Getting Kids Ready for Senior High and Beyond

 

It was a Wednesday night, the first week of school in January, and our partner CCET-SL’s Community Learning Center was thronged with Rotifunk-area kids. Over 80 9th and 12th graders returned to a classroom at night because they’re eager to continue learning.

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Come July, they’ll be sitting for their senior high and college entrance exams. They are intent on using their education as a path to a better life. But first, they must pass the West African standardized school completion exams, and they want to pass the first time.

Eighty-three students quickly signed up for CCET-SL’s new Tutoring Program. These 9th and 12th graders attend evening classes three times a week to review the full junior high or senior high curriculum, and make sure they’re prepared for the school completion exams.

Alima Kanu JSS3 tutoring student (2)Alima, left, is one student who signed up. We introduced Alima last year and the formidable challenges she’s faced to stay in school. When her older parents couldn’t pay for any more schooling, they sent to live with her aunt. She had to walk five miles each way to her Rotifunk school.

With a SFSL-funded scholarship, the bright 14-year-old has progressed to the 9th grade. We were delighted to see she’s joined the tutoring program.

Alima was able to move from her aunt’s village into town this year. She’s determined to go to college and told us here why she comes for extra evening tutoring.

 

IMG-20180129-WA0013 (2)Thanks to a $5,000 Beaman Family Fund grant, the Tutoring Program is being offered free of charge to both girls and boys.

The grant pays for five part-time local teachers, a sixth full-time teacher to coordinate the program for 2017, and teacher and student learning materials.

Gibril Bendu, above, the only Science teacher in town, is leading the Tutoring Program for CCET-SL.

Introducing computers — All participating students must also complete an introduction to computers. By the end of term, they will have learned basics of Windows, Word for Windows and Excel.

IMG-20180131-WA0012Paramount Chief Charles Caulker visited the first week and immediately called us in Cincinnati. We heard all the noise in the background of kids getting into the preloaded computer games, as their first effort in learning how to navigate a PC and use the mouse. He said it made him so proud.

“Just think, there are 80 children in my chiefdom now learning how to use a computer!”

Rural education challenges — The unexpected Beaman Family Fund gift is giving rural children the opportunity to succeed in the modern world, just as city kids have.

For over 20 years, no Bumpeh Chiefdom student passed the West African standardized junior high or senior high completion exams, the BECE and WASSCE, or met university entry requirements.

In 2016, the first three candidates (all with Sherbro Foundation scholarships) passed the WASSCE senior high exam with university requirements, and are currently attending college.

More Bumpeh Chiefdom students now are progressing to junior high, many with Sherbro Foundation scholarships. But they face serious limitations in advancing to senior high and beyond. Schools have inexperienced teachers, many unqualified in their subject matter, especially at the senior high level. It’s difficult to get teachers with four-year degrees to live in a rural community.

IMG_2038 (2)Students don’t have textbooks and must copy limited notes teachers write on the blackboard.

Poor school policies advance students who fail exams to the next grade, where they don’t catch up. Poor discipline may mean students don’t complete the full curriculum.

When students go home after school, they don’t have a suitable study environment. Most live in crowded conditions with distractions, noise and no lighting. They lack the support and coaching important to reach goals no one around them has achieved.

Filling in the gaps — Kids will never make it to college or vocational school if they don’t first learn what they should in junior high.

IMG-20170927-WA0002Working to fill this gap is CCET-SL’s Tutoring Program, the brainchild of Managing Director Rosaline Kaimbay, left. As a former school principal, she ran year-end study camps where 9th graders had intensive all-day review classes for four weeks. The result was 100% of her students passed the junior high BECE completion exam, uncommon for any school, let alone a rural school.

At CCET-SL, Mrs. Kaimbay is turning her approach into a three-day-a-week evening program open to students from all Bumpeh Chiefdom schools. With the Tutoring Program, kids can achieve the knowledge level needed to be successful in senior high. Dropouts are reduced and the likelihood of advancing to college or vocational school improved. Graduating seniors will get prepped for their college entrance exam.

Pride of the chiefdom — Chief Caulker said the program is already much admired in the chiefdom.

Adama Kamara JSS3 tutoring student (2)Girls like Adama, left, feel pride that they’re joining a group of chiefdom academic elites, studying with the best local teachers in a first-class environment complete with solar light and computers.

