Two of OVP’s summer interns, Cheryl Herrmann and Anna Sutherland from Amherst College, describe their experience in Sierra Leone…
When we found out that we would be working on the Summer School program for our internship with OneVillage Partners, we were thrilled. We brought books on literacy and English language programs for students before heading off to Sierra Leone at the end of May for three months. After our pre-assessment of students’ reading abilities, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Reading comprehension was extremely low, even for students in fifth and sixth grade, and many students didn’t even know how to hold a pen or pencil.
Given these challenges, OVP decided to focus Summer School instruction on reading, writing, speaking, and comprehending English, rather than attempting to tackle the 13 subjects from the government curriculum. Our assumption is that the better students understand and speak English, the more they will learn in all of their classes. We recruited, selected, and trained dozens of local high school and college students to be facilitators with the hope of promoting creativity and positive energy in the classrooms. The results were fantastic! These students desperately want to learn. They would stand outside of our houses, calling us by the names we were given in the local language of Mende: “Satta, A-B-C!” “Hawa, more study!” The students are receptive to the materials and are learning quickly, and the facilitators have shown great initiative and improvement in their own English skills.
Field Officer Kari Foley worked very hard to create a partnership with the World Food Programme for the donation of several thousand dollars worth of food, which gave children the incentive to attend school. Attendance rates in Pujehun village, for example, hovered around 90%, an amazing figure in a country that typically averages below 50% during the school year. The students are receptive to the materials and are learning quickly, and the facilitators have shown great initiative and improvement in their own English skills.
A post-assessment of the students is now being conducted, and we are eager to hear about the English skills and confidence gained by the students and facilitators over the course of the summer. We are both so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with these amazing students, and are hopeful that Summer School will help them unlock their great potential.
Satta and Hawa (Cheryl and Anna)