Aminata goes to University

Sherbro Foundation was thrilled to offer our first college scholarship in 2017-18 for a girl graduating in Rotifunk. We’re now delighted seeing how awardee Aminata Kamara’s first year is shaping up at University of Sierra Leone’s Institute of Public Administration & Management where she’s studying Banking and Finance.

Aminata is the youngest of 18 children of now aged parents who no longer work. She was an exceptional high school student, receiving the highest results for a female student on the national completion exam among Moyamba District’s 40 secondary schools.

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Moving from a quiet, rural village to the demanding urban environment of the capital Freetown, Aminata has quickly adapted. She shows, given the opportunity, intelligent, eager young people can catch up and perform well. Here’s our recent WhatsApp chat.

Arlene G.: What classes did you take in your first year? How did they go?

Aminata K.: In each year we have two semesters, each with six modules. First semester I took:

  1. Mathematics
  2. English
  3. Elements of Banking
  4. Principals of Accounting
  5. Information and Communication Technology [computer science]
  6. Human Resource Management

In second semester, there are new subjects. The classes are great. I’m doing fine.

AG: I’m glad to see you get an integrated approach with classes with like Human Resources Management from Year One. What are your biggest challenges in starting college?

IMG-20180608-WA0003AK: The high cost of transportation and high Internet cost. I can’t afford a computer laptop and a modem to do the required research.

I had to go to [an internet] café, left, to do some of those things and I pay a huge amount. Most of the tutors just give us topics and ask us to do our own research through Internet.

 

AG: Did you find anything surprisingly easy?

AK: I met new friends who are very hospitable. Some that are staying within the central area allowed me to stay with them during examination week so that we can study as a group, since I am staying in the far east end of Freetown where we experience a lot of traffic. I sometimes have to come down out of the [public transport] vehicle and hurry up on foot for me not to miss my lectures.

 

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AG: Tell us about the teaching staff at U of Sierra Leone.

AK: We have good lecturers and they teach well. When I started taking lectures, I found it difficult to understand the way of teaching because it is a different way of teaching [lecture and take your own notes] to that of high school [teacher writes notes on board that students copy]. But I am okay with it now as I have just sat to my first semester exams. I am now enjoying the lectures.

AG: Are professors responsive to students and help you succeed?

AK: They will see that the students understand whatever they are teaching and if you do not, they will repeat it again. They counsel students about their education.

AG: I know you lost about a month with classes shut down during the recent presidential election in March-April. How do you catch up?

AK: In the second semester we have only three months. That is why they give us some topics to research on our own. [Over the summer break, I will] keep studying and doing some research.

10371915_383754195116702_1689531377752587635_nAG: You have a change of government, with the new president making education his first priority. What are you students hoping to see change with the new administration?

AK: The change in government has not affected us in any way. We are just hoping to see the President fulfill his promise and we want the government to reduce the fees for us.

AG: Any new thoughts about the major you selected? Do you plan to continue with Banking and Finance?

AK: Yes, I want to continue if I am given the opportunity.

AG: What do you like about living in Freetown? Or dislike? It’s a big change from small town Rotifunk.

AK: I dislike the traffic. The thing I like about it is you can get good quality education here in Freetown.

AG: What message do you have for the people in the US who helped you go to college?

AK: On behalf of my old father and my blind mother, please help me extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all those who in diverse ways made it possible for me to be in the university. I am so grateful to the donors and to CCET-SL for letting my dreams come true and putting a smile on my face and that of my parents.

AG: We are so proud of you and excited to see you doing so well in your first year! Best of luck on your exams.

What’s New for our 2018 Girls’ Scholarship Program

What’s New for our 2018 Girls’ Scholarship Program

Education in Sierra Leone is on an exciting new track and we’re expanding our 2018 scholarship program, too. Before our annual scholarship campaign kicks off in July, here’s a preview of the changes.

New government, education changes

First, the new Sierra Leone president sworn in April 2018 has made education his first priority. He is doubling the portion of the government’s budget going to education from 10% to 20%.

President Maada Bio’s first big initiative is to make school free for primary and secondary school students.

He also plans to work on teacher standards, training and pay to improve quality of education.

Our scholarship program will still be needed as much as ever. School uniforms cost more than school fees and that expense is another barrier to girls attending school.

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Last year with your strong response to the scholarship campaign, we supplied uniforms to two-thirds of girls receiving scholarships.

All girls also received exercise books to take class notes — essential for schools with no textbooks.

