It was quite some time before coming to Sierra Leone, that a friend sent us an article from a British newspaper featuring a school in Freetown. It had been started by Miriam, who as a young woman, in post war Sierra Leone in 2000, recognised the urgent need for access to secondary education for all, and not just those who could afford both the fees and a school uniform. And so, education to aid those who had no means to attend school, started on Miriam’s veranda. The programme is now known as EducAid.
We had heard about EducAid from many different people, and as Janice was preparing a course on curriculum development, a visit to EducAid was well overdue. Situated in a densely populated area of Freetown called Lumley, it took us time to find it, although we had been sent directions. Housed in an incomplete three-storey concrete building, EducAid demonstrates a unique form of education in Sierra Leone. Unlike other forms of secondary education, it is free and the students do not wear a uniform. Its ethos is that of holistic education, developing all aspects of what it means to be human. This is done, not through a didactic teacher dominated approach, with passive students, occasionally answering a question or copying from the board, then learning what you have copied for exam purposes. Instead, EducAid has developed hundreds of packs of materials that the students need to work through, at their own pace, following an entrance assessment of what stage they are at. The philosophy of the school is not geared towards passing exams or getting a good job, but to provide the students with critical and analytical skills to gain knowledge, and also to apply that knowledge to other aspects of life.
EducAid now has five schools in different locations across Sierra Leone. Although heavily dependent on donations of cash and kind in order to ensure that quality education is available to the poor, the characters that the school builds are not dependent on others, as the skills they have developed and the knowledge they have received enhance their personal, social and economic well-being. Being a student at EducAid is demanding, although free, it is not an easy option. If you are not prepared to be accountable for your work, to be challenged, and to think for yourself, then you will not succeed. But with commitment and determination each of the graduating students will make a dynamic and life enhancing contribution to the future of Sierra Leone.
If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to www.educaid.org.uk