More girls in school than ever, but more want to go

I was excited to see enrollment of girls was up when I visited Bumpeh Chiefdom’s secondary schools in February. Girls, in fact, were now equal in numbers to boys enrolled. This is a big step forward in Bumpeh Chiefdom, where poverty forces most girls to drop out by junior high.

But I soon found still more girls want to go to secondary school and can’t afford to.

The Sherbro Foundation Girls Scholarship program is changing this. We set a goal last summer of doubling the number of scholarships from 150 to 300 girls.

Thanks to your support, we met that goal and sent 300 girls to secondary school last September.

A small donation of $25 meant a Bumpeh Chiefdom girl could attend school for a full year.

Hear from some of the girls I recently met,  what it means for them to get a scholarship and how hard they work to stay in school:

vlcsnap-error123Some like Alima Kanu, left, JSS II (8th grade), are the oldest and first child in their family to go to secondary school.  She comes from a small village where her parents are rice farmers. Her scholarship to Bumpeh Academy made the difference in her continuing in secondary school.

Alima told me, “This scholarship helps me and my family is happy when I have this scholarship because they don’t have money to pay for school fees. Me too, I’m happy. I thank all the people that give me the scholarship.”

The purpose of SFSL’s scholarship program is to not only get girls into secondary school, but to support them in finishing high school.

With her scholarship, Isatu Kargbo, left, completed JSS III (9th grade) and got the highest result of 127 students taking the senior high entrance exam.

Now in SSS I (10th grade) at Bumpeh Academy, she said, “My father couldn’t pay my school fees. CCET help us and give me a uniform. I’m very happy to be in school and give thanks.” CCET, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, is our local community partner that administers the scholarship program.

Like many girls, Aminata, SSS IV said, “Thank you for donating your funds to enable me to continue my schooling. I appreciate it so much. Honestly, had it not been for your support, I have to stop going to school because my parents are poor and therefore cannot pay my school fees.”

Emilia, JSS III, wrote in a thank-you, “I am happy and delighted when I got this scholarship which every girl wish to have this opportunity. If not the intervention of you I would have been a drop-out because my parents find it difficult to pay my school fees. Through the help of Sherbro Foundation I am continuing my schooling.”

“I have been out of school for many years…You are now my light to see in the world.”  — Thuma, SSS III, on her scholarship

Sherbro Foundation supports five Bumpeh Chiefdom secondary schools of all faiths with scholarships. I met with the 50 girls at Ahmadiyya Islamic Secondary School receiving scholarships this academic year.

Fatmata, left below, said, “On behalf of the girls in the school, we express our thanks and appreciation for the scholarships. Also, last year for the uniform scholarship.”

vlcsnap-error362She went on to talk about the challenges the girls face in going to school. There are 208 villages in the chiefdom and only five secondary schools. Many girls must walk 4 or 5 miles or more each way to reach one of schools, often making them late for class. And the tropical sun is hot walking home on an empty stomach to get their one meal of the day.

Some just drop out after primary school. Other girls may get rides to school from motorcycle taxi drivers common on the rural roads, who may then coerce them into sex. A number have become pregnant.

vlcsnap-error133 (2)Kadiatu, left, told me most girls have no lights at home and have difficulty studying at night. By the time they get home and do chores, it’s dark. At the equator, it’s dark by 7 p.m. year-round.

Rechargeable solar lights are one possible solution the program can evaluate. Another girl added that they would like to have a library where they could study after school.

These are problems girls face in all Bumpeh Chiefdom secondary schools.

But the most poignant message was from a girl in the back of the room who stood to speak as our meeting was ending.

vlcsnap-error946 (2)“Please add more scholarships so we are all able to go to school. There are girls at home waiting for this same opportunity. I am fortunate, but there are others who can benefit and want to become educated and literate.”

With girls waiting for their chance to go to school, we want to set our sights higher and grow beyond 300 scholarships in the next school year.

Stay tuned for more in the coming months on Sherbro Foundation’s 2017-18 Girls Scholarship campaign.

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