above: HRSS student Jalahan Sesay - 1968
above: HRSS netball team - 1969 includes L-R: Elizabeth Sama, Cecilia Banya, Agnes Bundu, Josephine ?, Cecelia Ngegba, Mary Fortune, Jalahan Sesay, ? , and ?
above: HRSS students 1969: L-R Elizabeth Karimu, Sabina Tucker, Kulla Kallon
Kenema had at least 3 secondary schools, a government school (boys) called Kenema Secondary School (KSS), a Catholic boy’s school called Holy Trinity, and our newly established girl’s secondary school called Kenema Holy Rosary (HRSS). When we arrived in 1968 the Holy Rosary Sisters had just started HRSS and we were to be its first teachers. The school compound had originally been the compound for what was known as The Kenema Teacher’s Training College (TTC) – a school that was winding down by 1968. Run by the sisters TTC taught young women how to be teachers and was on an expansive and wonderful facility sitting on the outskirts of Kenema just south of Town. The TTC had been very well equipped, very well maintained, with well lit classrooms, a reasonably well equipped library, and also the convent for the sisters, a church, and at one end of the compound a girl’s primary school. In 1968 the Holy Rosary sisters established the HRSS – Kenema as a school to see to it that young women in upcountry Sierra Leone received an education. That first year there was one form and I remember two classes. Most of the girls came from the Eastern Province and although the majority were Mende, there were also other tribes represented including Temne, Susu, Kissy, and Krio. I taught general science, math (or maths as they called it), and was the PE teacher as well as netball coach. I also taught in the TTC. Schools in Sierra Leone varied from religious schools such as we were teaching in to secular schools run by the government (such as KSS). There were a number of other religious (or mission schools) throughout the country variably run by the Methodists, the Evangelical Untied Brethren (EUBs), the Seventh Day Adventists, the Mormons, and the Muslims. We were solely responsible for the secular education portion – the job of religious education fell to the sisters. This may have been a source of stress from time to time for them that we were not active in the religious education – but for us it not only made sense since we were not Catholic – but it also gave us a bit of freedom although at times confusing our friends. Having non-Catholics teaching at a Catholic mission school was not what the sisters preferred, however given that we provided them with two teachers in a start-up school – they tolerated us and we fast became colleagues. Amazingly enough we were given a liberal amount of freedom and leeway in what we taught. Our principal – Sister Miriam – held no all school teacher’s meetings – and seemed happy to allow us to teach what we wanted. She did provide us with the Sierra Leone syllabus so we knew what was expected to be taught according to the ministry of education – but for the most part no one oversaw our classroom work and thus we were left to our own devices. Our sister colleagues were Sister Miriam Tracey, Sister Kathleen Toland, and Sister Doyle - all from Ireland and part of the Holy Rosary Sisters Missionary group. Sister Doyle was new to West Africa like us, a wonderful, friendly, interested red head. She was young like us also but I remember her as well-liked, a wonderful teacher, and although frustrated by things like all of us from time to time, she seemed to love her students and loved to teach. Sister Kathleen (Toland) was older, a veteran of missionary work in West Africa – she had worked in their mission in Nigeria for years before being driven out precipitously from there by the Nigerian (Biafran) War. Lateraling to Sierra Leone – she was a truly wonderful person. She loved her students, she was able to grow from her colonial early roots to African independence – without difficulty. She understood the beat of independence taking place all around us – and was able to deal with it and her position in the big picture. Totally committed to seeing to it that young African women received an education – she was the very best of Holy Rosary sisters.