As some 18,000 girls between the ages of 11-19 were impregnated during the deadly Ebola epidemic, between 2014 to 2015, according to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) survey, First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma has called for an improvement in quality education in the country.

Sia Koroma

Mrs. Koroma was speaking yesterday during a national dialogue meeting at Family Kingdom, hosted by her Enhanced Inclusive Quality Education for all Girls (ENIQUE) project, which is supported by UNICEF and a host of donor partners.

The ENIQUE project is a multi-sectorial advocacy campaign that leverages on quantitative and qualitative evidence-based context and content developed through consensus and coordination with key actors, including the First lady, wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Jonta Foh, to engage critical stakeholders in a bid to push for holistic education of girls in Sierra Leone.

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According to the First Lady, there are several dimensions to the vulnerability and disruption of education of girls in the country, noting that poverty, discriminatory traditions and customs, peer pressure, high social expectations, among many, adding that the resulting phenomenon points to serious consequence on human resource capacity, planned poverty phenomenon, maternal mortality and sustained under-development.

She revealed that out of the 18,000 girls, 10,000 are school going girls, adding that the project will now support teenage mothers to go back to school.

“Girls in the country face countless challenges, including abuse, early marriage, teenage pregnancy and dropping out of school, and 85% of girls are victims of one form of abuse or the other, 92% of married girls are between 15-19 years, teenagers account for over 40% of maternal deaths in the country,” she said.

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Giving an overview of the ENIQUE project, Sheku Nuni, who works in the Office of the First Lady, said that the project has four pillars: strengthening policies that enhance institutional support for retention of girls in schools, strengthening community-based social and economic support for girls, providing comprehensive support for pregnant girls during and after pregnancy and reducing prevalence of drop-out rates among girls by 10% by end of 2017.

He said the period of girls ‘stay at home’ exposes children to different forms of abuse and violence, including teenage pregnancy for girls, adding that the First Lady and the wife of the Vice President identified with the plight of pregnant girls who were banned by government to attending school and taking their examination.