By Augustine Sankoh
The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) in partnership with the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) and IrishAid on Tuesday 30th August at Occasion Resort Lakka held a stakeholder training on community engagement on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). The training targeted key stakeholders like line ministries, civil society groups, Paramount Chiefs, International Non-governmental Organizations, the media, teachers, and Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, among others. The rationale of the training is to ensure that the key stakeholders accept the rolling out of the CSE curriculum in schools and take the message to the public.
Madam Nadia Rasheed, Country Representative, UNFPA Sierra Leone described the stakeholders meeting on community engagement as a key point in the journey to advance CSE under the leadership of MBSSE and in line with the recommendations of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Taskforce. She said UNFPA was proud to co-chair the task force, alongside the Chief Education Officer (CEO), and they were delighted with the progress that has been achieved to date. “We recognized that CSE is critical to empowering young people, enabling them to advocate for their health, well-being and dignity, and protecting them from coercion, unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. CSE provides a necessary toolkit for knowledge, attitudes and skills to help young people make choices in a meaningful way, while also advancing gender equality and human rights,” she said. According to her, globally, UNFPA’s three overarching goals are to end the unmet need for family planning; end preventable maternal death; and end gender-based violence and other harmful practices, noting that CSE is a key contributor to all three of these transforming goals.
The Senior Education Advisor, Embassy of Ireland, Sierra Leone Mrs Cecilia Brown said the Embassy’s primary objective is to ensure that women and girls, living in poverty, contribute to and benefit from a more inclusive, resilient and equitable Sierra Leone. She said the occasion is very important for the children of Sierra Leone, especially girls and for them as development partners, adding that the Embassy appreciates the commitments and enthusiasm of partners and they hope that the curriculum will positively impact bridging the existing knowledge and skills gap on comprehensive sexuality.
The Chief Education Officer (CEO) in the MBSSE, Professor Yatta Kanu stated that the MBSSE is not only returning pregnant girls to school but also providing them with the tool to succeed which is Comprehensive Sexuality Education. She said CSE is so important and integral to the ministry’s work in reforming education in Sierra Leone. According to her, the four principles that guide the work of the Ministry are encompassed in the CSE, noting that the four principles are; access, equity, comprehensive safety and quality education.
During the validation exercise of the CSE curriculum in Freetown, the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education Dr. David Moinina Sengeh regarded the CSE curriculum as an important milestone in his Ministry’s ambitious agenda to contribute to the Government’s Human Capital Development aspirations as articulated in the Medium-Term National Development Plan. “One of the most effective ways to keep learners in school is to empower them with the knowledge that enables them to make informed decisions about life choices. The role of CSE in this regard enables the protection of learners against unintended pregnancy by providing them with the necessary skills to develop effective decision-making and communication skills, explore values and attitudes and be made aware of risk reduction skills,” he said. He added that the implementation of the CSE involves not only teachers but also parents, schools, communities, service providers, traditional and religious leaders, civil society organizations, and other relevant stakeholders.
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