Getting Sierra Leone Students Ready for What Lies Ahead

Getting Sierra Leone Students Ready for What Lies Ahead

Sierra Leone schools finally will reopen in October after a 5-month Covid shutdown

How do you help students now at an education milestone with a looming big exam that determines their fate – or which could result in more barriers to reaching their life goals?

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Sierra Leone students have already been through a lot to reach 9th grade or 12th grade. With previous stops and starts, senior high students are often 20 years old and more. They’ve been in schools with too few teachers qualified to teach the curriculum.

Now, they’ve a 5-month school gap to fill because of Covid.

We’re working on improving Rotifunk’s educational system with teacher training. But what happens to the kids now in school?

CCET-SL’s Tutorial Program, going into its fourth year, tackles this problem, turning it into an opportunity.

Rosaline Kaimbay saw local secondary schools don’t have enough trained and qualified teachers to cover the full curriculum, especially in math, science and English.

Her solution: offer tutorials, but not just one-on-one or for small groups. Offer after-school classes to students from three schools preparing for national exams. And make it free.IMG-20190304-WA0003 (2)With Sherbro Foundation funding, 9th and 12th grade students came in droves for this free extra help. CCET-SL had to limit enrollment to the capacity of the CCET-SL education center, about 75 students at a time.

The program has been a big success and continues to grow. 170 students are anticipated this year, exceeding the size of the CCET-SL center. Classes are in two shifts and overflow classes go to a nearby primary school in afternoons.

Students facing the biggest barriers to education are invited for tutoring, providing a boost for the most vulnerable: orphans, those in single-parent households, often woman-led, or away from their home village living with guardians, and the lowest income families. 80% are girls.

The Tutorial program adds quality to the education these students receive – and does it using existing resources.

20200113_113722 (2)The best qualified local teachers combine forces in extra classes for students from three schools.

For a modest $40 monthly stipend, these dedicated teachers come after school, week after week, for another round of teaching over the whole school year.

The result: 9th grade tutorial students each year got higher results on average on the senior high entrance exam than peers in their home school, better on average than all chiefdom schools and than most of the district’s 40 secondary schools. They took many of the top three results in their home school.

The tutorial students, 80% girls, also became motivated to continue their education. More went on to senior high at the age when girls typically drop-out and marry. With extra support and their daughters’ success, more parents saw the value of education and kept their girls in school.

Create All-Day 12th grade School
Rosaline has taken 12th grade after-school tutoring to a higher level. The total number of 12th graders in Rotifunk schools remains small. Most have dropped out by this point.

Rosaline convinced school principals it would be more effective to bring all 12th grade students together and teach one all-day 12th grade school with the best local teachers at the CCET-SL center.

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Students get the best teaching Rotifunk has to offer. The intensive all-day school prepares them for the exam that’s the entry to all higher education and requested on job applications. All 12 senior high subjects are taught, including classes for college and commercial tracks.

School in the time of Covid
12th grade after-school tutoring converted to the all-day school in December 2019.  Covid then closed schools at the end of March 2020. Still, with six months total of focused teaching, we’re hoping this group now taking the national exam will do better than in the past.

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CCET-SL will resume both the 12th-grade school and 9th grade after-school tutoring when Sierra Leone schools reopen in October. They observe the same procedures as all schools, including Covid safety procedures: required masks, spacing out students and frequent hand-washing. The CCET-SL Center has large windows to open on both sides creating air flow.

9th grade tutorial classes and the 12th grade school will be more important than ever in helping Rotifunk students catch up after missing five months of school for Covid.  No Zoom in Rotifunk!

You can step in and sponsor a 9th grade or 12th grade student for 10 months of classes for only $40 for the whole year.  Sponsor a student here.

Together, we can help 170 students stay on track and make big gains in their quest for a complete education. More than that. They’re preparing for the next step that lies ahead. Thank you!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

Light Up Izzy’s Life. She’ll Bring Light to Others.

Light Up Izzy’s Life. She’ll Bring Light to Others.

Youth unemployment in Sierra Leone is staggering.

70% of those under the age of 35 are unemployed or underemployed. Erratic work in the informal economy, like market trading and day labor, is hard to even call employment. But that’s the best many can do. They have no skills.

Izzy is back in school now to avoid this fate. She’s in a vocational course teaching her electrical wiring. She chose that because it will lead to a wage-paying job with a future She’ll be poised on the leading edge of Sierra Leone’s solar revolution.

It’s back-to-school time. And time for our annual educational fundraising appeal – with another new twist this year.

Vocational training is one of four types of higher-education scholarships we’re sponsoring for chiefdom students. The successful after-school tutoring program will continue, as well.

Izzy is one of 12 Bumpeh Chiefdom students enrolled in a new vocational training program with Sherbro Foundation scholarships.

She was an 11th grade student aimlessly drifting in a conventional school that didn’t offer much to a student like her. Izzy (short for Ismatu) lost first one parent, then the other. She lives with her grandmother, helping in her catering business, which in rural Rotifunk, is down more than up.

