By Dauda Bangura – 7th August 2019
Two Sierra Leonean twin girls have made their parents and country proud by excelling academically at the global stage. In 2015, Martha Soko and Mary Digba Tetema Tondoneh took the Basic Examination Certificate Examination (BECE) at the Modern High School, Brookfields in Freetown and scored aggregate 8.
In fact, Martha Soko Tetema Tondoneh had maintained an excellent scorecard as she came first throughout from Class 1 to Senior Secondary School 3.
While attending the Universal World College in Tel Aviv, Israel Martha Soko Tetema Tondoneh wrote a project on the challenges of Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone with special reference to those suffering from eyesight diseases for which she received $1,000 (one thousand dollars) to help 200 Ebola survivors with eyesight difficulties and she is now working with the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors to identify the 200 beneficiaries for which she has procured the eye medicines.
At 17 years, both Martha Soko and Mary Digba Tetema Tondoneh respectively applied for the Universal World College (UWC) scholarships awarded to adolescents between the ages of 16-18 who excel academically worldwide. Upon graduation they are placed in renowned universities globally.
Students in various parts of the world apply for the same scholarship and after a vigorous screening, interview and examination conducted by the UWC National Committee in Sierra Leone at the British Council Hall, Tower Hill in Freetown, Martha Soko and Mary Digba Tetema Tondoneh emerged victorious in first and second positions respectively among the about 5 applicants in Sierra Leone.
However, one of the criteria of UWC is that two applicants from the same biological parents cannot benefit from the scholarship and therefore the applicant who came third was awarded the scholarship.
This discouraged Mary Digba Tetema Tondoneh who refused to go without her twin sister, a development that swiftly mobilized and ignited debate among the family to find the way out.
The elder brother of the twin sisters, who is a medical doctor in America, immediately went into action in search of a scholarship for Mary Digba Tetema Tondoneh that landed her at the Eastern Mediterranean International School (EMIS) in Israel from where she was interviewed online and excelled although her parents have to pay part tuition fees.
EMIS, with the motto, ‘To Make Education a Force for Peace and Sustainability in the Middle East’, is the feeder school to prestigious universities like Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and admits students from all over the world who study online.
Martha Soko and Mary Digba Tetema Tondoneh departed home in early August last year for Israel and Chaghun Province in China separately to study bio-chemistry and will graduate in March 2020. The two schools have the same recognition and facilities.
Mary Digba Tetema Tondoneh is the only black at EMIS and she is quoted in the college’s brochure as saying that “EMIS is not just a place for learning. It is a journey. A journey that challenges you to be the best you can be and see the world in a whole new dimension.”
This medium interviewed various stakeholders who appealed to the Ministry of Higher and Technical Education to formulate a policy to assist students who excel abroad underscoring that this should be a wakeup call for the Ministry.