EduNations Celebrates Grand Opening of Senior Secondary School

April 23, 2021

National media coverage of the grand opening of the EduNations Hope Academy Senior Secondary School (SSS) in Rokassa spread the good news of free, quality education all across Sierra Leone. Among the notable attendees marking the event was Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education – Madam Emily Gorgra, representatives of key donor Grace Community Church – Pastor and Mrs. Matthew Kaltenberger, and EduNations officers: Board Chairman – Rev. Scott Graham, President- Samuel Saidu Sesay, & Development Coordinator, Sarah Pietryga.

In his commemorative speech, President Sesay highlighted EduNations’ commitment to supporting the poor rural communities with free education in Sierra Leone and how building the SSS filled an important gap not just in Rokassa, but for all six communities served by EduNations schools. Before the SSS opened, graduates of junior secondary schools were forced either to drop out, or to travel distant cities where they might be exploited while they attempt to finish their secondary education. Now when pupils graduate from any of the six EduNations junior secondary schools, they have the opportunity to come to nearby Rokassa where EduNations can provide room, board, and a first-quality education.

The Deputy Minister of Education acknowledged the tremendous effort of the various donors in ensuring that the school is built and managed. She reiterated the commitment of the government in supporting the work of EduNations as it is critical in the human capital development of Sierra Leone. Board Chairman, Scott Graham, emphasized EduNations’ commitment to ensuring that even the least of the children of Sierra Leone are given an opportunity to hope through education.

This ceremony had a wide national coverage – at least 60 percent of national media houses shared the story in newspapers, television and radio stations. This was not just a momentary ceremony but a monumental action that consolidated national effort in providing education to these less privileged children.

Thank you for making this moment possible.

Families Note Positive Changes in Students over Spring Break

While spring break in the US is notorious for students acting badly, EduNations administrators were encouraged by reports of Senior Secondary School (SSS) students acting especially honorably during their vacation. In fact, several parents reported such unexpected exemplary behavior as if just one term at the Rokassa SSS had given them “a brand-new child.”

The April 2021 break not only marks the celebration of Easter, but also coincides with an important farming season during which every available hand is welcome in clearing fields for groundnut, corn and other vegetables.

Prior to the break, the SSS Principal admonished all students that when they returned home they should demonstrate the good morals taught by EduNations by seeking ways they can help their parents such as fetching wood or water, or farm work. While eager for a respite after their exams, the students were also keen to obey their principal.

Dramatic changes were reported by parents.  One parent told their local pastor that while their son had not been respectful nor helpful in prior years, “since this boy returned from the SSS school I see a lot of changes. He greets us, is active in all domestic work and hardly goes out to find old friends but rather takes his books and studies.“

During church one Sunday morning, some students asked “who are these SSS students I see now in the church? I used to see them sneaking out to smoke or steal!”

It is very encouraging for EduNations leaders to hear of such changes. The Senior Secondary School is truly benefiting students and communities more than just academically. Thank you for helping to make this possible.

Bridging the Gap

By: Sarah Pietryga, EduNations Development Coordinator

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone for three weeks. This was my third trip to Sierra Leone, but my first time staying for more than ten days. When Samuel first asked me to write about my trip, I knew it was going to take me some time to reflect and compose all my thoughts. As anyone who has returned from a life-changing trip knows, it is always a challenge to accurately capture your experience. The typical question, “How was your trip?” immediately feels overwhelming, and a simple “good” doesn’t feel like it does the trip justice. At the same time, it would take many hours to fully recount every amazing detail of the trip. Now as I sit here at home with coffee in hand, reflecting on my time back in Sierra Leone, I realize there is so much I could write about – the schools, the students, the teachers, the development, and the many ways the Lord was at work. But there is one thing that has stood out to me more than anything else on this trip, and so I’d like to take this opportunity to write about our incredible team who runs our operations over in Sierra Leone.

My trip was broken into two parts; during my first week, a team of three other people from the States accompanied me – EduNations’ Board Chairman, Scott Graham, and Matt and Dana Kaltenberger, who are the Pastor and Missions Director at Grace Community Church in Cranberry PA. Our week was full of school visits and it concluded with the grand opening ceremony for EduNations’ brand new Senior Secondary Boarding School in Rokassa. We had an incredible week, and it was amazing to see the Lord’s faithfulness and provision through the development that continues in each of the six communities where we have schools. At the end of the first week, the rest of the team returned to the States and I had the opportunity to stay in Sierra Leone and spend the next two weeks working with my coworkers over there.  Many of you may know EduNations’ President, Samuel Sesay, but you may not know that he leads a small team of committed administrative staff who together run all of our operations in Sierra Leone. I’d like to briefly introduce you to each of them.

From left to right: Rev. Hassan Koroma, Kumba M’Bayoh, Isaac Boima, Fatu Koroma, Foday Thoronka, Sarah Pietryga, Samuel Sesay. Not pictured: Emmanuel Conteh

Rev. Hassan Koroma is EduNations’ Education Secretary. He is also currently serving as Principal at the EduNations Senior Secondary Boarding School. Rev. Koroma works with the teachers and principals to ensure that quality education is being delivered. He also oversees all school events and curriculum.

Kumba Francess M’Bayoh is currently working for EduNations as a Social Worker. She assists Fatu Koroma in working towards the overall wellbeing of our students.

Isaac Boima is EduNations’ Admin and Finance Officer. He is responsible for managing EduNations’ finances in Sierra Leone. He also provides direction and guidance for some of EduNations’ various programs.

