Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting into the swing of things!

Adrian and Swithun spent their last afternoon seeing the kids at their best: receiving certificates and prizes for community service done, top exam scores achieved, merit certificates earned, being talked through numerous presentations from the various clubs: Science, Girl Power Group, Peer Mediators, Believers in Action, Life Skills Group, Library Society, ICT club and more. This is all stuff you might well expect in a UK school but would be pretty much unheard of elsewhere in Sierra Leone. We can think of no good reason for aiming to have anything other than international standards for our students.

.......Oh and we threw in a bit of communal feeding for them too!

Momodu and Chernor receiving their Gold merit certificates from Swithun. Gold certificates are awarded for 90 merits - A fantastic achievement therefore!
The various clubs put up displays and showed their power-point presentations to the visitors and the staff. Here is the science club with their biology puzzle and solar system.
Yayah explains the restorative justice of the peer mediators to Adrian and Marek [philosophy and maths teacher volunteer].
Adrian gets stuck into 'rice and plassas' with the staff.

Adrian distributed certificates and prizes for the top scorers in the 1st term exams.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ho down for EducAid

Ho down for EducAid!
Mike Ruse [my long-suffering best friend from Uni days] has been do-si-do ing and swinging his partners with the congregation from a nearby church in Southampton on EducAid's behalf.

Much hard work went into the arrangements and we are very appreciative. We promise to spend the proceeds well!

Amazing what people will do for charity! Last time I saw him, he was bald!

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work, please contact

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Big Boss is in Town

So....Jimiyke is back with a clean bill of health and very happy to see his friends again here. They were very excited to welcome him home! It has been an amazing experience but at times some serious homesickness. He is back, now, teaching in the IT room while working out his own next steps.
Swithun explains stuff. He likes explaining.
And, Swithun [founder of EducAid and my baby brother] and Adrian Carr [long-term fundraiser and supporter of EducAid] are in town too.
Swithun and Adrian in spectator mode in Magbeni.
The African Society perform their dance and drama.
Inside the new Rogbere building. Quite hot so let's hope we can persuade the builders to put a ceiling in!
Happily, Swithun, in his role as the big boss, is not too difficult a task master and he is actually very encouraged by the progress of the project since his last visit 3 and a half years ago. They have been shown everything. They have checked out the new building in Rogbere which EducAid are to be contracted to run as of September. They have observed plays about the White Ribbon Campaign [please see], an international campaign of men against violence against women, about girls' education about social studies, the African Society and more. They have been questioned and quizzed by staff and students and the Maronka community as a whole but seem to be bearing up well.

There are always the positives but life in Sierra Leone is rarely unadulterated positive. Swithun and Adrian have been faced with some of the harsher realities of living and working with the sort of war affected, vulnerable youth who make up the EducAid beneficiaries. There have been threatened stabbings of teachers and students. There have been thefts and so on.

However, the big things Swithun keeps on talking about are firstly, the strength of the leadership team and how very important that is because it means the project is not too Miriam dependent! [I will shortly be completely surplus to requirement : )] And, the second big difference since last visit has been the significant increase in female students. Last time there were 6 girls in Magbeni and 12 in Rolal. This time there are over 60 girls in Magbeni and over 100 in Rolal. The Women's Project is clearly achieving its aim. This is a massive step forward in terms of addressing poverty which is so clearly the underlying reason for everything we do.

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work, please go to

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jimiyke on the scene again

Jimiyke, last year's headboy, has gone quiet over the last few months. After a traumatic 2009 when he nearly died of what was probably TB, sat his final senior secondary exams, had Hepatitis C antibodies detected, eventually, after much battling with immigration, he got to the UK in November. This was thanks to the generosity of a number of families who have taken him in, cared for him, educated him [in ICT] and provided access to the medical facilities he required.
He is now in the final stages of his trip. Given a clean bill of health, he is getting ready to put his new found ICT skills into action.
He returns on Sunday, travelling with Swithun, hopefully to take up his teaching responsibilities once more. We are greatly looking forward to having him back. Meanwhile, for a taste of what he has been up to when going into donor schools, follow this link:

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work, please go to

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It was looking good and then.......

I had just been thinking up a new positive blog entry.
Firstly, there is the excellent new road to Kenema. Wow! No potholes for 200 miles. Almost unheard of in Sierra Leone.
Secondly, there was an amazing decision made, allowing a woman to contend for a position as chief. Definitely unheard of in Sierra Leone.
Then.....I was brought back down to earth.
My laptop with all my work, photos etc was stolen by a thief with the most amazing sleight of hand imaginable from a vehicle full of people.
I think the only thing I cannot access again is my photos of Alhassan. If anyone has any good recent photos of him, I would be very grateful if you could forward them to me. I have otherwise let Kofi down significantly.
I will also be unable to update the website until I can replace the laptop I built it on, please forgive any aspects that go out of date in the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Definitely too much excitement!.

Obai Santigie and his brother Alhaji receive the keys after their months of hard work to make the school building become a reality.
Drummers and dancers - part of the cultural celebrations.
Cultural high wire performance - another contribution to the celebrations.
Fatmata, a very young member of the women's secret society. She has declared her desire to attend Maronka primary school. There is now some hope we can enable her to detach herself from these women, who not only lead the dancing during celebrations but, are also the high priestesses of female circumcision!
Sinna, the orator, impressing the Norwegian visitors with his excellent English and his confidence in front of a crowd. He became a live-in student in Maronka when we threatened to take his father to the police for the vicious beating he had given him. His father has now abandoned him and he has been adopted into Obai's family. Mercifully, this does not seem to have damaged his progress!
Pa Alimamy, Obai;s brother who is deaf and dumb but who has worked with tremendous energy and enthusiasm as part of the building team.
The finalised new building - by far the poshest building EducAid uses.
10th March, 2010, Maronka's brand new building, built by Norwegian donor agency, Forut, was opened and handed over to EducAid.
Obai [Chief] Santigie has led a team of community members to build this beautiful new school. The construction materials and the technical advisors were provided by Forut but the labour has been provided by the community who are inordinately proud of their achievement.
The community danced into the wee hours and the excitement was great. However, our new challenge is to ensure that the quality of the education that takes place inside is even more beautiful than the shiny new paint!

