As we wrapped up a recent meeting on our partner CCET-SL’s education programs, Paramount Chief Charles Caulker commented, “CCET-SL has rebuilt senior high education in Rotifunk.”
I knew what he meant. When I first returned to Sierra Leone 11 years ago, there were four secondary schools in Rotifunk, most small junior highs. None had the full teaching staff to cover all subjects. Many teachers were just out of high school themselves and uncertified. None of the handful of graduating seniors met university entrance requirements.
Fast forward to today, with the month-long national senior high completion exam beginning. CCET-SL expects this year’s students to do at least as well as last year. In 2021, 64% of graduating seniors in CCET-SL’s program met the minimum requirements for university admission. Several did considerably better. Another 15% qualified for teacher training college. That’s about 80% qualifying for higher education.
What changed? Our partner CCET-SL introduced programs to systematically improve education.
Their six-year-old after-school tutorial program has prepared hundreds of junior high students for senior high. CCET-SL‘s all-day 12th grade school just completed its third year.
Both programs are getting results – thanks to funding from your Sherbro Foundation donations. We’re reaching out now for your help to fund them for another year.
Mabinty used CCET-SL’s programs as steppingstones to her goal of working in government, even becoming a Parliamentarian. She is graduating from 12th grade, a feat still uncommon for Bumpeh Chiefdom girls.
She told her story, not an easy one, to Mrs. Kaimbay, above. At the age of nine, her father divorced her mother for another woman. Both parents left, leaving her with her impoverished grandmother who could barely care for her. Mabinty had to repeat 8th grade after missing a lot of school when her grandmother couldn’t pay her school fees.
Sherbro Foundation scholarships then kept her in school. Participating in CCET-SL’s 9th grade tutorial program and the 12th grade school, Mabinty now feels confident as she sits for the West African Secondary School Completion Exam, or WASSCE. “I’ve never failed to attend school, and was always successful in my school exams,” she said. She hopes her WASSCE results will gain her admission to the University of Sierra Leone to study political science.
To have Bumpeh Chiefdom girls and boys today speak of their education goals with such conviction and confidence is striking.
When Rosaline Kaimbay, below, took over as CCET-SL managing director in 2017, she set out to improve the quality of education in Bumpeh Chiefdom.
Rotifunk, the chiefdom’s headquarters town, was typical in seeing only about 30% of teens make it to junior high.
By the 10th grade, half of those dropped out. The few successful students whose families could scrape together funds, transferred to senior highs in cities with qualified teachers.
By 12th grade, remaining Rotifunk seniors dwindled to 5 – 10 per school. With these numbers, schools couldn’t get government support to hire qualified teachers.
A former results-oriented school principal, Rosaline knew there had to be a better way. She saw there were various teachers across the schools who had skills in different subjects. She convinced the school principals to pool both their 12th grade students and their best teachers into one effective all-day school.
The 12th grade school covers eleven subjects for both college bound and commercial students. Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School provides classrooms, below.
It’s all done only with available local teachers but organized for optimal results.
The school is run in a disciplined manner and the entire WASSCE curriculum is covered. Students do practice exams to get familiar with the exam format and questions. The concept showed immediate results in its first five-month trial. With a full 10 months in 2021, the school produced the dramatically improved results above.
Mrs. Kaimbay avoids bureaucratic approaches and maximizes benefits for students and their families. That includes admitting “repeaters” into the program. With years of inadequate teaching, many students don’t pass the WASSCE the first time, or their results are too low for their college or program of choice.
About 30% of students in the 12th grade school have graduated but are repeating the year to sit the exam again. The program was extended to allow local graduates to repeat at no cost to try to bring up their exam results. When more graduates move on to successful jobs and careers, they, their families and the community all benefit.
Susan is a repeater intent on getting admitted to a four-year degree program in accounting at a good college. She told Mrs. Kaimbay, above, she wants to go into banking or be a private business accountant. She passed six of eight subjects on her first WASSCE exam. Five passes would get her into a college, but she didn’t pass English, required for her chosen degree program.
Completing high school was a struggle for her. Her parents are illiterate village farmers with no money for her education. A guardian in Rotifunk barely provided her basic care. She received just one school uniform to wear daily every two years.
Sherbro Foundation scholarships helped her reach senior high. Susan now wants to take the leap to college and a professional career. Our support boosted her to this point!
Mariatu’s story is much the same. A guardian helped her complete high school when her village parents could not. She repeated 12th grade to improve her exam results so she can study law.
She’s seen older male lawyers return to Rotifunk to visit family, but never a chiefdom woman. She wants to be to first local woman to successfully become a lawyer.
Rotifunk’s young men have similar dreams – and they need the same boost.
When his father died, Kamiru, left, waited three years after graduating high school before the CCET-SL program was available to help him repeat the WASSCE exam.
He wants to become a Community Health Officer. The CHO is like a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who run small community health clinics. They operate clinics solo, being the first line of primary care medicine for most people.
WASSCE results from last year’s 12th grade school amazed me. But the elements for success were there: all subjects taught by capable teachers; a disciplined program ensuring the whole curriculum is covered; and students serious about their education goals. They must pass an entrance test to confirm they are at senior high proficiency before entering the program. No laggards allowed.
Chief Caulker’s statement on CCET-SL’s role in rebuilding senior high education, is an understatement. Without CCET-SL’s programs, these able young people would be languishing with no way to advance.
The cost for this 10-month program is $40 monthly stipends for the teachers. Many of them don’t get the full government teacher’s salary of $140 a month. With Sierra Leone’s run-away 21% inflation, teachers keep falling financially behind. Our modest $40 a month stipend helps keeps them afloat.
If you want your donation dollar put to good use in an efficient program with demonstrated results – sponsor a teacher for CCET-SL’s for Tutorial Program. Help us continue another year here.
At $40 a month – or $400 for one teacher for the school year – you’ll move Rotifunk’s young people up the ladder of success and keep teachers in the classroom teaching.
We greatly appreciate your support. Thank you!
— Arlene Golembiewski,