They arrive early and leave talking with their friends in English about what they just learned. Chatting in English doesn’t normally happen in a rural environment, Chief said. It’s strictly Krio, the country’s vernacular.

Parents are overwhelmed by all the efforts being made for their children, he said, and that it’s all free of charge. For a chiefdom with 70% illiteracy, moving 80 kids to academic proficiency at the senior high level is a very big deal. A real source of pride.

 

More needs — Still, there’s more to do. Some students attending the program live in villages 3-6 miles away, and were valuing their education over even food.

IMG-20180122-WA0003 (4)It’s too far for them to walk home from school for their main (and sometimes only) daily meal and return again for evening classes. Some had not eaten since heading to school at 7 a.m.! And it’s too dark for girls to be walking home that distance at 7:30 p.m.

CCET-SL arranged to feed these students in the short term, and teachers taxi them home with CCET-SL motorcycles. Most students are inadequately fed and will perform better with an evening meal to fuel their brains.

Our next goal for these dedicated students is to raise additional funds for a meal program for the whole class and fuel costs to ensure girls are safely taken home at night.

In the meantime, classes are on and it’s a full house.

SFSL Founder Receives Prestigious Award

SFSL Founder Receives Prestigious Award

Sherbro Foundation is delighted to announce that founder and Executive Director Arlene Golembiewski was named Humanitarian of the Year by the worldwide P&G Alumni Network.

The biennial award goes to “the individual who has made a significant contribution to the human condition through their time, effort or expertise, whether this was a single event or a lifetime of work,” according to the organization. “This award is intended to recognize actions that go well beyond efforts in a single community or location and serve mankind as a whole.”

Arlene accepts the award from Ed Tazzia, P&G Alumni Network Chairman.

Arlene received the honor at the recent P&G Alumni Network Global Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio for former P&G employees.  Most attendees have gone on to new careers in many industries as CEOs, CFOs, marketing, advertising, finance, manufacturing and HR leaders.

In her acceptance speech, Arlene noted that in its first four years, Sherbro Foundation has funded 1,250 secondary school-fee scholarships for impoverished girls in Bumpeh Chiefdom, Sierra Leone. The Foundation is awarding its first college scholarship this year for a deserving village girl.

“For many, conditions in Sierra Leone can seem hopeless. But I found there were simple and practical things I could do that would have an immediate impact on improving the lives of the some of the world’s poorest and most inaccessible people,” Arlene said.

“These weren’t my ideas, and I couldn’t do any of this on my own living in the US. You need a strong community partner, and we have a remarkable one in the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation. CCET-Sierra Leone is led by Board Chairman Paramount Chief Charles Caulker and supported by his chiefdom council. The work is all community led – so it’s moved quickly.”

“I share this award with my friends in CCET-Sierra Leone,” Arlene said.

Arlene also thanked the P&G Alumni Foundation for their grant this year of $12,235 for CCET-Sierra Leone’s new education and computer center in Rotifunk. The money went to finish equipping the center, including 17 more laptop computers and a color printer for the first and only printing service in a district of 300,000 people.

Arlene, left, with Chief Charles Caulker and CCET-SL Executive Director Rosaline Kaimbay in their new computer center.

The P&G Alumni Network has 37,000 members in chapters around the world, all former employees of the Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co.  Arlene retired from P&G as Associate Director of Global Health, Safety and Environment after a thirty-year career developing HS&E programs around the world and assessing new product introductions for the world’s largest consumer product company.

So how do you grow a coconut?

How do you grow a coconut? What’s the seed?

vlcsnap-error366As a biologist myself, I had to stop and think, it’s the same as with any other fruit. In nature fruit drops from a tree and will start growing where it falls.

That’s true for coconuts, too. In a fertile place, they will grow where they fall –  shell, husk and all.

IMG_1988Bumpeh Chiefdom is lowland tropical rainforest, perfect for growing coconuts.  The Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET) is growing them commercially by the hundreds in a coconut nursery.

Coconut seedlings will go to their own nonprofit project orchards and some to sell to private growers. Private sales help pay for ongoing nursery operation and fund growing all the fruit trees they raise for village orchards and baby orchards.

vlcsnap-error787 (2) Coconuts, shell and all, are planted about a third of the way into loose soil and covered with straw mulch.

Two or three months later, they’re sprouting. By six months, they are ready to transplant.

