‘SABI has taught this village that we have a right to education’

Community meeting in Logbereh Community, Gbendembu Ngowahun Chiefdom, ward 99, Bombali District, Northen Sierra Leone

Many children from the village of Logbereh, 15 miles from Makeni, Bombali District, have been walking two miles to school each morning and two miles back at the end of every day. 

For many reasons, parents were not comfortable sending their children on the long trek towards Kalangba. There is a stream to cross along the way and dangerous snakes. Young girls are particularly vulnerable to boys and men they might meet along the way and at specific times of the year there is a fear that children may be abducted by syndicates who practice traditional rituals, and even cannibalism.  

A new school for Logbereh

In 2016, when the SABI programme began, Logbereh’s own village school was a makeshift building made of sticks. But now this farming community has rallied together to construct a new building, with many making donations from the profits they make from their crops of groundnuts, rice, cassava, pepeh, bananas and oranges. 

‘We sat together with the families and we said our kids are very small, what are we going to do about this. Let’s decide on one thing for the village,’ says community leader Santigie TS Sesay. ‘Go forward with our education – we have to change that story for our kids. We wanted the school. 

‘We did not agree that we should take our kids to the school in the village far away.’ 

Action plan for change

SABI field staff and Restless Development Youth Accountability Volunteers came to Logbereh – a village of about 200 households – listened to their concerns. The community developed an action plan listing their urgent needs – which has been posted on a wall in the centre of the village. 

To kick start action to address this issue, and to model to the community how to engage with government, Restless Development Field Officer Antonette Conteh visited the District Director (DD) of Education, presenting their case for a new school on the community’s behalf. The DD sent school supervisors to assess the situation, who agreed that a new school could be built, if the community provided the land and building materials, and were willing to construct it themselves. 

‘SABI has taught us how to do a plan,’ says Santigie. ‘We are prepared with a plan, so people cannot come here and tell us what we need to do to go forward. With a plan it is easy to show people who come here to help us. You have to set a plan for this year and the year to come. 

‘If it wasn’t for SABI, a school would not have been built and our children would not have had an education. SABI has taught this village that we have a right to education and to value education.’ 

This is the first step in a long process of bringing change and there is still much to do. The new school – which is built to accommodate 125 pupils in classes 1 to 4, including children with disabilities – has not been formally approved by the Ministry of Education, so falls outside the criteria for government support. They have no qualified teachers and the classrooms are crowded. 

While recognising that the government faces their own challenges in approving and funding schools, the community has been motivated to make their case for approval.  

‘We are still with SABI to help us to improve the school,’ adds Santigie. ‘We are looking forward to working with SABI on that. SABI can give information about how to get a school approved.’ 

SABI is also working with people in Logbereh on other challenges outlined in their action plan. 

‘For us the journey has not yet ended,’ says Santigie. ‘The journey is still far, because we have no health centre. We will need the help of SABI as getting a health centre has a lot of technicalities – we are well aware of that. 

‘We also want a community centre. We will ask SABI again what steps to take to make it a reality.’ 

How SABI has made a difference

Though there is still a way to go to reach their vision of a community with full access to quality schools and health services,  it is clear SABI’s presence has empowered the community and made them see what is possible with greater knowledge of their rights and a commitment to change. The programme has offered ideas of how to approach challenges facing the community. 

‘You can’t be sitting down. You have to take ownership of your own problems,’ says community member Sorie B Sesay. 

Isatu Conteh adds: ‘SABI has taught us how to work as a team and to come together as a community. It has taught us how to have a voice as a village.’