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2007.06.13
* UNICEF: Younger girls being sent to school in Sierra Leone to close educational gap * 19 Apr 2007 Three years ago, the Kabuita community school was a simple grass hut and few children – particularly girls – made the daily trek to class. But thanks to a new building and new attitudes to education, Aster Kamara and her friends now pack the classrooms every day, even outnumbering the boys. It is an achievement that deserves to be applauded...but a lot of work still needs to be done to convince all parents to send their daughters to school... SOT: ALUSIUS KARGBO, Teacher at Kabuita Community School: “Here it is very difficult to make the parents, talk to them, for them to send their girls to school. Sometimes when the breasts show out, they say ‘oh’ there is no need to go to school. Let her go and marry!” This view is still prevalent across Sierra Leone and is one of the main reasons why the gap between boys and girls is negligible in primary schools but then widens substantially at secondary school and university levels. Luckily for Aster, her father rejects this age-old custom and is committed to her education. SOT: MOHAMMED KAMARA, Aster’s Father: “I am ready to make Aster continue up to university because I realise the value of education. In the old days, when girls were 14 or 15 years old, they would be given to men for marriage. I don’t want Aster to end up that way.” But it will not be easy. Education might be a right but it also has a price – and many Sierra Leoneans cannot afford it. Poverty forces parents to send their daughters out to work in the streets and markets rather than to study in class – especially as many of them still believe that it is more important to educate their sons. But by pumping money into new facilities, the government and UNICEF are helping to make primary schools more child-friendly…while more girls are a lining up to take their place at secondary schools as they – and their parents – realise that long-term education is the key to a brighter future… SOT: DIANA SEESAY, Prefect at Kamabai Secondary School: “It is good to get an education because anywhere you go, you need education and it will help you if you get an education.” // “And when you finish school, what do you want to become?” // “I want to be a lawyer.” Aster’s father has no idea what his daughter will want to in later life but he knows that education will give her more opportunities than her parents ever had. And while he realizes that many tests still lie ahead…he can look forward with confidence to the day when Aster is sitting in this secondary school classroom with her final exam paper – and a better life – in front of her.
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