A mature coconut tree will fetch $30 in fruit income. And CCET just planted 450 of these in the new Baby Orchard!

IMG_1993CCET’s nursery manager, Pa Willie, grows project coconuts in a protected nursery to keep thieves from stealing them. It’s a fenced in and locked pen right behind his house he keeps an eye on.

Pa Willie developed his growing skills when he worked for a Liberian rubber plantation  near the border with Sierra Leone before the rebel war. He had to flee for his life with only the shirt on his back when rebels infiltrated the plantation. Thankfully today. he can tend to the nursery from the peace of his own backyard.

Trivia question – where did the rubber for making tires come from when Henry Ford started making cars a hundred years ago, and before the days of petroleum based synthetic rubber? Ford funded plantations in Liberia growing natural rubber trees. Some are still growing today.

 

 

 

Rotifunk Leads Unique Community Ebola Prevention Effort

Rotifunk Leads Unique Community Ebola Prevention Effort

Dear Friends,

I thought I would be writing now to ask your support for Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone’s girls scholarship fund. With the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, school is indefinitely suspended. Instead, I’m asking for your help on getting Ebola prevention supplies to the rural Sierra Leone area we work with.

CCET Exec. Director Rosaline Kaimbay demonstrates the hand washing station.

CCET Executive Dir. Rosaline Kaimbay demonstrates portable hand washing station filled with disinfectant solution.

In the last two weeks, SFSL has had to shift our focus from education to helping Rotifunk and surrounding villages fight the Ebola epidemic.  A second and bigger wave of Ebola is now moving through Sierra Leone.  Neither the Sierra Leone government nor any NGO’s have reached rural areas beyond the outbreak epicenter with Ebola prevention supplies.  Yet, it’s in these kinds of rural places the Ebola outbreak started.

The majority of Ebola cases continue to be in two areas in eastern Sierra Leone. A national state of emergency was declared last week, and these two areas have been blockaded. Everyone is effectively quarantined in place for 21 days, the Ebola incubation period. Only food, water and essential supplies are allowed in.

This is a necessary public health step to control the Ebola outbreak. But the disease had already started spreading around the country.  People who became sick in the hot spot areas feared they would get Ebola if they went to a hospital. Before the blockades went up, sick people ran to the care of relatives in other districts. Some of these sick people had Ebola and transferred it to other parts of the country, including Moyamba district where Rotifunk is.  This district now has four confirmed cases and fifty being tested.  This is how epidemics spread.  A frontline Scots aid worker describes the many direct and indirect effects the epidemic is having on an already fragile country.

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CCET, our local partner, prepares to deliver hand sanitizing stations.

There’s a misconception that the Ebola outbreak is being managed for the whole country by large nonprofit organizations like Doctors WIthout Borders (MSF). MSF is heroically fighting the battle to save people’s lives already ill with Ebola in the two epicenters, and tracing their contacts for quarantine there. But they are not involved in prevention activities to stop the spread of Ebola in the rest of country. The Sierra Leone Government’s actions have been limited to reactive steps and mainly within their fragile health care system; not preventive steps across the country.

Sherbro Foundation is equipping Rotifunk and surrounding villages with portable hand sanitizing stations.  This deadly disease can surprisingly be killed with soap and water and hand sanitizers.  People are being trained to frequently wash their hands, especially when in public places like markets, churches, mosques and health clinics.

Hand washing station delivered to the health clinic waiting area.

Hand washing station delivered to health clinic waiting area.

Rotifunk, like most of the country, has no running water.  There is nowhere to wash hands.  Preventive steps like hand sanitizing stations in public places are not set up in rural towns and villages outside the two Ebola hot spots.

SFSL sent money last week to set up over forty hand sanitizing stations like this one and a supply of disinfectant. Our Rotifunk local partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET)informed us today they need to reach more villages and have more disinfectant to go around. Prices on buying these portable sanitizing stations have gone up 50% in the last week, as goods are in short supply.

CCET Executive Director, Rosaline Kaimbay informed me today they are being seen as unique in Sierra Leone with this kind of grass roots community-led effort on Ebola prevention.  While towns across Sierra Leone are still waiting for Government and NGO assistance, they are taking charge on the fight against Ebola.

It’s understandable that limited resources are first going to the epicenters of the emergency.  But unless towns in the rest of Sierra Leone like Rotifunk are equipped for preventive actions to fight Ebola, the epidemic can continue to spread across the country – and beyond.  More lives will be lost.

