Sierra Leone project to train female teachers and improve 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 275 young women gain experience and teaching qualifications in Sierra Leone. So far we've raised more than £42,000.

The need for female teachers

Plan has been working in Sierra Leone for 40 years. Most children there enrol in primary school, but by the age of 11 73% of girls have dropped out of the education system. The lack of female teachers has a significant negative impact on girls' school attendance and learning and reinforces low aspirations and confidence. Girls coping with issues of early marriage, pregnancy, violence or feelings of vulnerability have few places to turn.

Research has found that girls respond better to, and are best motivated by, female teachers, particularly from a similar social background to themselves (Lloyd 2009), and that female teachers can improve security and perceptions of gender equity (Rawal et al 2007). In the rural communities of Sierra Leone, women make up just 16% of primary and 8% of secondary school teachers.

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

Training teachers in Sierra Leone

The project that we support aims to achieve two key outcomes: improve the quality of education for girls, and increase retention rates for girls. 275 young women who have successfully completed Plan's ongoing programme to train as classroom learning assistants will receive further support to become qualified teachers. Their previous training prepared them for the three-year teacher training course and is designed to help them achieve a teaching qualification. 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 women 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. By providing the opportunity and support for these women to enter teacher training college, we will improve their prospects and make a positive impact on the learning of the girls they will teach for years to come.

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Margaret, pictured above, middle row, says the programme has provided her "with a new focus".

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.

"Men learn negative stereotypes at school – female teachers can stop this." Mammy Queen, Community Leader, Kenema

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.