Tag Archives: kambia

Joseph Kamara – Sierra Leone – abilities not disability

14 Dec

WESOFOD is a Sierra Leonean NGO run by and for people with disabilities. It is an organization that Children in Crisis is proud to count as a local partner. This blog was written by Joseph Kamara, WESOFOD’s Founder and Director, for Children in Crisis’ supporters – to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and to give voice to people with disabilities in rural Sierra Leone. Voices which are being listened to more and more thanks to Joseph and WESOFOD.

The international day of persons with disabilities is a very important day for people with disabilities around the world. For us in Kambia, Sierra Leone, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the year and meet with communities to remind them of their duties and responsibilities in making the world inclusive for ALL abilities.

This year, WESOFOD decided to go farther into one of the hardest-to-reach communities, Bramaia Chiefdom, to raise awareness of the gains to be made from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

T-shirts ready for the day

T-shirts ready for the day

To make this day a success, people with disabilities from all walks of life came from across Kambia district and all over Bramaia chiefdom to its main town of Kukuna. For the first time in the history of Bramaia chiefdom, people with disabilities, as well as their parents, well-wishers and chiefdom leaders filled the major street of their town, singing and dancing and marching to their village hall. Almost the entire township joined the march. They marched with us all the way into the village hall to hear what we had to say. People with disabilities held placards with various messages and during the meeting, described with passion what each of their placards meant. This was what some of them said:

Focus on my ability and not my disability. In his local language and with almost tears in his eyes he said: ‘you always look at our blind eyes, our small limbs, our arched backs, our speech impairment, our disabilities; you deny us opportunities, education, jobs, the right to talk in meetings all because of  our disability. Today I want to say it here loud and clear- we have more abilities than the disability’’.

Focus on my mbility and not my disability

Focus on my ability and not my disability

By promoting Empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. ‘When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities’. ‘Give us education, give us skill so we will be able to look after ourselves, our families and give up street begging’.

Why provoke me? In her presentation, she asked this question three times and concluded, ‘it could be you, you and you’.This question made the entire hall silent. The majority of those present were guilty of this. Provocation is a challenge for many people with disabilities across Kambia district. A lot needs to be done to address the situation.

It could be you, you and you

It could be you, you and you

‘It could be you, you and you’ was a strong message from this child. He was very loud and brief; ‘disability was never a choice for me and I am sure it will never be a choice for anyone of you, it will come when it will come’. ‘Why not join WESOFOD in making Kambia district inclusive for all abilities’?

In the past, it has always been a challenge to bring stakeholders to a meeting that has to do with disability issues. In Bramaia it was a different case. Was it because they wanted to see for the first time people with disabilities singing and dancing? For some people, yes, but for majority, no. By the end of the day I realised why there was such a huge turnout. I saw sincerity in their statements. They were touched by our presentations and especially the presentations from the children. They know these issues were real in their communities and they wanted to do something to help and to support WESOFOD to address disability issues in their chiefdom and the district as a whole. Every section in the chiefdom pledged to donate a piece of land to be developed to empower people with disabilities in their communities.

In his statement, the paramount chief representative assured WESOFOD that they will do all in their powers to make sure that all new public structures are made accessible to people with disabilities in their chiefdom. ‘We are sorry we do not have the resources to make our present schools and public places accessible to people with disabilities but we give all the support within our reach to help WESOFOD correct these past wrongs’.

Magbema Chiefdom's football team

Magbema Chiefdom’s football team

The social inclusion evening also made the day a memorable one. This included a football match between persons with disabilities in Magbema chiefdom and Bramaia chiefdom and a dusk to dawn dance. For the first time in the history of Bramaia chiefdom people with disabilities were seen in the field of play.

For me, the day was a huge success. People with disabilities came out in their numbers. Thirty three children and fifty nine youngsters/adults were registered and have joined the WESOFOD membership. People with disabilities in Bramaia chiefdom saw successful and authoritative colleagues with disabilities from their own district sitting at the high table together with their local authorities, telling them to open their eyes and see ability in disability and appealing to them to make space for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Bramaia chiefdom, Kambia district and Sierra Leone.

