The Child Reintegration Centre's education department, led by Education Manager Mabel Mustapha, organized a forum for secondary students to hear from successful graduates of vocational and technical programs. The forum aimed to remove the stigma students and their families may have towards vocational or technical training, and encourage them to seek successful careers in fields that don't require a university degree.
Daniel Lahai, a carpentry teacher at Sierra Leone Opportunities Industrialization Centers (SL-OIC), one of the CRC's approved post-secondary institutions, spoke to the students about training opportunities in the construction field. Mercy Hospital electrician Mohamed Bangura and CRC accountant Lucy Jusu shared their stories of personal success as graduates of votech programs who now have interesting, good-paying jobs with room for advancement. All three speakers attended SL-OIC before embarking on their current careers. Lucy worked for many years at the CRC before going back to school to earn an accounting degree.
On a national level, the 2019 WASSCE exam results were very disappointing, and few students earned the scores required for university acceptance. Job training is an excellent alternative for senior secondary (high school equivalent) graduates. The most recent labor statistics from the World Bank show that just 10% of the population are wage or salaried workers, so good jobs are not easy to come by in Sierra Leone, but welders, electricians, accountants, and other skilled workers are in high demand.
The Child Rescue Centre is encouraging Senior Secondary school graduates to consider vocational or technical education if they don't do well on the college entrance exam. Throughout West Africa, graduates of Senior Secondary School (high school equivalent) sit for the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), to determine their eligibility for further education. Upon receiving their results, CRC students are welcomed to apply for a Promise Scholarship for university or votech programs. Many CRC students who scored high on the WASSCE have pursued university degrees including medicine, engineering, journalism, applied science, or social work. However, the test is difficult and many students don't earn scores that will gain them entrance to university.
The CRC aims to remove any stigma about votech education, and help every student become a self-sufficient, contributing member of their community. CRC Director Olivia Fonnie and other staff members recently met with graduates to encourage them to consider vocational or technical training.
There are many successful individuals who do not go to college; they went to technical or vocational school," CRC Case Manager Victor Kanu explained. CRC graduate Amara Foday used his scholarship to attend welding school, a highly sought-after skill in Sierra Leone (read about Amara here) and is now enjoying a career in the booming Sierra Leone construction industry. CRC students have successfully completed vocation and technical education programs including catering, tailoring, and auto mechanics.
The CRC is offering extra tutoring and preparation classes for the students who decide to take the WASSCE a second time.
Henry Kebbie works at the Child Rescue Centre (CRC) as the Assistant Coordinator for the Sponsor A Child Program. Henry is also responsible for a caseload of 70 children supported by the CRC’s programs. Engaged to be married soon, Henry is the proud papa of a young daughter. Henry’s story is unique in that he was a child supported by the CRC’s Child Support Program, which provided health and education support from primary through secondary school. After graduation, he applied for and won a Promise Scholarship which enabled him to attend university. Graduating with honors, Henry holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Njala University.
Henry credits his being a CRC student with his path toward becoming a social worker. “It has always been my desire to be a social worker so that I could return to work with an organization like the CRC which is working to save helpless families and especially destitute children,” Henry says. Henry applies the lessons he’s learned to his work with the children on his caseload. “I always encourage them to take their studies very seriously, as I did,” he says. “I went through the same program at the CRC, and now I am working for the CRC. I believe it is important that children are educated and grow up to be a good example for others, just like I am.”
Henry Kebbie was drawn to social work out of a desire to help people - particularly those who are vulnerable. At the Child Rescue Centre (CRC), Henry found an opportunity to help the most vulnerable children and their families. He was deeply interested in community development and wanted to engage in work that would have a deep, lasting and positive impact. Being a case manager for vulnerable children and their families helps him see that impact every day. Henry finds the work at CRC particularly rewarding because of the CRC’s vision and focus to give something positive to the community of Bo.
Henry’s deepest hopes for the children on his caseload are that they all do well in school and find a bright future, and that they all know how deeply they are blessed by God.
I consider myself lucky, and hope to help other people by the grace of God.
Ernest lost both of his parents by the time he was 10 years old and was staying with a distant relative who used him for unpaid labor, when he was referred to the Child Rescue Centre by the Ministry of Social Welfare, where he spent his early childhood.
