A Boost to the Finish Line

A Boost to the Finish Line

As we wrapped up a recent meeting on our partner CCET-SL’s education programs, Paramount Chief Charles Caulker commented, “CCET-SL has rebuilt senior high education in Rotifunk.”
 
I knew what he meant. When I first returned to Sierra Leone 11 years ago, there were four secondary schools in Rotifunk, most small junior highs. None had the full teaching staff to cover all subjects. Many teachers were just out of high school themselves and uncertified. None of the handful of graduating seniors met university entrance requirements.
 
Fast forward to today, with the month-long national senior high completion exam beginning. CCET-SL expects this year’s students to do at least as well as last year. In 2021, 64% of graduating seniors in CCET-SL’s program met the minimum requirements for university admission. Several did considerably better. Another 15% qualified for teacher training college. That’s about 80% qualifying for higher education.
 
What changed? Our partner CCET-SL introduced programs to systematically improve education.
 
Their six-year-old after-school tutorial program has prepared hundreds of junior high students for senior high. CCET-SL‘s all-day 12th grade school just completed its third year.
 
Both programs are getting results – thanks to funding from your Sherbro Foundation donations. We’re reaching out now for your help to fund them for another year.
 
Mabinty 20220528 (2)
 
Mabinty used CCET-SL’s programs as steppingstones to her goal of working in government, even becoming a Parliamentarian. She is graduating from 12th grade, a feat still uncommon for Bumpeh Chiefdom girls.
 
She told her story, not an easy one, to Mrs. Kaimbay, above. At the age of nine, her father divorced her mother for another woman. Both parents left, leaving her with her impoverished grandmother who could barely care for her. Mabinty had to repeat 8th grade after missing a lot of school when her grandmother couldn’t pay her school fees.
 
Sherbro Foundation scholarships then kept her in school. Participating in CCET-SL’s 9th grade tutorial program and the 12th grade school, Mabinty now feels confident as she sits for the West African Secondary School Completion Exam, or WASSCE. “I’ve never failed to attend school, and was always successful in my school exams,” she said. She hopes her WASSCE results will gain her admission to the University of Sierra Leone to study political science.
 
To have Bumpeh Chiefdom girls and boys today speak of their education goals with such conviction and confidence is striking.
 
When Rosaline Kaimbay, below, took over as CCET-SL managing director in 2017, she set out to improve the quality of education in Bumpeh Chiefdom.
 
Rotifunk, the chiefdom’s headquarters town, was typical in seeing only about 30% of teens make it to junior high.
 
By the 10th grade, half of those dropped out. The few successful students whose families could scrape together funds, transferred to senior highs in cities with qualified teachers.
 
By 12th grade, remaining Rotifunk seniors dwindled to 5 – 10 per school. With these numbers, schools couldn’t get government support to hire qualified teachers.
 
A former results-oriented school principal, Rosaline knew there had to be a better way. She saw there were various teachers across the schools who had skills in different subjects. She convinced the school principals to pool both their 12th grade students and their best teachers into one effective all-day school.
 
The 12th grade school covers eleven subjects for both college bound and commercial students. Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School provides classrooms, below.

WASSCE class entrance test 20211008 (2)

It’s all done only with available local teachers but organized for optimal results.
 
The school is run in a disciplined manner and the entire WASSCE curriculum is covered. Students do practice exams to get familiar with the exam format and questions. The concept showed immediate results in its first five-month trial. With a full 10 months in 2021, the school produced the dramatically improved results above.
 
Mrs. Kaimbay avoids bureaucratic approaches and maximizes benefits for students and their families. That includes admitting “repeaters” into the program. With years of inadequate teaching, many students don’t pass the WASSCE the first time, or their results are too low for their college or program of choice.
 
About 30% of students in the 12th grade school have graduated but are repeating the year to sit the exam again. The program was extended to allow local graduates to repeat at no cost to try to bring up their exam results. When more graduates move on to successful jobs and careers, they, their families and the community all benefit.
 
Susan 20220525 (3)

Susan is a repeater intent on getting admitted to a four-year degree program in accounting at a good college. She told Mrs. Kaimbay, above, she wants to go into banking or be a private business accountant. She passed six of eight subjects on her first WASSCE exam. Five passes would get her into a college, but she didn’t pass English, required for her chosen degree program.

Completing high school was a struggle for her. Her parents are illiterate village farmers with no money for her education. A guardian in Rotifunk barely provided her basic care. She received just one school uniform to wear daily every two years.

Sherbro Foundation scholarships helped her reach senior high. Susan now wants to take the leap to college and a professional career. Our support boosted her to this point!

Mariatu’s story is much the same. A guardian helped her complete high school when her village parents could not. She repeated 12th grade to improve her exam results so she can study law.

She’s seen older male lawyers return to Rotifunk to visit family, but never a chiefdom woman. She wants to be to first local woman to successfully become a lawyer.

Rotifunk’s young men have similar dreams – and they need the same boost.

 

When his father died, Kamiru, left, waited three years after graduating high school before the CCET-SL program was available to help him repeat the WASSCE exam.
 
He wants to become a Community Health Officer. The CHO is like a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who run small community health clinics. They operate clinics solo, being the first line of primary care medicine for most people.
 
WASSCE results from last year’s 12th grade school amazed me. But the elements for success were there: all subjects taught by capable teachers; a disciplined program ensuring the whole curriculum is covered; and students serious about their education goals. They must pass an entrance test to confirm they are at senior high proficiency before entering the program. No laggards allowed.
 