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work please go to

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

White Ribbon Campaign

On International Women's Day, 8th March, EducAid Lumley launched its White Ribbon Campaign.
The White Ribbon Campaign is an international campaign of men working to end violence against women.
An initial 31 young men committed to upholding women's human rights:
-to stop discrimination against women
-to stop early marriage
-to stop female genital mutilation
-to stop wife battering
-to stop sexual harassment

They will work with partners in Nottingham and elsewhere, with similar aims, and organise meetings, campaigns and sensitisation amongst men who want to be part of the solution to end this universal problem.

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work please go to

Monday, March 8, 2010

Almost too much excitement!

Gaza's team - Rice for the hungry winners of the intertutor group football league
Once a year, the timetable relaxes a little and, having worked hard together all year, we have a week of short school days followed by inter-tutor football matches followed by a staff match and the school outing to the beach.
Last week was the week and everyone took full advantage of the slower pace. Much fun was had by all!
EducAid Lumley - School Outing
DJ Ndola.
The 'Cogent Boys' & the 'Excellent Crew' in their outing finery.
Isata, having a break from the dancing.
Thomas Darboh, set for a good time.
Hannah, ready for the party.
Musa Bundu, all smiles.
And then to top it all, AA and I were invited to pop and see how the other half live. We went to a 'Mardi Gras Charity Ball' held to raise funds for a number of Freetown charities, including EducAid.
The Mardi Gras Charity Ball at the Country Lodge'.
AA exchanges Magbeni for the Country Lodge.

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work please go to

Friday, March 5, 2010

EducAid helps vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans achieve their potential

Balla Turay, ex-EducAid student and ex-junior staff, is celebrating. He was interviewed a few days ago for a scholarship to Venezuela to study and thanks to his excellent results, his ability to express himself, and his Community Service certificate, he was selected.
In a few months time, he will head off to start his ICT studies in Spanish!
We congratulate him and wish him every success in his new life.

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work please go to

Thursday, March 4, 2010

More trouble at Magbeni

Yayah Kamara is headboy of the Freetown school and the image of excellence in attitude, endeavour and intelligence. He is also from Magbeni.
A couple of weeks ago, I was summoned to an emergency meeting in Magbeni because the relationship between the school and the community had degenerated to such a point that a serious meeting was required to settle things.
Today I was called back because the students had taken it into their own hands to sort the community out once and for all and went on strike.
It is scary to see, once again, how close to the surface violence and aggression are and how quickly youngsters resort to them as means to solve problems.
Thank goodness there are the others to keep the balance. Currently at the top of the Senior Secondary School are Yayah, head boy, and Musa, deputy head boy and they both originate from Magbeni. It might otherwise be very tempting to give up. Once again, the small picture is what preserves sanity and protects against being overwhelmed by the madness of the big picture!

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work please go to

Issa Fowai - making EducAid proud from China!

Issa in the cold
Issa has been in China for around 6 months. He was called by the Sierra Leonean embassy the other day for his impressive standard upheld throughout the term.

This is what he has to say for himself:

I became happy when I heard finally that I have been given this chance of studying in China. And I am trying to have fun, and be happy making use of this chance. Life which I believed should have gone astray after my B.E.C.E was finally denied by coming across Educaid my rescuer. Life today in china is as great as anything I might I had thought of in the world. As an Educaidian I am finding life very simple and exciting, despite the unfavourable weather which I have never experienced before. Starting life in China was a bit hard, because of the language barriers. Some of my friends only speak Portuguese, French and Arabic. But as we started classes it then became easier. Coping with the Chinese food was hard also. And the worst were the Chinese characters which I took to be fun. Having been in class with 14 different nationalities from different parts of the world, I became proud of the Educaid system. Like 100% attendance and excellent performance.

Fortunately for me I have 6 Sierra Leoneans in my university. I normally spend time with them, so I am not missing home 100%.

Travelling to Beijing with colleague was my biggest experience we went to many historical places. I normally spend my weekend walking around our 12 million inhabitants city called Tianjin. Playing football is my daily activity.

First when we started classes one of my classmates from Djibouti was topping the class, because he had already studied Chinese for 1 year. By the end of last semester I made him uncomfortable by leading the class with a 93% average in 5 subjects. And now we are like brothers rather than friends.

From the 17th-20th February we had the Sierra Leone students annual convention in Beijing which I was very happy to be part of. I had to move from my city to Beijing. I stayed with one of my Sierra Leone colleagues, whose father is working at the Sierra Leone embassy. His family was so kind to me. I spent 1 week with them. I met different personalities including the ambassador.

We have finally started the second phase of the Chinese language including chemistry physics and mathematics all taught in Chinese. Challenging but exciting and I am hoping to do more than well in the public exam (HSK) that is the Chinese proficiency exam hopefully in May/June to start the course itself civil engineering taught in Chinese.

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work please go to

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

World Maths Day

Ibrahim and Yayah [our mathematical experts] pit their mathematical skills against the World!
The only Sierra Leonean competitors, EducAid participated today in a World Maths Day. Although some schools seemed to take a long time coming online, our technology has held up reasonably well. The connection is horribly slow. We will get broadband one day [fingers crossed or something like that!] but in between times we seemed well able to hold our own on the maths side.