Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ezekiel graduates

Graduation Day - Congratulations on the wonderful achievement!
He's usually a lot smilier than this - must have been the awe of the occasion!
When EducAid first started its own school on 18th September, 2000 with 20 assorted youngsters, on the back veranda of a house I rented, Ezekiel was one of the founding pupils. He had not been to school for seven years and had not expected to ever finish his education.

Ezekiel has been teaching in Magbeni since September and is really making sure that his education is put to good use. He graduated with a Higher Teachers' Certificate last week and we are all very proud of his achievement against all the odds.

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable Sierra Leonean youngsters please go to

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Interactive International lessons on the tube

Jimiyke has now returned to base after his 6 month tour of the UK where he caused quite a stir as he spoke to young people across the country about his experiences of the war and his rehabilitation through education since.

He took part on many occasions in interactive lessons between schools in the UK and EducAid schools and is now on 'Youtube' as he participates in a lesson between Stockport Grammar School and St Joseph's Convent in Karachi, Pakistan.

''It has been fantastic to see the Video Conference that happened with St Joseph's in Pakistan. Naseema wrote to tell us that the session really had a big impact on her and her students.'' says Chris of

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young people in Sierra Leone, please go to

Monday, April 19, 2010

Amazon Queen

Shortly after Alhassan died I discovered the joys of online shopping. [I might despise the theory of retail therapy but the reality is that it still works!] Since then, I have become one of Amazon's most active customers. It is quite a performance getting stuff here still but I generally abuse the offices of any visitor and tell them to bring hand luggage only - I can then make use of their 40kg hold luggage allowance. Kofi and I, Adrian, Swithun and Tony have all come into Lungi laden to the gills in the last few months. And today, a new range of 'clubs' go online using all the materials I have mouse clicked to purchase.............
I am quite excited at the thought of getting this whole range of new stuff into the kids' hands: Virtual Astronomers, The Darwinians, History in Action, Virtual Explorers and so on....

Youngsters here struggle to access reading materials beyond ancient text books, that would have been binned long since, in any other country. They also have drummed out of them any spirit of inquiry from an early age. Any questions asked in class [in traditional schools here i.e. non EducAid schools] are treated as an insubordinate attempt at embarrassing the teacher. Copying is where it is at. Don't think! Don't ask questions! Be quiet and copy!
A teacher writes on the board or dictates. A good teacher writes on the board or dictates A LOT!

The EducAid teachers are now proud of the difference between the thinking education that they provide in comparison with the mindless thing on offer elsewhere but it was a battle to win them over initially. It is far more challenging to provide learning opportunities to develop skills and attitudes than it is to regurgitate your college notes for the copying thereof.

The new clubs are part of our on-going endeavour to broaden the scope of our youngsters' education, to enable them to cope on a global platform and at global standards. This means to help them leave school having developed a whole range of skills which will serve them in the real world and serve the real economic and democratic needs of the country.
The staff preparing to launch activities......
If you are interested in knowing more about the work of EducAid with vulnerable youngsters in Sierra Leone please go to

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bad timing on the Icelandic Ash!

So tempting to ask, 'Why me?!!!!' but it is me + how many thousand [million??? not sure] others.

The teacher training materials for the 2nd module are finished today and I should be on a plane out of the heat and the very confused dry / rainy season that has started here! but No!!!

Icelandic volcanic ash has it in for my fundraising plans, and I am still here!

Whenever I do get out though, the programme will be left in very good hands. It feels like a significant step in the right direction that I can leave 1400 youngsters pursuing their education and 50 odd staff supervising them across 4 schools and be confident that nothing wildly out of order will happen and not be appropriately handled or that any significant momentum drop will occur while I am away. This has to be the bottom line for real development, that it can all happen with or without a western presence.

It was a battle to get the Leadership Team to believe that they would not be sacked for trying to nick my job if they showed initiative - the traditional response to any signs of original thinking, taking responsibility or otherwise admirable employee behaviour!

Now, there is not a great worry about what will happen when I am away fundraising in the UK. The leadership team are more than able to handle the day to day running of the school and to take initiatives to deal with arising issues! Success, by my estimation anyway.
The more than competent leadership team in Lumley.

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young people in Sierra Leone please go to

Thursday, April 15, 2010 is an intra schools online learning community platform [or something like that!] and EducAid have become good friends over the last 12 months or so as they have linked us in with a variety of projects and as we became the face [ok Jimiyke became the face] of some of their conflict diamonds work.

Through them, we have interacted with a variety of schools across the world. Currently they are running a photo competition. Here are our entries .....we will see how we get on!

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable Sierra Leonean youngsters please go to

Monday, April 12, 2010

Exam fever starts

Oral English exams last week, science practicals this week. Oh bliss! Oh joy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Helping EducAid Help

A few months ago, we started being contacted by those who had visited the excellent 'stuff your rucksack' website, where our link is:

A variety of people coming into Sierra Leone visiting friends or on work missions have brought all sorts of invaluable books, clothes, stationery etc.

