Three months or so ago, EducAid was obliged to face up to a very difficult situation where a number of the exam candidates had cheated in a public exam and the entire class had lost their results in consequence.
We had a very difficult meeting with parents and community when we told them that there was no way the reward for such behaviour could be a place in the senior secondary school that had come top in the country and we were very sorry but the students would all have to leave EducAid. Eventually a more lenient option was negotiated and the group were told that if they were ready to make amends for their crime by doing a couple of months of community service their situation would be reviewed. The parents were solemn, the students silenced and tearful and the teachers greatly relieved that their efforts had not gone entirely in vain.
We (certainly I) never expected the entire class to cooperate but they really did. Each student kept a record of what they had done and worked on a string of different projects:
– They built a fence around the school compound,
– They made market tables and a baffa so the market women would no longer sell on the school veranda,
– They made a farm where they grew foodstuffs for the school kitchens,
– They went and taught in the nearby junior secondary and primary schools (the teachers were even to release them back to EducAid again because they performed so well),
– They supported teaching of the EducAid students and looked after the home students, supervising evening study and the like,
– They worked on the chief’s farm,
– They cleaned and fenced the village well.
They really worked and worked hard.
The review meeting that took place on Saturday had the potential to be very difficult if there had not been full cooperation and I was fully expecting that the teachers would be obliged to spill the beans on a couple of reluctant participants. Instead, it was a truly positive session.
The students presented their work, apologised for their behaviour and its consequences and pleaded for mercy so they could rejoin the EducAid family. At a time in their lives when there is scope to make amends they have learned a lesson that will serve them forever.
The whole team were able to feel proud of the outcome and the assurance that not only excellent academic education had been imparted but real values have been engrained too. The students are also clearly happy with themselves and EducAid. They have recruited another eleven of their friends to join them in the transfer to the senior secondary school.
Well done Rogbere – a hard lesson well learned. On and up!
If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid’s work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans please go to www.educaid.org.uk and www.sierraleonegirls.blogspot.com