Monday, November 30, 2009

Women and education in Sierra Leone

My recurring problem: how to get strong women to teach the girls and provide a positive role model.

The women who should be teachers by now have not been invested in at the appropriate ages in the past. Accordingly, finding women to recruit as teachers is a real problem. Sadly, even when we find and want to recruit female graduates we have discovered that, in the main, they are not willing to actually do any work at all as they consider themselves above such things. Also shocking is the academic standard of many of them. I have learned that, for so many women, it is quite possible to sleep their way to success so why would they work hard with that option available to them!!!!

EducAid now has 5 women teachers of varying levels of education but with the right attitude and 3 female ex-EducAid students who teach across the three secondary schools. Of these, 3 have the appropriate qualifications and the remaining 5 will start the distance Higher Teachers' Certificate [all being well!] in the new year.

Sierra Leonean women have mostly been raised in the context of nobody believing in them, nobody expecting anything from them, not believing in themselves, significantly underachieving themselves and therefore they struggle, with the best will in the world, to be the role models we need them to be to the girls in their care.

Training for the female staff this time round was centred on the inspirational model of Ginger in 'Chicken Run'. Between lots of pep talks, occasional threats, much coaxing and a fair bit of fun, maybe we will get there!
The whole female staff team in training.

Friday, November 27, 2009

We're back

Still out of breath after the whirlwind tour organised by Jan and Anne [my long-suffering diary arrangers] Kofi and I are now back in Sierra Leone. It was hectic, but it needed to be and there are many positives from the trip in terms of new fund-raising initiatives and support.

There was a very encouraging meeting of all the UK volunteers - the management committee in the morning, joined by a good number of other supporters in the afternoon and for the first time everyone was able to put a face to the names generally flitting about by email. [Anyone who would like to be part of such a meeting in the future, please do let us know!]. Strangely, large chunks of N22, where the meeting was held, had gone out in empathy with Sierra Leone and had a power cut - a bit chillier in the UK when that happens though.
The Management Committee.

If we can get the engineer to flesh out his time line and 'flesh in' his labour costs, we have a commitment for the funding of a new senior secondary building in Rolal - fantastic news which will result in significant reduction in the pressure experienced in Freetown each year when up-country EducAid students have had to come to the capital to continue their education.

An exciting new initiative, master-minded by Alex Ehegartner [you can see why his pupils call him Mister E / mystery!] of Stockport Grammar School, is gathering momentum and getting interest from other areas too. The 'Link My Schools' project , with the motto 'Stockport Schools working as 1 on 1 initiative' is linking a growing number of schools, largely organised by their student councils, to work on curriculum and fund-raising projects to learn from and about EducAid and Sierra Leone while supporting us at the same time. []

Jimiyke is still undergoing tests, but preliminary results seem positive. He has been speaking to schools and motivating them in their endeavours on EducAid's behalf and impressing people with his quiet confidence as he speaks of his past and of EducAid's role in helping him to a new life.

He is also seeking to improve his English and ICT skills. We have skeleton plans for a whole ICT programme of work experience and exposure. He is looking forward to having lots of new knowledge and skills to take home with him to Sierra Leone. [For those new to Jimiyke's story please read the post on 22nd May 09, 8th, 16th & 28th July, 11th Nov and/or follow the link to:]
Jimiyke tucking in to his 'white man chop' with great enthusiasm.
St Simon's RC primary school, which hosts Kofi whenever we are in Stockport, have been modelling interactive learning in the early years so that I can go and convert the Maronka teachers. They are hard working and caring, but will greatly benefit from some ideas on how to get kids imaginative and creative.
St Simon's students modelling active learning, to help with training of Maronka staff.

We have a couple of visitors at the moment:
Pat Payton is on loan from the UK, post retirement and is working very hard with the science department and getting ready to train the staff in detection and support of dyslexic students.

And also Brother James of the Korean Kottongnae Community has been visiting to see, as part of their mission to the poor and abandoned, what they might be able to do to support EducAid - exciting possibilities!

Up-country today, and training the female EducAid staff tomorrow, it is as if we never went away.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jimiyke in shock!

The 'Welcome Jimiyke to UK' fireworks in Battersea Park!
At long last, Jimiyke is in the UK ready to be assessed for treatment. Thanks to the hard work and generosity of many.
He was given a horrible time in the airport. His ticket had somehow or other bypassed the system and there was no boarding pass for him. After two hours of battling for his right to get on the flight, he was eventually given a hand-written boarding pass and allowed on [better than the 7 others behind him who were sent back for another night to stay in a hotel!]
He survived the trauma of his first escalator with dignity and maintained his vertical position. The first week has been spent getting used to the food, the transport, the 24/7 electricity, the fireworks displays and comparing notes on skype with Issa in China.
Next week he starts the medical stuff. Our prayers and thoughts are with him.
[For those new to Jimiyke's story please read the post on 22nd May 09, 8th, 16th & 28th July and/or follow the link to:]

For more information about EducAid's work please go to:

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Just to share a little taste of our tropical joys.....

Fancy a bit of this on your shoulder?

'Champion' is the local name for a little black and red acid fly. Kofi has a little scrape on his shoulder too and they have been walking on my face as well. How delightful.

It may be cold, grey, miserable and wet back in the UK but at least there will be no champion flies! UK and fundraising, here we come.
'champion' all over my shoulder - uggh!

Monday, November 2, 2009

And another one.....

The sun rising over the Malama Hills - the view from EducAid Lumley [Freetown].
A couple of weeks ago, I posted Juldeh's success and consequent plight on the blog. He had gained a place at Fourah Bay College, successfully saved £250 over the year [almost unheard of here] and was in the happy position of needing an additional £250 plus maintenance to make engineering studies become a reality.

Through the generosity of some friends of EducAid, he has achieved this first step of his dream and he is now part of the FBC engineering department. Well done Juldeh and thank you to his supporters.

Today, another of our young junior staff came to see me with a similar story. Emmanuel Bai Sesay has gained a place at IPAM [The Institute of Public Administration Management] to study Applied Accounting and has saved £200 of the £400 he requires. He has achieved this by working as a driver by night and a teacher by day, despite his father suddenly disowning him last year and refusing him further accommodation and support.

It is these little pictures of courage and determination that make it quite impossible to turn our backs on these young people. While they continue the fight, we must continue beside them.

Congratulations Emmanuel and good luck.

Meanwhile, if anyone is in the position to help with fees or maintenance, we will be extremely grateful.

For more information about EducAid's work, please see

Go Girls Go!

The Women's Project started in Lumley, Freetown in March 2006. Its target beneficiaries were girls who wanted to go to secondary school but, for whatever reason, were not at an appropriate academic standard. The project started with 18 girls and Henrietta Sandi [lead women's project teacher] and her colleagues went looking for more every afternoon, until the class was full and overfull.

For many of these girls, school was a discipline that was a complete shock. It was also counter to so many of the expectations surrounding them. In Sierra Leone, horribly, there are many girls who see education as a backwards step for women, as the men will not want you if you think you are smart etc etc.

We are extremely proud, therefore, of Kadiatu Tholley, Mabinty S Bangura and Hassanatu Sheriff [pictured below] who have battled against the prejudices and the difficult home circumstances, and have successfully moved from the Women's Project into the main stream school and on into the examination class. They sat the BECE [Basic Education Certificate Examination] in July and having just gained their results, are pushing on into the senior secondary classes.

We wish them every success and all courage in their on-going studies.