Celebrating Day of the Girl with Scholarships for 460 Girls

Celebrating Day of the Girl with Scholarships for 460 Girls

Sherbro Foundation celebrates October 11th, the International Day of Girl, by giving 460 Sierra Leone girls the gift of education.

We met our 2018-19 Scholarship program goal! 460 girls in four Bumpeh Chiefdom schools are ready to learn with scholarship awards of new school uniforms and notebooks.

Students at Bumpeh Academy Secondary School assemble for the scholarship award ceremony.

Big thanks go out to our generous donors whose support has grown the scholarship program from 67 junior high girls in one school to 460 girls covering all six levels of secondary school in four schools.

In its 6th year, 1700 scholarships have been awarded, giving over 600 girls the opportunity to continue their education. Girls are staying in school and progressing into senior high with repeat scholarships, many returning for a third or even fourth year.

Enjoy the pictures of so many girls eager to start another year of secondary school.

Bumpeh Academy Acting Principal Daniel Koroma said schools are full to overflowing with students this year after the new Sierra Leone government announced its “free education” program. It paid school fees for all students for the first time and deposited the money before the first day of school.

People interpreted free school as including uniforms, but the government didn’t have the money to cover these.

“What the government could not do, you have done,” Acting Principal Koroma told me. “You are reaching an area the government could not afford.”

For many girls, the uniform they receive as their scholarship award will be the only one they have. They’ll wear it day after day for the full school year. Girls have stayed out of school for want of a uniform.

When the scholarship award gives girls a second uniform, it also helps keep them in school. Many students walk four, five, even six miles each way to school.  If they arrive home at 4 p.m. soaked in the rain or hot and sweaty, it’s late to wash their uniform.

The tropical sun sets quickly and it’s dark by 7 p.m. If the uniform isn’t dry by morning, it’s cold to walk in the chilly early dawn hours in wet clothes. Students have missed school Koroma said because they’re ashamed to come without their uniform.

Two sets of clothes for the whole year isn’t much!

Rosaline Kaimbay, Managing Director of our partner CCET, presents Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School students with uniforms.

Parents are proud to see their daughters continue in school for another year. I’ve learned it’s a fallacy that Sierra Leone parents favor boys over girls, or don’t want girls to go to school.

Time and again I hear adults say, when you educate a girl, you educate the country. Educated women will bring up educated children and they’re the backbone of the country. Girls drop out for the simple reason they cannot afford to continue in school.

Most mothers shown above lost their opportunity to go to secondary school, or even to finish primary school. They’re delighted to cheer their daughters on.

The uniform and exercise books in each award actually cost more than school fees. It takes a big burden off parents, most of whom are subsistence farmers and petty traders. After feeding and clothing their families, there’s little cash to go for school expenses.

We’re especially pleased to welcome Junneth Kamara back to school with her scholarship, left with Bumpeh Academy Principal Koroma.

A 27-year old mother of three and senior high drop out, she returned to school last year with a scholarship.

Junneth picked up in the 10th grade where she had left off four years before, and has now passed into the 11th grade. She’s a woman on a mission to become a nurse, and is a wonderful role model for all.

In schools without text books, students must take notes teachers write on blackboards.

Senior high scholarship awardees get four hardbound notebooks they can refer to two or three years later when studying for their national school completion exams.

“The scholarship program is changing the lives of girls –  giving them direction and ambition.” Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker

“[Before the program] they didn’t know what their future could be,” he said. “With every year in school, they’re avoiding pregnancy. They’re looking for partners who share their academic vision for the future. … They even look different. They look like people serious about acquiring education for their future.”

That’s a lot to celebrate on this Day of the Girl.