Saturday, July 31, 2010

Baby Deen's 'Pull na do'

Family Deen with their new family member: baby James [named after Dr James Boardman, co-founder and chairman of EducAid].
The EducAid family at the naming ceremony.

Pastor Aruna Bangura prays for Baby James Deen.

Mohamed Deen Tarawally has taught Economics at EducAid for over 5 years and his wife, Widad teaches in the Women's Project. Baby number 2 arrived safely last month. The naming ceremony was a very joyous occasion when the rains stood back and gave the opportunity for much dancing and fun. We congratulate the Deens and wish little James all the very best.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A privilege to work with some impressive women.

Sabrina of AdvocAid on the left. Dr Rugiatu of Amazonian Initiative Movement on the right.
Teacher Esther, with three of her pupils, preserving their identities with their new certificates.
Adama, now a free woman, signs her name for the first time, to receive her welfare allowance.
Esther with her two ex-students with their certificates as they go to make a new life for themselves.
Sabrina signing certificates.

Sierra Leone does now [thanks in large part to pressure from the international donor community rather than from domestic pressure or political will] have some quite good gender equality laws on its books. It will take some time however for this to be reflected in reality. Sierra Leonean women struggle to access anything close to equality or, maybe even more scary, settle in the main, without a struggle for something a lot less than equality. There is little expectation of equality, little experience of equality and indeed little belief, even among women, in their equality. It is therefore especially impressive to meet women who break that mould.

EducAid has for some time been working with AdvocAid, contracted to run their literacy classes in the women's wings of the Central Prison in Freetown and Makeni and Kenema prisons. Sabrina works tirelessly on all issues relating to increased access to justice, welfare and rights for women in prison in Sierra Leone.

This week I went with Sabrina to Makeni for the first certification ceremony of the women who participate in the literacy classes, had sat their stage 1 and 2 tests, respectively, and passed. Apart from being under the impression that we might well melt [Makeni is ridiculously hot and humid!], we had an encouraging little gathering. The women are enthusiastic about what they are doing. Most have not held a pen before and were never allowed to pursue education when they were younger. This marks a big step in their likely access to independence.

Two of the women have actually been discharged since sitting the tests and will be able to take their certificates with them into new lives of freedom. One is particularly keen to continue her education and may join one of the EducAid schools. AdvocAid is able to support prisoners with a small welfare package when they are discharged, to enable them to go home and start with the makings of a livelihood [small scale market trading probably] so as to avoid returning to the streets where they are vulnerable and likely to be picked up again for either real or imagined offences. Adama signed her name for the first time ever to receive her package and was clearly tickled pink to be able to do so for herself.

On the way to Makeni, Sabrina and I stopped off to meet a truly impressive Sierra Leonean woman, Dr Rugiatu who founded and heads up the Amazonian Initiative Movement [AIM]. Female circumcision is extremely widespread still in Sierra Leone. Approximately 90% of all Sierra Leonean women are circumcised, almost always at an age when they are not in a position to know what they are doing and very very often against their will as it becomes clear what is going on. It is a totally taboo topic. No politician will touch the subject. It has become accepted in theory, that forced circumcision of women under 18 is assault but the reality is that nobody will ever be successfully prosecuted for doing it.

[Just as an example, this holiday, we had to protect a 14 year old girl from being taken, against her will, to the provinces for circumcision and likely early marriage. Her family have shown not one iota of interest in her since she moved into EducAid three years ago, a very neglected, hungry little girl and now are desperate for her to go to see her grandfather. The likely story is that he and the family have received money from a man in their village / neighbourhood in order to marry her and now it is time for the man to see what he has paid for. Had we relented, she would have lost her education, her rights to have an intact body and very possibly her right to choose her own marriage partner when the time comes. This is still very common practice here and in much of West Africa.]

This is the battle that Dr Rugi has taken on and is working with great success on missions of family literacy, human rights education, and female empowerment to combat this dangerous practice.

I found myself in very august company but greatly optimistic that, as with AdvocAid, EducAid can partner with AIM and join the fight to empower girls and women to access their rights.

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

NOA in action for EducAid

All in a great cause.....

North Oxfordshire Academy have been fundraising for EducAid and here is some photographic evidence of just what that means!

Congratulations and Thanks to All!


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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stark contrast!

Packing and checking in preparation for the great end of term despatch!.
The gold certificate winners - each has been awarded at least 90 merits - Great Achievement!

