Never Too Late to Return to School

Never Too Late to Return to School

Junneth is one of the most enthusiastic 10th graders you’ll meet. She confidently said she’ll pass to Sierra Leone’s 11th grade, and she just did.

Junneth is also a 27 year-old mother of three. She’s back in school again in Rotifunk’s Bumpeh Academy with a scholarship and uniform after a five-year absence.

Junneth had passed the senior high entrance exam years ago, but her single mother just couldn’t afford her school fees, and she had to drop out. She doesn’t know her father. Along the way, Junneth married, bore four children, and lost one.

Sherbro Foundation’s Girls Scholarship program makes it a priority to keep young women like Junneth from dropping out of school. We offer scholarships to advance them to senior high and on to graduation. At $25, it’s an incredible bargain.

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People tell me Junneth is one of the hardest working people they know. She gardens all around the house she lives in. Her landlady, above left, gave her a room rent-free because she works so hard to support herself and her children.

20180706_151933 (3)Junneth grows sweet potatoes, (left), corn, yams and eggplant to eat and to sell in the market for money to live on. You’ll see her in a nearby river after school catching fish to eat.

Her husband is an “unqualified” teacher in another town. He’s not credentialed to be paid by the government, so his income is meager. He has little to offer his family.

As time went on, Junneth became more and more motivated to return to school. “I don’t want to sit down and be a woman who be in the kitchen,” she told me. “If I don’t have education in my head, he [my husband] will leave me and go to another who has learned. So that give me the cause to return to school.”

20180706_152359_Moment(28)She explained, an educated woman can work and improve the community. People respect her. Men respect her. When a woman can earn a living and help the family, it helps her marriage. She said, “If I learn, I also [will] have something. He will give; I will also give.” A two-career couple is needed in Sierra Leone to move away from subsistence farming to a more middle class life, just as much as it’s needed in the US.

It also frustrated Junneth to watch many of her friends who completed high school do well with paying jobs. “Some of my sisters go to college. Some of them are teachers. Some are nurses right now… When I see them, I feel offended. I say, why? Some of them, I beat them [on the past senior high entrance exam].”

Junneth also knew that her children would fare better with an educated mother’s help. “When I learn, my children also learn.”

Last September, Junneth went to Rosaline Kaimbay, managing director of the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation, which administers Sherbro Foundation’s Girls’ Scholarship program. “I cry to her, please help me. And she did. I really appreciate it.”

20180706_152359_Moment(30)Mrs. Kaimbay arranged a scholarship, asked Bumpeh Academy to enroll Junneth in school and gave her a uniform. She became a proud 10th grade student, in her first year of senior high, picking up where she left off years before.

 “She’s doing very well,” Mrs. Kaimbay said proudly.

Her principal just confirmed that Junneth passed her first year despite her long absence, and is moving on to 11th grade. She’s become a role model for other girls in school – and for her children.

Junneth knows where she’s going.

“I want to do nursing. That is my plan.” 

My grandmother was a nurse and taught me many things. She called me, even during the night, when delivering a baby. I want to be higher than [my companions who are nurses] if I put my focus there.”  With a small hospital in Rotifunk and government health centers in villages around the area, there should be a job for Junneth when she’s ready.

Junneth’s story of determination to get an education despite the odds and life’s cruel detours is not unique. Many Sierra Leone senior high “girls” are really young women, 21 and 22 years of age or more by the time they graduate. Their educations were interrupted – maybe more than once – because their families couldn’t continue to pay. Often one or both parents died, became ill, left the home, or aged and stopped working.

Early marriage and children are the fate of too many young women forced to drop out like Junneth. Sherbro Foundation’s goal is to keep them in school, learning and preparing for careers where they can support their families and help develop their communities.

I’d say that’s a tremendous investment from a $25 scholarship. Paramount Chief Charles Caulker sends his thanks for everyone’s support in sending Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to school. Parents, he says, are taking advantage of the opportunity the Scholarship Program offers to educate their children.

“More girls here are learning and at a higher level than ever before.”

You can return Junneth to school in September and young women like her. Please help here: I’ll send a young woman to school. 

We’ll double your impact. Our matching funds are being claimed. But the Sherbro Foundation Board will match the next $4000 donated.

 Thank you!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director 

Can $25 Be Life Changing? Send a Sierra Leone Girl to School.