Izzy is a quiet girl. In a month of being around her, I never got more than a “good morning, ma.” She’s always silent, her grandmother said. Just quietly doing tasks she’s asked to do. Fetch water, wash the pots, peel potatoes, pluck feathers off a chicken. You can see she’s had a painful past. Spending her time with older women who didn’t have their own chance for education, she never formed any goals.

The Sierra Leone government recognizes young people like Izzy need new opportunities. Most will never go to college. They need to get job skills. The government decentralized its Government Technical Institute, putting satellite programs in the district capitals where it’s practical for impoverished students to study. They made it affordable, with low tuition and avoid the capital Freetown’s high cost of living.

When Izzy’s chance for a new kind of education came up, she went for it. Electrical wiring is unusual for any girl to elect, but especially in Sierra Leone.

I asked her, why choose this, and Izzy softly said, “So I can do betta.” Meaning, so I can get a job and do better than the women around me.

Now she’s learning a skill that will set her up in a trade with opportunities, as Sierra Leone’s construction industry grows and electrical power takes off.

Until now, 90% of rural Sierra Leone has been in the dark.

Izzy didn’t choose this out of the blue. Last year, she was helping her grandmother cook for a group of Germans who came to install a solar system at Rotifunk’s mission hospital. They observed women have almost no options for jobs and are always working as “beasts of burden.” They encouraged Izzy, saying she could be doing solar installations and other electrical work. 

Not long ago, a group of illiterate Sierra Leone women went to India to be trained as part of a “barefoot solar” program, which successfully trains illiterate Indian women to do solar system installations. They show even uneducated women can learn what they need to know to run wiring and install solar panels. Women are disciplined and pay attention to detail. 

When Izzy was selected for one of the first 12 Bumpeh Chiefdom positions at the new technical institute in the district capital Moyamba, she saw electrical wiring was a course option. She didn’t hesitate.

Four young women and eight young men were accepted for Sherbro Foundation funded scholarships. Three women elected an IT course. The men are studying building and constuction, auto mechanics and IT.

The only female in her electrical course, Izzy is getting encouragement all around, including from the guys in the class. She’ll be finishing her first year soon, leading to a one-year certificate. If she does well, she can continue into a second year and get a full diploma.

Izzy’s timing is good. Small scale solar systems are spreading across Sierra Leone.

Easy Solar is one company bringing small solar units to rural African households. It installs solar panels with as little as 25 to 50 watts capacity, enough to run a couple LED lights and charge phones, plug in a radio or another small device.

Compared to always buying expensive alkaline batteries, this kind of small solar service is affordable for many. The smallest package is $70. You can buy your set-up outright, or pay it off monthly. Later, you can add on.

The exciting news is a solar mini-grid is being installed for the town of Rotifunk. It’s a public-private venture, that will be run like a small utility company. Households who want the service will get an electrical meter installed for pay-as-you-go service. Poles are going up around Rotifunk to carry electrical wires throughout town. The rest goes in soon, when the peak of the rainy season passes.

I smiled when I heard one excited resident say, with electricity, “Rotifunk will be New York City of the south [of Sierra Leone].”

The above solar mini-grid is an example of many being installed in rural Sierra Leone.

Imagine the anticipation of having even small-scale power and lights around Rotifunk for the very first time. It will no doubt keep growing, as power expands around the country. 

Izzy soon will be ready to take advantage with her new electrical skills. She can “do betta” and have a future in front of her. 

When asked to sponsor vocational training scholarships, Sherbro Foundation immediately said, absolutely.

It takes just $325 for a total scholarship package for the year to help one vocational student get job skills! This includes tuition and practicals fee, room rental and transportation for nine months.

The institute is impressed with Bumpeh Chiefdom’s response in sending students. It’s the only chiefdom in the district to fully sponsor 12 impoverished students and give them this opportunity.

You can help Izzy and 11 others like her get real job skills. Contribute towards a $325 annual scholarship here and these young people will soon join the job market – and avoid lives of poverty.

You’ll be making a great investment that feels great, too. Thank you!

  — Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

Our Sierra Leone partner CCET-SL has more education programs helping Bumpeh Chiefdom students move to self-reliant lives. Stay tuned to hear what’s next for the successful after-school tutoring program and two other scholarships for community health nurses and our first university student!

Putting Quality Into Sierra Leone Girls’ Education

Putting Quality Into Sierra Leone Girls’ Education

We’re kicking off our annual appeal for our educational programs. 

Sherbro Foundation’s core mission is education, with a focus on helping girls get an education.

We want Bumpeh Chiefdom girls – and boys – to stay in school, graduate and move on to actual careers and wage-paying jobs that make them self-supporting and part of developing their country.

Sherbro Foundation is proud to have grown to four types of scholarships serving Bumpeh Chiefdom students.

This year we’re changing our approach to our mission. No girls’ scholarships.

We’re focusing on ensuring teachers have the skills needed to help our students succeed.

