Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sweet Salone........Lurching from one crisis to another

Wilkinson Road flooded with cars swimming
through the flood waters.
Credit: M & R Ropiecki
Extraordinary scenes in Freetown for the last few days. 
Sierra Leone is back in the news again!
For a good reason this time?
Sadly not!
We had gone off the international media radar for many years, when the film Blood Diamond brought us a little negative publicity and reminded the world of the extremes of violence that had occurred during the 10 year war. As potentially positive news of economic change started to hit the media, we had the dramatic knock back of the year long Ebola crisis last year. Before we have even got to the end of that (despite the Western media having forgotten about it), massive floods have hit and there are currently close to 9000 people in Freetown displaced by serious flooding, damaged homes, landslides and so on.
Is there a common thread to all of this?  They seem so unrelated.  
By my analysis, there is a common cause, a constant source of vulnerability and I believe that the extremes of all that we have experienced would have been massively reduced if our population were educated.
The floodgates are open!
Credit: M & R Ropiecki
President Momoh, 25 years ago made the announcement that education was a privilege and not a right. (n.b. This has not changed in any real way in the intervening quarter of a century!)  This was a significant trigger for the student protests that were then militarised by Foday Sankoh - not the only but an important contribution to the starting of the war. There were then enormous numbers of marginalised, uneducated youth who had had nothing to lose by joining the fighting.  
When Ebola hit the country in early 2014, the confusion it caused was due again to the lack of education. There was a complete lack of trust in the sources of information and no means to verify which of the potential explanations was genuine.  There was often a panicked dismissal of government advice so people continued to hide and treat their sick and bury their dead, making themselves and their communities incredibly vulnerable.  
Now, with the floods, to me it is all of a piece. Education does not stop rain but.....
Freetown is massively over-populated as people abandon the provinces for lack of employment opportunities and lack of basic services such as education and health.  Families lose their land because they don't know their rights.  People build in vulnerable parts of the city because they don't have their own land and there is no properly enforced planning.  Environmental protection laws can be bypassed with a brown envelope.  
The injustices that are perpetrated against the people, the lack of equitable law enforcement is not even understood by those who are on the receiving end of it.  Were they to be educated, they would understand the rights they are not accessing.  Were they to be educated, they would know who to ask what questions to know why such a small proportion of what is allocated to the provincial district councils ever reaches them?  Were they to be educated, they would know that accepting no services is not normal in most countries.  Were they to be educated, they would know what happens elsewhere and demand justice and basic rights for themselves as happens in other countries.
My heart goes out to those who are suffering now but this is once again a symptom not the real problem.  We will help with rice, medicines, blankets and tarpaulins but these are sticking plasters on a deep deep wound.
In EducAid we believe that the best way of strengthening communities to reduce vulnerabilities to all sorts of crisis is through education.  
If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans please go to 
If you are in a position to support our work, please go to the Donate page of the EducAid website or direct to the EducAid MyDonate page  It is hard to imagine where your money could have greater impact!
Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Rearrangement of the school year after Ebola

Let's keep focused!
Multiple, multiple changes to the academic year have had extraordinary knock on consequences for Sierra Leone's children.  To start with, during the whole Ebola crisis, students missed 8 months of schooling. This, in a country where academic standards tend to be horrendously low and education is itself already in crisis and has been for many decades, was a terrible blow. When schools finally reopened in April, we were given new term and public exam dates.  They have changed several times but we have ended up with holidays through the rainy season: July and August to be swiftly followed by public exams - not sure of the logic on that but it seems to unnecessarily disadvantage children who are already very much on the back foot. These public exams  are the gatekeepers to the next stage: a child who fails the National Primary School Examination can not proceed into Junior Secondary School.  A child who fails the Basic Education Certificate Examination can not proceed into Senior Secondary School.  This means that to avoid children dropping out of education completely, considerable efforts should be made to prepare the children well but how can this happen when schools are shut across the country for weeks and months at a time and then the exams positioned just after the break?
In the last couple of days, we have heard that the nationwide census will take place on 5th December and that all schools, colleges and other learning institutions will once again shut for 2 weeks.  Why? Because the teachers will be employed by the authorities to undertake the census itself.
Every time schools shut the routine is lost, children get caught up in survival activities that take them away from their studies often forever, girls get pregnant, learning time is lost etc etc etc
To us, it is obvious that the solutions to Sierra Leone's problems are nearly all to be found in protecting and investing in real education. Apparently, there are not so many who share our view.....
In EducAid, we have kept our exam students engaged throughout all the other school shutdowns and have worked hard to protect all the children's chances of achieving their full potential. They are in the small, lucky minority.
If you are interested in finding out more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to 
If you are in a position to support our work, please go to the EducAid Donate page or 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Lucy Howling - Mellor Rose Queen 2015-16

Hello, I’m Lucy! 

This year I am Mellor Rose-Queen. The tradition of crowning a young girl as Rose Queen developed in the farming communities of Northern England as part of the celebration of and thanksgiving for the growth of the food crops. Today, in Mellor, this tradition continues but the role of the Rose Queen and her team is to raise money for a charity of the Rose Queen’s choice. I chose the charity EducAid. I chose this charity as I know what they do is amazing and would love to be able to be a small part of helping children fulfil their dreams. I have only been Rose- Queen for two months and I feel proud of what I am doing.

The events we are hosting are for all ages. The first event we are hosting is a Fashion Show! This event includes Mums from my team modelling clothes from a local shop. People can buy the clothes and accessories and 10% of the funds go to EducAid. People also buy tickets to come to the event. There is a bar and raffle, as in all of our events. Other events include an Oktoberfest, Threatles concert, Mellor’s Got Talent, a Children’s Bear Hunt, and many other exciting fund raisers! Thank you for taking the time to read this. It would be great if you could support me when you can!

If you would like to know more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to and if you are able to donate to support our work, please go to one of Lucy's events, or to the Donate page on the website or to
Thank you in advance for your generosity!