Chief Caulker’s statement on CCET-SL’s role in rebuilding senior high education, is an understatement. Without CCET-SL’s programs, these able young people would be languishing with no way to advance.
 
The cost for this 10-month program is $40 monthly stipends for the teachers. Many of them don’t get the full government teacher’s salary of $140 a month. With Sierra Leone’s run-away 21% inflation, teachers keep falling financially behind. Our modest $40 a month stipend helps keeps them afloat.
 
If you want your donation dollar put to good use in an efficient program with demonstrated results – sponsor a teacher for CCET-SL’s for Tutorial Program. Help us continue another year here.
 
At $40 a month – or $400 for one teacher for the school year – you’ll move Rotifunk’s young people up the ladder of success and keep teachers in the classroom teaching.
 
We greatly appreciate your support. Thank you!
 
— Arlene Golembiewski,
Executive Director
How to Change a Child’s Life. For $25!

How to Change a Child’s Life. For $25!

It’s 1 pm and James Kargbo turns back from the blackboard of his fifth-grade class at Evangelical Primary School to find Mr. Barnard in the doorway of his classroom. He wasn’t expecting Mr. Barnard just then, but welcomes him into the class. Mr. Barnard is a familiar face, showing up unannounced once every one or two weeks to observe his class and coach him on his teaching. 

Mr. Barnard, below, occasionally takes over the class to give a demonstration lesson on more difficult topics. You know it’s an experienced teacher when normally bored preteens sit in rapt attention on a subject like fractions.

We are kicking off our annual Education Fundraising Campaign showcasing the new primary school tutorial program our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner CCET-SL launched last September. Nearly 400 students in classes five and six in seven Rotifunk area schools and their teachers participate. 

With your help, we’ve done a lot to raise the quality of education in Rotifunk schools in the last several years. We’re particularly excited now by the potential of the primary school program and the impact we can all have on children’s lives there.

It became clear, to get HERE  ……………… We need to start HERE!

Operating for five years, CCET-SL’s after-school tutorial program for ninth graders now has 95% of students passing their senior high entrance exam. But passing doesn’t mean results are strong. Many are in fact rather marginal. 

To set kids up for success in senior high and give them a good shot at higher education, we need to work with them at the primary school level. 

Fourteen teachers and nearly 400 primary students were put in the capable hands of Oliver Barnard, a retired primary school teacher and headmaster of 30 years’ experience. At 65, this man has energy to spare. “I actually enjoy teaching,” he said. Of retirement age, but not ready for it, he lamented,” I thought I was nowhere. Now I’m back in the system.” His frown turned into a wide grin. Teaching children he says, gives meaning and purpose in his life. 

And Rotifunk’s primary school teachers need him. Only 4 of the 14 teachers he works with have the basic three-year Teacher’s Certificate, qualifying them to teach primary school. 

The other ten only graduated from high school and were put in front of a classroom, like Mohamed Kamara. A teacher for three years, he would like to go to college, but like most, doesn’t have the means to pay for it. Abdul Kanu, at Supreme Islamic Council School, below, is another dedicated teacher who appreciates Mr. Barnard’s guidance.

IMG-20211115-WA0006 (2) Sometimes a principal just hands new teachers a book and sends them to a class to teach. The principal often teaches full time themselves and has little time to monitor or coach a young teacher. 

To make matter worse, without a teaching certificate, the government does not pay unqualified teachers. School principals scrape together donations to pay them from parents who have no money to spare. Maybe half the parents will offer something, often as little as 5000 leones – or 50 cents. From this, unqualified teachers get a token monthly payment of $15 – $25 a month. 

With classrooms like James Kargbo’s at the Evangelical Primary School, below, you know schools don’t have extra money to pay teachers. Nonetheless, teachers are teaching, and kids are learning.

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Village children are walking 3, 4 and even 5 miles each way to go to primary school like these in Rotifunk. Their village schools often barely function, with one or two teachers for six grades who may have only completed primary school themselves. These are among the children in greatest need of education that we can influence in a positive direction.
 
Most class five and six teachers in Rotifunk are young men because they have at least finished high school. It’s one of the few paid jobs in town, but the pay is hardly enough, especially with a family. Teachers like James and Mohamed leave school to go home and work in gardens growing fruit and vegetables to supplement their tiny family incomes. Their wives may be the primary breadwinners of the family as market women, selling produce in the market.
 
This leads to morale problems and malaise among many unqualified teachers. Without having learned teaching methodologies, they struggle. When one teacher must teach all seven subjects for one grade, they skip over the topics they’re not familiar with. Students end the school year without learning the full curriculum.
 
English language, written composition and math are the weakest subjects in primary school. These remain weak all the way through to the 12th grade national graduating exam. Students never catch up.
 
Mr. Barnard is shaking the trees to change this. In a good way.
 
The teachers know he’s there to help them and look at him as the coach and mentor they never had. Week by week, after observing their class, he gives feedback on improving their teaching. He helps them prepare lesson plans on topics they are weak in. His demonstration classes give teachers confidence to cover topics they didn’t know how to teach and practical tips on handling a class.
 
The kids enjoy him. The class gets a shot of energy when Mr. Barnard confidently takes over a lesson. And they learn.
Sometimes Mr. Barnard puts the chalk down and just talks to the kids about the importance of education in their lives. He points out successful people they know who only got ahead because of their education.
IMG-20211116-WA0009 (2) Too often these young impressionable students see the opposite – young people who dropped out of school and with the little money they earned bought cheap cell phones and flashy clothes.
 
