Graduating from Junior Sec School to Senior Sec School in SL

Girls and Boys sitting Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) September 2020

Compiled by Rita K. Foday 

Boys sitting BESE 2020

The Basic Education Certificate Examination (commonly known as BECE) is the exam that pupils are expected to pass in order to graduate from junior secondary school to  be admitted to the senior secondary school in Sierra Leone. The exam is taken by those who have already done three years of secondary school studies.
Normally, this exam takes place around July but due to the covid-19, the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School Education has scheduled it for 14th to 28th September this year.
The candidates taking this exam are required to follow the covid-19 precautions. The temperature of each student is checked before they are allowed into their respective examination halls; use of face masks while moving around, and social distancing is facilitated.
Certain schools with sufficient seating accommodation have been identified as examination centres. This means that candidates from particular schools are grouped at a particular centre.
I am including some pictures taken of candidates taking the exams at some of the centres in Bo and Lunsar (southern and northern Sierra Leone respectively).
Covid-19 weekly updates
Between September 14th and Sept 20th 2020 there are 57 new cases,
0 deaths
Accumulative confirmed cases – 2168
Active cases – 446
Death – 72.

Sierra Leone schools completing exams before re-opening

Completion of exams will lead to complete re-opening of schools on October 5th in SL:

Report by Rita Foday.

Following the lifting of bans on inter-district travels, the ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School announced the resumption of schools for the examination classes with the hope of preparing for their respective exams. In this regard schools were reopened for pupils in the sixth class  (final year  class in the primary school) as well as those in the final classes in both the  Junior Secondary School and Senior Secondary School as they prepare for their NPSE, BECE and WASSCE respectively. On August 3, the sixth class Primary School pupils  across the country had their exams. Successful candidates will be promoted to the Junior Secondary School. The examination lasts for a day with the pupils answering questions in five course areas:  English, Mathematics, Quantitative Aptitude, Verba Aptitude and General Paper.
Similarly,  from August 11 to September 8, those in the final class in the Senior Secondary School wrote their final examination. Worthy to note at this juncture is the fact that none of the pupils in this category was found to be living with the virus; hence,  no one took the exam in an isolation centre.
Lastly, over the next 2 weeks, those in the final class in the Junior Secondary School will commence their examinations.

Report on current corona virus situation in SL

Corona virus situation in Sierra Leone

The coronavirus cases in Sierra Leone are slowly but constantly on the rise. The good news, however, is that there is a very good record of recovery. At the beginning of the week,  on Monday, August 31, we had a total of 2026 accumulative confirmed cases; the total number of active cases in treatment centres across the country is 362; whereas 1594 had already recovered and have been discharged from treatment centres. Sadly, 71 people died since the outbreak of the virus in Sierra Leone on March 31, 2020.
At the close of the week, we have the following statistics:
Accumulative confirmed cases – 2054
Active cases – 377
Recoveries – 1606
Death – 071
Therefore, there had been 28 new cases, 12 recoveries and 1 death between Monday (August 31, 2020) and today (September 6, 2020).
Compiled by Rita Foday, SL

Sierra Leone is echoed in Covid lock-down in Irishwoman’s diary

Helen Fallon, the Deputy Librarian in Maynooth University has penned a colourful inspiring piece in the Irish Times today, An Irishwoman’s Diary.

In a lovely rhythmical piece she describes how the slower pace of lockdown echoes for her the time she spent as Librarian in Fourah Bay College in Freetown. Queueing for the post office in Ireland reminds her of queueing in Sierra Leone for the post office and for other services. The art of letter writing she honed in Sierra Leone has become more attractive than email and texts! The well scripted opinion piece can be accessed on the following link:

Here and there – An Irishwoman’s Diary on waiting time

Helen Fallon

“After the 6pm curfew was announced, the ramshackle stalls, with their wares illuminated by yellow light from kerosene lamps, disappeared from the Freetown side-streets.” Photograph: Getty Images“After the 6pm curfew was announced, the ramshackle stalls, with their wares illuminated by yellow light from kerosene lamps, disappeared from the Freetown side-streets.” Photograph: Getty Images

Its strange. Doors with locks, metal shutters, iron grills that scream “Keep Out” – an unfamiliar sight in our town. The feel of it is familiar though, another time, another country, some 30 years ago.

