Fact file


Founders' Day: 7th December, Feast of Patron saint, St Ambrose, after whom the School Chapel is named.


Motto: 'Fortis, Fidelis et Justus' calls on students and teachers to be 'strong and courageous, loyal and faithful, fair and just.'


YSS Crest: The icon represents the descent of the Holy Spirit on the mountains of Kono and Sierra Leone


YSS was the first Catholic school in Kono District, northern third of Kenema Diocese. Today the Bishop is +Patrick Daniel Koroma. The school was founded on the Centenary of the Spiritan Fathers' arrival in Sierra Leone.


Our school is located in Yengema's Catholic Parish of Christ the King [PP: Rev Fr Michael Joko Josiah] but draws students from a much wider catchment area.


Given the predominantly Muslim population of Kono and Sierra Leone, YSS has always welcomed Muslim students, together with Catholic, United Methodist and other Christian denominations. The school's Spiritan ethos is enriched by the religious diversity.




Founding Principal: Rev Fr Thomas Raymond Barry CSSp (1964-1974)


Second Principal: Mr Gabriel Henry Amara (1974-1980)


Third Principal: Mr Sahr Joseph Gando (1980-2008)


Fourth Principal: Mr Sahr E. Nanoh (2008 - 2016 )

Fifth  Principal Senior School:  Boma

Fifth Principal Junior School: Fr. Joko

Current Acting Principal: David Njawa


Directors of Girls' Division: Sister Andre Aubuchon & her successors from School Sisters of Notre Dame (1973 - 1995)



YSS Golden Jubilee 7th December 2014                                Latest news: YOSA International coalition of Alumni prepare to launch Eddie Finnegan Challenge


A Word from our Patron saint, St Ambrose 

"You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his.  You have been claiming as yours things that are meant  for the common use of everyone. The Earth belongs to everyone, not just to the rich."    

-Sermon on Naboth's Vineyard                        




About Yengema Secondary School

1964 - 1974

Yengema Secondary School (YSS) was founded and opened on 7th December 1964 by the Holy Ghost Fathers led by Father Thomas Raymond Barry (1932-2005), the school's first principal (see Father Barry's biography below). Father Barry spent 10 years indomitably building the school and its facilities. Regularly going beyond the call of duty, fundraising and campaigning, until he and the school's world class team of teachers, hailing from Sierra Leone and all corners of the globe, had

succeeded in creating an oasis of learning.

The Golden Years

​At its peak in 1974 YSS had everything from fully equipped physics, chemistry and biology labs, the best stocked library in the area, a poultry, animal husbandry, agriculture department, bookshop, carpentry workshop, landscaped grounds and fields, a boarding home attended by students from several countries in Africa, a clay oven bakery, tennis and volleyball courts, electricity and running water, film shows, fantastic sports days and a school experience any child anywhere would envy.


Students were sent from far and wide to attend the school - in fact the current Namibian High Commissioner to London, his excellency George M. Liswaniso, is an ex-student, as is his Grace Edward Tamba Charles, Archbishop of Freetown; Sahr John Yambasu, Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Goverment ministers, UN officials and many more.  Quite simply, YSS was considered the best Secondary School in Kono and the first choice for many when taking their 11+ selective entrance exams. The school provided extremely stiff competition to the most prestigious schools in Sierra Leone and set high standards for them to follow. 

After the Sierra Leone Conflict - 2002 onwards

​​​​In 2002, after 10 years of war and destruction in Sierra Leone, member of parliament Hon Aiah S Fasuluku MP visited what was left of the school and had this photo taken:​​​




​After the conflict the school was used as a combatants disarmament camp. Since 2002 there have been combined efforts by; the Catholic Mission, ex-students and teachers, Kono District Council and central government, NGO's including the Millennium IT fund and World Vision among others, to restore basic school functions. The roofs of the main buildings and classrooms have been repaired, and a new science block has been built by the District Council. A complete  IT suite with PC's printers, photocopier etc, has been donated to the school thanks to the efforts of an ex-student Finda Koroma (old girl of KGSS) as a result YSS now serves as a computer training centre for the district. The school received a complete brass band from World Vision at the end of 2011 thanks to the efforts of former students.

