The Adonkia Community Adults Educational Trust [ ACAET] was founded by Abdulai Sankoh, who is the ambassador for the Alec Russell Educational Trust [ARET] Sierra Leone. ARET was first introduced by Morag Keenan, along with her son, Chris, and daughter, Rachel. However the ACAET project has been explored and developed and implemented locally in Sierra Leone and can be described as a very successful one. It is the only adults’ educational initiative along the peninsula which has over one hundred thousand of a population.
Sierra Leone is a nation known as a post war country struggling to rebuild itself, experiencing the deadly Ebola virus and being officially one of the poorest countries in the world. 60% of its population is still illiterate. The idea of introducing an Adult’s Education in Sierra Leone, on the outskirts of Freetown was a pleasing challenge. Adults, who did not have the fortune to go to school or the opportunity to pursue their educational career, have been neglected by most of the past governments in Sierra Leone. This situation was alarming and it’s still alarming. Nonetheless this community Adonkia had the opportunity to open the first Adults’ Educational Programme along the peninsula road.
Most people living alongside the peninsula road are involved in stone mining, fishing, farming activities and petty trading to earn their living. (Petty traders are those who sell their wares on the main streets of Freetown; they are often the main breadwinners for their families.) As the world is becoming a global village, where technology has become an essential element, the importance of literacy skills cannot be underestimated. There is an urgent need for Basic Adult Education. Those who are fortunate enough to participate in this project see it as an educational motivator tool not only for themselves but also for their children.
THE BENEFICIARIES OF THE ADULTS’ EDUCATION PROJECT AT ADONKIA GODERICH.
The main aims and objectives of Alec Russell Educational Trust is to support the underprivileged Adults’ and Children’s educational programmes where it is most needed and where we believe the opportunity of education can have a very positive effect on the individual’s life.
The Adonkia Community Adults’ Education is operated within a small budget, which the Charity provides as quarterly funds. The continuation of the pilot project depends its outcome and success. Currently the school operates on a limited number of students, to work within the limited funds available for us. The funds available allows the buying of stationary, twice monthly feeding programme ,school building rent, monthly volountary stipend for two teachers and other materials such as printing of ID cards, bill boards, banners and invoices etc.
The community had been long awaiting for this opportunity, which is for them a dream come true. This Adults’ Educational Programme has been a benefit to a very wide variety of women (including nursing mothers and pregnant women) and men who are skilled labourers who have never had the opportunity to access basic education.
To highlight how important this educational programme is to our community, the Head of the Adonkia Village Community, that is the village head man, officially launched this project through an Official Village Summoned Meeting. This means that the meeting has prime importance and requires compulsory attendance.
These pictures show the participants of the first adult meeting summoned by the head man where the establishment and opening of the education programme was discussed.
Adults Education Students participate in class.
The adults are very intent on learning and appreciate the opportunity to do so.
The classes are fun and the students adopted the motto
Learning to Learn
OUT COME OF THE ADULT EDUCATION SCHOOL
I found it hard to believe what I was witnessing. Just after three month the majority of my students, who initially could not read and write are now able to read and write the alphabet, and not only the alphabet, but can also read other poems and kindergarten books. I am so impressed with their performance.
However, I have students who have dreams and aspiration for their future. Many of them are also interested in maths, because it will help them on their daily petty trading business. Some of them have a lot of difficulties in doing business with customers, and experience problems checking their children school performances.
One student talks about the benefit of our adults’ school. He is a man called Morlai Bangura and this is what he says.
“Mr. Sankoh, I am a cook at one of the beach resorts at Lakah, and my biggest problem and the reason why I come to your school is because, I am having problems with my itemization budgeting, which was really affecting my job. I always have to hire someone to help me do my budgeting, but since I have been coming to this school can do much better than before. Not perfect but much better”.
I believe with much better support and funding from ARET many lives will change for the better. It will also contribute to the socio- economy development of Sierra Leone and Adonkia in particular.
CHALLENGES AND THE WAY FORWARD
Education all over the world has always been a challenge. Adonkia Community Adults’ Educational Trust is not an exception.
Many students had been complaining to me directly, that some of their neighbours laughed at them whilst coming to the adult evening school, saying all such mockery words against them. Some of them just don’t listen to them and keep on coming, whilst others are discouraged. But the school ethos is so unique. It is like a family. Words of courage and comfort surround those who feel vulnerable and ridiculed.
Another challenge facing us is some of the students are breast feeding mothers and have children under five years of age. You can imagine the distraction this can cause. Sometimes I have to look after the babies whilst classes are on. Some of the babies , I have to carry on my back while teaching is in progress This helps to motivate the mothers and show that we really care about them, support them and want them to learn.
Food is also a problem. The initial food budget for a meal twice a month is not enough. Inflation has taken place; most of the food prices are more expensive now. Many of the students would welcome additional food as they struggle to feed themselves. But the old problem continues to haunt us. You cannot learn if your belly is rumbling and crying for food and you will never escape poverty if you cannot learn the basic essentials. My budgeting was only for 20 students but due to community pressure I had increased the number to 30 students with 150 awaiting for admission.
Students asked for ID cards. This is important to them. It gives them dignity and self-worth. They have a sense of belonging and of doing something worthwhile. The ID cards was endorsed by the wider community.
THE WAY FORWARD:
We need to educate the public about the importance of adult education in Sierra Leone. So many have missed out. This action can help educate the community; we must not discourage adult students but empower them instead. This we have already started in the Adonkia community. The students, the two teachers and myself. It was a great impact we have made. With the help of the community elders we have succeeded in stopping the mockery. No student is complaining about mockery now. I would suggest that our current long waiting list is proof that we have succeeded.
If the students stop bringing their children it will mean a more peaceful atmosphere for study. If they cannot bring their children will these vulnerable woman be prevented from learning? Obviously the way forward is a crèche with a nanny.
I would like to thank the Almighty God, whose power cover everything. I am grateful to Him for His merciful good health and direction. Thank you God.
Life is a journey, I am also grateful to Morag Keenan and family, for giving me the chance and confidence to realise my dreams and my potential. Thank you a lot.
Equally I am grateful to the charity, Alec Russell Educational Trust, for giving me the opportunity and for placing their trust in me. THANK YOU ARET.
There is a proverb that says, ‘one leg cannot stand alone.’ I give a very special thanks to my beautiful wife and children, for their courage, support and love. Without their support I would not have accomplished this. Thank you wife, thank you kids.
My final appreciation goes to my two noble teachers, Mr. Swaray and Mr. Turay for their diligent hard work, and the wonderful way they have bonded with their students.
To Adonkia Community and the Head Mistress of RC School Adonkia, thank you all.
(ARET would also like to thank Mrs Sankoh for her support and all of those who participate in this project.)