Time is of the essence. Can you help stop this tragic epidemic for the cost of a dinner out or one concert ticket? To donate online, just click here: Donate   We accept all major world currencies. To send checks, contact us at sherbrofoundation@gmail.com.

You can help even more by passing this on to a friend.

Thank you!

Arlene Golembiewski
Founder & Executive Director

The Extra Gift Adult Literacy Brings

Adult Lit classI wondered why the group of adult literacy students were so motivated to come to class at the end of their busy day.  They are mainly working women who are single mothers, too.  They come three afternoons a week to enthusiastically join in lessons in a dim, hot primary school classroom on a hard wooden benches that sit low to the ground. 

Adult studentsBabies share the space with their mothers, quietly nursing or getting passed around to fellow students to hold for a while.  Small children play outside, waiting for their mothers to finish. Lessons go from 4:30pm until 6:00pm when it’s getting too dark to read in the unlit classroom in Rotifunk, a small rural town in Sierra Leone with no electricity.  Day after day, week after week they come, filling two classrooms. 

After spending time with them, I found there was a gift they received that went beyond learning to read and write.  A special gift.

Olivia Bendu, 47 yrs, 6 children, in Advanced group and proud to be learning again.

Olivia Bendu, 47 yrs, 6 children, proud to learn again in Advanced group.

This day’s lesson for the level one class was two letter words.  At, to, in, on, by.  They drilled on spelling each word, then using it in a sentence.  Each student took their turn standing at the chalk board with a pointer reciting and spelling each word.  If anyone stumbled on a word, their fellow students encouraged her on. It was support group as much as it was classroom. 

After classes, I interviewed each adult student. I had told them I wanted to talk with each of them and hear their personal story.  They came willingly, and spoke candidly about their lives and personal situations.  In fact, they followed me around town if they had missed class, stopping me to have their interview.

Zainab Caulker, 28 yrs, market trader, wants to become a nurse.

Zainab Caulker, 28 yrs, market trader, wants to become a nurse.

Many were abandoned by boyfriends and husbands after having one or more children. This often came after dropping out of primary school years before because their father had died or left, or because the family just couldn’t pay for school.  Without money, teenaged girls often get involved with an older man (older than them with a little money) and become pregnant.  More likely than not,  the man doesn’t stay with them for long. Or perhaps they have a husband who dies.  Then it’s repeated again with another man.  

Kadiatu Sillah, 15 yrs, father died; no one can to pay for school; wants to learn  to be a seamstress and support her mother.

Kadiatu Sillah, 15 yrs, father died, no one to pay for school; wants to be a seamstress and support her mother.

To care for and feed their families, the women become market traders, buying rice or palm oil or vegetables from village farms to re-sell in bigger town markets. Or food vendors, selling food they cooked. These are some of the only options available to an illiterate woman.  They make up the informal economy, where people buy and sell just enough to scrape by, never managing to get ahead. They have to eat most of the day’s profits.

Some of those who had husbands were the wives of teachers, one of the only paying jobs in town.  Once they became mothers, they never managed to pursue or finish an education because there was no option for adults.

Victoria Koroma, 31 yrs, five children and no husband; sells donuts, wants to be a nurse.

Victoria Koroma, 31 yrs, 5 children, no husband; sells donuts she makes; wants to be a nurse.

Whether fifteen or fifty years old, the women had similar stories. So, why go through this extra effort of starting school now.  Some students were learning the alphabet for the first time, the teacher’s hand held over theirs, guiding them as they repeatedly traced four letters at a time, A – B – C – D.

They told me they were coming to school to learn to read and write and learn numbers so they could get a job.  Or, so they could better manage their market business.  If their daughter was sent to sell the donuts they made, they needed to better keep inventory.  They wanted to count how many they gave them, and were any lost and unaccounted for at the end of the day. They wanted to count change accurately, and know they weren’t cheated. 

Importantly, they wanted to follow their children’s progress in school and check that their lessons were done.  Or help tutor them when needed.

But after thirty five interviews, something more became apparent to me.  Another theme emerged that was a big underlying factor in motivating these adult students to come to school. 

By coming to school, they were gaining self esteem.

Zainab Caulker, two children, wants to follow her children's lessons and learn to be a secretary.

Zainab Caulker, two children, wants to monitor her children’s lessons and learn to be a secretary.

