By Alpha Good Kamara
To foster peaceful elections, the Legal Aid Board’s Anti-Election Violence Campaign reached out to 227,185 pupils from 435 Junior and Senior Secondary Schools across various districts in Sierra Leone. The project, funded by the UN Peace Building Fund and UNICEF, successfully educated the young learners on electoral laws and responsibilities, equipping them with essential knowledge to avoid electoral offenses and actively participate in the democratic process.
The UN-funded project specifically targeted schools in six districts, including 52 in Bombali, 50 in Port Loko, 44 in Kono, 49 in Kenema, 93 in Western Area Rural, and 147 in Western Area Urban Districts. Through engaging school outreach programs, students from these regions benefited from comprehensive sessions on the Public Election Act, 2022, with a particular focus on various electoral offenses such as destroying opponents’ campaign posters, wrongful voting, disorderly conduct during elections, voting by unregistered persons, impersonation, and buying or selling voter registration cards.
In addition to the targeted districts, the campaign extended its reach to schools in ten other districts, ensuring a wider impact even though they were not directly covered by the UN-funded project.
Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, expressed her satisfaction with the outcomes of the initiative. She noted that armed with the knowledge gained from the campaign, the pupils demonstrated increased awareness and avoided falling into the traps of electoral offenses. Consequently, there was a noticeable reduction in community-level disputes arising from intolerance and vandalism of opponents’ campaign materials.
Moreover, the campaign succeeded in igniting a sense of civic duty and enthusiasm among the pupils who are of voting age. As a result, there was a significant increase in their participation in electoral processes, with many turning out to vote during elections.
The success of the Legal Aid Board’s school outreach on elections highlights the positive impact of proactive educational initiatives in fostering peaceful and democratic societies. By empowering young minds with essential knowledge, the initiative has taken a significant step towards ensuring free and fair elections in Sierra Leone.