GPE NGO-Consortium launches the National Back to School Campaign
High table at the Back to School campaign launch, National Conference Centre, Freetown, 21 September. L-R: Commissioner, NCC; Country Director, FoRUT; Country Director, Save the Children; Deputy Minister, MBSSE; Deputy Minister, MGCA and Country Representative, World Bank. Photo credit: Daniel Ibrahim Kamara, Save the Children
On Tuesday, 21 September, 2021, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) NGO-Consortium launched the National Back to School Campaign at the Freetown International Conference Centre, Bintumani Hotel.
Launched by the Deputy Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Madam Emily Gogra, the event was attended by 80 key stakeholders, partners and children including the Deputy Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Buakai Bindi Hindowa; World Bank Representative, Mari Shojo; Commissioner for National Commission for Children, Joyce Tejan-Kella; UNICEF, National Teachers Commission, Civil Society organizations, Children’s Forum Network and school children.
The Back to School Campaign launch is one in a series of interventions involving Government, NGO partners, children and communities which complements government’s Radical Inclusion Policy on access to education for every child, following the COVID -19 pandemic.
In her welcome address the Board Chair for the GPE NGO Consortium, Heather Campbell, Country Director for Save the Children, shared the consortium’s commitment to support government in the COVID-19 education response stating that the GPE NGO consortium had “worked hard to ensure that girls and boys who have been out of school because of poverty, disability, child marriage and teenage pregnancy return back to school, because we believe that every child has the right to education.”
The Back to School campaign is being implemented in three phases. The first started in July 2021 when consultations were held with children, teachers and parents to identify reasons for low school attendance. The second will involve empowering school management committee members and parents to address issues that could prevent children going to school and last will include radio and community-based activities, providing schools safety materials and back to school packages to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children.
Representing children across the country, the Children’s Forum Network (CFN) presented a position paper on education. The paper outlined some challenges to children’s education and gave recommendations for tackling them to ensure education is accessible and safe for all. Other presentations included songs and a poem from pupils of Milton Margai School for the blind, bringing attention to education for disabled children and a performance from pupils of United Muslim Association Secondary School (UMASS) demonstrating the impact the COVID-19 on the girl child.
Madam Emily Kadiatu Gogra, Deputy Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education assured partners and children of government’s commitment to fully implement the radical inclusion policy which aims to ensure no child is left behind in education. To the children present she affirmed: “We care for you the disabled. We are with you. We want you to learn. And for the other children, we want you to learn too. Be yourselves and do the best you can.”
The Global Partnership for Education NGO consortium is made up of seven national and international NGOs including Save the Children, Concern Worldwide, FOCUS 1000, Forut, Handicap International, Plan International and Street Child. The project aims to ensure all boys and girls, including children with disabilities, have equitable access to safe, inclusive, quality learning opportunities, as part of the Government of Sierra Leone’s COVID-19 Education Emergency Response.