“This is the right time to make a change in the scholarship program,” Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker said. “The Sierra Leone government’s Free Quality Education program is providing more and more for students in the last two years and taking a load off families. The government made school free, paying school fees directly to schools, and giving students school supplies and textbooks for core subjects.”

Emory WSMSS SS1 math 18 (3) Over six years, Sherbro Foundation sent over 800 Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to school with scholarships, most with repeat scholarships.

We got them into junior high and kept them there. We saved many from dropping out, instead continuing into senior high. They’re starting to graduate.

But graduates aren’t moving on to their dreams. Our goal of self-sufficient young women remains unmet.

Few had school completion exam results good enough to continue into higher education. This is largely the same scenario across Sierra Leone.

The problem was pretty clear. More needs to be put into the quality of education, not just the quantity.

Quality of education starts with qualified teachers.

This year we will fund scholarships for teachers in chiefdom schools to get the Higher Teaching Certificate (HTC), the basic credential to teach at the secondary school level.

The majority of those imparting knowledge to pupils are not trained and qualified. This has created a negative impact on the performance of pupils, especially in the public exam.” Rosaline Kaimbay, managing director of our chiefdom partner CCET-SL and former high school principal.

IMG_2706 (2)If fortunate to finish high school, most graduates need to earn an income right away. They start teaching straight out of high school, sometimes as a primary school teacher.

Without an HTC or a bachelor’s degree, the government won’t pay secondary school teachers. But it’s hard for Rotifunk schools to get trained teachers to come to this rural community. They still need teachers, and scrape together a token salary, as little as $25 a month, to pay unqualified teachers.

The Sierra Leone government offers part-time courses practicing teachers can take on school holidays and some weekends to get their HTC over three years.

Many unqualifed teachers are serious and want to improve their subject knowledge and teaching skills. But paid so little, they can’t afford to pursue their HTC.

They’re stuck. But we can fix this problem.

Sherbro Foundation will fund six CCET-SL scholarships for practicing Rotifunk teachers to pursue their HTC. The cost for each is only $675 a year for tuition, fees and personal support (travel, food, internet café use, etc.)

82511258_614813622684617_5169237073403576320_n (2)Aziz is applying for one. He’s been teaching for seven years. Aziz was born in Mogbongboto, a small village deep in Bumpeh Chiefdom near where the Bumpeh River opens to the ocean. His parents were subsistence farmers, living off the land. He is one of twenty children his father gave birth to. His family can’t offer any financial help to further his education.

Aziz went to high school in Rotifunk in the period after the war when schools were being rebuilt academically as well as physically, and good instruction was limited.

When he didn’t meet university entry requirements, Aziz took the path many do. He got a basic teacher’s certificate, qualifying him to teach at primary schools.  He worked his way up, from primary school to teaching business management and physical education at a Rotifunk secondary school.

87479818_654415898724389_2420527844426776576_n (1)“At first I never want to be a teacher looking at the way the profession is neglected,” Aziz commented last year. “Later on I take it as a job. And now it’s becoming my profession.”

Teachers in a rural community like Rotifunk do more than teach a class. They’re guides and catalysts, lifting students from the trap of semi-literacy and a life of poverty to the opportunity education brings.

I was impressed with the personal vision Aziz wrote on his Facebook page. “My vision: to teach, to build, to inspire. As an educator, a life coach, a life instructor, a future builder and a Role Model, I inspire young and great minds towards becoming super thinkers and great achievers.”

Aziz meets the base criteria for an HTC Scholarship. He now has six subjects passed  after retaking the school completion exam vs. four required for HTC entry. He’s a chiefdom resident and currently teaching in a chiefdom school.

Aziz did well in CCET-SL’s scholarship interview, with a panel of seven interviewers, including Paramount Chief Caulker. He needs to now apply to an HTC school and bring a letter of acceptance.

20191222_131110 (2)“CCET-SL works to compliment the government’s Free Quality Education program,” Chief Caulker, left, said. “One thing the government is not able to do now is send teachers back to school to develop strong teaching skills. It’s right for CCET-SL to step in and help our own teachers. We’ve tailored teacher training scholarships for our needs and to serve as a tool for developing our chiefdom.”

After completing their HTC, teachers are required to continue teaching in a Rotifunk school at least one year for every year of scholarship support they receive.

“Our Girls Scholarship program encouraged chiefdom families to send their girls to school and let them progress into senior high,” Chief Caulker said. “They’ve come to value education more and are proud of their girls getting an education.”

“We now need to make sure girls – and all our students – get a quality education that will carry them into new lives where they prosper, and in turn, Bumpeh Chiefdom prospers.”

Sherbro Foundation is excited to take our education mission to the next level with this change. When a teacher’s skills improve, students learn more, test scores improve and they gain admission to higher education – with opportunities for a new life.

You can help develop a teacher by donating towards a $675 scholarship. Click here.

You’ll be investing in both a teacher and in the hundreds of students they teach. Thank you!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

Watch for future newsletters about our three other scholarships and their goals: community health nursing, vocational training and supporting our first university student to complete her final year.

