SEATTLE, Washington — Education statistics in Africa can sometimes seem daunting. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) cites that more than one-fifth of primary-school-age children are not attending school throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In Sierra Leone, more than 19,000 children were out of primary school in 2015. More than 200,000 adolescents never made it to secondary school in 2018. An organization called Street Child is improving education in Sierra Leone.
Street Child in Sierra Leone
In 2008, Tom Dannatt visited Sierra Leone, which was the poorest country in the world at the time. Children were out on the streets trying to survive on their own in unimaginable poverty. Dannatt was moved to act and formed Street Child. Since 2008, the organization has helped educate more than 250,000 children. It has also supported 25,000 families to start businesses as an initial boost to help them climb out of poverty.
From 2014-2016, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone faced the world’s worst Ebola epidemic, exceeded only being by the current epidemic in Central Africa. At least 230,000 children were out of school before the outbreak had hit Sierra Leone. In June 2014, once the disease started spreading more rapidly, the country was put under a state of emergency, and schools were shut down. The number of children not being educated skyrocketed. There were a total of 14,124 cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, though only 8,706 were confirmed.
Street Child Is Helping Girls’ Education
At least 65 million girls lack access to basic education. After speaking with 2,000 girls, Street Child determined that there are five main factors keeping girls from attending school. The highest factor among them all was poverty with 91 percent of those interviews citing that as one of the main reasons. Teenage pregnancy and the loss of a caregiver at home were also integral factors. Parental attitudes toward education were a contributing factor that often leads to child marriage. Finally, the lack of qualified teachers makes education difficult.
Street Child is helping girls in Sierra Leone and Liberia obtain an education through the Girls Speak Out Appeal, launched in 2016. They have already been able to help reduce some of these obstacles.
- Poverty: Street Child has provided more than “2,500 families with business grants and training so they can set up businesses.” This allows them to gain money to support their children. Also, Street Child provided “a uniform, school bag, shoes, books, pencils and school fees” for 1,668 girls who had financial struggles keeping them from attending school.
- Teenage pregnancy: The organization helped 117 teen moms go back to school by giving them support packages and financial support.
- Poor teaching quality: Street Child held workshops that covered core content delivery and management skills for 400 teachers. It also provided 400 classrooms with basic teaching and learning materials for teachers and students. It supplied additional materials such as desks, benches and blackboards for a large number of classrooms as well.
The Duchess of York and Street Child
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, became a Patron Ambassador of Street Child when it merged with Children in Crisis. Together, the Duchess of York and Street Child launched the “Schools for Tomorrow” campaign in Sierra Leone early in 2019 with plans of educating 100,000 children. The campaign is raising money to help villages in the country build schools and upgrade 1,000 schools.
The Duchess’ daughters, Eugenie and Beatrice, also work with her as Global Ambassadors for the organization. Sarah and Eugenie attended Street Child’s Mother/Daughter afternoon tea to raise awareness and gain support for the work they do to help children in poverty around the world. They highlighted statistics about girls and education inequality. The event helped raise £15,000 to help build three schools. The U.K. government will match all funds raised up to £2 million through January 3, 2020.
With help from the U.K. government and supporters like the Duchess of York, Street Child is improving education for thousands of children, both boys and girls, around the world. Advocating for those who do not have a voice of their own is alleviating poverty by giving people the means of bettering themselves and their communities.
– Jordan Miller and Jenna Chrol