Mar 28, 2019

The values of a good education

Photo credit: Patrick Temme
Photo credit: Patrick Temme

Walton Jr is a JSS3 student at Rising Academy. Before going to school each day, Walton wakes up early to fetch water. Then he cleans the house and prepares for school.

Throughout his day, many things stand out to Walton as different from his previous school. For one, teachers don’t use corporal punishment. Instead, they set clear expectations for classroom behaviour and enforce them through detention and community service activities.

According to Walton, the system of teaching at Rising is unlike anything he experienced in the past. “The way and manner teachers teach their pupils is totally different”. Students are encouraged to participate in their lessons by asking questions, demonstrating their understanding in their own words, and sharing their opinions. Students often work in small groups, with faster learners supporting students who are struggling.

In Walton’s previous school, he had to sit quietly, copy notes from the blackboard, and could only speak if the teacher called on him. He would have to repeat exactly what he had copied down and would never dare ask a question if he didn’t understand. But at Rising, “teachers will teach you to understand. No matter how many times, if you don’t understand then the teacher will explain to you.”

Ultimately what Walton believes sets Rising apart the most are the school’s values – the 4 Hs. The values of happiness, hardwork, honesty and helpfulness are uniquely Rising. “The school I was previously attending was not having these values. These help greatly to a student’s life." The values are like a compass that point students in the right direction, both at school but also in their lives outside of school. Walton now sees hard work as the key to his success and believes he must be helpful and honest with others along the way.

When asked what his advice would be to students in primary school, Walton says “Be serious with education. Do not discriminate against students or teachers but look up to the values of Rising”. For Walton, taking his studies seriously and living out the 4Hs every day means he will be a better person in the future. “This is how I will make my parents proud.”

Dec 28, 2018

Education reaches new shores

It’s a three-hour journey by speed boat from the capital city of Freetown, heading south along the coast of Sierra Leone. First passing Banana Island, with its rich history and recent tourist destinations, followed by the poor, densely populated fishing communities of Plantain Island. Eventually from the horizon emerges a very small, low-lying island followed by another to the West and we know we’ve reached our destination – the Turtle Islands.

Largely isolated from the rest of the country, the Turtle Islands are an archipelago of seven small, low-lying islands, six of which are inhabited by fishing villages. Named for the sea turtles that come to breed on its shores, the Turtle Islands are incredibly rich in tradition and natural beauty but also severely impoverished. The Solon Foundation first started working with the Turtle Island communities in 2012 after its survey found that less than 1% of the female population could read, and the estimated under 5 mortality rate was more than double the national average.          

As the islands come in to view, it’s hard to imagine that 62 of our scholarship students call these islands home. The Solon Foundation’s scholarship initiative for the Turtle Islands was first launched in September 2016 and supported 18 students on full tuition scholarships to attend secondary school in Freetown. The promise of continued education encouraged more families to send their children to school. Across the islands, primary school enrolment has grown and with no secondary school in the chiefdom, the need for support to attend secondary school has also grown. The list of potential scholarship recipients from the Turtle Islands for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year is already nearing 100 students.

Our boat slowly navigates the shallow waters approaching the island of Mutti. The community is waiting to greet us and among the gathered crowd are students from the neighbouring islands. Lined up on the beach in their school uniforms, these children are future scholarship hopefuls. Many are attending school for the first time, but along with their older siblings, friends and neighbours who already on scholarship, these children represent the future of the islands.

The community meeting on Mutti is well-attended, with elders, village chiefs and the paramount chief in attendance. With each person who comes forward to speak, the importance of education is reinforced. The survey from 2012 is referenced more than once as a reminder of the change the communities are seeking for their children. Appeals for more scholarship support are made, particularly for extending support to secondary schools outside Freetown. As the meeting winds up, the Solon Foundation’s programme coordinator comments on the change underway in his communities and the hope he feels for the future.

As the day draws to a close and our boat pulls way from shore, it is clear that access to quality education is a priority that is shared by all. Although the challenges are many, the potential opportunities provided by education inspire hope and a sense of optimism for the future. The Turtle Islands may seem like a world unto themselves, isolated and frozen in time, but increasingly they are a world that needs the new generation of educated children as their leaders of tomorrow.

Oct 1, 2018

There's always room for more school spirit

Born in the Kono District of Sierra Leone, Mohamed, his three brothers, and mother now call the quiet village surrounding Rising Academy Juba school their home.

Although fortunate enough to move to Freetown, Mohamed and his family still live far from a comfortable standard. “I’m not from a rich background. I’m a very poor boy but I work with my limits, with what I have.” Mohamed has been able to rise above his circumstances, with no shortage of optimism and enthusiasm.

Mohamed is currently in his second year of Junior Secondary School and attends Rising Academy Juba on scholarship. However, he has not always been a Rising student. His primary school was in the very same building but before it was operated by Rising Academies.

When asked about the change to Rising, Mohamed boasted himself as one of the first recruiters, “I was one of the ambassadors for Rising. I used to tell my colleagues that Rising is a good school,” he said.

Mohamed’s appreciation for Rising comes as no surprise. It became clear to him early on that the quality of education at Rising was much better than in his previous school. Curious about these differences, Mohamed replied, “I’m using books. At my previous school, I needed to buy books. I had to buy the chairs. At my old school there were no chairs. But at Rising we have chairs, we watch educated videos, we deal with the lesson. In my primary school, when my teacher doesn’t know how to achieve a lesson, they skip the lesson. But in Rising, any minute any second, the teachers are in the class.” Whether it is having access to a notebook or even a simple chair to sit on, school supplies that are easily taken for granted are considered a top priority here in Sierra Leone.

Mohamed’s passion for Rising does not stop there. When asked to describe his school, he said, “I always have good things to say about Rising because I really love this school. The buildings, the environment, and also, they give us a proper education.”

What does the Scholarship Fund mean to a scholarship student? When asked how he felt, Mohamed said, “I’m so very happy because they have removed some works on my mother. When my mother needs to pay for the term, they have paid for me. Some of my friends are in Rising, some of them in other schools, but I’m always persuading them to come to Rising.” The Scholarship Fund is proud to support students like Mohamed to attend great schools they love and get the quality of education they deserve.

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