As a teenager, Ernest was reunified to live with extended family in the community, as mandated by the Sierra Leonean government. After completing Senior Secondary School, he applied for and was granted a Promise Scholarship to become a lab technician. Ernest graduated with a diploma in laboratory science in June and sat down with CRC Case Manager to talk about all the CRC has meant to him over the years.
The CRC has played a great and important role in my life, by helping me to achieve my dream. When I was breaking down from school, they helped to build me in my education. When I was weeping and mourning the death of my mother and father, the CRC made me laugh. When I was silent, the CRC helped me speak. Thank God for that. I consider myself lucky, and hope to help other people by the grace of God.
It meant alot to me to be awarded a Promise Scholarship. It is this scholarship that has made me who I am today. The scholarships has helped me to achieve my dream. It builds up my leadership skill and my level of understanding in terms of reading and writing, and has increased my level of understanding in knowing God and the things that we are doing on earth. As it is written in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1, "there is a time and a purpose for everything on the earth."
The CRC has supported me at the post-secondary level by providing education materials like text books. The attend CRC allowed me to attend the Global Leadership workshop, provide transport for me, provided health facilities, and made provision for computer classes. They also helped me with my assignments and counseled me to take my education into good faith.
My future career plan is to further my education and become a histopathology or public health officer. I hope to have a job and get married and have a family. My advice to the JSS and SSS students is for them to study very hard and know that there is no easy thing in this world and to note that if you suffer today, tomorrow you will not suffer. But if you do not suffer today, tomorrow you will suffer in life and that is the time you will find life very hard to live in the world.
Ernest has been interning as a lab technician at Mercy Hospital while finishing his laboratory science diploma. "My future plan is to become a histopathology or public health officer," he says.
Promise Scholar Musa Massaquoi recently graduated Njala University with a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Social Work. Musa lost his mother at a very young age and was raised by his father, a subsistence farmer, in a village near Bo. Education was always a problem, but he persevered through the obstacles posed by extreme poverty and achieved his dream of graduating from university.
Child Rescue Centre Case Manager Victor Kanu talked to Musa about his journey to achieve his dream of getting an education.
"Since I was schooling in the village, things were very challenging for me. I lost my mother when I was in Class 2. I continued to struggle until I sat to the National Primary School Examination (NPSE), wherein I scored very good grades. Upon enrollment into Junior Secondary, my education became a problem. My father depended on subsistence farming and had other children and relatives to care for.
I was driven from school for not paying the fees. I was really ashamed and felt dehumanized in the eyes of my colleagues.
In JSS 1, I was driven from school for not paying the fees. I was really ashamed and felt dehumanized in the eyes of my colleagues. It was through the merciful grace of God that I was noticed by the CRC during their assessment. I was recommended by one of the church members, and later enrolled into the program.
As a recipient of a Promise Scholarship, the CRC created several positive impacts to help me actualize my dream of success towards my education. The CRC changed my life through their moral ethics and Christian values, helping me become obedient, dedicated, honest, open-mind, humble, and hardworking, both in academic and other facets of life.
I learned good judgment, responsibility, and good study habits. The CRC trained and guided me to be an upstanding citizen with moral values, trust, and dedication to serving my people.
I am convinced that life without the support of other people is of no importance. This will really come to play when that individual is yet to achieve his or her dream, and their chances are limited. This is very common in Sierra Leone. I happened to be one of those many children that felt the pinch of poverty in Sierra Leone. The CRC saw fit to invest in me, as I went from high school to university.
And today I am one of the flag bearers of change in Sierra Leone and the world at large. This opportunity brings me to the forefront of building my human resource capacity. This is very essential in developing any state. Becoming a social worker today is a blessing in disguise. And if there are any other humanitarian organizations that have the same vision in Sierra Leone, they are going to make a sound meaning in our society and the world at large.
Dreams die slowly when opportunities are absent.
The CRC provided financial assistance for relevant learning materials, supported lodging for the first year of my university education, counseling support, and medical services.
My advice to colleagues, brothers and sisters: to focus on their academic work to maintain this wonderful opportunity, as many others are yearning to enjoy such a chance. They should be dedicated, hardworking, obedient, God-fearing and honest in all their undertakings, and they should think of their background, so as to step forward to completely change the lives of their families and communities of origin. They might be the only hope."
Francess Batty's father was one of the hundreds of heroic health care workers who died caring for Ebola patients. (The Ebola heroes who are giving their lives for others, January 16, 2015, The Telegraph.) While working as a community health worker at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Samuel Batty contracted Ebola from a pregnant woman, and transmitted the disease to his wife. Both Samuel and his wife died, leaving their four children orphaned.
