The Sierra Leonean government organizes a National Primary School Examination every year and this year, the country recorded the largest number of candidates in the country’s history. Even more fascinating is the fact that, out of almost 150,000 candidates, Gisele Akibo-Betts came in first, 25 years after her mother also came in first writing the same examination.
There has also been a national effort to promote girl-child education, so the authorities are ecstatic as the three top scores for the examination were from female candidates and there were six girls in total in the top ten scores. Additionally, out of the four regions, female candidates topped four.
When the results were announced on the radio, everyone was by it and a confident Giselle said she did not know how to feel. She came in highest with a total score of 367. “My parents were more hyped up than me – my mum cried!,” the 11-year-old told BBC Focus on Africa radio.
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“I feel very excited, I feel very happy, something came off my shoulders I just felt so much more relaxed after the results came out.”
Giselle attributes her success to her parents and Binta, her mother, believes her smartness is genetic because both she and her father, Alfred, and even their parents excelled in school as well. Also, both their mother, that is, Giselle’s grandmothers, are teachers.
“One thing we always instill in her is ‘just do your best. We’re proud of you'”, Binta added.
When asked what her secret to acing such a national examination was, Binta said even though Giselle is an organized and independent young lady, the added structure given her contributed to her success.
“What we try to help her with is structure,” said Binta, “and we put a lot of emphasis on relaxing – because I feel the kids are already pressured enough.”
This school year has been particularly challenging for students as the pandemic caused the closure of schools which resulted in virtual classes for most people. That also came with its own set of problems, from data to having devices to even use.
Regardless of these adverse conditions, Education Minister David Sengeh said this year’s results are the highest recorded in the examinations in the last five years. Sengeh said he was “extremely proud” of the performance of all the candidates.
“There was uncertainty, lost learning time, emotional challenges and this year was the largest ever number NPSE candidates in our history, yet your cohort has had the highest individual scores in the last five years. We believed in you and you have not let us down,” he said.
When asked what she wants to be in the future, Giselle said she wants to be a gynecologist because she loves babies and her mother had also lost two babies. She added that nobody deserves to die before they can even experience life.