The lowest person in society’s informal caste system is the illiterate woman.  Illiterate men may find jobs as farmers and laborers, and by virtue of being paid, their stature goes up a notch.  Uneducated men can be village leaders.  But no one is lower in stature than an uneducated, illiterate woman.

I heard stories repeatedly of men leaving them, often for a woman with some education.  An educated woman likely contributes to the family in a bigger way – perhaps by finding a paying job, or by better building their own farm or market business. They have knowledge to better bring up their children, taking care of their health and monitoring their school work.

And an educated woman has more self esteem.  It’s unspoken, but you can see it.  They think better of themselves, they hold their heads higher, and men find that attractive. 

Zainab Kamara 39 yrs, 5 children, friends who can read and write inspired her to come to school; wants to learn to build her business.

Zainab Kamara 39 yrs, 5 children, friends who can read and write inspired her to come to school; wants to learn to build her business.

Women who have been told directly and indirectly that when they can’t read and write they are lacking and worth less than others, are ashamed of themselves.  And that shows in how they conduct themselves. They let themselves be taken advantage of, and are discarded for someone the man perceives as better.

In the Adult Literacy classes, the women were being shown they are worth something and that they have a future in front of them.  The teachers encourage them and invest their time in them.  Their fellow students support them.  This American woman (this white woman) is taking an interest in them, and “sponsoring” them to learn. 

Lucy Manley, 35 yrs, 4 children, no husband; wants to learn nursing and  midwifery.

Lucy Manley, 35 yrs, 4 children, no husband; wants to learn nursing and midwifery.

And week by week, they can see they are learning things.  Things that make them proud and encourage them to learn more.

One lesson the students seemed to get into was greeting people in English.  Hello, my name is Lucy.  How are you?  I hope you are well today.  Each student got up and practiced her greetings in front of the class.  They laughed and joked, and made sure each person had their turn. 

When I asked Lucy after class what she learned that day, she broke into a huge smile.  I learned to give greetings in English, she said, and I felt civilized.  I can give a speech – in English.  This made me proud!

Aminata Otterbein, 60 yrs, saw other educated people her age and wants to learn herself.

Aminata Otterbein, 60 yrs, saw other educated people her age and wants to learn herself.

This response felt priceless to me. So, what was the actual cost of building this kind of self esteem in forty five women and five men?  A few hundred dollars to buy exercise books and pens for each student to copy the day’s lesson, and to run off copies of lessons and tests for the advanced class like math problems.

Fortunately, the teachers at the Center for Empowerment & Transformation continue to volunteer their time for the Adult Literacy program.  They are the heroes of this story. The teachers come to patiently teach again at the end of their long school day to help develop their sisters and brothers, as they call them.  It’s reinforced by students who really want to learn. 

I was seeing empowerment take place right in front of me, and the transformation in these adult students was visible.  It was palpable.  This really was priceless.

Sherbro Foundation is proud to have contributed the cost of exercise books and learning materials to launch the Adult Literacy program. 

Growing a Baby’s Future in Sierra Leone – The Newborn Baby Project

“Children born today have no provision that will guarantee they survive.” — Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, Bumpeh Chiefdom, Sierra Leone.

Every newborn life holds the promise of tomorrow.   Yet, Chief Caulker’s recent comment is reality in Sierra Leone. 

But maybe you can grow a baby’s future.  Literally.

Planting a tree for a newborn infant is an old Sierra Leone tradition.  Now, the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation (CCET) in Rotifunk is kicking off a new program to plant an income-producing fruit tree for each newborn in Bumpeh Chiefdom.

And they’re taking it to the next level by opening a bank account for the newborn where income from selling the tree’s fruit can be deposited and grow. In 12 years, it will fund the child’s education.  Simple.  And that’s why it should work.

Being a newborn baby in rural Sierra Leone is tough.  The proverbial deck is stacked against them, but it’s slowly getting better.  Sierra Leone is no longer among the countries with the top ten infant mortality rates.  It’s No. 11, and, that’s a post-war low of 75 infant deaths per 1000 births in 2013 — a 50% drop in ten years.  

Baby Abraham is a healthy baby.

Baby Abraham is a healthy baby.

Little Abraham is one newborn in Rotifunk awaiting his tomorrow and what it will bring.  Born to a single mother, he crossed his first milestone by successfully reaching his first month’s birthday. A healthy baby delivered in a safe delivery, he now faces the challenge of moving beyond the poverty of his peer group.

