On 8th and 15th September 2016, AdvocAid coordinated and celebrated the graduation of newly empowered female inmates in Makeni, Kono, Kenema and Freetown Female Correctional Centres. A total of 42 inmates were graduating from an intensive education programme run by AdvocAid and facilitated by EducAid, which gives thorough adult literacy & numeracy classes to inmates throughout the year.
AdvocAid seeks to stop the cycle of illiteracy by delivering literacy classes to women in detention, providing them with stronger prospects and a brighter future upon release. The classes are delivered by AdvocAid’s educational partner, EducAid. EducAid teaches three comprehensive and intensive classes per week for the different literacy levels, on a termly basis, with a graduation upon completion. The classes take place within correctional centres across the country in Freetown, Makeni, Kenema and Koidu City (Kono).
For this momentous event, 108 people in Freetown Correctional Centre gathered together in the heat of the sun to celebrate the graduation of 23 women. AdvocAid’s Programme Manager Julie M. Sesay introduced the purpose of the graduation and welcomed everyone profusely. Guests included the Executive Director of EducAid Miriam Mason Sesay, British Council Country Director Simon Ingram – Hill, EducAid teachers, correctional centre staff, media personnel and all inmates.
In her opening statement, AdvocAid Executive Director Simitie Lavaly said that the training will serve as a key way for these women to integrate into society. This was followed by EducAid Executive Director Miriam Mason-Sesay, who in her statement emphasised how the inmates should never give up and that education was the way forward. She used her own life story to demonstrate how education brought her to the position she is in today, and made sure to inspire all the guests with her powerful words. Mr Simon Ingram – Hill, Director of the British Council in Sierra Leone, explained how different agencies such as the British Council and the European Union supported the education programme that AdvocAid were running. In Kenema, the key note address was given by Deputy Mayor Kenema, Esther Guanya Kaisamba. In Makeni, after statements were delivered by the Prison Manager and representatives from CAHSEC, WOFDHR, UNIMARK, an inmate took to the chalk board to demonstrate her new skills. In Kono, the Inspector of Schools gave the key note address with important members of the local Police Force present.
Across the country, 23 women in Freetown, 10 women from Kenema, 5 in Makeni and 4 in Kono were presented with graduation certificates and annual report cards detailing their progress. The laminated certificates, proudly given to the inmates, will allow the women to move to the next stage or, when released, demonstrate the schooling they have received to continue education or find employment.
One of the inmates who graduated on this special day is Serah, a Level 3 graduate. She has been detained in the Freetown Correctional Centre for a year and two months. About the significance of the graduation day, she said: ‘I go to the classes twice a week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and I enjoy them very much. The teacher is always polite and encourages us to come. I come to the classes because I didn’t want to sit idle, I wanted to learn something new and improve myself. With the certificate I will take it out after I finish my sentence, and continue my education with EducAid. I choose to learn because in society, if you cannot read or write, you are left out, and I know that once I leave I will feel more part of society. I will also be able to help my child to read. When you sit here in the lesson, you can forget what you are in here for, and just devote time to learning. I want to encourage and inspire other women to take up the classes, and show that it is not too late to learn’.