For 2018-19, a scholarship will consist of a uniform and exercise books. This will actually cost 40% to 50% more than the past school fee only scholarship – or $25 to $30 for junior and senior high girls. Uniforms will again be sewn by local Rotifunk tailors to keep costs down, as Sierra Leone’s high inflation drives prices up year by year.

We made a major increase in scholarships last year. We’ll target for the same number of scholarships for 2018-19 – but at higher value. Sending 410 girls in one rural community to school is exceptional. Senior-high girls will get priority.

With your help, we’d love to send even more girls to school or add additional supplies for each girl. Or do both!

Time to help disadvantaged boys

We’ve gotten a lot of local feedback for several years about why boys never get scholarships. Following Bumpeh Chiefdom Paramount Chief Caulker’s lead, we’ve focused to date on scholarships for girls as a means of achieving parity between girls and boys attending school.

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Enrollment for junior-high girls is approaching that of boys. And there are many disadvantaged boys who experience the same barriers to education as girls.

So, this year we will offer 10% additional scholarships for boys. It’s important for boys to succeed, too. Boys who struggle to go to school need to feel someone is behind them, offering encouragement and support.

Sending two girls to college on scholarship

You made sure we reached our goal of adding a second college scholarship for another graduate in 2018-19!   

Big thanks go out to all who responded to our request in March-April to fund college scholarships for two deserving girls.

Aminata Kamara, left, recipient of our first college scholarship is in her first year at the University of Sierra Leone’s Institute for Public Administration and Management in Freetown.

We especially want to thank the former Peace Corps volunteer who stepped up with a matching grant to pay for half of a $1,700 scholarship if we could find new donors for the other half.

We did, and this generous anonymous donor upped his match by another $250 for donations by Cincinnati area Peace Corps people.  They responded donating more than double that amount.

So, collectively, the Peace Corps community  is sending one girl to college in full! They know the crucial value of education in developing countries.

This means we can maintain the outstanding young woman who started at the University of Sierra Leone for 2017-18 for another year AND start a second student in her college career. The scholarships cover tuition, fees and a living stipend.

We began five years ago with the modest goal of sending some girls to one secondary school. Your response has been tremendous. The lives of over 600 girls in four schools have been changed by the opportunity to go to school on your scholarships.

And now, two young women will have the opportunity to reach their full potential by attending college.

It definitely took a village to support these girls’ educations — an American “village”.

We’re indebted to all our American villagers for making the dreams of so many girls come true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five Years of Sending Girls to School   – By the Numbers

Five Years of Sending Girls to School – By the Numbers

We’ll soon kick off the campaign for our sixth year of the Girls Scholarship Program for Bumpeh Chiefdom. We thought you’d like to see what’s been accomplished in the first five years —  by the numbers.

Sherbro Foundation was founded in March 2013. We immediately funded scholarships for 67 junior-high girls in the 2012-13 school year already in progress. The numbers have been steadily increasing:

1250             Total number scholarships awarded

Over 600     Number of girls receiving scholarships, some for more than one year

  4                  Number schools participating — 2 Jr/Sr Highs and 2 Jr High only      

6X                 Increase in scholarships given annually — from 67 in 2013 to 410 in 2017

2X                 Increase in scholarship value in 2017 by adding uniforms for 2/3 of girls         

2X                 Increase in number of girls attending Senior High — from 58 to 120 in 2017

100               Percent of girls wanting to attend Sr. High in 2017 who received scholarships

 18                Number of 12th-grade awardees taking National exam (1st in 2016)

  3                 Number 12th-grade awardees meeting college entry requirements

  1                 College scholarship added in 2017

Here’s our five-year trend in scholarships:

 

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Only one in three Bumpeh Chiefdom teens have been able to attend secondary school. We started by ensuring more girls made the transition from primary school to junior high.

We focus on the most disadvantaged girls at risk of dropping out of school — orphans or with single parents, low-income families, and students who must leave home villages to attend secondary school in town. Often, a girl meets all the criteria.

The drop-out rate from junior to senior high is typically 50%. Our goal is to advance more girls to senior high and help them graduate. So, we expanded senior-high scholarships, while continuing to increase junior-high enrollment.

The short-term dip in 2015-16 came after the seven-month Ebola crisis, when many students from villages, especially senior high girls, returned to school late or not at all.

With your strong support, we doubled scholarships and the value of the awards (scholarship plus uniform) in each of the last two years.