Young women tell the girls, you’re wasting your time in school; I have my own baby.
 
What they don’t realize is, chances are, the women will be abandoned to raise that baby themselves. Young female and male drop-out’s never get ahead and live impoverished lives. Sound familiar?
 
But many times, it’s a role-model teens strongly admire that sparks their imagination and starts a change in their lives. If she or he came from the same place as me and achieved what they did, so can I. Rosaline Kaimbay, CCET-SL’s locally born and college educated managing director has been a role model that sparked this change in many students.
 
We all recall teachers who had a big impact on our lives. Sherbro Foundation is working with CCET-SL to develop more teachers who will play that role for these kids.
Last week 200 class six students lined up to take their National Primary School Exam in Rotifunk, most from CCET-SL’s program. The exam sets the course for their education journey. Either they continue to secondary school, or faced with repeating class 6, many drop out.
 
With nine months preparation and practice exams, Roman Catholic primary school headmistress Salamatu Fofanah could see the difference in the students from CCET-SL’s program this year. She said, “Today our children feel relieved and happy to take the exam in a cool atmosphere. They have the confidence to take their exams with no fear. We appreciate the great support of CCET-SL and Sherbro Foundation.”
 
She knows James Kargbo and his fellow teachers have worked for months to prepare their students for this week with Mr. Barnard’s ever-present coaching. The results will no doubt be better than last year. The teachers are energized to keep improving and pledge to soon achieve the highest results in the district.
 
Sherbro Foundation is excited to kick off our annual Education Fundraising Campaign with this practical program. It’s developing teachers on-the-job, while covering the full primary school curriculum and giving students a better education. It uses existing resources to do this.
 
As the advertisement used to say – the cost per student for the whole school year for all of this? Only $25. Changing a child’s life? Priceless!
 
I can’t think of many things we can do with higher impact on the lives of more people. 
When 400 young students get a strong education foundation and keep progressing in school, the impact will be felt for years to come. Whole families benefit when students turned adults keep succeeding.
 
You can help change a child’s life for $25. Sponsor four for $100. Or why not sponsor a whole class of 20 for $500? It’s a guaranteed feel-good investment you’ll be glad you made. Give HERE.
 
As always, we deeply appreciate your support. Thank you!
 
— Arlene Golembiewski,
Executive Director
One Door Closes, But Another Opens

One Door Closes, But Another Opens

 

Kadiatu knows what it’s like to have doors close to her. She was one of the first Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to graduate from high school supported by Sherbro Foundation scholarships, proudly getting her diploma in 2016. She did well on the national exams, meeting entrance requirements for a 4-year college program – still uncommon among chiefdom students. 

Then the door of opportunity slammed shut. She had no money to continue her education and no job prospects. Kadiatu’s mother passed away and she returned home to take care of her three younger siblings.

We’re kicking off our Annual Fundraiser for Education with a focus this month on teacher training scholarships. Quality education starts with qualified teachers!

IMG-20201118-WA0010 (3)Today, Kadiatu, left, is in the first group of teachers Sherbro Foundation is returning to school to pursue their HTC – the Higher Teacher’s Certificate. 

They’ll build their teaching skills and be eligible for a government paid secondary school teaching position with full salary. 

Back in 2016, Kadiatu had come so far. Hers was the very first group of girls in Rotifunk to graduate in over 20 years, aided by our scholarships. I remember the excitement of these girls proudly going off to sit for their national exams. Kadiatu’s results were among the best of all the schools in Rotifunk.

And then, she was back home where she started, since her father, a security guard, couldn’t afford to send her to college. 

Sherbro Foundation has emphasized sending girls to schools. They are usually the first in their families to attend secondary school, often away from home. But they haven’t had women teachers as role models and counselors in their formative years. In the nearly ten years I’ve now worked with Bumpeh Chiefdom, I’ve only seen two women teachers in Rotifunk secondary schools. After a couple years, they’ve left for other opportunities. 

Sherbro Foundation is working with our partner CCET-SL to change this by developing women from within the community as teachers. They can go to college for a 3-year teaching certificate during school holidays while continuing to teach. We require they teach at least three additional years in return for their scholarship. Many established teachers are interested in staying in the community long term.

Salamatu FB Salamatu, left, another scholarship recipient, was born and raised in Rotifunk, and has been a primary school teacher there for nearly 20 years. We didn’t know just how important – and urgent – it was to open the door to higher education for her with a scholarship right now. 

Salamatu is the headmistress of one of Rotifunk’s primary schools. One of its six teachers, she also serves as the acting head for the school. She developed the school from what had been called shambles to one with the largest primary school enrollment. 

I’ve met Salamatu and she’s what you want in a school head. She’s warm and nurturing, with a positive can-do attitude, while being firm and setting clear standards.

But she received notice that she would be replaced if she hadn’t at least enrolled in college for the requisite degree for a school head. There’s many acting principals and school heads in Sierra Leone like her, who don’t have the required credentials for the job. But with no one else available, they’re appointed on an interim basis.  

Her notice serendipitously came when one of the original six secondary school teachers accepted into our HTC scholarship program backed out. He didn’t want to sign the contract requiring three years of additional service. Salamatu wasn’t just a good substitute. With her teacher’s scholarship, the community can retain a dedicated and proven primary school head.

Salamatu Fofanah RC School b2 Salamatu’s story as a teacher goes back 25 years.  

