By Tamba S. Abdulai, YES 2013-2014, Sierra Leone, hosted by Ayusa in Greeley, CO
While I was on the YES program in the United States, I was inspired to think of something that I could do to benefit my home community. I wanted my project to not only benefit the community members immediately, but to also make a long-term impact. After a lot of thinking, I decided the best place to start was with education, as I believe it is the backbone of success.
I wrote a proposal to create a scholarship that would help students who couldn’t normally pay their school charges; it would include school fees for one year, a pair of school uniforms and school supplies like notebooks and pencils. I wanted to keep underprivileged students in school, and thereby decrease one of the biggest problems in the community, illiteracy. In tandem with that, I hoped that keeping those motivated students in school would make other students appreciate their education more and put more effort into their work. Along with helping the students, I also planned to conduct a sensitization workshop for parents in the community on the importance of education, so that they would encourage their children. My big picture goal for this project is to increase literacy to 80% in the next 5 to 10 years.
With the knowledge I gained for the Civic Education Workshop in Washington DC, I was able to complete my proposal for this project. After I completed writing the proposal, I submitted it to a church where I used to volunteer with my host family every Sunday. I explained how the scholarship would help children in rural communities in Sierra Leone attend school. Due to the great generosity of the Journey Christian Church, when I left for Sierra Leone in June 2014, I had a check of $700 to help start my scholarship. I also received some contributions from the staff of Greeley Central High School, my host high school.
Upon my return to Sierra Leone, I created a budget for the project, and realized we would be able to give 20 scholarships to students in primary and secondary school in Gbukuma village. I also enlisted the help of a community volunteer by the name of Musa Jimmy, who actively joined me in undertaking the project. We began our work by going to the Deputy Section Chief of the community to inform him about our goals. With his blessing, we then went to K.D.E.C Primary School Gbukuma and met with staff of the school to brief them on what we wanted to do. Since they also thought it was a great idea, we were able to begin recruiting students. To do this, we requested a master sheet of the students and their performance. We tallied their grades from 2013-2014 school year in the computer, and then looked specifically at the boys who were in the 50th percentile or above and the girls who were in the 45th percentile or above. From those lists, we were able to find 17 primary school students and 3 junior secondary school students who would benefit from the Tamba Scholarship.
Once selection was completed, we moved our focus to addressing the lack of value placed on education in the community. To do this, we had 190 parents from different villages attend our sensitization workshop on August 26, 2014. The Deputy Section acted as the chairman of the occasion, and four teachers served as mentors for the workshop. In addition to discussing the importance of education, a drama group from Koidu also performed to show our points in another way. From the post-evaluation of the workshop, we learned that 95% of the participating parents were illiterate, which made us feel even more passionate about the importance of the scholarship.
So far, we have gotten very positive feedback from everyone, especially parents. One parent told us, “I am really happy; I have not been able to pay school charges for my son Adama Turay for the past two years. Adama went to school last year and had to spend 2 months at home due to lack of school fees; but this year, such a thing will never happen to my son.” Sahr Komba, a community member who attended the sensitization workshop, told me, “I thank you, Tamba, for such an educational forum. From today on, I will make sure that my children go to school so that they can help me in the future, and I am appealing to you to continue running such forums in the coming years.” The Deputy Section Chief of Bayafeh Section also shared his appreciation, saying, “Thank you, Tamba, for this initiative. You are an amazing young man who loves this community. Thanks also to the sponsors of this fund. I pray that this scholarship continues, so that it can help our students and increase our literacy rate.”
I am currently working on securing funds to that we can continue offering this scholarship, and even extend it to more participants. We would also like to conduct similar sensitization workshops with other villages. Additionally, we will institute a quarterly evaluation of students so that we can ensure that the scholarship recipients are performing well in their studies. We will also create an official scholarship agreement that states the terms of the scholarship, which we will henceforth require be signed by the parents saying that they agree to monitor the performance of their child. Hopefully we will be able to continue the fund, because with education, people can develop into good leaders for themselves and the community tomorrow.