460 Goals Met!

You hit the target. With your generosity, Sherbro Foundation’s 2019-20 girls’ scholarship campaign reached it’s goal.

Actually, it’s 460 individual goals that were met. You helped 460 girls achieve their personal goal of returning to school another year and advancing to the next grade.

Bravo to these girls pursuing their education. And bravo to you, the ones that made it happen!

IMG-20191009-WA0001 (2)I always anxiously await seeing what happened to individual girls I’ve gotten to know. This picture of Fatmata proudly smiling in her senior high uniform made me smile, then left me teary thinking of her story.

Fatmata, now starting 11th grade, just received her fifth SFSL scholarship. She’s thriving and moving through senior high. 

We wrote about Fatmata two years ago. She lost her father to Ebola, and her pregnant mother died shortly afterward. A relative enrolled her in a Rotifunk school because she could get a scholarship. She resisted her father’s family’s efforts to move her to another town where she would not get scholarship support. She wanted to be sure to stay in school. Now, a few years later, she’s nearly finished with secondary school.

There are many more Fatmatas also getting their chance for education.

We’re thrilled to repeat last year’s highwater mark of 460 scholarships, covering four Bumpeh Chiefdom schools of all faiths. And four young women will return to another year of college with their SFSL scholarships.

With your support, more and more chiefdom girls are staying in school each year. We’re grateful to you for your generosity in backing their growing numbers year after year.

We’re told no other community in Sierra Leone receives this number of scholarships — and all for girls!

Distributing scholarships is always a joyful day. Below, Bumpeh Academy students spill out of our partner CCET-SL’s education center after receiving their scholarship package of a school uniform and school supplies. Without textbooks, it’s essential students get notebooks for recording teachers’ blackboard notes.

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Rosaline Kaimbay, CCET-SL Managing Director and former school principal, above, encouraged students and told them of their responsibility to learn and become successful. CCET-SL’s role she tells them, “is to help transform the lives of chiefdom people. When you are successful, you will transform our community.”

Mrs. Kaimbay reminded students of the college scholarships we have started. She told senior high students, “it’s now in your hands” to study hard and qualify for a future scholarship.

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The Ahmadiyya Islamic school, above, is the chiefdom’s smallest secondary school. But the ranks of girls in the school keep growing year by year.

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Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School (WSMSS) is the chiefdom’s oldest school, and the one where I taught as a Peace Corps Volunteer many years ago. I remember feeling good back then to have 70 girls in all six grades of the town’s only secondary school. Today, the CCET-SL center, above, was overflowing with over 150 girls receiving scholarship packages in just one of four participating schools!

Pictures weren’t yet available for our fourth school, Ernest Bai Koroma Junior High, the newest school ten miles outside Rotifunk.

But what about the boys?
Every year when I visit Rotifunk schools and meet with student assemblies, I’m asked directly by boys, “What about us? We need help going to school, too.”

Emory WSMSS SS2 math 3 (2)The fact is, they do. And with the scholarship program, the number of girls in Rotifunk secondary schools is catching up to their male peers.

As Westerners, we’ve had the notion that African families favor boys over girls for education. I’ve asked enough people in Bumpeh Chiefdom over enough years to now satisfy myself this is no longer true. Girls have caught up with boys in junior high, and now we’re helping girls do the same in senior high. It’s poverty that’s kept girls from progressing now, not favoritism, especially when village girls face the added expense of lodging in town suitable for an unaccompanied teenage girl.

The SF Board decided last year to start scholarships for boys at the modest level of 10% of the total given to girls. We paid for 46 additional scholarships for boys ourselves. This year we set the same target, and one Board member paid for all boys in full.

Mustapha Kebbie SS2Student profiles show just how important it is to support boys as well as girls. Mustapha, left, is doing well now in 12th grade with his second scholarship.

He lost his parents during the early days of the Ebola outbreak when they were quarantined. They may have only become infected when kept in close quarters with those who had contracted Ebola. Now living with an uncle, Mustapha wants to become a lawyer “to stop too much crime.”

Emory spelling bee team 2 Mabinty's and Sallu disabled foot (3)

 

There are many disadvantaged boys who need our support.

Sallu, middle left, is disabled.

His education means everything to him, as he won’t be able to earn his living with physical labor.

We’ll continue to monitor this issue year by year.

Once again, we send our deepest thanks to everyone for making this year’s scholarship campaign another successful one!

— Arlene Golembiewski

What Your Scholarship Really Buys a Sierra Leone Girl

Mabinty’s math teacher says she’s quick to answer questions and tries to understand new material. Competitive, she sits in the front row of class. She loves to rub it in when she beats the top boys for the best grades in class.  At fifteen, she just finished the 10th grade with her second SFSL scholarship.

Mabinty Fofanah SS1

Mabinty is one of 460 Bumpeh Chiefdom girls waiting for her chance to return to school in September. You can give her that chance with a $30 Sherbro Foundation scholarship.