Fatu Koroma is EduNations’ Psychosocial Officer. Her responsibility is to work towards the overall wellbeing of our students. Since our students live in impoverished communities, they face many barriers to education. Fatu does an amazing job at not only working with the students, but also working with the parents and other community members to remove these barriers and ensure that our students are able to fully benefit from a quality education.  

Foday Thoronka is EduNations’ Field Officer. He has a direct role in overseeing some of EduNations’ community projects, such as the Poultry Project in Mabum Station. Foday currently spends a lot of his time at the Poultry Project caring for 1,000 chicks that were recently imported from Holland.

Emmanuel Conteh is EduNations’ Office Assistant. He helps our staff to work more efficiently by assisting in various administrative tasks.

My time spent with my coworkers in Sierra Leone was more valuable than I can put into words. Working as an international organization can brings its own unique set of challenges, as we are both a registered 501(c)(3) in the States and an official Non-Government Organization (NGO) in Sierra Leone. Therefore, we have to be very intentional to make sure we are working in accordance with both countries’ governments and policies. Despite our best efforts to work as one organization to ignite hope in Sierra Leone, our two offices are over 4,000 miles apart, separated by four or five hours time difference, and each faced with its own set of tasks and obstacles. Naturally, this can sometimes create a “gap” in communication and working dynamics between us.

The opportunity I had to be in Sierra Leone for a few weeks helped us to continue working towards bridging that gap and moving forward as one team. Having the opportunity to work face-to-face on various projects was significant in and of itself, as we were able to accomplish much together, while learning more about each other’s perspectives and processes.  

I can’t emphasize it enough when I say that these are some of the most committed and hardest working individuals I have ever met. The sense of ownership and responsibility they take over their work is inspiring. In a country that continues to face many challenges, they are resilient and zealous as they continue to work selflessly towards the betterment of their own people.

I write all of this as an encouragement to you who give and support our work in Sierra Leone. We have an incredible staff of trustworthy individuals who are committed to managing the operations with transparency while carefully stewarding your donations so it can make a direct and meaningful impact in Sierra Leone. If you are somebody who believes in the power of prayer, please commit to praying for each and every member of our team in Sierra Leone. They are faced with many challenges and needs every single day. However, we know that we serve a God who is greater in us, who has and who will continue to provide for our needs so that we can continue this good work in Sierra Leone. If you are looking for ways to financially support, please feel free to contact me – there are a multitude of ways you can tangibly support our work and future projects and I’d love to talk more with you about this.

As always, thank you for partnering with us in this incredible effort. It is a huge privilege to be part of this life-changing work and I feel even more blessed to be part of such an amazing team. The Lord is doing amazing things in Sierra Leone, and I’m humbled that He’s gifted me with the opportunity to be part of it.

Thank you for helping us purchase a vehicle! 

Some of you may remember that a few months ago, three EduNations staff members were involved in a vehicle accident, killing one staff member and injuring two others. We were blown away at your generosity when all of you helped us to raise over $10,000 in just 50 hours! Those funds went towards recovering the costs that were lost due to the accident.

Shortly after, we reached out to church partners to ask their assistance in helping us to purchase a new vehicle, as the one that was totaled belonged to our close partner, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) denomination of Sierra Leone. Thanks to the generosity of many church partners, we were able to raise over $15,000 to purchase a replacement truck! The truck was immediately put to good use when a small U.S. mission team, including EduNations’ Board Chairman Scott Graham, traveled to Sierra Leone in April. The truck was used to help transport the team and luggage to various parts of the country.

This truck will be a huge blessing to both EduNations and EPC Sierra Leone. We couldn’t do what we do without your faithful support.

From all of us at EduNations, TENKI!

Community Engagement to Improve Child Welfare

In Sierra Leone, school drop-out, teenage pregnancy and early marriage are sadly common across the nation. In most rural parts of the country, traditions, culture and religions which do not value education, especially for girls, have contributed to school dropout, early marriage and teenage pregnancy. Some Muslim parents will not allow their children to attend a Christian school. Other groups prefer putting their children to work mining, cutting timber, or farming because the immediate results seem more appealing than the longer process of education.

The overall result? According to the country’s most recent survey, 13 percent of girls are married by their 15th birthday and 39 percent of girls are married before their 18th birthday.

In trying to address these challenges, EduNations Psychosocial Coordinator Fatu Koroma recently visited the Deputy Director of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education and the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs in Kabala. In this visit the Psychosocial Coordinator highlighted the numerous challenges the school is facing in trying to complement the Government’s effort and emphasizing the compulsory and free quality education for the girl child.

EduNations’ Psychosocial Coordinator invited representatives from these ministries to the village of Gbenekoro to engage community support and inform them about government support of education and the importance of educating girl children. During this engagement meeting all village heads were presents. The Deputy Director of Education and the Social Services Officer engaged the community on the following issues.

  1. After being encouraged to separate education from religion, some of the Muslim parents who had withdrawn their children from the EduNations Christian schools apologized and promised to send them back.
  2. Representatives from the ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs reminded people of laws concerning teenage marriage and protection from all forms of sexual abuse.
  3. The Deputy Director highlighted the importance of the education of girls as well as policies to prevent teenage pregnancy and promote equal rights. As the sayings goes, “investing in our girls means investing in the future”.

The Deputy Director encouraged community members to embrace the work EduNations is doing which complements the government’s efforts to provide free quality education for the children of Sierra Leone.

Long-term cooperation between EduNations, local leaders, and the government, as well as your ongoing support, is needed to continue to effect positive change for such long-standing issues.