CWS Supports Byseee School and Day Care Centre

Since May 2020, Catholic Women Speak has been raising funds to support Byseee Girls’ School and Day Care Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Our initial aim was to raise £300 per month during the Covid19 crisis, but we have now committed ourselves to continuing to provide this support for the foreseeable future. We are grateful to Chantal Götz, Director of the Fidel Götz Foundation, for underwriting this project, and to our regular donors who, by their monthly contributions, ensure that we have sufficient funds. We are grateful to Watermead Music Apostolate for a grant of £1,000 which further ensures our capacity to meet our monthly commitments to the project. £500 has been transferred and a further £500 has been pledged.
The school offers a wide range of educational and care facilities to children and young people—mostly girls (including single mothers) though it also caters for boys in situations of hardship, particularly orphans and children from broken homes. It follows the formal school curriculum but extends this to develop the children holistically and spiritually. Its primary aim is to help girls to recover a sense of personal dignity and self-esteem after the traumas of war and amidst the ongoing challenges of poverty, violence and abuse. Sierra Leone has some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. From cradle to grave, to be female is to face a constant struggle for survival against what can seem like impossible odds.

CWS members Yema (Gertrude) Jusufu and her siste Edita run the school, which was started by their mother. It comes under the auspices of St Peter the Rock Parish in Calaba town in Freetown. When asked to explain the unusual spelling of “Byseee”, Yema wrote that their late mother was asked to start a school for girls by members of the community, and she decided to name it with the initials of each of her six children:

Bernadette – Yema – Sydney – Edward – Elis – Edita = Byseee

Extra-curricular training and support services include:
  • Workshops on Christian moral attitudinal behavioural changes, involving teachers from others chools and parental involvement to help with effective parenting in the home.
  • Home visits with other female teachers to provide psychological support.
  • Help for parents who cannot provide the basic necessities that their children need.
  • Visits to disabled children and their families to help them to discover an appreciation of their lives as wonderfully created by God.

Explaining her decision to leave her religious order in the United States and return to Sierra Leone to work for the education of marginalised and under-priviliged girls, Yema says: “Since the war our country has lost the value of education. So we are giving these girls quality education that will help them develop themselves, raise up their self-esteem and let them have their human dignity again.”

Yema and Edita have struggled to raise sufficient funds to run the school. Income comes exclusively from school fees, but even in normal times they often had to borrow money at high interest rates when parents could not afford to pay fees. The annual running cost of the school is about le. 148,000,000 in Sierre Leone currency (about £12,200 or 13,900 euros). This includes salaries for 8 teachers, a care giver, cleaner, security guard, administrator and head teacher, as well as annual scholarship fees for 10 girls. Our monthly donation is relatively small by UK standards, but it has made a significant difference to the project. Not only has it contributedd towards regular running costs and salaries, but it has also funded the digging of a well which now provides clean water for the school and the local community. Our next project is to establish a feeding programme so that regular meals are provided to the children, who are sometimes malnourished and often arrive at school without having had anything to eat.

We believe that the holistic education and support offered by Byseee School, which is rooted in the Catholic tradition but informed by the particular challenges and struggles createrd by gender-based inequality and violence against women and girls, expresses the ideals and visions of our global network. While we are not a fund-raising or charitable enterprise, we seek to express our commitment to the promotion of the human dignity of all by offering practical support to this project.

Donate here

How are our donations handled?

All monthly donations are collected through JustGiving, which charges a small handling fee covered by Tina Beattie, so that everything our supporters donate goes to the project with no overheads deducted. CWS does not currently have its own bank account, so funds are transferred to Tina Beattie’s personal account for onward remittance to Gertrude Yema Jusufu in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Here is a summary of our accounts at 25 November 2021:

How are our funds being used?

The money we send every month helps towards the regular running costs of the project, with a small surplus that goes towards more long-term developments. So far, we have funded the digging of a well which now provides fresh drinking water to the school and the surrounding community. Many of the children arrive at school hungry, so we have agreed to increase our monthly contribution to £400 to provide two lunches to the children every week.

Here is a WhatsApp message sent by Yema the week the feeding scheme started:

The children have recently enjoyed a sports day with their parents:

Here is Yema playing a game with the children. She calls out, “What are you?”, and they respond, “I’m a doctor,” “I’m a lawyer,” “I’m a teacher,” etc.

Here is Yema playing a game with the children. She calls out, “What are you?”, and they respond, “I’m a doctor,” “I’m a lawyer,” “I’m a teacher,” etc.

What ages are the children?

Ages vary according to the child’s development:

Day care is 6 months to 3 years

Kindergarten is 4 to 6 years

Primary is 6 to 11 or 12 years

What kind of children are cared for and educated?

Children attending the day care centre and school include:

Orphans

Children from broken homes

The school also caters for single mothers

How many children are there in the school?

The school currently caters for 175 pupils:

Kindergarten has 55 pupils (40 girls and 15 boys)

Primary has 120 pupils (95 girls and 25 boys)

What does it cost?

The project is entirely funded by parents and often depends on loans at high interest rates

Summary of annual costs:

(le. 12,000 is approximately equal to £1)

  • Salaries for teachers and support staff: le. 136,800, 000 (£11,320)
  • Scholarships: le. 10,000,000 (£835)
  • Teaching and learning materials: le. 2,000,000 (£170)
  • Total annual costs: le. 148,000,000 (approx. £12,400)

Gertrude Yema Jusufu took part in our Catholic Women Speak symposium in Rome in October 2018, after a prolonged struggle to obtain a Schengen visa for her. Here she is in a video interview recorded in Rome, speaking about her work, her faith and her struggles during Sierra Leone’s bitter civil war and its aftermath. You can also read her contribution to our Catholic Women Speak book, Visions and Vocations, at this link.