After the 6pm curfew was announced, the ramshackle stalls, with their wares illuminated by yellow light from kerosene lamps, disappeared from the Freetown side-streets. I missed the taste of sweetcorn charred black on the outside, crunchy inside and the fiery beans wrapped in warm bread. I missed the laughter of children around the stalls, playing with cars sculpted from wire clothes hangers.

Today, squad cars, lights flashing, have set up a roadblock in the main street. They stop drivers, who tired of the lockdown, want to travel beyond the allocated distance, to go somewhere, to get away.

In Sierra Leone, khaki-clad soldiers marched through the streets, stopping people who were spilling into the city, maybe thinking they could get away, outrun the war.

At night I watch House of Cards on Netflix, light candles, enjoy their soft light and sensuous smells as the summer light slowly fades. Sometimes I read a book from the local library, downloaded via Borrowbox to my tablet.

Because of its proximity to the Equator, there was no dusk in Sierra Leone. Darkness dropped over the village at around 6.30pm. Sometimes, I crossed the dusty pink road to the tailor’s tiny shop, to buy a single Leader cigarette and to listen to the whirring of his sewing machine. Above the shop a piece of white board displayed a blue scissors, a useful symbol in a place where most people could not read or write. I lit candles when there was no kerosene and read books until my eyes grew tired. The books, mostly by African writers, with dazzling orange covers and dizzying prose, I borrowed from the British Council Library in nearby Freetown.

This week I join the queue outside the post office. Tired of emails and texts, I’m eager to write letters and cards. Back in 1991, I queued for stamps. I queued to collect my post. I queued to buy kerosene. I queued to board rust-eaten buses that clattered along pot-holed roads. Waiting at junctions for hours for connecting buses, I queued for hot prawns on sticks and luminous pink Kool Aid. Sometimes I just queued!

Now I work from home, connect with people on Zoom, Teams, What’s App and Skype. I participate in webinars with people from around the world, people I am unlikely to ever meet face to face. Back then I taught with blackboard and chalk in a classroom with my students. Sometimes, on Sunday, they invited me to their homes to meet their family and eat groundnut stew oozing palm oil.

I take a walk in the evenings. People, some masked, hurry by, careful to observe the social distancing rule.

My walk home from the university where I taught from 1989 to 1991 was also about five kilometres. That was my favourite time of day. The sun had softened. The dusty red path to the village glowed with a pale pink light and the place was almost beautiful. Women, returning from the village pump, buckets on their heads, babies tied securely to their backs, greeted me with “Aw di bodi?”

I’d linger before going indoors, study red chilies drying in the sun, listen to the thud of the pestle, as cassava leaf was beaten to a pulp in a wooden mortar, sides etched with deep cracks from the thumping of a thousand cassava leaf suppers. Later, I’d hear the women call children – Khadiata, Fatmata, Abdul Karim, Ishmael – beautiful melodic names, that still linger in my head.

People want someone to blame – the Chinese, the World Health Organisation, the pharmaceutical industry that doesn’t have a vaccine for the virus. The Sierra Leonean people blamed the government for the unpaid salaries and empty promises; they blamed the diamond dealers who hovered like vultures for stones sifted from river beds by barefoot women and children; sometimes they blamed their colonisers, who left them, in 1961, with only the bitter taste of disappointment.

But there’s all the goodness too. Yesterday, a book of poems by Paula Meehan left on my doorstep, last week a surprise delivery of two bottles of wine and a bottle of olive oil, the phone calls, the seeds my brother posted to me for my garden.

In Sierra Leone, there were the Irish potatoes, so called to distinguish them from sweet potatoes, that one of my students brought me as a gift, shortly after I arrived in Sierra Leone. Knowing I was Irish, perhaps she thought the taste of potato would ease the loneliness of being in a new country. There was the piece of woven country cloth, like Irish linen but coarser, that someone, I forget who, brought me from their home village.

I still have it, in a box in the attic, with other things from that time. What will I have to remember this time?