January 24th, the International Day of Education aims to recognise the importance of quality education for peace and development. According to the United Nations ‘… about 265 million children and adolescents around the world do not have the opportunity to enter or complete school’ and “less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school.”
Education is Sierra Leone
A Demographic and Health Survey – DHS conducted in Sierra Leone in 2019, showed strong correlations between a woman’s education and the likeliness for the health and survival for her and her child.
The report indicated that “children of women with no education are more likely to be underweight than children whose mothers have more than secondary education.” Education attainment is linked to the ability to access work opportunities, have financial independence and therefore her level of wealth. Thus, affecting access to healthcare, likelihood to vaccinate their baby, and access to family planning.
In 2015 the Sierra Leonean government banned pregnant girls from attending school after the spike of teenage pregnancies during the Ebola outbreak. The DHS found 44.9% of the girls have started childbearing by the age of 19. As a result, almost half of them are deprived of education. Since then, many organisations have fought against the ban recently challenging it in a Nigerian court in December 2019 which found barring pregnant girls from attending school was a violation of human rights. This ruling represents a landmark decision for the thousands of young women who have had to face discrimination, unable to attend lessons and exams, to continue their education. However, pregnant girls are still discouraged to attend school in SL.
The mission of the AMF Foundation is to support short-term, mid-term and long-term goals with the aim of improving maternal mortality outcomes for women and girls in Sierra Leone. The Foundation works in partnership with the Freedom From Fistula Foundation which runs the Aberdeen Women’s Centre (AWC) in Freetown.
The Aminata Maternal Foundation funds the ‘Dream Team Project’. The project’s educational programs provide numeracy and literacy classes, teach art and crafts and other skills to help the girls to gain financial independence. The young women also receive pre and post-natal education.
Pregnant young girls are extremely vulnerable, some even find themselves homeless. The Training Hostel houses and educates them.
Aminata’s life from poverty
Aminata, the house manager for the ‘Training Hostel’ has an inspirational story of the empowerment education can bring to a woman’s life.
At 16 she was already married, pregnant, malnourished and living in grinding poverty, little education.
Now at 31, she is fluent in Mandarin, has two university degrees, including a Masters in Hospitality and Tourism from a Beijing University, she’s financially independent and unlike an estimated 65% of graduates, she has a well paying full-time job which she loves.
Aminata knows education helps girls to fulfil their potential.
Read more about the Dream Team Project.
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