Giving Sierra Leone students the opportunity to improve their lives is one of the most rewarding things we do. The higher the student aims, the more exciting it feels to help them reach the next level of their education journey.
We’re announcing four new university scholarships, each in a field of science. With two awarded last year, that’s a total of six scholarships.
Five are Saa Chakporna scholarships given in memory of Professor Tucker Childs, an internationally known linguist whose work included study of the Sherbro language. We’re grateful to the Beaman Family Fund for funding these scholarships in his honor.
Awardees double the impact of the scholarships by returning to Bumpeh Chiefdom for one year of service for every year of scholarship support they receive. Bachelor’s degree grads will fill a big need for senior high math and science teachers. They’ll introduce hundreds of Rotifunk students to STEM careers for years to come.
Education ends at senior high for so many Sierra Leone students can’t afford who can’t afford college; or they drop out when funds run out. Their loss holds back the country’s development.
Ibrahim Bangura, left, waited a long time for his opportunity to get a bachelor’s degree in science education. Far too long. He qualified for university 18 years ago, soon after Sierra Leone’s rebel war ended. But he lost his father while in primary school, and his mother as a small market trader couldn’t help him.
Ibrahim followed the path of many like him becoming a teacher, one of the few jobs available straight from high school without additional education.
“All this while I have been doing community teaching, teaching mathematics and physics,” Ibrahim told me. “So, I have taught pupils at senior high who are now graduates in the fields of medicine, engineering, as well as professional teachers within science.”
Ibrahim was finally able to enroll and complete his first year in science education at Milton Margai Technical University in 2021. This year he was identified him as a student meeting our criteria for a teacher scholarship .
For the next three years, Ibrahim’s scholarship will cover tuition, living expenses and a laptop computer. He readily committed to teaching in Rotifunk because “teaching is a passion to me.” He’s ready to start by helping to teach during his university breaks.
Without trained science teachers in Rotifunk schools, local students haven’t qualified for admission to bachelor’s degree science programs.
Nationally, only 38% of 2022 high school grads passed the Biology exam with at least a C score for college entrance. Other STEM subjects were even lower: Math – 23%, Chemistry – 2%, Physics – 1%.
We want to change that and open the world of science and technology to Bumpeh Chiefdom students in their hometown.
Our partner CCET-SL contacted Milton Margai Technical University (MMTU) directly to find science teacher candidates to develop science education in Rotifunk. We look for candidates in financial need.
Tamba Kemoore Gborie is another MMTU student awarded a scholarship. He attended the Bo Government Secondary School, one of the oldest boys’ high schools in the country, and one of the few offering the full science curriculum. From there, Gborie said, “I started growing my love for science subjects.”
“This journey hasn’t been an easy ride for me reaching this point in my studies, “he told me. That’s why he’s so grateful to Sherbro Foundation and CCET-SL for giving him this scholarship opportunity.
After completing his Rotifunk teaching commitment, Gborie’s goal is to continue his studies to become a Medical Doctor.
A young woman from Rotifunk started medical school this fall with our third Saa Chakporna scholarship. Aminata Kanu completed two years of premedical science courses at the University of Sierra Leone and was admitted as a full medical student.
Aminata was raised in Rotifunk by her mother, a single parent and local primary school teacher. After primary school and junior high, she transferred to Annie Walsh Memorial Secondary School, a Freetown girls school offering senior high science.
“Coming from a small town, “Aminata said, “I’ve seen people die and suffer because of poor medical facilities in the community. It has been a passion and dream to become a medical doctor as a way of helping my people and community.”
The Methodist-run Hatfield – Archer Memorial Hospital in Rotifunk has come a long way in the six years since Aminata left for her studies. She can get practical experience there in her chosen field of obstetrics and gynecology. The hospital now does cesarean sections and other basic surgeries for the local population.
Another Rotifunk resident is pursuing primary care medicine as a community health officer. Gibril Bendu will be at the front line of health care when he completes his degree funded by the Sherbro Foundation board.
Community Health Officers (CHO’s) provide primary health care in health clinics mainly in rural areas. For many, this will be the first and perhaps only health care they receive. CHO’s also offer public health programs on preventive care for the community.
I first met Gibril in 2013 as a Rotifunk secondary school science teacher. He comes from a tiny subsistence farming village. He started teaching right out of high school twelve years ago to earn money and help support siblings behind him.
When I observed Gibril’s biology class years ago, I saw he had ability beyond a rural junior high teacher. SFSL helped him get a teaching certificate to improve his teaching skills and get credentials needed to earn more. We then supported him to repeat his old college entrance exam, enabling him to be admitted for the Community Health program.
After his CHO degree, Gibril can also do an internship at the Rotifunk hospital, and hopefully be appointed to an area public health clinic.
We now have a total of six students on university scholarships – all in science and technology!
Our first two Saa Chakporna scholarship students awarded last year are in the third year of bachelor’s degrees.
We anxiously await Tommy Sankoh finishing his degree in agricultural economics at Njala University. With his return to Rotifunk, he’ll advise CCET-SL on its agriculture program and teach high school students and local farmers improved growing techniques and developing farming as a business.
Alimamy Kamara is completing a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. He’ll teach math and science in return for his scholarship support.
We are so proud of these students.
Huge thanks go to the Beaman Family Fund for funding five of them to meet goals they’ve worked so hard to prepare for.
We end this year with a sense of deep gratitude to all of you for making this a year of accomplishment. Our partner CCET-SL’s programs did better than ever. You make these things happen and we can’t thank you enough.
We wish you and yours health and much happiness now and in the new year.