Francess, who was in her second year at Njala University, became the provider and caretaker for her younger sisters and brother. At the recommendation of the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Child Rescue Centre reached out to the family and began providing them assistance. Francess, who was already a student at Njala University, applied for and was granted a Promise Scholarship, so she could complete her degree and continue to take care of her younger siblings.
In June, Francess graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting with honors. In an interview with CRC Case Manager Victor Kanu, Francess expressed her gratitude for the help and encouragement she received during a very desperate time in her life.
"In the first place I want to appreciate Child Rescue Centre for taking me this far. Since I lost both parents during the Ebola saga, CRC has been my help so I want to express my thanks, and may God bless the CRC. With the help of CRC, I can be proud of being a graduate from Njala University.
I thank my sponsors Matt and Beth Reed, and pray for God’s abundant blessings for them. Also my appreciation to the staff, especially the guidance counselor [Princess Kawa] who played a great role by advising me to make good use of the opportunity given to me by the CRC and to always be a good example.
The Promise Scholarship that was awarded to me has helped me so much in achieving my dreams, since I was in second year and now I am a graduate. In addition to my tuition, the CRC has been providing me a monthly stipend to pay my transport fare, provided textbooks, and relevant learning materials for me to study hard.
As I have got my first degree, my future career plans are to further my studies to acquire my master’s degree, and also gain a good job for me to take care of my younger ones, because I am the eldest in my family.
In five years from now, I hope to be in another level. I would like to be a role model in the society, having a good job or even have plans to gain further scholarship.
For the younger ones who are in JSS and SS, my advice is for them to focus on their studies, be good boys and girls and to make good use of the opportunities CRC is offering to them, which is a huge blessing.
Francess, left, in her graduation gown, and with CRC guidance counselor Princess Kawa. "I want to be a role model," Francess says.
As a young boy, Amara Foday enrolled in the Child Rescue Centre's Child Support Program, but dropped out of school at the end of Junior Secondary when he failed to pass the difficult BECE national exam for promotion to Senior Secondary.
It's not an unusual occurrence for kids who come from backgrounds of extreme poverty in Sierra Leone, as they may be too disadvantaged to succeed academically by the time they start school, hampered by a host of problems associated with poverty like early malnutrition, chronic illness, itinerancy, or family dysfunction.
In spite of these obstacles, Amara persevered in his desire to learn a marketable skill. He had stayed connected to the CRC and applied to the CRC for a Promise Scholarship to attend vo tech school. The CRC was pleased to offer Amara a scholarship to pursue vocational training at Sierra Leone Opportunities Industrialization Centre. Amara used his scholarship to become a welding technician, a highly sought after skill in Sierra Leone as construction keeps pace with the population increase.
Amara has now completed his welding program and will officially graduate in December. He is currently working with a team in Freetown to demolish the houses destroyed by mudslides last year.
As he discusses his future, Amara has already started thinking about how to give back to his nation of Sierra Leone. "My career plans are to own a private welding and metal workshop to employ and train youths on metal work, and with that I can contribute in nation building, " Amara told CRC Counselor Victor Kanu. "The CRC has impacted my life in many ways, but more especially to make me to become somebody in the society by achieving my goal to be a welder and becoming independent," he added.
"My advice to a student hoping to earn a Promise Scholarship is to stay focused and work very hard in order to achieve the good result to develop ourselves and the country," Amara counsels aspiring scholars. "The CRC Promise scholarship means a lot to me, as it has helped me transformed my life, contributing to my family and the country as a whole."
Amara hopes to open a private welding and metal workshop to train youth like himself, "With that I can contribute to nation building."
We are proud to announce that Child Rescue Centre alumnus Aruna Stevens received his medical degree from the College of Medical and Allied Health Studies (COMAHS) on January 20th. His convocation in Freetown was attended by many fellow CRC alumni. Aruna is the second CRC student to graduate medical school, preceded by Yusef Tejan, who graduated from COMAHS last year.
Aruna dedicated his dissertation defense to his late parents and to his American sponsor, Brian McCaffrey, "without whose compassionate support it would not have been possible." He will begin his two-year housemanship (residency) in the spring, which will include six months rotation each in medicine, surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology.