The session took the form of experience-sharing and presentations from various experts in the field of child labour and child trafficking.
The objective of this program is to stop Sierra Leone school children and young adults from attempting what has become known as ‘Temple Run’ that involves traveling to places like Italy, Spain and other western countries via Libya and the Mediterranean Sea at very high personal risk to life and possible death.
Four thematic areas dealing with ‘What is child labour and trafficking,’ ‘Who is responsible,’ ‘Who is at risk and what are the negative impacts on the child and the community,’ and ‘What can we do about it, were discussed at group level by the children and adults present.
Four groups discussed each of the above topics and at the end of the exercise the leader of each team presented their findings in bullet points to the audience.
Facilitators and presenters included OYE Pilot Project Deputy Director, British Council Michael Dennis, Marian J. Harding-Tommy from the MSWGCA TIP Task Force, Valona Taylor and her team of artists, a ‘Temple Run’ survivor, Mr. Adrian Fischer, Mr. Abdul Karim Conteh, Mr. Dehunge Shiaka, Umaru Fofana of the British Council, a cross-section of parents, staff of the MSWGCA and British Council among several other participants.
A third programme is being organized for next Saturday at a venue to be announced. Participants would be drawn from Peninsula and St Rafel’s secondary schools in Waterloo, east of Freetown.
Explaining the objective of the project further was Mrs. Marian J. Harding-Tommy from the MSWGCA TIP Task Force. She confirmed that the project is being supported by the British Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) and that it is a pilot program targeting six schools in the Western Area namely St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Freetown Secondary School for Girls (FSSG), Government Model Secondary School, Albert Academy; and two schools in the east including Peninsular Junior Secondary School and St. Rafel’s Secondary School.
Mrs. Marian J. Harding-Tommy said: “Our children and young people are mistaken in thinking that successful life can only be achieved when they travel abroad, forgetting that all it takes for one to be successful in life is to study hard and participate in events that promote well-being and national cohesion.”
She added that there have been several instances where children and young adults from Sierra Leone and other African countries have been incarcerated, taken advantage of and even killed by their hosts or die as a result of rough treatment meted to them during their sojourn.
According to Mrs. Marian Jannah Harding-Tommy, the ministry in collaboration with the British Council is capturing young people in schools to teach them about the ills and negative things about child labor and child trafficking.
It could be recalled that there have been incidents of people that have taken their relatives’ children or from orphanages on the pretext of providing them education but once the children are with them, they resort to turning them into slaves by sending them to sell on the streets which creates negative mental and physical effects on the children caught in this trap.
“It is precisely in order to stop such treatment that the British Council initiated the program called ‘Open Your Eyes’ to campaign against child labor and child trafficking which is taking a toll on the children of Sierra Leone and Africa as a whole.
Climax of the occasion was the presentation of a mural depicting the ills and challenges of child labour and child trafficking to Ms. Daisy Lumpkin, a senior official at FSSG. The presentation was done by a senior MSWGCA official on behalf of the British Council. Ms. Lumpkin informed her audience that henceforth, the FSSG will open wide their eyes to expose and report on child labour and child trafficking wherever it occurs.