Johnson Matthey extends target for project in Sierra Leone that trains female teachers and improves education for girls.

JM extends target for project in Sierra Leone that trains female teachers and improves education for girls.

We chose Plan International UK (Plan) as our charity partner in April 2016, committing ourselves to raising £50,000 in 12 months towards a programme to help young women gain experience and teaching qualifications in Sierra Leone. Johnson Matthey met this target, so we have increased it to £75,000 by the end of September 2017. We are eager to support more teachers and get their careers off to the best start.

The need for female teachers

The project that we support will help 483 young women to become Learning Assistants (LA) through a year's placement in a primary school classroom. These ambitious women can then progress to join a three-year distance education teacher training course. By increasing the number of young women who enter teaching, we aim to bring economic, social and health benefits to the children they teach, their family and the next generation.

When asked whether they would prefer a female teacher, girls from Port Loko were unanimous. "They can teach us how to be healthy," said Amanatou, 14, "and how to take care of our bodies."

This project aims to improve girls' school attendance and learning by increasing the number of young women – particularly in rural areas – who enter teaching. The LA's are from five of the poorest rural districts: Kailahan, Kenema, Kono, Moyamba and Port Loko. Around 6,800 girls will benefit from the presence of female teachers in the classroom. The project represents a crucial next step in a young woman's learning and ability to fulfil her potential.

A year on…together Johnson Matthey and Plan have made great progress:

  • we have raised enough funds to put 23 teachers into schools
  • materials such as text books and other learning materials have been sent to all 483 students registered on the project - to support their studies for the entrance exams
  • on average there has been a 95% pass rate of the 483 LA's passing their entrance exams to embark on the three years' teacher training programme
  • a strong tutor network has been built of educational professionals who can support the LA's training and ensure consistency is met when marking the exams
  • with the help of community leaders and tutors, the project partners were able to orientate local communities around the project goals and start to contend with the negative attitude displayed by some community members
  • LA's are now based in clusters around their place of residence, which has greatly reduced the amount of travelling time some were experiencing. One of the major issues the project faces is the geographical spread of the LA's
"Men learn negative stereotypes at school – female teachers can stop this." Mammy Queen, Community Leader, Kenema

Measuring the impact

Plan will measure the number of young women who have been supported as learning assistants, who complete the placement, successfully qualify for teacher training college, and complete the course. The students will receive support to conduct regular self reflection and self assessments. This will serve several purposes; it gives an ongoing picture of progress and school engagement, and will provide us with a tool to gauge the motivation of the trainees and commitment throughout the course.

Plan International

There are many barriers that stop girls from getting an education. To understand more visit Plan International's website or view their infographic explaining the six biggest barriers to girls' education.