CWS Supports Byseee Girls’ School and Day Care Centre

Catholic Women Speak is 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, and we have committed to continue with this support until August 2021. After that time, we hope to set in place a more regular funding scheme. We are grateful to Chantal Götz, Director of the Fidel Götz Foundation, for underwriting this project.
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.
If you are willing to donate, please visit our JustGiving page at this link. Tina Beattie will transfer funds at the end of every month via Western Union to Yema in Sierra Leone to ensure the survival of Bysee School during these challenging times. Regular updates will be posted here, as will further information about a longer-term funding scheme once that has been established. All charges will be covered so that everything which is donated will go to the project with no overheads or deductions.

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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 struggle to raise sufficient funds to run the school, particularly during the global crisis caused by the Covid19 pandemic when the school is closed but staff still need their salaries to live on. Income comes exclusively from school fees, but even in normal times they often has to borrow money at high interest rates when parents cannot 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 first aim has been to provide support to enable Yema and Edita to continue to pay salaries while the school has been closed because of the pandemic. We have agreed to continue to send £300 per month until August 2021, after which we hope to assess the longer-term needs and to set in place a regular funding scheme with support from the Fidel Götz Foundation. 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.

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NEWS AND UPDATES

Read the latest news about the project here

Class 6 (11-12 year olds) returned to school in July to prepare for the National Primary Selective Examination. Yema sent a message with a photo of the children with their certificates. She writes:

We thank God for a successful National Primary Selective Entrance Examination for the Byseee pupils which will enable them to enter high school.

We send those young people our congratulations and our prayers for their continued success in their education.

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.