Can $25 Be Life Changing? Send a Sierra Leone Girl to School.

Every girl in Sherbro Foundation’s Girls’ Scholarship Program — now more than 600 — has a story to tell. But even in this program for the neediest, Fatmata’s story is heart-wrenching.

We’re kicking off the 2018-19 Girls Scholarship drive, our sixth, with the story of one our first scholarship recipients and how $25 scholarships have changed her life.

Fatmata has received SFSL scholarships for four years, allowing her to finish the 9th grade at Bumpeh Academy. Soft spoken, Fatmata (white headscarf below) enthusiastically attends our partner CCET’s after-school tutoring program, prepping 9th graders for their national junior high completion exams. She breaks into smiles as she joins her classmates, all eager to prepare for senior high. Advancing girls to senior high is one our main objectives.

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Sherbro Foundation’s scholarship program gives priority to girls who are orphans or with single parents and from low-income families, even by local standards. Many from villages must leave their families to board in town to attend secondary school — another costly expense. Too many drop out after junior high without funds to continue.

20180712_184638 (3)Fatmata’s not sure how old she is. We estimate she’s 17. Her family was typical of many in Bumpeh Chiefdom. Her mother was the first of her father’s three wives. As the senior wife, she took the youngest wife’s child to raise with her own, a tradition. The child went missing and was found dead with no explanation.

Fatmata’s mother was held responsible and put in prison. Pregnant at the time, she delivered in prison and was released when the baby was a year-and-a-half. Fatmata had completed primary school, but her angry father gave no support for her mother or her children. Fatmata couldn’t start secondary school.

The Ebola epidemic hit when her father was home in adjoining Ribbi chiefdom. He was quarantined in a village with the virus, contracted Ebola and died. Fatmata’s mother now widowed with five children became involved with another man. While pregnant again, she had an uncontrolled infection. She and the baby died.

Fatmata’s father’s family wanted her to live with them in Ribbi Chiefdom. She resisted, “I was afraid in Ribbi I wouldn’t be able to go to school.” Another stepmother had enrolled her in junior high in Rotifunk where she received a SFSL scholarship and a uniform. Ribbi has no scholarship program.

20180712_184459 (2)“She made a good choice to stay here,” said our local partner CCET’s Managing Director Rosaline Kaimbay. “She’s determined to learn. We need to motivate her. I love the girl. So bold. I will follow her progress.”

Fatmata (green beret, left with Mrs. Kaimbay) and her two younger sisters (also left) live with their maternal uncle and grandmother in Rotifunk. I counted at least ten in their small house. Her uncle is very supportive of his three nieces. I never met her hard-working grandmother, always out in her small peanut farm.

20180715_171915 (2)During that tumultuous time, Fatmata had to repeat her first year of junior high. She’s continued to advance to the 9th grade with four SFSL scholarships.

Fatmata, left, at her home’s outdoor kitchen where they cook on a wood fire sheltered from sun and rain.

In two weeks, she’ll take her national 9th grade exams and has a very good chance of moving on to senior high. She’ll be part of a small elite group of rural girls working for high school diplomas.

Fatmata is the kind of success story we work hard to support with our scholarship program.

IMG-20180606-WA0004 (3)Many other bright girls are eager to keep learning, often after interruptions in their educations. 

Girls like Fatmata are the future of the country. A number of men and women alike have told me they support girls going to school: “When you educate a girl, you educate the country.  A boy just looks after himself.”

After telling me her story, Fatmata asked, “After school, who will take care of me?” We’ve helped her this far, but then what? She has no role models to follow.

I paused for a moment, and then told her, “You’ll finish school, go to college and get a good job. You’ll be able to take care of yourself and help your family, just as Mrs. Kaimbay and I have done ourselves.” 

Your $25 scholarship will keep Fatmata and girls like her in school and out of early marriage and teenage pregnancy. It will give them the chance to gain independence after graduating by getting a wage-paying job or entering vocational school or college. Teaching, nursing and the police force are traditional jobs. But we want to encourage girls to go into growing fields with jobs like accountants, IT support, lab technicians, floor tilers and electricians. 

We’re also proud to have started our first college scholarship program in 2017-18 for girls meeting college entrance requirements.

