of compulsory schooling, which mostly varies from 12-14 years; The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989; have directly addresses the issue of children’s work and their education by:
  • Guaranteeing children the right to be protected from economic exploitation;
  • Guaranteeing the child’s right to free primary education; directing the child’s education to a wide range of skills and knowledge beyond basic numeracy and literacy.

Education in every sense is one of the fundamental factors of development. No country can achieve sustainable economic development without substantial investment in human capital. Education enriches people’s understanding of themselves and world. It improves the quality of their lives and leads to broad social benefits to individuals and society. Education raises people’s productivity and creativity and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances. In addition it plays a very crucial role in securing economic and social progress and improving income distribution.

By Joseph Sherman, Salone Monitor, Washington, DC

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