Not the easiest project to embark on.
Given that ARET is a new charity, a small charity with a very modest income deciding to go ahead with this project was a great leap of faith. The obstacles of inflation, transferring money, difficulties in communication, misunderstanding created many a sleepless night.
However, the spirit of cooperation was there and the need was great. Thus spurred on by the willingness of a much wider community to contribute meant that the small school which started off sheltering under a mango tree grew into this school.
Interested and compassionate parties gave sizeable donations which meant the roof could be completed and four classrooms furnished.* Not everyone can contribute financially others gave of their energy and time.
The school opened in September 2019 (although the official opening is not set but more about that later) to 45 pupils and three classes. The benches and desks are traditional and made by local carpenters. The community decided against a Parent Teacher Board and opted for a Community and Teacher Board. There are high hopes that the school will be used for the wider community. We understand that the current chairman is already involved with the community and we look forward to meeting with him when we visit in February.
Currently there are three teachers. One teacher is fully trained and two, Posseh and Adama, have started a long distance learning programme where they eventually qualify as teachers. Another young girl, Naminia, from Amputee Camp is currently volounteering as a classroom assistant. Her ambition is to complete her Secondary School Certificate and apply to Teacher Training College with Posseh and Adama. ARET have organised funding for extra school classes and the fee for sitting the final exam. We wish Naminia well. Posseh is currently sponsored by Julia Odie from Shetland and Adama by ARET. Alpha and Jane, who were the original instigators of this project are also continuing their education.
Alpha is currently the Principal Teacher at Heaven Homes Primary School with a burning ambition to graduate as Alpha Kallon Bachelor of Education. He, like the two Shieldra teachers, is now enrolled in a long distance degree and sponsored by ARET.
Jane, who has a teaching degree, saw the need for Health Education in the community and has applied for State Register Nurse training which she hopes to start in April. ARET have set money aside for her fees. Jane hopes to build up a women’s group in the community. The starting point is simple enough and will be around arts and crafts. Boxes of craft items have been sent with more promised as has the funding for a treadle sewing machine.
Shortly after the school was fit to use an informal teacher training class was held and hopefully this will be the first of many.
The work is not yet completed. There are more classrooms to furnish and a library to shelf. There may even be a staff room. These are topics to be discussed on our next visit.
But…… and most importantly….. the school are on tenterhooks waiting to find out if they are going to become a Government Recognised School. This will mean they will be given assistance with salaries and text books. Already the school building has been inspected and considered to be of a high standard. The waiting will go on and on. I am told there are policies and procedures to be followed and there is protocol. These take their time in Sierra Leone. Once a decision is made the school will be officially opened.
So although there have been obstacles and hiccups along the way there is no doubt that a long distance has been covered with a trail of success.
ARET looks forward to visiting the school in February and keeping all interested parties updated.
* In the UK our particular thanks go to Ron, Maggie, Julia and Unite Gas Scotland. Without their support we would still be struggling to build the school.