In just five years, you’ve made the Girls’ Scholarship Program a great success with over 600 girls getting the help they need to attend secondary school — and keep advancing. What’s happened to last year’s cover story girls?

IMG-20180529-WA0001 (3)Isatu, an orphan in senior high, just completed 12th grade. She’s awaiting the next national senior high completion exam. She could be a candidate for our new college scholarship program.

Alima, (2nd from left) a motherless girl, walked five miles each way to school from her aunt’s house. Now in the 9th grade and living with a Rotifunk relative, she gets CCET tutoring for her junior high completion exam and is in the computer training class, too. One of her school’s brightest, she was one of two students to represent the school in a local interschool quiz competition.

Our goal for this year is to at least match last year’s results and again award 460 scholarships to deserving girls. We continue to emphasize advancement into senior high. Your support has doubled the number of girls in senior high over the last four years!

We have great news from the newly elected Sierra Leone government. They will be paying school fees for all secondary students as part of their program to improve education.  

Sherbro Foundation’s $25 scholarship award this year will consist of a uniform and notebooks for each awardee. These supplies actually cost more than school fees and are a formidable barrier for most Bumpeh Chiefdom students. Uniforms hand sewn by local Rotifunk tailors help keep costs down.

We hope you’ll help send Sierra Leone girls back to school in September. Yes, $25 can be life changing for so many girls like Fatmata.  Please donate here: I’ll send a girl to school. 

We’ll double your impact. The first $5000 in gifts will be matched!

Thank you! 

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherbro Foundation Founder Receives 2018 Sargent Shriver Humanitarian Award

Sherbro Foundation Founder Receives 2018 Sargent Shriver Humanitarian Award

I’m proud and humbled to be receiving the National Peace Corps Association’s 2018 Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service.

My early Peace Corps experience in Sierra Leone remains the foundation for everything I’ve done. 

This award really goes to Sherbro Foundation’s local community partner, The Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation. CCET’s creative ideas and leadership have achieved so much.

They hope to encourage others on community-led rural development and share their success stories. It’s been my privilege to work with them.
https://lnkd.in/eQhgHmJ

— Arlene Golembiewski, Founder & Executive Director

#ruralcommunities #peacecorps #sierraleone

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

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.

Growing peanuts and self-reliance

Growing peanuts and self-reliance

April was a happy month for the Sierra Leone women farmers who joined the Women’s Vegetable Growing project. Within five months come August, these Bumpeh Chiefdom women will be harvesting peanuts and vegetables like corn and cucumbers. And putting cash in their pockets they normally never have.

They’ll be growing more than peanuts. They’ll be growing self-reliance.

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85 women lined up at our partner CCET-SL’s Center, above, in Rotifunk to receive a bale of peanut seed, 100 lbs. of rice to feed their families before the harvest and a large drying tarp to dry their peanut harvest. CCET-SL Executive Director Rosaline Kaimbay, above in yellow, led the festivities to distribute supplies to the women.

With this $75 investment, women can double their incomes and more. They earn more growing peanuts and vegetables than rice. But as subsistence farmers, they eat most of what they normally grow and barter the rest for other things they need. They never had any extra cash to diversify and grow a cash crop like peanuts.

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Mrs. Kaimbay explains to the women the supplies they receive are made possible by a grant from a group of Rotary Clubs, led by the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor. This is the second group of 85 women farmers Rotary Clubs have funded.

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These women break into a song of thanks to be among those joining the Women’s Vegetable Growing project. “The September 2017 group was very, very successful, ” Mrs. Kaimbay said. Women will normally harvest 4 or 5 bushels of peanuts from one bale of seed. The September group was averaging 7 and 8 bushels. With fresh, well dried seed the program seeks out, there will be good germination and a big harvest.

“The women really appreciate being part of the program, ” Mrs. Kaimbay reported. “They are so grateful. And I was so proud [to lead it].”

Started as an Ebola relief project, the Women’s Vegetable Growing program initially focused on smaller, more remote Bumpeh Chiefdom villages. The program has now moved to Greema Section and villages outside Rotifunk.

It’s been one of our most successful programs, helping the women farmers of Bumpeh Chiefdom move from poverty to self-reliance. After funding four groups of women ourselves, Sherbro Foundation is proud to help expand the program by recruiting the support of Rotary Clubs.