Mabinty doesn’t know her father who left the family soon after she was born. Her mother remarried and her stepfather raised her with three of her siblings and two other children.

School is important to Mabinty.

“When you get an education, you become someone in society,” she says.  She wants to be a lawyer.

With a $30 scholarship, you give a girl much more than a year in school. With a new-found sense of self-worth, girls set goals for themselves and work hard to prepare for wage-paying jobs and real careers. They avoid pregnancy and early marriage that would end their dreams. They’re choosing careers that contribute to society and help develop their country.

Sherbro Foundation scholarships target the vulnerable Bumpeh Chiefdom children – orphans or those with single parents and the lowest income families struggling to send children to school. We strive to improve their their odds in the lottery of life.

The self-esteem that education brings will boost girls into promising futures. That sums up why we work so hard to send Sierra Leone girls to school. Education is the foundation for self-esteem in a country where the majority of women remain uneducated and often illiterate, treated as the lowest caste in society.

Salamatu Conteh BASS JSS3 Aunt orphan Siama Rd 3 (5)

Salamatu, 17, in 9th grade, comes from a distant Bumpeh Chiefdom village. Her father died during Sierra Leone’s war, and her mother died soon after of an illness.

Salamatu’s aunt has raised her and her two siblings for the past 13 years. Her hard-working aunt is a trader, reselling things she buys in villages at Rotifunk’s weekly market – peppers,  palm oil and charcoal.

Salamatu Conteh BASS JSS3 Aunt orphan Siama Rd. 4 (4)

With that income, her aunt cares for 10 children, eight in secondary school. This year will be Salamatu’s third on scholarship, which her aunt says are vital to keep her in school. At 17, many girls are force to drop out and start earning a living, often as market traders like Salamatu’s aunt

Salamatu wants to become a nurse “to serve mankind and for nation building.”

She’s one of 100 9th graders now in our partner CCET-SL’s study camp preparing for their senior high entrance exam in late July. After ten months of after-school tutoring classes and now the study camp (all SFSL funded), we expect the ranks of senior girls to grow in September. That’s our goal.

With your support, we’ve grown every year. In 2018-19, 170 senior girls were awarded scholarships; 460 secondary school girls in total.  You can help more girls keep on their education journey to graduation and higher education for just $30 each.

Aminata Kawa BASS stepmum Magazine SS3 5 (3)Aminata, 18, is finishing senior high with her third SFSL scholarship. Her stepmother cares for six children. Her meager earnings as a market trader helped Aminata complete school. They depended on SFSL scholarships to ease the growing cost burden on the struggling family.

Aminata went to CCET-SL’s tutoring classes for senior high students preparing for their college entrance exam. A very small group of students has made it this far.

Aminata Kawa BASS stepmum Magazine SS3 3 (3)“The tutoring classes improved my studies,” Aminata said.

“But I wish there was a science laboratory because I want to become a medical doctor.” 

We always have another goal to reach for!

Your $30 scholarship provides a full package. A girl gets a new school uniform – for many the only school clothes they may have for the year. Schools have no texbooks. We provide notebooks for students to copy notes teachers write on blackboards. These things cost more than the secondary school fees the Sierra Leone government is now paying for the first time.

This year we’re adding a washable and reusable menstrual hygiene kit that gives girls the freedom to attend school every day of the month. It gives girls the confidence to fully participate in school, like writing on blackboards, standing in front of class or at lunchbreaks, and participating in sports without the shame of exposing stained clothes.

Your scholarship provides so much for a girl. That’s all it takes to relieve subsistence-level families of the major financial burden to send their girls to school – and keep them in school until graduation.

Click here and send a Bumpeh Chiefdom girl to school with a scholarship. It feels great.

Thank you!

— Arlene Golembiewski

P.S. Your gift includes another intangible treasure: building a girl’s confidence that she can excel in school and in life. That’s priceless.

P.P.S. You can help more. Pass this on to a friend.

 

 

Come celebrate our 6th anniversary

Come celebrate our 6th anniversary

This week is Sherbro Foundation’s sixth anniversary!

I’m just back from five weeks in Sierra Leone. One program in 2013 has grown to six today, and they’re expanding.

Join us April 4 at 7 pm in Cincinnati to hear all we’ve accomplished with our Sierra Leone partner CCET – and where we’re going next.

This isn’t a fundraiser. We just want to share all our good news with you. Pass this on and feel free to bring friends. Hope to see you there.

—– Arlene Golembiewski

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Sending Children to School with Fruit

So many things to show from my Sierra Leone trip last month. Where to start? Here’s where we started our Orchards for Education work with Mike’s Orchard – the first one we planted in 2016 for our dear Peace Corps friend we lost a few years ago.

Bumpeh Chiefdom Paramount Chief Caulker, above, shows one of over 1000 pineapples planted in the rains of July 2016 that are doing well and starting to sporadically fruit.