Children with disabilities in Bramaia chiefdom for the first time saw more fortunate children with disabilities, who had the opportunity to be cared for by WESOFOD, role-playing the challenges faced in getting an education; the attitude of parents of children with disabilities and communities towards children with disabilities in their own homes and communities. They are happy that WESOFOD has come to their chiefdom and this gives them hope for a better future. Above all, they are very hopeful that these pieces of land that their stakeholders have pledged to give to WESOFOD will in future be developed to better their lives and their communities. Lastly, after almost a year and half of the Ebola crisis, we were able to come out, we were seen and heard, we were able to tell the people of Bramaia chiefdom-one of the hardest to reach and remotest communities of Kambia district – that Inclusion Matters, and that Access and Empowerment are key to inclusion.

WESOFOD staff and members

WESOFOD staff and members

As I reflect on the 2015 theme of the IDPWDs- ‘Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment of people of all abilities. Let us as a section, chiefdom, a district, a country and the world at large reflect on these questions: ‘How many of our offices are accessible to people with disabilities? How many of our health centres are accessible to people with disabilities especially women and children? How many of our schools are accessible to children with disabilities? How many of our mosques and churches are accessible to people with disabilities? How much have we invested in making sure children with disabilities are in school? How much have you invested in women with disabilities to eliminate all forms of abuse and discriminate against them? How much have we contributed to making our communities, our district, our country and our world inclusive for all abilities? How much have we contributed to the empowerment of people with disabilities?’

Written by Joseph Alieu Kamara -Founder and Director -WESOFOD

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Laura Colgan – Sierra Leone – Mr Kamara

3 Dec

When we asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, some said Minister for Education, some said Minister for Disabilities, several said President, and many said that they wanted to grow up to be just like Mr Kamara.

On my recent and very first trip to Children in Crisis’ projects in Kambia, Sierra Leone, I was fortunate enough to spend time with Joseph Kamara, the founder of our local partner organisation WESOFOD. I accompanied Joseph on his visits to some of the communities that Children in Crisis and WESOFOD work in. There, we met some of the children we have supported, as well as those who still need support.

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Joseph Kamara, the founder of Children in Crisis’ partner organisation WESOFOD – a local NGO run by people with disabilities who advocate for the rights of the disabled and directly support children with disabilities.

Despite the lack of knowledge and understanding around disabilities in Kambia, it was incredible to see such a positive and welcoming reaction to Joseph’s arrival within these communities. For the children we met – many of them confined to their homes because the world beyond their (often high and challenging) doorstep is not adapted to their needs – I thought that it must be rare for them to see a person with disabilities being regarded in such high esteem.

It was at these moments that I felt truly proud to work for an organisation like Children in Crisis, that puts such great emphasis on working with local partners – and WESOFOD is a pretty special example of this. Joseph himself is living proof that people with disabilities in Sierra Leone CAN succeed and be a beacon for their communities, and he represents everything that WESOFOD is, with absolute determination and pride.

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Some of the children who are cared for by WESOFOD

When we spoke to the children who were soon to move into a new home and treatment centre, many told us about the multitudinous challenges faced by people with disabilities in Kambia, but that Joseph had given them hope. When we asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, some said Minister for Education, some said Minister for Disabilities, several said President, and many said that they wanted to grow up to be just like Mr Kamara.

Since returning to London, I am constantly reminded of my time with WESOFOD. When a London bus driver moves closer to the curb to allow a wheelchair user to disembark using the built-in ramp (there are many wonderful things about that sentence) I am immediately transported back to the remote communities of Kambia.

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Children with disabilities in rural Kambia are often confined to their homes, unable to travel on unpaved roads

I have become infinitely more aware of my surroundings in so many ways. I have realised that every inch of the land around me is produced, reinforced, maintained, and adapted so that it is that much more accessible (though certainly far from perfect). I was born into this world. I did not earn it or contribute to it, I am simply lucky. I have a whole new appreciation for my own mobility, and how something as seemingly simple as a flat pavement can mean a child’s safe route to school.