Children survive only to be stuck in a cycle of poverty as they become adolescents.  Breaking this cycle in rural villages is a tough nut to crack.  In subsistence agriculture environments like Bumpeh Chiefdom, there’s very little left over after feeding and clothing your family for things like schooling.

It’s clear to all that education is one of the biggest keys to escaping the poverty cycle.  Yet, sending your kids to the local primary school may be as big a stretch as you can make.  Secondary school – often in another town involving room and board – can be an impossibly high hurdle.

The Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation has kicked off a new program designed to help Bumpeh Chiefdom parents prepare well in advance for clearing this hurdle.  The Newborn Baby Project combines the old tradition of planting a tree for a newborn infant with a new opportunity:  savings accounts in a newly opened rural community bank.

CCET is reinstating Bumpeh Chiefdom’s practice of newborn tree planting by providing fruit trees that will produce $100 of income a year for years to come.  They will also initially pay the minimum balance to open an account for the infant in the community bank.  Parents are then expected to add to the account with income from selling the tree’s fruit and other savings over time. 

By the time the child is twelve or fourteen years of age, they should have money to fund their secondary school education and, hopefully, additional money to help their start in life as a young adult.

Two mothers at their babies' naming ceremony.

Two mothers at their babies’ naming ceremony.

CCET is using another old tradition, the Naming Ceremony, to initiate the program.  Parents gather family and friends a week after the child’s birth to officially announce the child’s name and seek blessings for the infant.  This is the time to plant the infant’s tree, and allow the child and the tree to grow up together. 

The innovative part of CCET’s program is to open a bank account for each newborn in their first weeks of life, paying the required minimum balance, and then have income from the child’s tree added over time.  Parents are encouraged to add to the account when they can. 

In the West, we take savings and bank accounts for granted.  In October, Rotifunk opened its first-ever bank, a rural community bank.  This bank operates more like a credit union does here in the US.  Account holders are seen as members and shareholders of the bank.  Money held by the bank is invested in conservative investments and income is paid out to shareholders. 

As a community bank, accounts can also be opened for a small minimum deposit – as small as Le15,000 or about $3.50 USD.  Having a safe and accessible place to save small amounts of money has long been a barrier to the world’s lowest-income people saving money. 

They want to save.  But the amount of money they can set aside for saving is usually so small, traditional banks don’t want to bother with this kind of account.  Traditional banks also impose transaction fees that can be as large as the deposit or withdrawal the saver wants to make.  Add to that, problems with access.  Traditional banks are usually located far from small village savers in bigger population centers. 

With the new community bank in Rotifunk, the Newborn Baby Project will now start providing for the infant’s future within their first weeks of their life.  The symbolism of a child and their tree growing up together will be expanded with an income producing tree and a bank account to grow that income.

Growing a child’s future – that’s what this project aims to do.   Sherbro Foundation is happy to be part of this program by providing initial money to open newborn bank accounts.

 

Joining the Rest of the World – Rotifunk’s First Computer Students

Joining the rest of the world – this is how two of Rotifunk’s first computer literacy students described the way they feel about starting computer lessons.  They know the world is computerized, and they have, to date been left out of the opportunities and the knowledge afforded by computers.

Computer class at CCET office.

Computer class at CCET office.

Computer literacy and regular access to using a computer are among the most coveted resources in today’s Sierra Leone.  People know this is their link to gain valuable job skills, better manage their work, and communicate with the rest of the world.

The Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation received 50 laptop computers in August from American donors Schneider Electric and TIP Capital. They lost no time in building tables and benches with local lumber and creating a practical manual for students who have never used a computer.  Lesson One started in Sept – October with how to turn it on and find the Word software.

The first students are community teachers and other adults with a need to use a computer.  They will form the core group to serve as trainers for high school students and others in the community. Only three or four of the 30+ secondary school teachers in area had any computer proficiency.  Some had been exposed in college to manuals with screen shots of computer monitors as introduction, but never had access to using one themselves.

Here’s a profile of some of Rotifunk’s first computer students.

Samuel Caulker at his computer lesson.

Samuel Caulker at his computer lesson.