It was in 2016 we decided with our Sierra Leone partner CCET-SL to start planting fruit orchards as a means of creating sustainable income to run their education programs for Bumpeh Chiefdom. Chief Caulker doesn’t want to keep asking donors to pay for scholarships for girls to go to secondary school, and now to college. We want to keep running the new Tutoring program that prepares students for their senior high and college entrance exams without hand-out’s.

As a rural agricultural area, starting fruit orchards became our plan. It’s a long-term strategy and requires work to carve them out of wild bush and get fruit trees established. But then they reliably produce fruit and income for years to come. We’ve added short term crops to fill in between trees, like pineapple, cassava, peanuts and corn.

The Sherbro Foundation Board stepped in to start the Mike Orchard ourselves, in recognition of our Peace Corps friend Mike and all he did for Sierra Leone over 35 years during and after he left the Peace Corps. You must clear land and plant in Sierra Leone in synch with the rainy season. Or wait another year. So we decided in short order in 2016 to just get started with eleven acres Chief provided near his family farm.

Since then, Orchards for Education is blossoming into another 45 acres, all planted for children’s education in Bumpeh Chiefdom. More on that later.

For now, our first effort is bearing fruit. Literally. Not enough to earn real income this year, but we’re on our way. Watch over us, Mike. The next year should be a good year.

Eat. Pray. Learn.

Eat. Pray. Learn.

Come January, 63 girls will be starting on a path few Bumpeh Chiefdom girls ever reach. They’ll eagerly begin senior high school.

IMG-20180724-WA0006 (2)Girls in CCET’s tutoring program waiting to start their senior-high entrance exam.

Last January, our partner CCET started their first after-school tutoring program for 9th grade girls. Extra classes fill learning gaps schools can’t provide and help girls successfully pass their senior-high entrance exams — and be well prepared for senior-high learning.

Eighty-one girls from four local schools started the program, coming to 4 pm classes three days a week, including their first computer training. Seventy-five continued for 7 months, finishing in July just before the national exam.

img-20180722-wa0002.jpgWhy the title Eat. Pray. Learn?

Tutoring ended with a 3-week study “camp”, where girls lived 24/7 at CCET’s education center. They had intensive review, drilling on practice test questions, study time and generally got pumped up to take the exam together.  Students, left, in study camp evening classes.

Thanks to funding from the Beaman Family Fund, we were able to feed these young scholars three meals a day during the camp. Below, students take a lunch break outside.

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img-20180722-wa0003-2-e1544378321317.jpgAnd prayer in all faiths, left, is part of the camp day. At day’s end, tables were pushed to the side and girls spread out on the floor to sleep dormitory style.

The experience of living and studying together in a focused environment with the support of their teachers and peers – and good nourishment — helped push girls over the finish line for the exam.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the new Sierra Leone government on this year’s exam. The nature of the questions didn’t change, but they applied more rigorous exam monitoring and scoring. They are emphasizing improving education and eliminating corruption at all levels, including on national school exams. Exam results were reported in November.

Sixty-three passes among girls completing the tutoring program is very good. For perspective, only 120 girls in total were enrolled in all grades of senior high last year. So, these 63 girls will be a strong group of new 10th graders, prepared to thrive in senior high.

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On average, the girls in the tutoring program outperformed local schools as whole.

They also did better on average in math and science scores, areas targeted in tutoring classes, left.

 

img-20180606-wa0003-3.jpgWe especially want to congratulate Bumpeh Academy who had the highest exam results (all students, boys and girls) among schools in 3 adjoining chiefdoms.

Some of their classrooms lack four walls, yet they deliver good results.

Girls from the tutoring program, left, made up about half the school’s students taking the exam.

Girls from the tutoring program were also among the top positions for all local 9th graders taking the exam — both boys and girls. Congratulations to Hellen Bangura for coming in first of any Bumpeh Chiefdom student. Adama Mansaray of Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School and Isatu Conteh of Bumpeh Academy were among those in second and third positions. You make us proud.

The tutoring program is one example of the education programs our partner CCET provides for the benefit of the whole community. Led by a former school principal and staffed with teachers, they do a great job of identifying needs and designing practical, low-cost solutions that maximize use of limited resources for students in all local schools.

Sherbro Foundation is helping CCET create a sustainable solution to keeping the girls scholarship and tutoring programs funded and improving into the future. Orchards for Education plants fruit trees, long-term income from fruit sales for CCET’s education programs.

Please consider an end-of-the-year gift and see it grow by 50%, matched through a Rotary Club grant! Help plant fruit trees and you’ll keep sending girls to school for years to come. Gifting by December 25 will help us meet Rotary’s deadline for the grant request.

Many thanks to all of you for supporting Bumpeh Chiefdom programs and making 2018 a blessed year. We’re grateful for your generosity and outpouring of support!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season,

— Arlene Golembiewski and the Sherbro Foundation Board of Directors: Chris Golembiewski, Cheryl Farmer and Steve Papelian

 

 

 

#GivingTuesday: Plant a Tree That Will Educate Sierra Leone Girls. Make it a gift.

#GivingTuesday: Plant a Tree That Will Educate Sierra Leone Girls. Make it a gift.