All the certificate recipients at the end of term assembly. Well done all!
Looking back to my school days, I am amazed at the contrast between me and my students here. At the end of each day, never mind the end of term, you couldn't see me for dust. It was the end of term yesterday and the 160 live-in youngsters are due for despatch. Some of them have what I would deem a normal response and are happy to go home, pleased to be able to go and tell stories of their progress, show their certificates to their parents and so on. Others are hanging around with sorry faces and pleading to be allowed to stay.

The options if they go 'home' are sometimes really quite horrible. EducAid has become their home and their family so the holidays turn into something of a torment. If sent to family members who are not their direct family, because their real parents are dead, untraceable or too far to be accessed, they will likely be subjected to endless domestic chores and total indifference to any progress or achievements. Even when they are going to parents who care, it is probable that they will be sent straight out to the rice swamps and that food and support will be scarce.

On the one hand, we do feel that it is good for parents to remember that they have some responsibility to the children they brought into the world and also for them to be conscious what is happening to them through their education. We also need to give some space and peace to the staff who have worked extremely hard during the year and cannot rest with a school full of kids needing supervising. On the other hand, if the 'holiday' turns into a trauma from which they will struggle to even return as there will be nobody to pay their transport, we clearly can't, in conscience, force them to go.

It is a compliment to EducAid that they prefer here to their other options and indeed the compound is a happy place, despite the basic conditions. The brotherly, sisterly relationships that develop are real and supportive too. EducAid is family indeed to many of these youngsters. It would be good, though, if more of them had more home support too for them to really stand strong against all the trials that life in this country can include.

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

Friday, July 9, 2010

NOA dreaming and raising funds for EducAid!

North Oxfordshire Academy [NOA] have really entered into the spirit of cultural exchange and fundraising. Their relationship with EducAid is now in its 3rd year. The ICT staff hosted Jimiyke for several weeks during his trip to the UK earlier this year and, particularly since then, staff and students have really got into the spirit of things.

This is the latest update on their recent activities:

Thanks to all students and staff for their creativity, enterprise, generosity and “craziness” ( a word that makes me feel just a little queasy) in their fundraising and project. So far, the most exciting film is a rap. Members of staff will experience a sharp intake of breath, to learn that The Jardsters form, IMPERIAL 7, have filmed a “Dreamers” rap.

On the fundraising front, this is where we are at present:

The Warwick Worriers are streaking (don’t get any ideas) ahead with £216 but can’t get too smug because, in certain respects they find themselves between a “rock” and a hard place. BUT maximum respect goes out to Louisa’s form, as they say.

Characteristically, IMPERIAL seem to be roaring to the front with about £160 and certain saintly staff, raising hundreds which haven’t been added to the pot yet. Mr Young is promising to bleach his hair with pink blobs, Mr Jardine to run around the track in grass skirt and coconut bra if their targets are reached! Personally I think staff would pay a significant sum for Mr Jardine to keep his kit on as the weather heats up.

Kings have raised about £100 through having their cakes and eating them!

Cambridge seemed to raise a fraudulently large amount on Sports Day through face painting and sweets sales! They have £120.

Oxford have concentrated their fundraising into Agony Aunt Heisler’s Match Making. Will you find your dream lover? Will your lonely heart find solace? Will you ditch your partner for a wild weekend based on the readout of the this capricious cyber cauldron? (Ok, bad idea). Mr H has some ideas to chuck into this pot, so staff and students are encouraged to fill in MatchMaker 2010 if you want an end of term grimace to take with you into the Summer hols! So far Oxford have raised a princely £30.

There is a scurrilous rumour that for over £30, Mr Thomas (on behalf of the sixth form) might repeat his gloriously (and gloweringly) monosyllabic assembly on Wales in which he walks up and down the side of the theatre uttering cryptic words between severe eyeballing and beard stroking, accompanied by a three minute pause. The script: Wales; daffodils; Caerphily, sheep! (END OF ASSEMBLY). Worth every penny.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Another traveller on his way ....

Happy traveller to be, Moses Tholley.

Founder pupil, Moses Tholley, in his penultimate year of engineering studies at the Fourah Bay College, is on his way to Poland for a 6 month work experience placement. Having come close on several occasions, but not being willing to participate in the required corruption, it was looking as if the foreign placement opportunities might well all pass him by. Persistence, integrity and patience have paid off. After sitting his end of year exams, submitting his thesis and electronics project, he will head off to Nigeria first for a visa and should be in situ in Poland by the beginning of September.

This placement is in recognition of an excellent standard in his studies to date and will represent a fantastic opportunity of exposure to a world beyond Sierra Leone that will stand him in excellent stead for the future.

We wish him every success as he goes.

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