She was in the last class to graduate from Rotifunk’s only secondary school when Sierra Leone’s rebel war started. Paramount Chief Charles Caulker evacuated her and 2000 other residents to a village down the Bumpeh River. It became a refugee camp for several years, where they were safe from marauding rebel soldiers who had occupied Rotifunk and the surrounding area. 

Salamatu married and had four children, only to lose her husband during the war. One of Chief Caulker’s first actions after the war in resettling the destroyed Rotifunk was to reopen schools. In 2002, he asked those who had completed high school to come back and serve their community as teachers. 

A single mother, Salamatu stepped up and taught for eight years before getting NGO support to complete her first-level teaching certificate as a primary teacher in 2010. Now, she’s started on her Higher Teacher’s Certificate. 

After having taught 18 years, I laughingly told her, “You could probably be in front of your class teaching, instead of being the student.” She replied, “I’m learning a lot. I’m proud and grateful to be a student teacher. It’s given me more confidence for the work. I can handle administration properly. I know how to talk with parents and encourage them to send their children to school, especially the girls.”   

The HTC program develops teaching skills and how to teach the core subjects: English, math, science and social studies.

Secondary school results are poor because there aren’t enough qualified primary teachers giving them the knowledge they need to succeed at the next level.

“We have to stop letting children go secondary school “empty,” Salamatu said.

Paramount Chief Caulker said Salamatu is one of the most deserving of the HTC scholarship recipients. “She’s greatly improved the school. I admire her and what she’s done.” He knows she’ll have even greater impact on her students and the community with more skills. 

Salamatu is proud to lead the way among primary teachers. Her own specialty subject is environmental science and home economics. “I want to give kids the foundation they will need for science in secondary school,” she said.

Our goal is to sponsor Kadiatu, Salamatu and four male teachers for the second year of their three-year teacher training course this fall. We have three of the six teacher scholarships covered by generous donors. 

Help us sponsor three more teachers. $700 covers a one year scholarship in full, including tuition ($350) and expenses for the weeks they attend courses. 

Opening doors for capable people shut out of opportunity is what Sherbro Foundation is all about. Join us in supporting Kadiatu, Salamatu and four other teachers in their quest for higher education. Send your gift HERE

You’ll improve the quality of education in Bumpeh Chiefdom schools. Together, we’ll put hundreds of children on the path to success for years to come. 

Look for our Education Fundraiser to continue in future newsletters on vocational training scholarships and expanding our partner CCET-SL’s tutorial program. 

Thank you! 

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director  

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.

Saluting a Sierra Leone Paramount Chief’s 35 Years of Service

Sherbro Foundation celebrates its seventh anniversary next month. To understand this success, just look to the head of the community-led program with whom we partner in Sierra Leone. We’ve been honored to work with Paramount Chief Charles Caulker since 2013 and support his chiefdom development efforts. And now we salute his 35th anniversary as paramount chief!

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Nearly 2,000 cheering people packed the celebration of Paramount Chief Charles Caulker’s dedication to traditional rule of Bumpeh Chiefdom. He is the second longest serving paramount chief in Sierra Leone. I knew I wouldn’t see a traditional ceremony of this significance again anytime soon. I went to Sierra Leone in December to witness it myself – and now share it with you.

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“You have stood tall to achieve unity in this chiefdom and brought development … [that has] no boundaries between your rivals and your allies. May our god continue to keep you on your throne for 10 years, 20 years and even more.”  –Bumpeh Chiefdom-born businesswoman Alice Conteh-Morgan at Chief’s celebration

Chief Caulker’s feat is not just one marked by length of service, but by 35 years of uninterrupted peace and unity in his rural chiefdom. Sierra Leone’s highly centralized government is far away in the capital Freetown. It’s the paramount chief who keeps law and order on a day-to-day basis, and maintains peace and stability.

20191220_174350 (2)Ms. Conteh-Morgan, right, with Chief, far right, continued, “It’s not easy for someone to rule for 35 years without his people rising against him.”

Chief Caulker has served through a dynamic period in the ’80s of the country’s still-young democracy, an 11-year rebel war, five presidencies with alternating and hotly competing political parties, and the Ebola crisis. Imagine a U.S. governor retaining office with strong support over 35 often tumultuous years.

Paramount chiefs are elected, and then serve for life. But Chief Caulker feels he needs to periodically face his people and seek their support for continuing in office, as he did on this day in December.

The day began with people coming to salute their chief with drumming and the deafening vuvuzela-style horns African soccer fans love.

20191220_145638 (3)Amateur “devils” entertained the gathering crowds, as people found their seats under temporary shelters of bamboo and palm to escape the sweltering tropical sun.

People were invited from across the chiefdom, as well as friends and national and district government officials from Chief’s 45 years in public life.

Poro, the men’s secret society, led the traditional part of the ceremony. They serve the paramount chief, and also act as checks and balances on their chief’s rule.

They offered symbolic gifts, below, reaffirming they want this chief to continue as their paramount chief.

20191220_170858 (2)The conchama, above, took the lead. She is a special sub-chief in Bumpeh Chiefdom and one of the stalwart keepers of its oldest traditions. The conchama has been a female chief for as long as anyone can remember, and is unique among women. She was initiated into Poro and participates as a leader in the men’s society.

One symbolic gift was a jug of honey, representing all the sweetness of their chiefdom they give to Chief Caulker and entrust him with protecting.

The conchama said she was repeating the tradition she performed ten years ago at Chief’s 25th anniversary. With their symbolic gifts, Bumpeh Chiefdom was now handing over the chiefdom to Chief Caulker’s care for another 50 years!