Rotary GiveTues Flyer.pdf convert 10-21-18

On Giving Tuesday when you plant a tree, you’ll educate Sierra Leone girls. You’ll protect the planet, too.

Where else will $35 do as much on #GivingTuesday2018?

You can make your holiday gifts more memorable this year. Give a living tree, an investment in Bumpeh Chiefdom and its girls.

Skip the mall and online sweater orders. Give someone the gift of a tree in their name. You’ll be giving them the experience of changing another person’s life. The tree’s fruit income will fund girls education for many years to come.

It will provide scholarships for girls to go to secondary school. It will fund important extra programs not found in rural schools, like computer training. And special after-school classes helping girls prepare for the senior high entrance exam.

It will pay for some the chiefdom’s very first female high school graduates to continue on to college!

A tree will fund classes for young women dropouts to catch up and return to school, or move on to vocational training. Other women learn to read and write for the first time.

Choose how your gift will change someone’s life: Gift Suggestions

Added bonus: trees help combat climate change. Tropical trees mature quickly absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. They prevent erosion and protect drinking water sources, too.

Now that a holiday gift that’s meaningful and memorable. 

Yet another bonus: a Rotary Club grant will match your gift by 50%. $35 becomes $52.50! $50 becomes $75.  $100 becomes $150.

On Giving Tuesday, give a tree and send Sierra Leone girls and young women to school and to brighter futures. Donate and give gifts here.   

Read more about the Rotary Club partnership to plant new fruit tree orchards for education and everything your gift will do.

Make this Giving Tuesday special – give a tree that will keep on giving.

Thank you!

P. S. One more way you can help. Pass this on to a friend.

Plant a Tree and Send Girls to School

Plant a Tree and Send Girls to School

 

Paramount Chief Charles Caulker has a vision in which every child in Bumpeh Chiefdom gets a secondary school education. We’ve made big strides with Sherbro Foundation’s Girls’ Scholarship Program.

Now Chief and his community nonprofit CCET are creating the chiefdom’s own sustainable source of income for education from fruit trees. Thousands have been planted. Thousands more are needed.

With Sherbro Foundation’s help, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor is mobilizing Rotary Clubs and individuals through a Rotary International Foundation grant to plant another 15-acre orchard with 1500 fruit trees.

Sherbro Foundation is striving to raise $10,000 toward a $95,000 Rotary grant that will make Chief Caulker’s plan come to life.

We need your help. Plant a tree. It will fruit for years to come, creating income to keep sending girls to school year after year.  

And the Rotary International Foundation will match your gift by 50% !

Adding to orchards planted in 2017-18, the Rotary grant will result in a total of 45 acres of orchards with over 3000 fruit trees. As they start fruiting in 3 – 5 years, the trees will create a steady stream of income for education for 20 years or more. Give here to plant trees.

Growing trees yields big dividends in fruit income, providing students with these essentials every year:

$35 plants one tree (lime, guava, orange, grapefruit or avocado) that will pay secondary school fee scholarships for 2 girls, or a school uniform and notebooks for 1 student.

$70 plants 2 dwarf coconuts that will pay the monthly stipend for a computer instructor.

$100 plants 3 dwarf coconuts that will pay monthly wages for a lead teacher in after-school tutoring that prepares girls for senior high entrance exams.

$250 plants 8 lime trees that will pay living expenses for a community health nursing student who will return to serve in an area rural health clinic.

$600 plants 17 African plum trees and provides the tuition and living expenses for one year of girl’s college scholarship.

You’ll be doing more than planting a tree. Your gift will first help:

  • Clear 15 acres of wild bush – all with manual labor.
  • Grow 15,000 tree seedlings with seed collected from locally purchased fruit.
  • Plant 1500 tree seedlings (Others will be donated to chiefdom families or sold.)
  • Keep all 45 acres of orchards weeded and watered for 2 years.
  • Create 19 full-time jobs for local villagers where no wage-paying jobs now exist.
  • Grow annual crops for short-term income to maintain orchards as fruit trees mature.

The plan will do much more to ensure the orchard’s long term success.

It will dig a well and install a watering system to keep young seedlings watered; build a storehouse and concrete drying floor to handle all the produce; hire an experienced Agriculture Manager to run the program; buy tools and fund operating a truck. Another goal is to expand the successful Women’s Vegetable Growing project, helping eager women farmers grow peanuts and double their incomes.

This sustainable plan will have major impact on chiefdom families.

By 2023, we conservatively estimate the combined orchards will generate $50,000 a year in income for education. And orchard income will keep growing as trees continue to mature.

Added bonus 45 acres of fruit trees will help fight climate change. Tropical trees mature quickly and absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

How you can help

Donate now Give here to plant trees.
100% of your gift goes directly to the project – no overhead expenses.

Checks can be made payable to:
Ann Arbor Rotary Foundation (a 501c3 nonprofit)
PO Box 131217
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48113-1217
Include “Sierra Leone Global Grant” in the memo line.