Deputy Paramount Chief – Samuel Caulker stands in as the ranking chiefdom authority for his brother, the Paramount Chief when both the Chief and his Chiefdom Speaker are out of town.  Samuel says the world has gone computerized, but until now, Rotifunk was not part of this.  This is his first opportunity for computer lessons and he wanted to take advantage of it.

He was embarrassed when going to training workshops outside the chiefdom, and he had to say he did not know how to use a computer.

Soon he can see computers in the Chiefdom Administrative Office.  Records can be kept and accessed when needed on computers, like amount of taxes collected for the year and who paid in each Section.  They can maintain land transfer records and avoid land disputes; they can keep names of all 208 villages in the chiefdom and the responsible headmen. Importantly, they can maintain minutes of Chiefdom Council meetings and other key chiefdom events.

Samuel is not finding using a PC as difficult as he may have thought.  They have excellent tutors from CCET committed to teaching them.  It would go faster if they had more time to practice. They come at 5:00pm at the end of their work day.  Lack of electricity and cost of running a generator limit the time of the class to 6:30pm when it’s too dark to see.  Today they had to stop when the battery on the computer ran down.

Samuel wants to thank Schneider Electric and TIP Capital for the opportunity to learn to use a computer and will make good use of his class. He also appreciates the low cost of CCET classes.  They are paying Le30,000 (~$7.50 USD) for classes that would cost Le150,000 in Freetown.

Secondary School Teacher – Emanuel Mbasy teaches at Walter Schutz Secondary School.  Emanuel sees technology quickly changing and wants to be part of it.  With computer literacy for himself, he can then also teach his children.  He can create his own documents and quickly find them, like class lessons, exams and other documents.  Files get missing at school, and he could better maintain them.

Practical computer instruction manual designed by CCET.

Practical instruction manual designed by CCET: how to boot a computer.

The CCET teachers are good and he’s not finding it too hard to learn, if you concentrate and practice.  Practice is unfortunately limited to a few hours of classroom time each week, and students like him do not have their own computer to practice on at home.  They do have a good manual CCET prepared for them they can take home and review.

Emanuel wants to give his special thanks to Schneider Electric and TIP Capital for allowing him to join the rest of the world with learning computers.  May God bless them.  More computers for their personal use would be great. 

Muslim Missionary and Imam – Osman Sesay is a young Imam with the Amaddiyah Islamic mission present in Rotifunk. Technology is improving, and the Amaddiyah mission has a computer, but he didn’t know how to use it.  He’s glad for the chance for lessons now.  He wants to be able to keep speeches on the computer, as well as lessons and exams for the Amaddiyah school.  They conduct marriages and need to issue marriage certificates. 

Imam Sesay really wants to learn to use a computer. It’s difficult, but he will learn.  He’s not fortunate to have his own personal computer, and would really like to have one.

Computer lesson.

Computer lesson: teachers give 1:1 help.

Construction Contractor – Abu Bakar Conteh is a contractor building new buildings at the Prosperity Girls High School.  As a contractor, he needs to give bids and estimates and keep them. Offices with files are a luxury in rural Sierra Leone, and his work keeps him on the move anyway.  A computer would help him organize his work and keep it available, as well as make calculations easier.

A computer would also allow him to advertise his business through the internet.

Abu Bakar enjoys computer lessons very much and is finding it easy, despite this being his first class.  He’s learned to write and save some documents, and he’s become familiar with the keyboard.

He would like to thank Schneider Electric and TIP Capital so much.  They find it difficult to get computer lessons in Sierra Leone, especially in a rural place, and these companies have made it so easy and inexpensive for him.

DSTV Satellite Dish Operator – Sembu Fallah maintains DSTV service for the area. We are living in a computerized world where knowledge has advanced, he says, and he would like to know it better.  He wants to be a perfect man and learn enough to teach others as an additional job.

He could also use a computer to join the DSTV signal to a computer for viewing sports games here in Rotifunk as an additional source of income.

Sembu wants to thank Schneider Electric and TIP Capital for what they’ve done for them.  He really appreciates it, and prays they will bring more.  If he had his own computer he would continue to practice at home and not be limited to three 90 minute classes a week at the CCET office.

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August 28, 2014 update: I see people continue to read this post, so I wanted to direct you to the latest up on Rotifunk’s computer program.  We are turning a town tragedy into a triumph.  A community computer center is being built as I write this from the ashes of a rebel burned building. You can read about it here: https://sherbrofoundation.org/2014/08/25/computing-center-roof-is-up/