Our vocational colleges are not just about skills, they’re about life knowledge and how to survive.Director, Helga Sellu
Currently there are 92 (46 Waterloo, 46 Koindu) students, all except 8, being women, making these vocational institutes unique in Sierra Leone.
A fragile economy
Currently Sierra Leone ranks 137th out of 146 countries in the Gender Equality Index, and is almost bottom in the Human Development Index, ranking 180th out of 187 countries.
There is very little social mobility or financial security, with 60% of the country living on less than 90p a day (the legal minimum wage is meant to be approx. £1.50per day).
One of the problems is here we are raised to pursue marriage and having children as our goal. We are raised to believe our place is behind that of our husbands or fathers or brothers. But what happens when our husbands leave us? Or our fathers can no longer feed us? We are alone.Tutor, Kumba R Sellu Vocational College
Scarily, the proportion of the population that would be devastated by one medical bill is 46% higher in Sierra Leone than the average for Africa.
Structure of courses
The two colleges offer vocational skills courses in either catering, carpentry, hairdressing or tailoring. Apart from carpentry, which involves daily attendance at a functioning joinery workshop, the students complete two days a week learning their chosen skill, two days a week learning handwork skills, and one day a week on life skills.
Here you cannot rely on just your work. You need three or four things going on. We tell our students to save their money and buy a goat, or bulk buy what they need for the month, so they are always thinking ahead. When it comes to what they sell, we tell them to always be thinking about what others are doing, how they can improve, how they can make their product the best.Director, Helga Sellu
Both colleges run Friday ‘sessions’ where the students are counselled on life skills such as communication; personal hygiene; conflict resolution; building self-confidence and self-esteem; and handling themselves with dignity.
These sessions are opportunities to air doubts, personal issues and/or troubles at home, and even talk about past trauma.
No matter what has gone on in their week the students never miss their sessions.Helga Sellu
These sessions also involve careers counselling, supporting students with knowledge and expectations of the different industries. All students receive basic numeracy and literacy skills each morning.
These courses are not just about one vocational skill but about learning survival strategies to be financially secure in a consistently fragile economy.
Support our colleges:
Can you make a one-off payment or monthly donation to keep our colleges open?
We choose to run all our courses at a significant loss to enable as many people as possible to attend, but we can only do this through donor support.
Your vital support is used to cover any unexpected costs, operating overheads, the building fund (both colleges are currently renting premises), and to help students who can normally pay but may be encountering a temporary financial crisis (bursary fund).
Alternatively, we need student sponsors! Please consider helping one of our students with a regular monthly donation of £25.
This donation will cover the costs of materials needed for all their practical exercises. Courses are between two to three years. Updates on sponsored students would be sent three times a year at the conclusion of each term.