Education and learning about it’s problems

Head teacher's room in St. Peter's in Kamakwie

Head teacher’s room in St. Peter’s in Kamakwie

Joe’s latest blog from Sierra Leone sees him back at school and appreciating the barriers to education that CAFOD & Caritas seek to overcome.

Thurs 7th – Monday 11th March

Hi all, Joe here again giving Pete some time off the old blog so I will fill you in for the last few days.

Thursday was our last full day in Kamakwie and we used this time to visit a few of the local schools, we first visited the local Catholic Primary school (St Peters). This was Polo’s, one of our guides, old school and also happened to be placed pretty much in what was his family home’s back garden. We were welcomed once again with the usual warm welcome. The children were on a break as we arrived so once again the oporto’s (the local term for white people) were mobbed with hi-5s and handshakes. We were then shown in to the Head’s office that was through the back of one of the class rooms and he talked to us about the school, the students and the struggles they face in just trying to give the young people here a basic education. However, Caritas Makeni had a few years previously supplied them with some teaching resources such as text books for the children but he did say they still had to pay for their exercise books. We then had a quick tour of the school and were invited to see the nursery school for the children aged 3-5. They were doing some maths, practising counting from 1-30.

We then headed off to the second school of the day. This was the Muslim Brotherhood Junior and Senior Secondary School and this school had two of its three buildings constructed with support from Caritas Makeni. The Head, after welcoming us in to his office, explained that although they were a Muslim school, he had a great respect for Caritas Makeni and CAFOD as even though they are Catholic agencies they still help support other causes if they can. The Head told us that a lot of the staff in the school were in fact Christians, and this can be a problem as the school works on a week from Sunday – Thursday but that as some teachers are Christians they ask for Sundays off to go to masses and this can leave the school understaffed.

Our third and final stop of the day was to the local Government school, B.D.C Primary School. When we first arrived here we noticed that there were two buildings, one of which looked like it could fall down at any moment. When we met the senior teachers from the school they explained that the original building was built back in 1950 and that over the years this building had been worn down to its current state. This old building is still used for lessons. The new building was again built with the help of Caritas Makeni even though the school is a Government funded school.

All three of these schools have benefitted from Caritas Makeni and CAFOD support and all had different constraints and would all like certain things. They did however all say that the main thing they needed would be more teaching resources such as books and classroom furniture.

We then once again returned to our guest house to enjoy our last evening in the peace that Kamakwie had to offer. We had a special guest on our last evening, our new American friend John, who is over here working in the Hospital, joined us and he had borrowed a guitar from a local and we spent the evening relaxing with some musical entertainment.

Friday – Travelling back to Makeni

So our time in Kamakwie had come to an end as Friday morning came around, so once again we loaded up the car and set off along the bumpy potholed road back to Makeni. We got back to the Caritas Makeni office where our friends from CAFOD Freetown were running a meeting with various Caritas offices from both Sierra Leone and Liberia. we got to catch up with Helen and some of the other guys and got to see a little of what they were doing.

That evening we were invited out for dinner as it was Sam from the CAFOD Freetown office leaving do; this was being held at a local reggae bar. We were treated to some good food, good company and some live reggae, Including a special performance by Joe Turay the Director of Caritas Makeni.

Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th March

So Saturday rolled around and as we didn’t have anything planned for the day we had a nice chilled out day and settled in to our nice guest house the Lizmed Guest House 2. It is a lovely little spot just out of the main Makeni town and so it’s a little quieter out here.

We heard there was a launch event for the Makeni Marathon that is organised by Street Child Sierra Leone and so we headed off to The Clubhouse, a local bar run by Street Child Sierra Leone with all the profits going to the charity. While there we met up with quite a lot of other NGO workers and spoke to them about the different things they were out here doing. Once again we met up with Helen and a few other colleagues from CAFOD, Louise and Sarah, before they headed back to Freetown and then back home.

While at The Clubhouse we were told there was a football tournament on Sunday, again to raise funds for the marathon and so they invited us along to watch, and so after Mass on Sunday morning, leaving Denise in the Caritas Makeni office to do some work, Iona, Carmel, Pete and I headed up to the stadium to watch some football. There were 3 teams competing; Street Child Sierra Leone, the Craig Bellamy Foundation and a team from a local mining company. After a few hours in the sun watching the football and with nothing else on till Monday morning, we went back to our guest house and given the chance we all jumped at the opportunity to get and early night.

Monday 11th March

The start of week 3 came around and it is one of those strange feelings when time seems to have flown but it also feels like we have been here much longer than that. Today was used to evaluate our trip to Kamakwie, so with our guides and Mr Jalloh (the programme director) we talked through our time away and what we had enjoyed and what we had learned from the experience. They also wanted to know what else we would like to see and do with the rest of our time so we could make the most of our time here. It was a good day to sit and look back at just what we had seen and done. It however has dawned on me just how little time we have left here and that I will be sad to go and I will miss Makeni life!

Well I’ll leave you here and I will apologise now for this blog being a slightly longer one but that just about sums up our last few days.  I hope none of you have missed Pete too much. I’m sure he’ll be back with a new blog soon enough.

Joe.

Next update as soon as we get it…

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