Give a Holiday Gift – Wouldn’t many on your gift list appreciate planting a tree for them that will educate girls year after year? Donate a $35 gift in their name and we’ll send a gift card describing the impact a tree has for the future of Sierra Leone girls. It’s a gift that truly keeps on giving. Add giftee name and address to the instructions line of your online donation above. For multiple gifts, or donating by check, email giftee info to sherbrofoundation@gmail.com

Ask a Rotary Club to contribute – Are you a Rotarian or do you know one? Many Rotary Clubs are interested in supporting worthwhile international development projects. Contact your local Rotary Club and ask if they would consider this project. We can supply more information.

Questions? Contact: Arlene Golembiewski – sherbrofoundation@gmail.com or Mary Avarkotos, Rotary Club of Ann Arbor – mavarkotos@me.com

Sherbro Foundation will personally thank you for your gift. We’ll direct your gift to the Ann Arbor Rotary Foundation who will coordinate with Rotary International. You’ll receive your tax receipt from the Ann Arbor Rotary Foundation in January.

Plant a Tree. Educate girls. Help the planet. Give a gift.

Where else would $35 accomplish so much?!

And — Rotary International will match your gift 50%! $50 becomes $75. $100 will be $150.

Thank you for investing in the future of Sierra Leone’s Bumpeh Chiefdom children!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

P.S. Help us more. Pass this on to a friend.

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aminata goes to University

Sherbro Foundation was thrilled to offer our first college scholarship in 2017-18 for a girl graduating in Rotifunk. We’re now delighted seeing how awardee Aminata Kamara’s first year is shaping up at University of Sierra Leone’s Institute of Public Administration & Management where she’s studying Banking and Finance.

Aminata is the youngest of 18 children of now aged parents who no longer work. She was an exceptional high school student, receiving the highest results for a female student on the national completion exam among Moyamba District’s 40 secondary schools.

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Moving from a quiet, rural village to the demanding urban environment of the capital Freetown, Aminata has quickly adapted. She shows, given the opportunity, intelligent, eager young people can catch up and perform well. Here’s our recent WhatsApp chat.

Arlene G.: What classes did you take in your first year? How did they go?

Aminata K.: In each year we have two semesters, each with six modules. First semester I took:

  1. Mathematics
  2. English
  3. Elements of Banking
  4. Principals of Accounting
  5. Information and Communication Technology [computer science]
  6. Human Resource Management

In second semester, there are new subjects. The classes are great. I’m doing fine.

AG: I’m glad to see you get an integrated approach with classes with like Human Resources Management from Year One. What are your biggest challenges in starting college?

IMG-20180608-WA0003AK: The high cost of transportation and high Internet cost. I can’t afford a computer laptop and a modem to do the required research.

I had to go to [an internet] café, left, to do some of those things and I pay a huge amount. Most of the tutors just give us topics and ask us to do our own research through Internet.

 

AG: Did you find anything surprisingly easy?

AK: I met new friends who are very hospitable. Some that are staying within the central area allowed me to stay with them during examination week so that we can study as a group, since I am staying in the far east end of Freetown where we experience a lot of traffic. I sometimes have to come down out of the [public transport] vehicle and hurry up on foot for me not to miss my lectures.

 

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AG: Tell us about the teaching staff at U of Sierra Leone.

AK: We have good lecturers and they teach well. When I started taking lectures, I found it difficult to understand the way of teaching because it is a different way of teaching [lecture and take your own notes] to that of high school [teacher writes notes on board that students copy]. But I am okay with it now as I have just sat to my first semester exams. I am now enjoying the lectures.

AG: Are professors responsive to students and help you succeed?

AK: They will see that the students understand whatever they are teaching and if you do not, they will repeat it again. They counsel students about their education.

AG: I know you lost about a month with classes shut down during the recent presidential election in March-April. How do you catch up?

AK: In the second semester we have only three months. That is why they give us some topics to research on our own. [Over the summer break, I will] keep studying and doing some research.

10371915_383754195116702_1689531377752587635_nAG: You have a change of government, with the new president making education his first priority. What are you students hoping to see change with the new administration?

AK: The change in government has not affected us in any way. We are just hoping to see the President fulfill his promise and we want the government to reduce the fees for us.

AG: Any new thoughts about the major you selected? Do you plan to continue with Banking and Finance?

AK: Yes, I want to continue if I am given the opportunity.

AG: What do you like about living in Freetown? Or dislike? It’s a big change from small town Rotifunk.

AK: I dislike the traffic. The thing I like about it is you can get good quality education here in Freetown.

AG: What message do you have for the people in the US who helped you go to college?

AK: On behalf of my old father and my blind mother, please help me extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all those who in diverse ways made it possible for me to be in the university. I am so grateful to the donors and to CCET-SL for letting my dreams come true and putting a smile on my face and that of my parents.

AG: We are so proud of you and excited to see you doing so well in your first year! Best of luck on your exams.

What’s New for our 2018 Girls’ Scholarship Program

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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