A Successful End to the Fiscal Year – a Thanksgiving Note from our President
Every organization runs on a budget. At EduNations, the Board of Directors take their time each year to hold budget discussions, ask and answer questions, and approve the annual budget. Last summer, the budget for the fiscal year of September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2020 was discussed and approved. Then the COVID-19 global pandemic broke out. As the world changed rapidly, our Board of Directors met and discussed the potential impact this could have on our organization. We made some adjustments and put alternate plans in place in the event that we were not able to meet our annual budget.
But as always, the Lord is faithful. With all our expenses fully paid at the end of this August, we can truly say “The Lord has been our helper”. In the course of this budget year, we had donors reach out and say things like “I can imagine that your organization would have significant challenges during this pandemic so here’s a donation to help you fill in any gaps”. We have had almost all of our student sponsors continue their sponsorship, including those who have been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Surprisingly, we have had quite a few other people sign up to sponsor students in the middle of the crisis. We have received donations from other supporters who were made aware of a critical need and responded generously on very short notice. We have seen checks in the mailbox and online donations which were completely unexpected but readily available in our time of need. Behind every one of those generous donations is a supporter who loves to see children in rural communities get access to quality education, someone who desires to see this organization continue its good work in Sierra Leone. So, as we come to the end of this fiscal year, I do want to take a moment to thank you all who have supported the education of these students in these communities. While it is true that there could be no EduNations without our students, it is also true that there can be no EduNations without you. Between the students and our donors, we stand with hands lifted high in gratitude for another successful fiscal year.
Spots are still open for the EduNations Golf Tournament!
Have you registered yet? Join us for our rescheduled 2020 EduNations Charitable Golf Tournament at Avalon Golf and Country Club (1030 Forker Blvd., Hermitage, PA 16148) on September 21, 2020.
Rokassa Senior Secondary School Completion is a “Dream Come True”
Through the efforts of our board of directors, the generous support of our donors and the participation of the members of the Rokassa community, we are delighted to announce that the construction of the EduNations Hope Academy Senior Secondary School in Rokassa has been completed!
Back in 2014, Pa Alhaji Kamara, the principal landowner and most senior stakeholder in Rokassa village told us: “We have a huge piece of land, but our subsistence farming cannot bring us lasting development. Please build us a school.” At that time, the village of about 280 with about 200 school-aged children never had a school, nor had the six surrounding villages of over 1,000 population. The very few people that went to school from Rokassa, who Pa Kamara could count on his hands, had to commute eight miles a day to find the nearest school or live away from their families to attend schools in other towns. With so few people getting an education and no hope for a different future, life in Rokassa brought a high infant mortality rate, undiagnosed illnesses, and practices such as early arranged marriages, child labor, and female genital mutilation. Without schools to provide a catalyst for change, the outlook for the future was bleak.
But with Pa Kamara’s invitation, EduNations recognized an opportunity to help transform of the community. The EduNations board voted to build a nursery school and a primary school to prepare students for the National Primary School Examinations. When the first students began to graduate and pass these exams, Junior Secondary Schools were started for these students to continue their schooling. Since Sierra Leone operates a 6-3-3-4 system of education (6 years of Primary school, 3 years of Junior Secondary School, 3 years of Senior Secondary School and 4 years of university education), these students had 3 years to prepare for another national exam called the Basic Certificate of Education Examination (BECE). Planning on their success, EduNations started evaluating options to build a Senior Secondary School.
Given there are other EduNations Hope Academies in Fintonia, Mapainda, Mayatta, Makump, and Gbenekoro and Rokassa was the most central location for all, it was decided to build the Senior Secondary School in Rokassa as a boarding home school for boys and girls which will cater (at least for its first three years of operations) for only students from the EduNations Hope Academies. Our objective was to continue to provide a completely free education in a safe learning environment to these students (some of whom have been with us for over 8 years).
As the students prepare for their first BECE exams in September, we can now turn to the second phase of the project which is to complete the construction of the dormitories and furnish both the classrooms and the dormitories. This is a huge undertaking with a fairly short timeline as everything is to be in place by January 2021 but we have come this far by faith that God will provide and he has yet to fail us. There are many needs still to be filled: desks, chairs, and school supplies for classrooms; shelves, books, desks and chairs for the library; science equipment for the laboratory; computers, desks and chairs for the computer lab; bedding for dormitories; equipment and supplies for the kitchen and dining hall.
