September means back to school in many countries around the world. In Sierra Leone, EducAid’s schools opened their doors on 5 September, welcoming new and old students with joyful celebrations in Lumley, Maronka and Rolal.
School assembly on the first day of school at EducAid Maronka
Amidst all the excitement for the new school year, we should not forget that the pandemic has brought profound disruptions to the learning of children and young people as well as mental health repercussions due to fear, uncertainty and social isolation. The Covid-19 emergency has exacerbated pre-existing issues related to the challenges some students face to access, participate, and succeed in education. In Sierra Leone, the prolonged school closure has had the most impact on girls and students from the poorest homes. These children and young people found limited time to study because of household chores and other income-earning activities. They also had reduced access to learning resources such as books and tuition compared to their peers from wealthier homes.
Students waiting for the opening of the gates of EducAid’s school in Lumley
EducAid’s commitment for this year is to keep providing all our students equitable, high-quality education by moving forward with the national syllabus while addressing any learning loss that may have occurred during the past three years. To achieve this, we will assess learning levels regularly, prioritise teaching fundamental knowledge and skills, and carefully monitor the psychosocial health and overall wellbeing of all our students. Also, we are more motivated than ever to invest in innovation that will allow us to engage our students beyond the traditional classroom experience. This new school year is an opportunity for us to strengthen our education offer in a transformative, sustainable way. These are the reasons why we are very excited to have our students back.
First day of school at EducAid’s school in Rolal
“The turnout of pupils on the first day of school this year was impressive compared to the previous years. We knew about some misleading messages on social media about the reopening of schools being postponed, so we called the parents and confirmed the date. We don’t want our pupils to miss out on a good start” says Kabiru, EducAid’s site coordinator in Rolal. “We had over 80% attendance on the first day, which is very rare in Sierra Leone. I walked around the school to observe the sessions. In some classes they were reading, in others the pupils were introducing themselves to the new class and sharing stories about the holidays. Everyone was busy.”
EBT, our Lumley site coordinator, comments: “Every year the first day of school is an interesting and exciting day because we welcome back our students and get to know the new ones. This year I really felt that everyone was eager to be back and begin a new school year, and attendance confirms that. We have many more students showing up on the first day of school compared to last year. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of students and teachers; it was a good story that I have shared with my family back home”.
Secondary school girls on their first day of school at EducAid Lumley
“It was wonderful to see the Maronka team in action and how they set the stage for the 2022-23 school year. As a former school evaluator, I’m not easily or often impressed and I have to say, they really impressed me” says Erin, EducAid’s CEO who visited EducAid’s Primary School in Maronka on the first day of school. “The team made sure to make all the children feel welcome while starting planning for their shared and individual needs. Teachers made sure to assess the new students to place them in the right class. From the younger ones writing their first letters to those who will be preparing the NPSE discussing expectations for this school year, all the children were engaged immediately in activities and lessons”.
First grader on the first day of school at EducAid Maronka
For the EducAid’s teams, September does not only mean the beginning of regular classes. The girls and young women of the Strong Girl Incubator are also back in class to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to transition to secondary school. It is as well the moment to start a new cycle of projects to promote quality education for all in Sierra Leone. Launched in September this year, the Sierra Leone Education Innovation Challenge (SLEIC) is a large programme financed by the Government of Sierra Leone and international donors that aims at improving the educational outcomes for some of the most disadvantaged children in the country. EducAid is the implementing partner that will work towards improving literacy and numeracy for primary school pupils in the Western Area, Port Loko and Kambia districts. A busy year for us all!
Assessment in an SGI class on the first day of school at EducAid Rolal
The first day of school is a time to reconnect with friends at EducAid Lumley
Learning started on the first day of school at EducAid Maronka
New books to read to start the new school year at EducAid Rolal