In 2016, the first three scholarship recipients graduated from senior high.

And in 2017, we reached the ultimate goal by awarding the first college scholarship to one of first girls to meet college entrance requirements.

Now in January 2018, we added extra tutoring classes to help ensure 9th and 12th graders pass their junior and senior high national completion exams and advance to their next level of education. We’ll continue this program for the 2018-19 academic year.

Step by step, we’re reaching the goal we set of girls completing secondary school. And now we’re reaching beyond, to help girls advance to college and become leaders in their community and their country.


 

Preparing Sierra Leone Girls for Success

Preparing Sierra Leone Girls for Success

Girls can’t go to college or get jobs if they don’t successfully graduate from high school. And they won’t complete high school if they don’t first learn what they should in junior high.

75 Bumpeh Chiefdom 9th grade girls are completing a new tutoring program designed to help them pass their junior high completion exam. In its first five months, it’s exceeding our initial expectations.     

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The chiefdom’s drop-out rate from junior to senior high has typically been 50%. It’s a combination of inability to continue paying for school and not being well prepared academically for senior high. Many families just can’t pay beyond junior high. If students don’t pass their junior high exam, it’s that much harder for parents to pay for them to repeat a grade. Even if they pass, they may still struggle with senior high subjects.

With your support for the Girls Scholarship Program, Sherbro Foundation has been addressing the cost problem.  We want to remove inability to pay as a barrier to girls continuing into senior high.

Now we’re tackling the knowledge deficiency problem.

The tutoring program is the brainchild of Rosaline Kaimbay, Executive Director of our Sierra Leone partner, CCET, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation. She’s using the same technique she used as the highly successful founding principal of a secondary school.

IMG-20180409-WA0002 (2)She’s brought the most qualified local teachers together to provide evening classes that complete and intensively review the school curriculum. 9th graders in schools without qualified teachers now get the chance to be fully prepared for their national proficiency exam.

75 of the 80 9th graders who started evening classes in January have continued and will soon be taking their national proficiency exam in late June. They also received computer training as part of the program. Gibril Bendu, above, an award winning local science teacher, has been leading the program.

The first group of nine 12th grade girls received four months of remedial classes before their final proficiency exam in April. CCET immediately engaged 11th graders to start the tutoring program. They plan to continue classes over the summer holiday.

Boys are invited and starting to join girls in the program. They need the chance to succeed, too.

IMG-20170927-WA0000 (4)Mrs. Kaimbay is focused on the success of the chiefdom’s teens.

Left, she finds the most disadvantaged girls like the one on the right, and tells them, come to school. If you can’t pay for a uniform, we will help you.

“I want to get results.”

That’s Mrs. Kaimbay, referring to the students passing the national exams. “And then I will be proud.”

Proud she should be. The tutoring program is among the best spent money in our organization’s five years, in terms of impact and number of students affected.

Since its January start, over 100 kids are getting help to assure their success at the most critical junctures in their education – making the transition to senior high and to higher education.

At about $50 per child, including computer training, this is high value. And it’s an investment that will continue to pay back through their future success and their impact on the chiefdom.

Mrs. Kaimbay is now ready to “camp” the 75 9th grade girls by turning the CCET building into a dormitory / classroom for 3 weeks before and during their proficiency exam.

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The girls will live and sleep there 24/7, getting intensive prepping with sample test questions and keeping them focused & energized for their exam. All tutoring teachers participate. Mrs. Kaimbay will sleep there herself – on the concrete floor – as chaperone, coach and to supervise cooking to feed the students three meals a day.

With this technique, she got 100% of her former students passing the exam three years running. These girls are coming from other schools with more of an academic deficit. After 5 months of evening classes and with this last boost, Mrs. Kaimbay hopes to get 80% to 90% passes.

The diligence shown by everyone in the tutoring program has been impressive. It’s free to students and teachers get modest stipends. But I wondered if the commitment and enthusiasm for extra evening classes would be flagging now five months into the program.

It hasn’t. These girls are focused on succeeding and advancing their education. Their tutors look at the girls’ success as their own success.

Huge thanks go out to the Beaman Family for funding the tutoring program’s first 10 months and now stepping up to cover cost of feeding the girls for the three-week review camp.

We also send our deep thanks to everyone contributing to the scholarship program. It’s your support that brought them this far and gave them the opportunity to succeed.

I’m confident the girls will do us all proud. I can’t wait to see the next incoming senior high class in September filled with girls ready to continue learning.