But we reflect on God’s faithfulness to bring us to this point as a reason to trust him for all these needs. Today we chose to rejoice in the blessing of a completely built Senior Secondary school in the village of Rokassa. And the best part of all this is that Pa Kamara has lived to see his dream fulfilled and a different future forming for Rokassa thanks to your support.
Students Take National Exams after Long Wait
National academic exams, normally administered in early May, are very important in Sierra Leone, since a passing grade is a requirement for progressing to the next level of schooling. While the government closed schools in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, EduNations stayed engaged with the 136 students due to take their National Primary School Examination (NPSE).
How? EduNations staff continued to prepare students for these exams, visiting students’ homes for home schooling and administering practice exams to allow the students to perform their best. After weeks of preparation, Monday, August 3rd found EduNations’ NPSE candidates lined up at the examination center, well-dressed and ready to go. Stay tuned to hear how many will be progressing to Junior Secondary School.
Students preparing to graduate from Junior Secondary School (JSS) are slated to take their Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) tests in September. Although schools are closed, EduNations received support from the office of the President of Sierra Leone to ask the JSS teachers to continue to home school students.
We want to thank all our supporters and donors whose generous contributions have enabled us to continue to provide education to our students in these challenging times. We are hopefully confident that EduNations students will continue to excel.
EduNations Receives Hope Universal Grant to Help Widows and Orphans
Caring for widows and orphans is a worldwide problem, not excluding the six rural villages in Sierra Leone where EduNations has its schools. How big is the problem? EPC pastors, supported by EduNations, recently registered 20 widows, 17 full orphans and 104 half-orphans.
To address such problems that might hinder the students’ education, as well as build healthy communities that will foster even better results, EduNations collaborates with the leaders of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) congregations in these six villages. This EPC / EduNations cooperation has led to winning a ~$10,000 grant from Hope Universal to support these widows and orphans with vocational guidance and training as well as funding for school uniforms and supplies, and basic living allowances.
Until now the EPC pastors tried to help the widows and orphans by sharing their own meagre resources, an impossible challenge which posed a significant constraint to the local churches. The grant may be an important step in helping the widows and orphans to become self-reliant.
The project will be implemented by the EPC pastors in the six communities and the Pastors Training Officer. EduNations will provide technical support and project implementation supervision to the pastors in terms of following official regulations and proper project progress reporting.
We believe that by giving the widows the opportunity to be involved in fruitful vocational activities, we will enable them to be able to take care of their families in the future, hence they do not have to be continually dependent on others. Providing a quality education for the orphans will be key to their becoming part of a thriving rising generation in Sierra Leone.
Two Teachers Exposed to COVID-19
With more than 100 staff in Sierra Leone and the COVID-19 virus spreading throughout the world, our prayers have been for the Lord’s mercy upon our staff and their families. As the virus spread across Sierra Leone, the government mandated that all schools shut down to limit the impact of the virus. During this time, EduNations focused on educating all of our communities about prevention of the virus and distributed resources to keep community members safe. While taking all preventative measures, such as wearing masks, handwashing, and social distancing, there was still risk of our students and teachers contracting the virus.
About a month ago, two of our teachers in Sierra Leone, Mariama and Mariatu, were exposed to the virus when Mariama’s husband came down with COVID-19. In a quick response, both Mariama and Mariatu were placed in quarantine for two weeks in Fintonia Community Health Center. This time of isolation was emotionally and mentally challenging for both of our dear teachers as they were separated from family and friends. We are so thankful to report that at the end of the 14-day quarantine, it was confirmed that neither teacher had contracted the virus. They were each given another two weeks to go home, spend time with their families, and recoup after this emotionally challenging time.
We are grateful to God for his faithfulness to these committed staff members and the rest of the EduNations family in Sierra Leone. While we thank God for the resilience of our teachers, we are particularly joyful for his hand of protection during a time as this.