Arriving we were delighted to recognise faces from our previous visit. Abdulai and his team certainly went out of their way to entertain us. After the introductory speech we were very touched to receive a plaque from the Adonkia Adult Community Education Trust thanking ARET for the support and the opportunity to develop not only in basic skills but also as a supportive community.
A cast of students staged a play emphasising the importance of women being literate and able to access further education. With no stage and minimal props they certainly got their message across. What was particularly impressive was the excellent memory of those who still had limited reading ability.
After the performance we were able to watch the women demonstrate their new skills of gara dying and sandal embellishment. The tailor, who is training interested students to use the sewing machines funded by ARET, demonstrated how quickly he could measure someone and produce tunics. Of course we were all measured and before we left we were proudly wearing our colourful tunics. In addition we purchased some cloths, sandals and ordered additional tunics. I understand that the profit from the sales will go into a communal fund.
As we mingled with the students we heard stories which were also embedded in their drama. One young woman had joined the class to learn to read and eventually her fiancée decided he too would learn.
Another couple told us that they had met at the class and were now married. We met Mrs Swaray the Headteacher of the school where the classes are held. A small rent is paid to the school, which is a government assisted school. Unfortunately being a government assisted school does not seem to have many advantages and thus the rent and the adult class are very welcome.
Of course there was a meal shared with teachers, trainers, students and some curious children who were attracted by the celebration; there were songs and music to dance to; and now there are also difficult decisions to be made.
Many students would like to continue attending the classes to learn additional skills and more students are anxiously waiting for places to become available. Throw the impact of COVID 19 and fundraising into the mix and the way ahead is anything but clear. However, our friends in Sierra Leone have great faith and resilience.