I think of Joseph often, and always with a smile. It is astounding how one man’s determination can bring so much hope, strength and ambition to so many others. Joseph has given Kambia reason to believe that what many once thought impossible, is most definitely possible.

Written by Laura Colgan – Corporate Fundraising Officer – Children in Crisis

Robert Benham – Sierra Leone – ‘Inclusion matters’ is more than just a phrase

3 Dec

Having witnessed first-hand the importance of a mother who understands about disability and supports her child, or how a simple aid can enable a child to be a child, I encourage you to look beyond this big title and to consider what ‘Inclusion matters’ really means to children like Nouhou.

Imagine having to move away from your family home, the village you have grown up in, because your community do not accept your child.

For children like Nouhou 'inclusion matters' is more than just a phrase - it is the key to a brighter future

For children like Nouhou ‘inclusion matters’ is more than just a phrase – it is the key to a brighter future

When Aminata gave birth to Nouhou, who has cerebral Palsy, she was told he was ‘evil’ and that she must throw him away. Aminata refused. She chose her son instead.

It is the discrimination and lack of understanding that Aminata and Nouhou faced that the International Day of Disabled Persons is trying to overcome. Based around the theme of ‘inclusion matters’, the day is focussing on the gains derived from integrating people with disabilities into society.

Sitting outside Nouhou and Aminata’s home, listening to her story, I can’t imagine how hard her decision must have been but, how she talks about her son, and the warm look in her eyes as she watches over him, I know that she still believes it was the correct one.

Nouhou with his mum Aminata - his protector.

Nouhou with his mum Aminata – his protector.

She has built a life for her son. Nouhou has grown into an inquisitive 6 year old. With the help of his sister, every day he walks to a nearby primary school and is starting to get the education that will enable him to live an active and inclusive life when he grows up.

Sat next to his mum, wearing his bright green uniform, Nouhou eyes us cautiously, slowly leaning in closer to his protector. Nouhou’s natural suspicion is understandable considering the battles he faces to be included in his world.

His father refuses to acknowledge him as one of his own because of his disability and children at his school provoke and agitate him. Even his community, whilst much more understanding than the one he was born into, do not fully accept him – just the Friday before the family was asked to leave the Mosque.

“It is always a challenge, but I have no choice, I will always support my child.”

During my time in Sierra Leone, the barriers facing children with disabilities were striking in their number. I witnessed an absence of understanding around disability, sometimes unsupportive families, schools and homes that are inaccessible to the disabled – all of which contributed to too many children with disabilities being destined to a life of marginalisation and isolation.

Despite the obstacles that children with disability face to be included in their community, every day I was encouraged by the progress I saw being made by Children in Crisis’ partner organisations such as WESOFOD – a local NGO run by a group of inspiring people with disabilities who advocate for the rights of the disabled and directly support children with disabilities – and by the impact small changes were making to the lives of children like Nouhou.

Sahid's mobility aid enables him to travel to school each day and mix with other children. It enables a child to simply be a child.

Sahid’s mobility aid enables him to travel to school each day and mix with other children. It enables a child to simply be a child.

As we were sat talking to Nouhou, we heard a familiar noise coming up the road, Sahid being accompanied home by his friends.

Sahid, who will be moving into the residential rehabilitation centre being constructed by Children in Crisis & WESOFOD, attends the same school as Nouhou and, unable to walk, gets around on a mobility aid.

This simple device is a great example of little things having a huge impact. It enables Sahid to go to school and to achieve an education. It has allowed him to interact with children his own age and to make friends, making sure that the next generation of children treat those with disabilities equally.

It is estimated that worldwide there are one billion people with disabilities, many of whom live on the periphery of their community, marginalised and discriminated against.

This year’s theme, ‘Inclusion matters’, is a strong phrase for an important International Day. It represents a vision of hope, empowerment and equality.

Having witnessed first-hand the importance of a mother who understands about disability and supports her child, or how a simple aid can enable a child to be a child, I encourage you to look beyond this big title and to consider what ‘Inclusion matters’ really means to children like Nouhou.

