SABI is a ‘good approach’ to addressing education needs

St Joseph's School, Freetown

Education is key to tackling poverty and enabling people to access their rights. Yet not all children in Sierra Leone currently get a decent education.

Moses Kamara and Kefala Kamara are headteacher and principal respectively of the Ansarul Islamic Junior Secondary School, Njagbwema, which serves two communities in the Kono District of eastern Sierra Leone.

The school has about 500 pupils in six classes, with one teacher to each class. The classrooms are crowded and Moses says conditions for teachers are ‘very, very tough’. They need more teachers as the pupil-teacher ratios are unacceptable – only one of the classes, Class 6, has fewer than 50 pupils.

Limited government assistance

Yet the school is not registered with the government, so official support is limited to the occasional gift of surplus equipment, left over once government-assisted schools have been supplied.

Contact with the official education service and government representatives are minimal – the two men say they have never met their councillor or MP – and wouldn’t even recognise them if they did.

Instead, the school was built and is run by the community. Kefala explains how community members clubbed together to contribute money to buy zinc for the roof, and helped with the construction:

‘When it was time to build the school, the community gave two working days, when they came together and put all the sticks together, then another day when it was time for putting on the mud,’ he says. ‘When we needed sand, they went and mined the sand from the swamp and the children transported it to the school.’

Of the school’s eight teachers, only two are on the main payroll. The other six are ‘community teachers’ paid out of the fees parents pay to send their children to school.

Kefala says: ‘Each of these community teachers is paid a minimum of 130,000 Leone (£12.87) per month, which is very small. From this same money we buy chalk, furniture and other things. We really need government assistance.’

Moses Kamara (right) and Kefala Kamara (left) are headteacher and principal respectively of the Ansarul Islamic Junior Secondary School, Njagbwema, which serves two communities in the Kono District of eastern Sierra Leone.

A new approach 

The two men have experienced programmes intended to help them in the past – but believe that SABI will be different.  Moses says: ‘It’s a good approach.’ He likes the fact that volunteers are coming to the community and asking questions and collecting information from teachers and pupils. This didn’t happen in previous programmes they’ve seen.

‘We want the attention so let’s try to send the information. I believe something will happen’.

 

‘[SABI is] a channel between the community members and the people in authority. [The volunteers] come and get information from us and channel this information to the appropriate authorities. And the appropriate authorities maybe will come to us, they will form groups on how to solve these problems – an action plan.’
Kefala Kamara, Principal, Ansarul Islamic Junior Secondary School, Njagbwema

Addressing most pressing needs

For Moses, education and health are the two main priorities for the Government to address. But he recognises the Government has a lot of challenges to address, so doesn’t expect change to happen overnight.

When asked what the biggest challenge for the school is, Kefala says: ‘Water – we have one tap for our school. We really need water. We can’t dream of electricity for now – the most pressing need is water.’


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