A COTN Senior Secondary School in Sierra Leone!

04/03/09

Last month, Mr. John Turray, COTN-SL Education Supervisor and principal of the Mallory Jansen Junior Secondary School in Banta, embarked on a task that aims at fast tracking the reduction of high rate of illiteracy in Sierra Leone as well as reduce the burden on already impoverished parents to find senior school for their children in Banta Chiefdom who take and pass the BECCE (Basic Education Certificate Exam).

The BECCE exam, which qualifies junior high school candidates for senior high school in the 6-3-3-4 education system (six years primary, three years junior secondary school, three years senior secondary school, four years tertiary education) in Sierra Leone and other West African countries, will be held in May this year.

Currently, there is not a local senior secondary school in Banta. This means that our Mallory Jansen junior high students who are successful on the exam would have to transfer to senior high school elsewhere. Oftentimes, this means boarding school, which is expensive. "Our students, particularly the children in our orphan homes, are bright prospects," shared Mr. Turay. "My concern is that the types of schools they may gain access into within the chiefdom may not have the capacity to maintain or build upon the strong foundation that our children have acquired from COTN's Mallory Jansen School, which Sierra Leone's Ministry of Education has attested to be the highest in the chiefdom." Mr. Turray is also concerned that the education standard for our students may fall. "What a waste of time and resources that would mean to us," says Mr. Turay, who together with COTN management has explored many avenues to ensure that only the best comes out of our schools.

Last year, Mr. Turay raised this concern with Sierra Leone Ministry of Education officials and requested that our Mallory Jansen school in Banta be granted senior secondary school status. Records of the school's academic programs and progress spoke for themselves and fast tracked a rapid response. The request was granted! This means that our Mallory Jansen School now qualifies to operate as a senior secondary school in the Banta Cheifdom. "I have no doubt, after having inspected the programs and performance records of other senior secondary schools, even in the capital Freetown, that our kids will pass with flying colors," said Miss Kadie, the vice principal of Mallory Jansen School.

"Our biggest challenge," says Mr. Turay, "apart from getting the children ready for the exams, is going to be putting up a building to accommodate the new set of students before September when the new school year commences." The construction project began last month with local funds, using local materials. To date, the building has been raised to roof level. "YES, WE CAN!" is the local motto in Banta. Everyone at COTN, both our staff and children, seems to be saying this and believing it.