Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We were initially disappointed but.....

5th in the country in the WASSCE [West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination] this year! .............

We still don't have the full picture as the overall results have not been sent to the schools yet, but a few of our students have accessed their results on line [great new facility here!]. On the whole, we have not been as impressed as we are used to being. We were conscious of a couple of issues which would have contributed to this being the case but even so.....

So, we were somewhat astonished to hear over the radio that we have come 5th in the country. It does rather tell us that the standard countrywide is not what it should be. It does also tell us that despite competing with the privileged and protected, our students, who come from some quite extraordinarily difficult circumstances and deprivation are achieving extremely well relative to general expectations. We continue to push for greater excellence and to combat all that will hold our students back and we will not be satisfied until we see all our students achieving their full potential, but meanwhile we are gently encouraged by their achievements despite the challenges.

We understand too that one of our students has one of the highest results in the country with 9 credits. We don't know who it is yet but, well done whoever!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The team rallies round

Saturday morning, when school kids all over the world enjoy a bit of a lie in and some time out.... EducAid Lumley was action stations. No dragooning, no Alhassan directing proceedings. There was a last minute request and they sorted themselves into teams: water fetching, 'bailing' of sand and buying of cement. The downstairs classroom was cleared and a production line set up. A couple of hours later and we had 250 bricks ready for the store construction.
Meanwhile in the new workshop, under the store to be, Murray and Mambu started work on a new set of tables and benches to accommodate the additional numbers we have acquired in the admissions process.

A great idea

I just thought I would share with you about something positive that we have been fortunate to benefit from.

The inspiration of Kate Humble [of Bradt Travel Guides], the www.stuff your website enables goodwilled travellers to go on their travels equipped with the necessary information to make maximum use of the spaces in their rucksacks.
We were the recipients a couple of weeks ago - I am only just picking up on everything now - of an exciting pile of carefully selected dvds and books to get our kids thinking. Thank you Kirsten [inspired traveller]. Thank you 'stuff your rucksack'.
Things to get them thinking!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beginning again.....

I have not been away from Sierra Leone for this long [5 weeks] since Kofi was born. It is very comforting to note how well the leadership team and the staff in general have developed since then. Lots of excellent work has been done and real professionalism and commitment has been demonstrated. We are very proud of the excellence of our staff. Few, if any, schools in Sierra Leone can boast of such a team.
Whole Staff training.

Back in the UK, there have been so many kindnesses from so many people. Kofi will be quite shocked to hit reality after the treats and presents he has received [knights parties, knight outfit and playsets, cars, Legoland, Brighton Pier, sheepdog trials complete with archery competitions, beautiful books and toys....] He also had a fantastic few days at St Simon's Primary School, where they could not be kinder in their absorption of him into all the Reception Class activities.
Spot the serious schoolboy!

And now it is time to find a new way forward. Kofi and I are returning to Sierra Leone, to formulate new plans and pick up the pieces, tomorrow. The witchcraft accusations still flourish but I trust the 'dreams' will have died down. There is so much real stuff to deal with, I hope it is going to be possible to get past the nonsense and get on with reality.

A very helpful step in preparing for our departure was last Saturday. A small group of assorted but dynamic women had a very creative day, making Girl Power Group materials for the network of young women we are starting to develop. There are three groups in Sierra Leone and we hope that many of our partner schools in the UK and elsewhere will also start their own groups and start inspiring each other to achieve something closer to their potential. For more information follow this link:
Please pray for us as we go back to Sierra Leone without Alhassan's day to day guidance, protection and support.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Paris to Brussels in 3 days on Bikes! Whatever can we have been thinking of?!!!

Heading off from a re-sugar pit-stop.

What a weekend!

49 cyclists of all levels of stamina, fitness and map reading ability! The miles grew as the days went by and a breakdown of 65, 85 and 40 miles over the three days, gently extended themselves into 77, 98 and 43 and the figures do not even begin to conjure up an accurate picture of the physical ordeal undertaken. There was a hideous headwind which meant that even going down hill we were pedalling and only managing 7 or 8 miles an hour at times. We found probably the most corrugated bits of Europe through which to cycle so every time we got to the top of one hill we could see the other up-coming summits beckoning in the distance and to top all of this we had mountains of cake and flapjack to work our way through! Quite amazing and very impressive were the youngsters in the group: the fourteen year olds who flew up hill and down dale with apparent ease but who dropped asleep between courses at supper!

Comical moments included when poor Georgia, innocently re-sugaring after a long series of hills, suddenly let out a howl of indignation when a very indifferent dog walked up to her and peed up her leg! and when happy chatty Max, happily chatted his way straight into a bollard with a signpost on top of it, moments after Rudi, the guide, had warned us about them and then finally as we staggered off the Eurostar at St Pancras like, as Swithun pointed out, something from the 'Ministry of Funny Walks'.