20191220_172417 (3)The day was a mix of the traditional and the contemporary, just like the man himself.

Chief Caulker, right, gave a state-of-the-union type of address, and told of what he’s accomplished and what he yet plans to do. The people roared their support.

Chief told me the thing he’s most proud of is uniting his chiefdom and keeping peace for 35 years, an accomplishment that’s been impossible elsewhere in Sierra Leone.

Bumpeh Chiefdom is diverse with seven often competing tribal groups in one area. Chief assumed his office in 1984 after a local violent conflict, followed by a highly contentious election. He was young to take office as a paramount chief — only 35 — and untested. But he made peace and reuniting the chiefdom his objective.

He did it by balancing the rights of all tribes and not allowing any one group to achieve dominance. His family tribe, the Sherbro, is now outnumbered in their own homeland. But he insisted all tribes would sit together in governing the chiefdom, with no one group favored over the other. Everyone has equal rights and deserves equal opportunity in his mind.

Speakers bore this out in their testimonials for Chief. “He is a man with a clean heart,” said the District Officer, the ranking district government official. “No matter what you do, he’ll never get angry. He embraces everyone and forgives all. After the rebel war, he came and worked with the government and NGOs to restore hope and joy to his people.”

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Mr. Tamba Lamina, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development recalled how Chief Caulker advised five successive governments on local governance and represented the paramount chiefs of his district in parliament for 12 years after the war. Most recently, Chief was part of a 12-member transition team in 2018 for the newly elected Maada Bio government. Lamina said, “I consider Chief Caulker a benchmark for rural development, and use him in assessing other chiefdoms in the country.”

20191218_114108 (2)Some of the strongest praise came from the man who actively opposed Chief in that paramount chief election 35 years ago.

“I believe I’m going to die and leave you on the throne to bring more development [to our chiefdom],” Alie Bendu, far left, declared.

“Today we are handing over these [symbolic] items to you as a sign we are happy with you and want you to govern us more.”

Then it was the people’s turn to celebrate their chief with traditional music and dancing.

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The women’s society led off with their Bundu devils and colorful Sampa dancers, above and below.

 

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The athletic Ojeh society dancers, above and below, are from the Temne tribe.

The masked Nafali dancer, below, is often sent ahead to announce the men’s society devil, the Gboi, will follow him. Other dancers joined the Nafali.

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No cultural show is complete without the main devil from the men’s Poro society, the Gboi, below, a huge whirling dervish of raffia.

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The official cultural parade ended by late afternoon. But the dancing DJ-style went on late into the night, or I should say into morning. A day-long fete fitting for a 35-year paramount chief.

This was just one of five days not only honoring Chief Caulker’s 35 years of public service, but also his 70th birthday. Family members came from the UK and the US to celebrate with Chief.

20190131_085813 (3)Thirty-five years in service, but in no way is Chief Caulker retiring. He seems to just be picking up speed, with plans for the coming years pouring out.

The challenges in Bumpeh Chiefdom still loom large. But we can’t think of anyone more up to tackling them – and showing other chiefdoms the way –  than Paramount Chief Caulker.

For those of you who join Sherbro Foundation in supporting Bumpeh Chiefdom’s community-led programs – thank you. There’s much more yet to come!

– – Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

 

 

Unbeatable. Unstoppable.

Arlene’s House. Unbeatable. My name was emblazoned on banners and T-shirts for a school sports meet in Rotifunk, Bumpeh Chiefdom.

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I was honored to have one of four Bumpeh Academy houses organized for the meet named after me. It’s really for all you Sherbro Foundation supporters who have helped send their girls to school with scholarships for the last five years.

IMG-20190413-WA0002School sports meets are a huge deal across Sierra Leone, but especially in rural towns like Rotifunk with little to entertain and amuse. Students march onto the sports field in brightly colored T-shirts for their house’s color, while a DJ blasts out music with massive speakers (thanks to a generator for power).

IMG-20190414-WA0006Announcers calls out the competitors in their various track & field events and give the volleyball play-by-play account. Winners in individual events get certificates. Houses will parade around town with trophies boasting of their overall meet results.

The town turns out and throngs the field. Honored guests take seats under a palm palapa built for the event to escape the peak-of-the-dry-season sun beating down.

IMG-20190414-WA0003My colleagues from our partner CCET-SL turned out to support Arlene’s house. Each house comes with its own masked “devil,” a nod to their traditional societies. These devils compete in a wildly gyrating dance competition where spectators vote by tossing money in their basket.

I smiled when I saw the motto for Arlene’s house: Unbeatable. They strived to be unbeatable in this meet. I strive to be unstoppable. You’d best not undertake any serious mission in Sierra Leone if you give up when inevitable barriers throw you a curve.

Bumpeh Academy knows about being unstoppable. Until this year, this school taught half its classes in classrooms without four walls. Some with dirt floors. They used our school fee scholarship money year by year to buy zinc for a roof and cement to make block bricks for classroom walls. In my recent February visit, I saw at least three walls around each of their six classrooms, and the fourth started.

But Bumpeh Academy is also the school that got the best 2018 senior high entrance exam results in three adjoining chiefdoms. And in February, they became the first Bumpeh Chiefdom school to become government approved to teach at the senior high level since before their rebel war began over 25 years ago.

Unbeatable. Unstoppable. Set your goal and be relentless until you meet it. This is how you achieve in Sierra Leone.

