GOVERNMENT’S MANIFESTO REINFORCES CHILDREN PROTECTION, EDUCATION AND SURVIVAL IN SIERRA LEONE
The Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) manifesto ‘the New Direction’ for the 7th and 31st March 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections reinforces children protection, education and survival in Sierra Leone. The manifesto provides a clear guide of how the SLPP plans to address issues they consider as priorities which if achieved could lead the country to a new direction over the next five years.
Having won the national election, Save the Children alongside civil society and other partners wait to see how much of the commitments made will be fulfilled as we move into a new political era. As part of our advocacy effort Save the Children proposed to the 16 political parties to include teenage pregnancy and child marriage in their manifestos as a key priority for national development. Under the New Direction, the government has listed protecting children, improving healthcare and promoting education as the key building blocks to national development. This is a big win for Save the Children and its partners as it has strengthened our resolve to increase our advocacy efforts to achieve policy change for children.
Responding to the inclusion of education, protection and health in the manifesto, Sasha Ekanayake, Country Director remarked:
“Save the Children has been steadfast in our call for protection, education and health because the lives of children in Sierra Leone can only improve when there are systems in place to ensure children are protected, when all children have equal access to quality education and access to free health care services. Children are the countries future investment so we will continue to advocate for them to ensure their needs are met and they are able to live in a world where they can thrive, be educated and protected. “
Protecting Our Children:
The New Direction emphasizes on a child-first approach to survival, protection and development of. The interventions aim to address sexual violence, teenage pregnancy, child marriage, juvenile justice as key areas for intervention in an effort to end child rights violations. The manifesto commits to increasing budget allocation to implement the Sexual Offences Acts of 2012 and increased support to the Teenage Pregnancy Secretariat to strengthen systems to address teenage pregnancy. It further emphasizes the need to increase opportunities for pregnant girls and teenage mothers to have access to education through appropriate means. The New Direction calls for a national strategy to combat child marriage. This brings renewed hope for thousands of children and adolescents that face extreme forms of discrimination in all sphere of lives.
The underlying principle of the New Direction in the health sector is a well-resourced and functioning national healthcare delivery system. The objective is to transform the under-resourced, ill-equipped, dysfunctional and inadequate health infrastructure and healthcare delivery system to ensure high quality, efficient, reliable, affordable and sustainable system that is able to respond to epidemics such as cholera, Ebola Virus Disease.
The manifesto has also committed to making health financing a priority by increasing its allocation from the current rate which is below 10% to 15%. This means that flagship health programs for sexual and reproductive health for adolescents to reduce teenage pregnancy will be adequately resourced and funded. It will also expand free health care to cover children under five, pregnant women, lactating mothers and school children.
A new direction for education
The New Direction manifesto commits to increasing budget allocation and disbursement from less than 15% to 20% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for education. This means there will be increased funding for a free education program for primary and secondary levels in public schools across Sierra Leone ensuring access, equity and quality education for every child over the next five years. Although significant progress has been made towards attainment universal access for primary and basic education equity and quality remains a huge challenge. There is high anticipation that the equity gap will be addressed with this free education policy.
Save the Children and partners recognise that much needs to be done to make the lives of children better in Sierra Leone, however, with the commitments in SLPP’s manifesto there is hope that we will surely achieve our goal for children which will ensure that they thrive, they are educated and are protected.