Maybe more impressive than the physical achievement though [although definitely not to be belittled!], were the many kindnesses shown: those, who capable of much greater speeds, plodded at the back with the slower ones and raised morale with jokes, chat and the occasional push; those who cooked the fantastic cakes and sugar fuel for the numerous pit-stops; those who entertained an inexhaustible Kofi, the ever smiling support teams and the extraordinary, omnipresent, problem solving Broadhursts.

For me, the physical stuff was way beyond my fitness levels but considerably harder was Alhassan's absence. The funeral and the memorial service were impossible, unreal events that should not have been happening anyway. The bike ride was something he was excited about and proud to be doing. The absence, therefore, of his enjoyment of what would have been his first trip into Europe was painful beyond anything yet.

I understand that most of the cyclists had, alongside the training, got pledges of quite significant amounts. We hope to have raised a good chunk of money [the final figure is not yet known] towards day to day expenses in the projects in Sierra Leone. While I have been in refuge back in the UK, much has happened in Sierra Leone. The summer school has been and gone. The staff have tested hundreds of potential new students. [We become each year more shocked at the deplorable standard of the students coming to us from the nearby primary schools!] Remedial classes have been put in place to avoid turning so many away. And finally, the supplies for the new term, which started today, have been distributed to all locations. The needs are never ending.
Triumphant on arrival!
A fantastic job done by all involved: organisers, cyclists, supporters, drivers, cooks and more. Thank you all! Thank you on behalf of the EducAid family in the UK and thank you even more from the youngsters in Sierra Leone to whom you are giving the invaluable and life-giving gift of education.

Anybody who wishes to sponsor us and who has not yet done so can find all the details by following this link:
If you do make a donation on-line, please could you notify James Boardman or me on or for tracking purposes. Thank you once again.

For more information about EducAid, please visit

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And Counting...

Early Friday morning. The bikes are in situ en France. We are waiting for the taxi to take us to a 'silly o'clock' Eurostar and then off we all go.

50 people aiming to raise a sizable amount for EducAid.

Tears in my eyes and a heavy heart as I remember our happy plans to do this together. Once again it is Kofi that helps out by pointing out that he is nearly ''to the top of my towel'' and will protect me and look after me when I am in danger or sad.

Let's just hope we all catch that Sunday evening train home and all in one piece each!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

D-day approaches fast

Plenty of adrenaline coursing through the veins of many a Paris-Brussels participant and supporter. Phil, the bike man, had no space in his shop this morning for all the bikes he was MOTing and making safe. Janet B has not slept lying down, I don't think, in about a month with organising routes, drivers and maps. Janet L is cooking up flapjacks, banana cakes and the likes in vast quantities, as I write..... and so on and so on.

The cyclists bit is the easy bit - buy up all the gel saddles, padded shorts, sudocrem [Phil assures us it is a must for tender behinds!] and, most importantly, ibuprofen we can get our hands on!

Most of the bikes are already packed and ready for off. The vans leave on Thursday and Friday is D-day. Eurostar for the cyclists at 6 a.m. ready for a 10 something departure from the Gare du Nord.

If you haven't sponsored anyone yet, please do follow the link: and make your contribution!

The end of the last big EducAid bike ride: London to Paris 2007.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thank You All, Once Again!

What a day!

When people suggested that I organise a memorial service for Alhassan in the UK, having already undergone one funeral, I was not greatly excited at the prospect. However, Saturday's turnout was really quite moving. It was a lovely service and I was touched by the numbers of people who made the effort to come from various parts of the country to celebrate Alhassan's life and acknowledge his impact on their lives. Equally, I was more than moved by the amazing £2000 that was donated. It will be possible with such a generous figure to do something significant in Alhassan's memory for EducAid. Thank you all once again for your support, your generosity and your affection for Alhassan, Kofi and me. We would be even more lost without you all.

Many of you had spotted my 'Dress Code' comments and so there were quite a few colours around - thank goodness! I was particularly proud though of my little knight in shining armour [on his way to a King Arthur party] and I know Alhassan would have been too!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Dress Code

Somebody asked me the other day if they should dress in black for Alhassan's memorial service tomorrow. It will not be a fun occasion, but please let us not make it any more dismal than it already is. Sierra Leonean funeral white is a good sight better than British funeral black, but in general I think brightly coloured shorts, T-shirts and flipflops will most nearly express Alhassan's preferred dress code!

We look forward to seeing you there if you are able to make it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Balancing the bad with the good

I have always maintained that if I look too often at the big picture in Sierra Leone, I would be so daunted that I would pack my bags and go home, but what keeps me sane and keeps me going is the little picture - the individuals who make such good use of the opportunities given to them.
If ever that was true before, it is definitely true now. I am incredibly daunted at the thought of going back to Sierra Leone without my rock, my protector, my guide..... but it is still true that the little picture makes it possible.
One little picture: Today, Issa Fowai, our second student to gain a scholarship to China for tertiary studies left Freetown. He was in competition with over 70 other youngsters in Sierra Leone and is the only one to have been selected. We are very proud of him and all that he has achieved. We wish him all the very best in the coming 5 years.