Easter Break for Senior Secondary Students
It seems hard to believe, but the first twelve-week term at the Senior Secondary School in Rokassa has flown past. The end of March found students concentrating in preparation for final exams hoping to go home for the Easter with the good news of “I passed!”.
In the early evening of March 31st, students celebrated as they saw the vehicles hired to bring them home stream into the village. There was dancing and singing of songs like “holiday is coming, no more ringing school bells, good-bye teachers, happy holiday friends”. And while students were happy to be going home, there were many warm goodbyes given to friends, classmates, roommates, teachers and house parents. It was a good sign when many said to school principal, Reverend Koroma things like “we don’t want to go for holidays, we want to stay with you! We love the school and the way we are cared for”.
On departure day, April 1st students had morning devotions and breakfast before a final assembly. Reverend Koroma admonished students to put on a good attitude and put their faith into action by helping their families with their farm work while at home. The assembly concluded with the singing of the school song and the national anthem.
As students boarded their buses, it was a tearful time for many as students embraced close friends before parting. We’re left imagining the joy of their reunions when they gather again for the next term and are thankful for your support which has made the Senior Secondary School and the fourteen other EduNations schools a reality.
Computers for Students
Computer literacy is a critical aspect of a 21st century education and key skill-set for success. While computer access is widespread for children in developed countries, in Sierra Leone 90% of the population is computer illiterate and 95% of children lack access to computers.
In communities served by EduNations schools, there have been no computers except those issued by EduNations for use by the heads of schools. Space for a computer lab at the Senior Secondary School in Rokassa had been designed in with hopes and prayers that computers would be provided.
EduNations and our students were absolutely thrilled when North Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA answered the need with a commitment to buy all the computers needed in time for use ever since the school opened. The students have been using laptop computer basics as well as use of the Microsoft Office suite of programs so common worldwide in preparation for success in the technocentric corporate world of the 21st century.
We are grateful to North Pack Church for providing the resources to acquire the computers.
Education to Prevent Sexual Assault
Sexual violence against women and children (SVAWAC) is a persistent and growing problem in most of the world; Sierra Leone is no exception. According to recent studies, there are around 12 thousand reported cases of sexual assault and 125 thousand cases of gender-based violence each year. Since Sierra Leone has about 3.8 million females this translates to one woman out of 300 having reported some form of violence or assault. Since assault and violence are usually under-reported, the real prevalence is probably much higher.
The effects of SVAWAC on education and development in Sierra Leone are even more profound since 6 of 10 female pupils suffer some form of sexual violence. This disturbingly high rate corresponds with a female school dropout incidence which exceeds 60 percent with 9 of 10 dropouts related to sexual abuse. As one might imagine, a high rate of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted results, too.
Recognizing the widespread physical, emotional, psychological, and socio-economic effects, in February 2019 Sierra Leone’s President Julius Bio declared the prevalence of rape and sexual assault a “national emergency”. Underlining the severity of his view he pronounced, “Attack on minors- which account for a third of all cases – would be punished with A LIFE SENTENCE.”
Each campaign includes informational films, group presentations, and community education centered on preventing violence and dissuading students from pre-marital sexual activity. Following this program at Rokassa’s Senior Secondary School, a student “Virginity Club” formed when some students, male and female, resolved to remain abstinent and encourage each other, with supervision of teachers, in doing so.
We are hopeful that the combination of the actions of Sierra Leone’s President at the national level and EduNations’ efforts in our schools and communities will make a significant difference in reducing SVAWAC and help more and more girls to complete their education.
Thriving Cooperation Between EduNations and EPC Sierra Leone
By: EduNations’ President – Samuel Sesay
St. Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi says, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5). I, too, am thankful for integral support of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) to EduNations’ work in the remote villages of Sierra Leone. With active EPC churches in all six of the villages with EduNations schools, we work hand-in-hand to bring the hope of education and the Gospel of Jesus.
To promote the Christian distinctiveness of EduNations’ schools, all of the pastors in the EPC churches also serve as school chaplains. By helping with assemblies and weekly chapel hour, the pastors help students understand God’s love through Biblical study and Christian discipleship. Building relationships with students, the EPC pastors have been instrumental in students and teachers coming to and growing in their faith; becoming increasingly effective members in their church and community.
In Rokassa, starting to build a church has been an important encouragement to the growing Christian community. With support from Memorial Park and North Park EPC churches, we have begun the construction of a church building which will seat about 400 people in the main hall and about 100 in the gallery. This facility will be very useful for evangelism and discipleship when we have the full number of students in the senior secondary school by year three.
Training for servant leaders known as deacons has begun in Fintonia and Gbenekoro including some of the EduNations teachers from the schools there. The goal is to provide the same training in all the 6 EPC churches in Sierra Leone. The leadership abilities of some of the EduNations teachers are of great value in the growth of the churches since the teachers are known and respected members of the community.
This past month, the EPC did two weddings, one in Rokassa and another in Fintonia, for EduNations teachers who are also church members and who have found wives in the communities. The two wives are from Muslim background as are the two men.
Recently in Fintonia, we baptized 29 people including an elderly Susu Muslim convert and his 6 children. Even though the old man was told that his wife’s family will take her back and he would not be buried by the community if he became a Christian, he was convinced that following Christ was the right way and asked to be baptized. We are happy to report his wife did not leave and is still with him.
It is amazing how the Lord continues to bless the cooperation between EduNations and the EPC to bring hope and better lives to remote villages of Sierra Leone.