There currently exists a striking gender gap in education in Sierra Leone. Roughly 60 percent of girls who enter Primary School do not make it to Secondary School.
This disparity exists for a number of reasons, including:-.
- Unaffordable tuition resulting in the inability for parents to pay school fees and provide necessary school materials. While primary schooling is free, secondary education is not;
- Academic underachievement – students who do not perform well on the primary exit examinations are unlikely to be accepted into a Junior Secondary School;
- Social norms that place emphasis on male education mean that families often elect to invest more heavily in the education of male children;
- Sexual exploitation of girls reaching puberty, resulting in teenage pregnancy or early marriages has unfortunately become very prevalent.
While the economy in Sierra Leone is set to improve, without education the distribution of wealth will still be skewed, especially against women. There is a desperate need for well-rounded education and thereby empowerment of girl children in Sierra Leone, such that they can be assured of a brighter future.
Hope Academy For Girls (HAFG) is a formal 7 years of Junior Secondary School (JSS) and Senior Secondary School (SSS) primarily for girls from less privileged backgrounds. Targeted girls will are those who are either on the verge of dropping out of the school system as a result of underachieved grades, financial constraints, abuse and exploitation. These risk factors will form part of the criteria for new intakes.
Despite many setbacks, including the Ebola outbreak which resulted in a 2-year delay of the project, the school is set to open its doors in September 2017, with an initial intake of 20 students. A phased approach will then be taken over the next 10 years until the maximum capacity of 180 students is reached.
The school will also work to form a close partnership with the local community, offering space and resources to develop much-needed skills, especially amongst the female population. Adult Education classes will be offered in basic literacy skills and life-skills in the future.
The site of the school is in York Village on the Peninsular Circular Road in the Western Area Rural District where findings have indicated a dire need for secondary schools, as well as programs that combat prostitution (notoriously high in this region). Access to business organisations in this area, specifically in the tourism industry, will also be an advantage to achieving the school’s curriculum goals.
In the initial stages funding will be primarily from fundraising and sponsorships. However, once the school is operational it will seek to become fully self-sufficient through its fees structure and community outreach programs.