Congratulations, Bumpeh Academy, on this weekend’s sports meet – and on all you’ve achieved.

— Arlene Golembiewski

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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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 

Five Years of Sending Girls to School   – By the Numbers

Five Years of Sending Girls to School – By the Numbers

We’ll soon kick off the campaign for our sixth year of the Girls Scholarship Program for Bumpeh Chiefdom. We thought you’d like to see what’s been accomplished in the first five years —  by the numbers.

Sherbro Foundation was founded in March 2013. We immediately funded scholarships for 67 junior-high girls in the 2012-13 school year already in progress. The numbers have been steadily increasing:

1250             Total number scholarships awarded

Over 600     Number of girls receiving scholarships, some for more than one year

  4                  Number schools participating — 2 Jr/Sr Highs and 2 Jr High only      

6X                 Increase in scholarships given annually — from 67 in 2013 to 410 in 2017

2X                 Increase in scholarship value in 2017 by adding uniforms for 2/3 of girls         

2X                 Increase in number of girls attending Senior High — from 58 to 120 in 2017

100               Percent of girls wanting to attend Sr. High in 2017 who received scholarships

 18                Number of 12th-grade awardees taking National exam (1st in 2016)

  3                 Number 12th-grade awardees meeting college entry requirements

  1                 College scholarship added in 2017

Here’s our five-year trend in scholarships:

 

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Only one in three Bumpeh Chiefdom teens have been able to attend secondary school. We started by ensuring more girls made the transition from primary school to junior high.

We focus on the most disadvantaged girls at risk of dropping out of school — orphans or with single parents, low-income families, and students who must leave home villages to attend secondary school in town. Often, a girl meets all the criteria.

The drop-out rate from junior to senior high is typically 50%. Our goal is to advance more girls to senior high and help them graduate. So, we expanded senior-high scholarships, while continuing to increase junior-high enrollment.

The short-term dip in 2015-16 came after the seven-month Ebola crisis, when many students from villages, especially senior high girls, returned to school late or not at all.

With your strong support, we doubled scholarships and the value of the awards (scholarship plus uniform) in each of the last two years.

In 2016, the first three scholarship recipients graduated from senior high.

And in 2017, we reached the ultimate goal by awarding the first college scholarship to one of first girls to meet college entrance requirements.

Now in January 2018, we added extra tutoring classes to help ensure 9th and 12th graders pass their junior and senior high national completion exams and advance to their next level of education. We’ll continue this program for the 2018-19 academic year.

Step by step, we’re reaching the goal we set of girls completing secondary school. And now we’re reaching beyond, to help girls advance to college and become leaders in their community and their country.


 

Preparing Sierra Leone Girls for Success

Preparing Sierra Leone Girls for Success

Girls can’t go to college or get jobs if they don’t successfully graduate from high school. And they won’t complete high school if they don’t first learn what they should in junior high.

75 Bumpeh Chiefdom 9th grade girls are completing a new tutoring program designed to help them pass their junior high completion exam. In its first five months, it’s exceeding our initial expectations.     

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The chiefdom’s drop-out rate from junior to senior high has typically been 50%. It’s a combination of inability to continue paying for school and not being well prepared academically for senior high. Many families just can’t pay beyond junior high. If students don’t pass their junior high exam, it’s that much harder for parents to pay for them to repeat a grade. Even if they pass, they may still struggle with senior high subjects.

With your support for the Girls Scholarship Program, Sherbro Foundation has been addressing the cost problem.  We want to remove inability to pay as a barrier to girls continuing into senior high.

Now we’re tackling the knowledge deficiency problem.

The tutoring program is the brainchild of Rosaline Kaimbay, Executive Director of our Sierra Leone partner, CCET, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation. She’s using the same technique she used as the highly successful founding principal of a secondary school.

IMG-20180409-WA0002 (2)She’s brought the most qualified local teachers together to provide evening classes that complete and intensively review the school curriculum. 9th graders in schools without qualified teachers now get the chance to be fully prepared for their national proficiency exam.

75 of the 80 9th graders who started evening classes in January have continued and will soon be taking their national proficiency exam in late June. They also received computer training as part of the program. Gibril Bendu, above, an award winning local science teacher, has been leading the program.

The first group of nine 12th grade girls received four months of remedial classes before their final proficiency exam in April. CCET immediately engaged 11th graders to start the tutoring program. They plan to continue classes over the summer holiday.

Boys are invited and starting to join girls in the program. They need the chance to succeed, too.

IMG-20170927-WA0000 (4)Mrs. Kaimbay is focused on the success of the chiefdom’s teens.

Left, she finds the most disadvantaged girls like the one on the right, and tells them, come to school. If you can’t pay for a uniform, we will help you.

“I want to get results.”

That’s Mrs. Kaimbay, referring to the students passing the national exams. “And then I will be proud.”

Proud she should be. The tutoring program is among the best spent money in our organization’s five years, in terms of impact and number of students affected.

Since its January start, over 100 kids are getting help to assure their success at the most critical junctures in their education – making the transition to senior high and to higher education.

At about $50 per child, including computer training, this is high value. And it’s an investment that will continue to pay back through their future success and their impact on the chiefdom.

Mrs. Kaimbay is now ready to “camp” the 75 9th grade girls by turning the CCET building into a dormitory / classroom for 3 weeks before and during their proficiency exam.

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The girls will live and sleep there 24/7, getting intensive prepping with sample test questions and keeping them focused & energized for their exam. All tutoring teachers participate. Mrs. Kaimbay will sleep there herself – on the concrete floor – as chaperone, coach and to supervise cooking to feed the students three meals a day.

