Have you ever wondered how school works in other countries? During my last trip to Sierra Leone we were able to visit most of the former street boys at their school. This, along with input from our partners there, Becky Brockelman and Charles Yimbo, I feel like I understand enough now to share schooling in Sierra Leone.
Our children in Sierra Leone begin in Primary Classes I through VI. When a child’s family has sufficient funds, children begin Class I at the age of five, the same as a kindergarten student here in the U.S. All school years begin in September and end in May with a three-month “holiday”.
Once students progress through Primary Classes I through VI an exam, the National Primary School Exam (NPSE), is required to move to the next level. They have their acronyms too! Any educator will appreciate that. If the student does not have an adequate score on the NPSE then they remain in Class VI and have several opportunities to retake the NPSE.
Once the NPSE is passed then kids move up to Junior Secondary (JS), in which there are three levels, Junior Secondary I, II and III. Once kids reach Junior Secondary III another exam with an adequate score is required before progression to the next level. This exam is the Basic Education Certification Exam (BECE).
The next level is Senior Secondary (SS). There are four levels in Senior Secondary. At the end of Senior Secondary IV students have a leaving ceremony. This does not mean, however, that they graduate. They must pass one more exam for official graduation and that is the West Africa Senior Secondary School Exam (WASSCE). Young adults have the opportunity to take the WASSCE several times, if needed.
The WASSCE exam helps to determine the college route for each student. College is then four years and for most students this requires taxi transportation to and from the college. If students are not able to pass the WASSCE then we look for a skills program for them where they can learn a trade. These skills programs are typically two years.
The kids we minister to did not start school at the appropriate age due to lack of finances, or they started but due to a traumatic event in the family that caused a financial burden they had to stop, sometimes for several years.
If you have any questions about your sponsored child’s schooling please let me know! Every child in Sierra Leone should have an updated school level on their online profile. So appreciative of your support! Have a fabulous New Year!