No Free Education For Over 350 Amputees

By Ayodele Deen Cole

The Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP’s) Government failure to include or prioritize the needs of over three hundred amputees children has opened fresh emotional and psychological wounds for the already disadvantaged victims, who mostly survive by begging on the streets.

These were the statements of the Founder of Melquosh Mission International, Faith Okrafor- Smart after a recent meeting with the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Alpha Timbo Esq. According to her, President Julius Maada Bio’s free quality education initiative though designed to help many vulnerable communities, failed to extend to the children of war amputees; the direct victims of the country’s civil war. She noted that their charity has been rendering support to the amputees for more than ten years, without the help of any government, adding that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report recommended that reparations be made to the children of war amputees and war-wounded in the form of free education. Faith Okrafor Smart also said that the government is in breach of the International Law of Human Rights to provide reparation for all war amputees.

She however expressed hope that the new government would uphold the promises made in its Manifesto to prioritize the educational needs of children of the war amputees, adding that she was greatly disappointed when schools reopened on the 16th of September and they were not supported. “I travelled to Sierra Leone on the 3rd of October to appeal to the Minister of Education, Hon. Alpha Osman Timbo on behalf of the war amputees together with the National Secretary General of the Amputee and War Wounded Association who is an amputee and a former Special Court Officer during the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, Mr Tamba Finnoh. Our appeal was rejected, she lamented, adding that even when attention was brought to the Minister of Education of this faux pas, immediate action was not taken to resolve this governmental mistake. She continued that the much publicized news of Sierra Leone’s free education prevented the charity from raising funds to execute its educational sponsorship programme as many donors in the community believed that the government of Sierra Leone would fully deliver the free quality education initiative it promised.

Eleanor Abdulai, an amputee and an Ambassador for Melqosh Mission International in Sierra Leone said: “We just want our basic rights as any other person in Sierra Leone. We want inclusion, we want employment. As persons with a disability, we need education just as it is given to any able person.”