‘Positive relationship builds between community and service providers’

A Safe School in Allen Town Community

In the small, vibrant community of Allen Town, located along the Freetown-Waterloo highway, in Western Urban District, people had over the years made several appeals to the council for support with their numerous challenges in health and education.

Top of the list were an unsafe school, the lack of a health centre and no clean water within a walkable distance – but the response had been very slow.

The Intervention of SABI

The SABI programme, which seeks to strengthen community-led accountability, increasing awareness of, and demand for, the delivery of basic services including health, education, and social protection, began working in Allen Town in 2017. The community has now benefited from two sets of Youth Accountability Volunteers (YAVs) – trained by SABI partner Restless Development – who have been helping the citizens to raise their voices, while ensuring gender equality and social inclusion.

“SABI came to the community and asked what are some of the things that are biggest challenges. Volunteers said ‘we don’t have all the answers, but we will listen to your concerns” says Paramount Chief Yabom Posseh Kamara.

How SABI has made a difference

As part of its work to strengthen citizens’ voices, improve accountability and build a strong relationship between citizens and state, SABI has conducted a citizens’ perception survey in Allen Town, which gave people the opportunity to freely and anonymously share their experiences of essential services.

The findings of this survey were transformed into low-literate infographics so community people were able to understand. YAVs presented the findings back to the people, helping them to prioritise their greatest needs.

SABI went a step further supporting the people in Allen Town to find the best ways to come up with workable solutions to the challenges shown in the data. With the involvement of young people, men, women and the elderly, the challenges were assessed and fed into a community action plan, which was subsequently shared with decision makers at ward, chiefdom and district level.

Community people have started taking actions to bring the changes they want to see. The Evangelical Community Primary School – which was established in 2010 and has 354 pupils – has been fenced and a water facility provided for the school pupils. But the community is still not satisfied.

The Evangelical Community Primary School

“Headteacher Nannah Bangura explains: ‘The walls are made of roof sheets, if the children lean on them it’s dangerous. It’s not strong enough to withstand wind. The seating arrangement in the classroom is not suitable for good learning.”

“We want to explain to local government that the school needs to be better. We want the local government to support us to build a new school.”

Community members now have an ongoing dialogue with council and government officials and there is now a positive relationship between service providers and service users in Allen Town. They have told government officials that they are involved with SABI and shown them action plans and infographics.

Meanwhile, the community has identified a piece of land for their new health centre and secured promises of manpower to make local bricks to help build it.

“It’s work in progress,’ says Chief Kamara. ‘We are in a very good position to provide land”.

“When the councillors ask us where are we getting all the information from, we say SABI – the evidence shows that there is no health centre in this area.”

 

Prince Kenneh, SABI communications and learning officer says: ‘Community people don’t always know the pathways to approach their problems or they are not clear on these pathways.‘They have something to show now which is the SABI data. SABI can engage communities at a further level. SABI can’t help them build a health centre for the community but we can share that information. ‘SABI not only helps citizens raise their voices, we build stronger relationships and platforms where everyone’s voice matters. We encourage all people in Sierra Leone to know their rights and responsibilities.’

Chief Kamara adds: ‘This year we are going to work with all of our partners. Action that needs to be taken is at chiefdom level. We need to be connected with the relevant authorities.

‘In the future, we want to see a safe school for all the children. Our vision is to have a proper health centre which prevents sick people or pregnant mothers from having to travel – we want it in the middle of the community.’