With this technique, she got 100% of her former students passing the exam three years running. These girls are coming from other schools with more of an academic deficit. After 5 months of evening classes and with this last boost, Mrs. Kaimbay hopes to get 80% to 90% passes.

The diligence shown by everyone in the tutoring program has been impressive. It’s free to students and teachers get modest stipends. But I wondered if the commitment and enthusiasm for extra evening classes would be flagging now five months into the program.

It hasn’t. These girls are focused on succeeding and advancing their education. Their tutors look at the girls’ success as their own success.

Huge thanks go out to the Beaman Family for funding the tutoring program’s first 10 months and now stepping up to cover cost of feeding the girls for the three-week review camp.

We also send our deep thanks to everyone contributing to the scholarship program. It’s your support that brought them this far and gave them the opportunity to succeed.

I’m confident the girls will do us all proud. I can’t wait to see the next incoming senior high class in September filled with girls ready to continue learning.

Every Day Is Earth Day in Bumpeh Chiefdom, #SierraLeone

Every day is Earth Day in Bumpeh Chiefdom, as our partner CCET-SL grows fruit trees in their own tree nursery for local planting. CCET-SL grows tens of thousands of fruit tree seedlings every year, year round, to plant in local orchards to fund children’s education. .

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They’re showing they can protect the environment, be sustainable using their own resources – AND earn money to send chiefdom children to school.

IMG-20180421-WA0006 (2)CCET-SL grows orange, lime, grapefruit, African plum, cashew, avocado, guava and coconuts, all with seed they collect from locally purchased fruit.

Tree seedlings are nearing maturity to transplant in CCET-SL’s “baby orchards” when the rains start in June. These orchards will fund an education savings program for babies, providing money for their future education.

Mission of Hope: Rotifunk volunteer, left, inspects this year’s tree seedlings while visiting their hospital project.

CCET-SL also gives three fruit trees to parents of newborns to plant in their backyard gardens. They are reviving an old tradition of planting a tree when a baby is born.

Today’s new parents are learning they can produce fruit in their own backyards that can pay for their child’s welfare and education.

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Tree seedlings that will be soon planted were grown with funds from a 2017 Rotary Club grant led by the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor. Sister club Rotarians, above, from Freetown, Jennifer and Theodora, made a site visit in January to inspect the project, seen here with Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, CCET-SL board chairman.

IMG-20180119-WA0024CCET-SL grows some specialty trees like African plums, left.

They sell tree seedlings to local farmers to earn income to help maintain the tree nursery and make it sustainable long term.

 

 

What Better Way to Celebrate Five Years of Sending Girls to School. Send them to College!

What Better Way to Celebrate Five Years of Sending Girls to School. Send them to College!

Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone celebrated our 5th anniversary as a nonprofit on March 14, 2018!

We started with a simple goal: educate girls and improve overall literacy in rural Bumpeh Chiefdom. With literacy, people make better choices, boost their livelihoods and improve their lives and those of their children.

In 2013, our first scholarship program sent 67 7th and 8th grade girls to one secondary school. Today, over 600 girls have advanced their educations at four schools with 1250 Sherbro Foundation scholarships – some receiving scholarships for two or three years.

Help celebrate this 5th year milestone. Join us now in sending the first girls graduating to college.

First college scholarship   Last fall, you helped us step up to this next challenge with a big response to our secondary school scholarship campaign. We added a college scholarship.

Meet Aminata Kamara, the first awardee for 2017-18. Her story is one of focus and perseverance against all odds. You’ll see why this exceptional scholar was chosen.

IMG-20180224-WA0001 (2)Village beginning  Aminata, left, is the youngest of 12 children. Her parents scratched together a living in the Rotifunk area. It’s typical of the chiefdom, with mud houses and where most earn a dollar or two a day as small traders at the weekly market. Her father was a primary school teacher, a low paying job, and her mother a trader. Now, her father is retired and her mother blind.

High ranking scholar  Aminata was among the first local girls who made it to senior high.

Then in 2016, she ranked highest of the first three Rotifunk students to pass the national graduation exam at the university requirements level. All three were girls with Sherbro Foundation scholarships. Her scores were Rotifunk’s best in 40 years.

Aminata was also the highest scoring girl in Moyamba district, one of 12 administrative districts in Sierra Leone with 40 secondary schools.

It’s uncommon to get high scores in seven subjects, when most students don’t pass the exam the first time, even in Freetown. This propelled Aminata forward with a college scholarship to study in China.

Happy news ran out  The China scholarship fell through when the Sierra Leone government did not prepare her passport in time. She sat out a year pondering her fate at home taking care of her mother.

Although Aminata had no reason in her world to think her education would continue, she persevered, and in October 2017, became our first college scholarship recipient. “Since I started primary school, I have got that intention to go to college. Never mind I don’t have the hope that I will, because we are poor,’’ she said, via text message.

IMG-20180224-WA0000.jpgProud college student  Aminata, left, is now a first year student at the Institute of Public Administration and Management at the University of Sierra Leone in Freetown – thanks to Sherbro Foundation’s first college scholarship award of $1700, paying her first year’s tuition, fees, books, transportation and a stipend for living expenses.

She’s good at math and wants to study banking, and eventually become a bank manager. “I kept on studying, hoping one day God will send me a helper in my education.”

