With support from the Access to Security and Justice Programme (ASJP), the survey was conducted in Koinadugu district in the North, Kono district in the East, Pujehun district in the South and Waterloo and Tombo in the Western and Rural Districts to give a national face to the survey.
Part of the findings of the report launched at the Hill Valley Hotel also reveals that most districts in the country lack trained and qualified teachers. The reported cited Pujehun District which has 12 chiefdoms has having a very small number of qualified teachers. The report went on to reveal a mere 263 qualified teachers as against 877 unqualified teachers for 316 schools, with 92% of the schools being in the primary level, while 7% are in Junior Secondary Schools and only 2% in Senior Secondary Schools.
Launching the report titled ‘A study on child marriage in Sierra Leone’, the Commissioner of the NCC Mrs. Olayinka Laggah attributed the early child marriage menace to “significant misconception” in the law relating to child marriage, which she noted, in most cases ends in compromise. This, she maintains is what has been “breeding the culture of impunity” regarding child abuse.
She disclosed that during the research, respondents expressed the view that levying fines and legal charges on perpetrators or those who compromise child marriage issues will help reduce the number of child marriages in the country.
Mrs. Laggah maintained that issues of child marriage are not normally reported to the police, pointing out that the police can only investigate a matter if it is reported to them.
“The contradiction in the Child Right Acts, 2007 and the Customary Marriage and Divorce Act 2009 which allows children at age 16 to get married with parental consent was also an issue of great concern,” she pointed out.
Additionally, The NCC Commissioner also pointed out that poverty has never been the main reason for parents marrying off their girls, noting that there are still people who though poor, are ensuring their girl children are fully educated. “From our findings, child marriage was rather attributed to teenage pregnancy, early puberty and a shift of parental responsibility,” she asserted.
The NCC Commissioner acknowledged that there are many factors contributing to the prevailing practice of child marriage in the regions visited and singled out Pujehun District as “the most tolerant, readily accepting and condoning the practice”.
In their recommendations, the Commissioner of NCC called on Paramount Chiefs to develop and enforce bylaws against early child marriage, sexual abuse of young girls and other components of the Child Rights Act. The NCC went on to call for improved educational services and opportunities in the regions of the country.
She calls for the development of a strategy and action plan against child marriage in Sierra Leone and encourage the promotion of the Child Right Act 2007, the Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and other related Human Rights legislations with emphasis on the responsibilities of parents and children through community-based interventions and media programmes.
The Chairman of the launching ceremony Haja Alimatu Abdullah said the meeting is to see how stakeholders can hang heads together in a bid to reduce child marriage in Sierra Leone.
She said Child Marriage is a very difficult issue to handle as marry off their daughters is one thing many parents are looking forward to but that the parents should wait for their children to be above eighteen years.
Source: Awoko Newspaper