However, apart from the buildings, there is minimal infrastructure. With the exception of the ICT lab and new library created by YSSOSTFA, none of the classrooms (including the science block) have anything in them except basic benches and a blackboard. There is a tiny electricity generator to run the ICT equipment for short periods, or to provide lighting for evening studies or adult education courses. There is no piped water supply. Girls suffer at a severe disadvantage at the school and child safeguarding, gender equality and  pregnancies are issues. Standards of teaching and learning need to be raised urgently across the country and YSS is no exception. Students' percieved lack of access to a good education and career prospects, has led to large scale disillusionment and low morale, putting the school in direct competition with the artisanal diamond mining industry. While the school, its partners and YSSOSTFA are already making efforts to combat social problems and barriers to learning, there is a​ dire need for more community, student and staff outreach and sensitisation on issues including the value of education, health, child protection, female rights and gender equality, sex education and poverty alleviation, among other things.​ ​



2010 to 2019: "To Honour Our Past We Build Their Future"

​​The Yengema Secondary School Old Students, Teachers and Friends Association feels strongly about all these issues. In our recent letter to the school we stated:  "Though many years may have passed, none of us old students, teachers and volunteers can ever forget our beloved school YSS. Those of us who are old students cannot forget our experiences of our school, the values we learned, or the effect YSS had on us in our early years. We cannot sit by without assisting our school as it struggles to provide the same experiences and resources we enjoyed to the present generation of students​. It is our intention to work to honour our past and re-build our future. The current students of YSS are our future, and those of us who are grown must invest heavily in them."​

YSSOSTFA's priorities include increasing the capability of teachers to provide higher standards of education to students and surrounding communities, rehabilitation of infrastructure including buildings, equipment and teaching materials​, motivating students to stay in school instead of working in the diamond mines, child protection and gender equality, among other things.

2020 to present

A broad range of YOSA organisations YSS  international alumni and the school administration and governors have come together to cooperate since the replacement of the schools previous principal. During the SARSCOV2 pandemic, members formed an international coalition and have held a number of planning and brainstorming meetings via Zoom.


As of June 2021, seven working groups have now developed project plans and budgets for the following areas; 

  • Teaching and learning, 

  • Classroom readiness

  • Security and student safeguarding

  • Teachers accommodation

  • Electricity 

  • Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

  • Fundraising and partnerships


In the meantime, ex head of English in the 60's and early 70's and ex vice principal Eddie Finnegan has issued a challenge to the thousands of YSS alumni who have graduated from the school over the last almost 6 decades. If every alumnus contributes just 100 US dollars the schools standards and future and SDG4 targets for a quality education will be assured at the school for generations.


The YOSA International coalition are launching our 2021 appeal and the Eddie Finnegan Challenge on 31st July 2021, please join us on Zoom

Stay connected with YOSA International by interacting with us on Facebook Twitter, WhatsApp or by phone or email. See contact details on our Programme Page.

Biography of founder and first principal: Father Thomas Raymond Barry 1932-2005

“Irish Spiritans Remembered, Part 1” by Seàn P. Farragher, C.S.Sp. © Paraclete Press


"Ray was born at Drumheriff, Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim, on December 29th 1932. After his secondary school studies at Presentation College, Carrick-on-Shannon he entered the Novitiate in Kilshane where he made his first profession on 8th September 1951. In 1954 he was awarded a B.A. from U.C.D and in 1955 the H. Dip in Ed. He prefected at St. Michael’s College for the years1954-’56. Ray studied theology at Fribourg where he received a B.D. in 1958 and S.T.L. in 1960. He was ordained to the Priesthood on 19th July 1959 and made his Consecration to the Apostolate on 17th July 1960. In 1960 Father Ray’s first appointment was to Sierra Leone where he was a teacher and chaplain at St. Edward’s Secondary School, Freetown. In 1962 he was appointed as Vice-Principal at St. Paul’s Secondary School, Pujehun. From 1964 until 1974 he was Headmaster at Yengema Secondary School. In 1974 Fr. Ray took a sabbatical at the Institute Catholique, Paris. He returned to Sierra Leone in 1976 and became Director of the Pastoral Center at Kenema and later served at St. Kizito’s Seminary in Kenema. On leaving the seminary and Sierra Leone in 1993 the class of 1992/’93 wrote:
“Fr. Barry, You have been a loving father to the church in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Gambia for the past thirty-two years of your life. Now that you are leaving us we wish you God’s richest blessings and protection wherever you go. Thanks”.
"In 1994 Fr. Ray was appointed to the Generalate in Rome as Director of Information Services. On the 1st January 2002 Fr. Ray took up his new appointment as Irish Provincial Archivist. For the past year Ray had not been fully well and had been admitted to hospital a number of times for treatments and on-going tests. He died 22nd February 2005 in Mission House, Kimmage Manor. He is buried in the community plot in the cemetery at Dardistown, Co. Dublin​"





by Eddie Finnegan


Fr Ray Barry made his final visit to Sierra Leone and Yengema Secondary School in March-April 2004. He reported back to us at a reunion of old YSS colleagues in Dublin at the end of June 2004. The gathering included his first Vice-Principal, Fr John Flavin, and about sixteen former YSS teachers with their spouses: Irish, US Peace Corps Volunteers, and VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). Sadly, Fr Barry died eight months later.        EF

YSS Assembly taken by Matt Flannigan