She is already dreaming of earning a master’s degree. “I would like to further [my education] overseas with a masters and become a college lecturer,” she said. “And I also want to help my colleagues in the village.”

You need a mentor Aminata’s role model is Rosaline Kaimbay, a dynamic Rotifunk native who returned to start the first girls’ secondary school in Bumpeh Chiefdom. She watched Rosaline as principal and now as managing director of the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation, our local nonprofit partner, overseeing CCET’s seven programs. Rosaline mentors many girls, and helped the first graduate by making her home a dormitory for senior girls.

Aminata Kamara 1st college scholarship (4)“She is a woman, but she does [so much] good and all the people in the community admire her,” Aminata said. Rosaline shows girls a woman born in their chiefdom can get a college degree and take leadership roles usually filled by men.

Aminata, left, is now becoming a role model herself and has advice for younger girls at home watching her successes.

“I want them to forget about their present status; hope [instead] to use their future. Let them forget about material things, about men — these things will pass. Let us focus about education,” she told 460 girls receiving secondary school scholarships at last fall’s award ceremony, left.

“Let us know that our tomorrow will be greater than today.”

You can make Aminata’s tomorrow greater. Help send her to a second year of university. If you’re a new donor, you’ll double your impact. A former Peace Corps Volunteer will match the first $850 from new donors. $1700 will pay Aminata’s second year in full. Pass this on to friends and family who want to see girls succeed.

AND this donor will match $250 from Cincinnati area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers!

More girls in Rotifunk are ready for college. With your help, we’ll also start a second girl on her college journey in 2018-19.

Transform a girl’s life. Send her to college here.  

Any excess funds will go to our annual girls’ secondary school campaign planned for this summer. We’re keeping the pipeline full of girls getting an education and ready to change the world. 

Thank you!

Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

 

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.

And Then There Was Light – CCET-SL’s new Solar System

And Then There Was Light – CCET-SL’s new Solar System

Just when we thought we were ending a banner year – our best yet – it got even better.

When our partner CCET-SL’s new Community Education Center opened in 2015, we knew we would need solar power to meet the center’s promise of computer and adult literacy classes, chiefdom meetings, NGO-led educational workshops and other services. But we never dreamed this critical chiefdom resource would have its own 24-hour solar power system today.

Then it happened – quickly.  All thanks to a donor we have never met! From the very first email contact in early September to final installation of the new solar system in November was only 11 weeks.

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The Center can now operate late into the evening, seven days a week as needed, and power all equipment for its growing printing service and computer training.

The gift from the Beaman Family Fund (the actual donor wishes to remain anonymous) was made after another thoughtful donor recommended the work of Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone and our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET-SL).

The funding installed a 6,000-watt solar power system, including a little extra capacity for the future. We had to carefully plan out all energy use, and still ration hours per day of usage. With solar, you can’t use power faster than you can make and store it.

For perspective on how far 6000 watts will go, a standard women’s hairdryer uses 1875 watts and a basic microwave is 1000 watts. Two simple devices would use half the available power. While solar equipment continues to get cheaper, installing a system to cover all energy needs is still expensive.

With a 6000-watt system, CCET-SL can:

  • Operate the printing service, with a low-energy duplicator and color printer. The only such public service in Moyamba District of 300,000, it’s expected to keep the center self-supporting.
  • Light the building with 26 LED bulbs and cool with 16 small ceiling fans and standing fans.
  • Run computer classes with up to 20 laptops at a time for a maximum four hours a day.
  • Run equipment for two profit-making services – a small canteen and public cell phone charging.

CCET-SL’s Center started as a burned-out shell of a building destroyed during the rebel war. But it was a central site, and local labor transformed it into a 2,600-square-foot multifunctional space, all built during the Ebola crisis when the chiefdom was under isolation order for months.

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Now look at it! The center is not just a bright place for evening classes, to get a photo printed or a copy, hold a meeting or enjoy a cold drink. It’s a model for the entire country on self-supported community education. It’s lighting the way for market women to learn to read and for high school students to use a computer for the first time.

We can’t thank the Beaman Family Fund enough for their generosity in funding the solar power system. Thanks also to all of you who supported us along the way. It’s been a four year journey, but with your help, we’ve reached the finish line.

Inspiring girls to come to school

While we were busy wrapping up this year’s successful Girls Scholarships campaign, CCET-SL’s Rosaline Kaimbay was making the rounds of the four Bumpeh Chiefdom participating secondary schools.

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She’s been visiting each school to check their enrollment of girls. And telling girls to tell their friends at home who didn’t report to school to come back. If they can’t pay school fees or buy a uniform, we will help them.

Mrs. Kaimbay is an inspiring role model for these girls, having been born and raised in the chiefdom. We’re fortunate to have her at the helm of CCET-SL.

Mrs. Kaimbay and Bumpeh Academy Secondary School students, left. BASS has both junior and senior high classes and their enrollment of girls is growing.

We doubled our scholarship campaign goal this year!

Our partner, CCET-SL, is now distributing 466 school fee scholarships to the girls that need them most. We added uniforms this year, and have 360 to combine with scholarships.

We expect that every Bumpeh Chiefdom girl who wants to attend senior high will receive a scholarship and a uniform! Helping girls progress through senior high is our goal.

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When girls see such a successful woman as Mrs. Kaimbay coming from among their ranks, they think, I can do this, too. And it starts with going to school.

Rotifunk’s Ahmadiyya School, left, is a junior secondary school.  Mrs. Kaimbay’s visit is motivating and encourages girls to come to school.