Since Kofi and I got back, I have not had the heart to send him back to the local school he had been attending. He has been dreading going back as he really has been spoilt for it by the wonderful, positive, creative environment that he has been exposed to in the UK on various visits but in particular to St Simon’s in Stockport. His attendance was due to be somewhat disrupted for a couple more weeks anyway, so I have been home schooling him again while we work it out. He infinitely prefers this to the sit and copy education available nearby and I enjoy him being around too. I do not, however, see myself cut out for life as a primary school teacher. I do not have the patience! It is becoming the means though, for me to educate myself so that I can start really tackling the quality of what we offer in our Maronka primary school.
I am, at the moment, staying in Maronka during a week of training at Rolal. Sleeping outside in the open air school, to be woken by swarms of overactive weaver birds, is very enjoyable. We have been doing some additional training with the primary school teachers in the evenings and they are excited at using new phonics materials and getting their kids more confident at working out new words and reading independently; at using new techniques for developing the pupils’ listening and speaking competence; at finding ways of developing creativity. How fantastic if we can stop playing catch up at secondary school and can, instead, get our youngsters to a universally acceptable standard of literacy, thinking, creativity and so on from primary onwards. This is currently not happening in any school in the country, with the possible exception of the American School i.e. not for the average Sierra Leonean at all.
Maronka has a new building on its way too. We are very appreciative of the donors’ efforts but do really wonder why they were unwilling to discuss at all the layout of the building and whether what they proposed suited our needs. We will of course be very happy to have the use of a purpose built school with walls and windows!!! In order to use it fully however, we will have to do some significant adaptations. It is interesting that despite all the literature, research and global discussions, a lot of aid is still done to the beneficiaries, rather than in consultation with them.
Work on the teacher training programme continues to dominate. EducAid Rolal is the venue for the training of the Port Loko Teachers College lecturers this week. The reception of new ideas has been encouraging and because this programme is on a much more modest scale, we are able to really emphasise the point of the workshop. The workshop culture here has completely undermined people’s value for new ideas and the opportunity for development. So many NGOs run so many workshops that they have become very seriously devalued. Many people attend workshops because there will be a good lunch and decent per diems. They have no intention whatsoever of changing their practice or behaviour as a result. In this case, however, there are no per diems, the lunch is modest and the accommodation cramped. We are therefore far more confident, than with the big NGO sponsored workshops, that we have got the people that care with us this time.
In Rolal too, construction starts this week, of a new senior secondary school: a very significant step forward for Rolal and for EducAid. This project has however been designed entirely by us and for our needs.
We have had very positive meetings too, this week, with some potential partners in development who will hopefully be funding EducAid to run a new school near Waterloo. Rogbere is on the way from Freetown to Magbeni so just about feasible within the weekly day trip tour of the current schools. The school is to be called the Rogbere School of Excellence. We will be delighted to bring this to reality. Initial relationships on this project were somewhat strained due to a number of misunderstandings. We were so pleased therefore, to find that the Rogbere community had sent a spy to check EducAid out and discovered that we were providing something they would definitely like to have access to. After many false starts, this surreptitious initiative ended up being the foundation for all the next stages.
So many steps forward…Please God, they will have an impact on the real problems that suppress the citizens of this country. We strongly believe in education as a destroyer of poverty. I hope that time will prove us right as we strive to provide better and better quality and thinking education to the poor and vulnerable here.