Today, I was contacted by Frangle who have set up something similar for the German and Austrian market [or at least I think that is what it said - my German is somewhat dismal!] and here again is the link:

Many thanks to both organisations and their initiatives. They are both greatly appreciated. Even on our budget, we can get most of the basic things but, unaided, it is very difficult to access the more thought provoking books, dvd videos and other such material. Increasingly our holistic / enrichment programme is becoming a key part of what we do.
We do not want to be achieving a standard that is ok for Sierra Leone but that is good to excellent for anywhere in the world. Accessing good materials beyond what is locally available is thus absolutely essential.

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

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Running water in the compound - big day!

The gutters along the roads here are home to a spagetti of blue plastic water pipes. Some even have water in them but when things get difficult people wait until it is quiet and cut pipes at will in order to get the water they need. The result: however legal your connection to the mains is, there is no guarantee whatsoever that it will continue to provide water.
We had had a connection, paid up, signed up,everything all as it should be. Alhassan had sorted it 2 weeks before he died. But then it all fell apart. The 'free lance' plumbers do moonlight work and disconnect and connect people's pipes at will for the right fee. Guma Valley workers have meanwhile been arresting those caught taking water at any illegal joins in the pipes but the majority of houses in Sheriff Drive have not had reliable water supplies for months and this is dry season so, in town, piped water is the only option. None of our students have been arrested yet but it has been very close on several occasions.
Yesterday, a whole EducAid army of shovellers and arguers finally succeeded in getting us connected back after over a month of not a drop of rightful water in the compound. The consequence for time wasting never mind exhaustion as the kids fetch and carry buckets and buckets of water from either a dodgy stream down the valley or from some illegally cut pipe is enormous. Yesterday was a good day, therefore!
The piped water system here is quite extraordinary though. As ever, corruption is the order of the day so one can easily go and get a plumber to disconnect your neighbour and connect you and for a while you may get your supply but the same plumber will as likely be paid by someone else in a couple of weeks to disconnect you and connect someone else in your stead.
Vast quantities of water are wasted through cut, broken and damaged pipes and the streams on the peninsula are all drying up because of the deforestation. There are theories afoot that tell of Freetown drying up in 2 or 3 years. It would be good to be able to say that the government is now taking a strong line on planning, forest protection and water conservation. It would be good but it would not be true!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

AdvocAid EducAid partnership goes from strength to strength

The team: Sabrina and Alison [left to right behind], Esther, Lilian and Mealo [left to right front]
AdvocAid has contracted EducAid to run literacy classes in the Pademba Road [Freetown] and Kenema prisons for female prisoners for some time now but we had our first get together and real training session this week.

Sabrina and Alison of AdvocAid had the opportunity to explain their vision of providing legal support, raising self esteem, increasing awareness of rights and procedures within the justice system, and giving some social support as well as basic literacy and numeracy skills to the women who find themselves in the prisons here. There are, of course, some whose crimes are real and who should be behind bars for the safety of all but there is a scary proportion who lose their rights and freedom for months and years at a time for issues of minor debt [£10 or the equivalent on some occasions] or loitering and the like.

When one sees the officers guarding them it is clear that not all of the criminals are on the right side of the bars! I was certainly clear before that the officers were pretty spiteful and used their mini power to make the prisoners unnecessarily miserable. I knew that nothing destined for the prisoners should ever be handed over to the officers. I knew that the women were regularly locked up in their overcrowded and unsanitary cells from as early as 3 or 4 o'clock and not unlocked until the next day at 10ish. I was however, unaware [although not surprised on reflection] that a 1 month old, inside with her mother, would be fed on mashed rice, breast feeding having been banned by the officers, or that the women are punished for any number of misdemeanours by stripping them naked before locking them up for hours. These women are really among the most vulnerable people anywhere!

It was great therefore to have the whole team together. Sabrina and Alison, lawyers who founded AdvocAid, met the teachers who deliver the EducAid end of AdvocAid's activities for the first time and it was great to share ideas and thinking about it all.

This is the beginning of a small scaling up of the services we provide. Firstly, operations will start after Easter in Makeni also. Secondly, all the teachers have been trained [and are very excited by their new found knowledge] in more modern approaches to teaching literacy i.e. using phonics. Thirdly, AdvocAid has agreed to provide certificates for the women as they hit certain targets - always a big motivator. Fourthly, we are planning a more coordinated approach so EducAid can provide other educational opportunities either for abandoned children [particularly daughters] of the prisoners and also for the younger women [Makeni has a 15 year old female inmate at the moment] wanting to get [back] into education who could join the Women's Project on discharge. The teachers are also going to provide feedback on any human rights and welfare issues so that formal intervention can be made.

On and up!

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