English is the official language and the language of instruction in Sierra Leone. Teachers know that it is not their students' first language, but many do not know how to teach an additional language effectively. As a result, many students only learn to write compositions by rote: by memorizing model English texts.
Through its Seli River Writing Project and at no cost to schools or students, the Sentinel English Language Institute (SELI) offers 10-20-year-old students in ten rural schools across the country, the chance to write their own personal experiences in after-school ESL process-writing workshops. For those who attend Young Writers clubs regularly, a light comes on! They acquire English reading, writing, listening and speaking skills and their cognition and cultural awareness opens up. For them, the experience is life-changing.
Since the clubs started in 2008, members have been telling the SELI director, Jacqueline Leigh (who has been teaching ESL in Sierra Leone since the 1970's)
"At first, I could not write for myself, but now I can sit down and think and write!"
"The SELI Young Writers club is for you: when you write, you have the benefit."
"It helps us learn good English. I am bold now in public meetings!"
"We can show our talent!"
"It makes me think about my home and the past."
"I get new ideas for writing every day."
"Now I know how to make a book."
"I think I can be a good author!"
Help the SELI director continue to gift these students with written voices by
—traveling to mentor teachers in these rural clubs, as far as the Koinadugu and Falaba Districts;
—paying the minimal monthly (October-May) stipends to the two teachers running each club; and
—providing annual facilitator training and refresher workshops