The National Commission for Children (NCC) on Saturday 31st July 2021 ended a day’s participatory National Mini-Conference to review the current Medium Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2019 – 2023 at the Family Kingdom Resort, Aberdeen in Freetown for 32 children drawn from all the 16 districts in the country to identify achievements and gaps as well as formulate priority recommendations to address gaps and strategies in the current MTNDP to enhance improvement for children.
The theme for the conference was “Translating Children’s Rights into Development.”
The different sessions in the conference were facilitated by staff of World Vision International (WVI), National Commission for Children and other line Ministries including the Ministries of Planning and Development, Gender and Children’s Affairs and Social Welfare. The sessions were interactive, participatory, educative as well as entertaining for the children as there were interludes for entertainment that made the event very child-friendly.
Among the recommendations, the children called for a friendly-child budget, that the MDEP involve them in the planning, commended NCC for the initiative, called on government to prioritize health, sanitation, social protection and justice issues, that they want adequate medical equipment in hard to reach health centers and rigid supervision of medical staff, that security be provided in schools, that Child Welfare Committees be established nationwide, that the free health care be extended from Under 5 to 18 year-old children, that Government increases resources to the Ministry of Health (MoHS) to provide adequate services and that One Stop Centers for rape victims be decentralized as they are in only 6 districts.
The children also called for penalties on SGBV offenders to be increased, that more Safe Homes for SGBV be constructed and capacitated nationwide, that government increases and approves more Social Workers nationwide, especially for children in remote areas, that there should a radical inclusion of children in the decision-making process on issues affecting them, that they want improved conditions of service for Legal Aid Board (LAB) staff, that government provide scholarships for teachers and monitor their performance and that teachers must be paid on time. They also called for classes to be decongested due to the increase in enrollment because of the FQE, expressed special thanks and appreciation to government for the FQE as over 90% of children now go to school, the reason more conducive classrooms must be constructed, that NCC be established in the Eastern Region and involve the physically-challenged in such programs, that the absence of the school feeding program was responsible for massive failures in the past and appealed for the inclusion of all schools in the program, that school materials be provided for the blind and physically-challenged and that they want more school busses that have helped to reduce ‘okada’ accidents involving school children.
According to the children, they want government to provide the core text books which they want to take home to study, rehabilitate the poor road networks nationwide, better conditions of service for teachers as they are key for the success of the FQE, want libraries and science streams in schools, that government should make it mandatory for every child to go to school, that wash and sanitation facilities be provided, that they want health centers to be constructed in schools, appealed for more learning materials, especially for the core subjects, that more training and motivation be provided for health workers, that government should end child labor as children sell on the streets especially during school hours and that they want to be trained on the use the computer and the internet.
Dr. Makama Jones from the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Daniel Brima, Director of Research and Planning in the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning, Hon. Zainab Catherine Tarawalie, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Welfare, the Commissioner of NCC, Mrs. Joyce Tejan Kelleh, the Country Director of WWI, Mr. Sagane Thiaw, Mr. Brima Conteh, Advocacy Officer, Child Rights Coalition-Sierra Leone, Mamoude Barrie of the Children’s Forum Network, the Deputy Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mr. Boaka Bindi Hindowa also made presentations/statements respectively.
Signing the Memorandum of Understanding between WWI and NCC, the Country Director of WWI, Mr. Sagane Thiaw expressed optimism that the resolutions adopted at the end of the meeting would be put into practice for the benefit of Sierra Leonean children.
Earlier, one of the children, Sorie Ibrahim Koroma from Bombali District introduced the chairman for the event, Mr. Phillip Tamba Mukeh.
Highlights of the conference were the group work, plenary session, presentations by facilitators and the children, signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the NCC and WVI and the wrap-up session by the Deputy Commissioner of NCC, Mr. Fabumbeh Ansumana.