For these children ‘inclusion matters’ is more than just a phrase; it is the key to a brighter future, one where they have the opportunity to live life on their terms.

Written by: Robert Benham, Trust Fundraising Assistant, Children in Crisis

Joseph Kamara – Sierra Leone – A tribute to a friend

10 Nov

We have lost an outstanding character in the medical profession, full of humour and ready to serve humanity at any time.

All of us at Children in Crisis, and within our partner organisations, feel compelled to acknowledge the heroism of the local health workers who are treating Ebola infected patients in West Africa.  We also wish to pay tribute to nearly 200 health workers who have died from Ebola as a result of their selfless service and desire to help.

Joseph Kamara our Project Officer in Kambia asked that we post a tribute to his close friend Dr. Godfrey Alexandra Jonathan George who became the fifth Doctor who has died of Ebola in Sierra Leone. Our prayers and good wishes are with his family and the families of the other health workers who have lost a loved one. They are national heroes who are an inspiration to us all.

 

Dr. Godfrey Alexandra Jonathan George

Dr. Godfrey Alexandra Jonathan George

 

I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and relatives of the Late Dr. Godfrey Alexandra Jonathan George, former Medical Superintendent of the Kambia Government Hospital who passed away on Monday November 3, 2014 at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Centre.

Over the years that I have had the privilege of working with Dr George in the Church I attended, I came to admire his humanity. Our relationship became one of brothers.

I am saddened by his death. The late man was an extremely determined and courageous doctor who cared deeply for his patients. His work and dedication have been greatly appreciated by the community of Kambia and will be for many years.

This irreparable loss brought the township of Kambia and staff of the Kambia hospital in an uneasy calm. The late man happens to be the fifth medical doctor now in the Ebola mortality list of doctors who came across their deaths while trying to save life.

Born on the 9th July 1960, Dr. George attended the Methodist Boys High School in Freetown from 1971 to 1976 where he successfully passed the GCE O-Level exams in 1978, and completed his Sixth Form at the Prince of Wales School that same year. In 1978, he entered Fourah Bay College and graduated with a BSc Honours Chemistry. In 1982 he pursued further studies in Medicine at the University of Lagos, Nigeria and graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He held an internship at the Lagos Teaching Hospital between July 1987 to 1988.

On his return to Sierra Leone, Dr. George was certified and accredited by the Medical and Dental Council of Sierra Leone to practice as Medical Officer, and served briefly at the Nixon Memorial hospital in Segbwema. Dr. George worked at the Connaught Hospital Surgical Unit and Operating Theatre in 1998, posted as Medical Superintendent to the Bo Government hospital in 2006, and later promoted Senior Medical Officer in June 2010 and was posted as the Medical Superintendent of the Kambia Government Hospital until his death.

I share this great loss with the medical team in Kambia. He and many others worked tirelessly in building a health service which provided free health care for many communities to access. Something rare within our neighbours in the Sub region.

Above all, I am cognisant of the wonderful long lasting relationship that Dr George has had with the Church congregation all these years. We have lost an outstanding character in the medical profession, full of humour and ready to serve humanity at any time.

I love you and will ever miss your presence, but God loves you best. May your soul rest in peace.

Joseph Kamara – Sierra Leone – Ebola, another setback for people with disability.

13 Oct

Even before the outbreak life for people with disability was hard. They are the poorest of the poor.

Joseph Alieu Kamara Founder and Director of Welfare Society for the Disabled (WESOFOD) in Kambia, Sierra Leone talks about how Ebola is especially impacting people with disabilities, making them vulnerable.

We are facing an outbreak of Ebola virus disease which is said to be the most severe reported outbreak since the discovery of the virus in 1976. In order to curb the spread of this deadly virus, the national government has declared a state of public health emergency. This has greatly affected the normal way of life. People are having to cope with all sorts of changes such as no handshakes, no public gatherings, no social meetings, no travel for people in some parts of the country, and no going to hospitals for usual illness such as malaria or diarrhoea for fear of being diagnosed with or catching Ebola. People are constantly washing their hands, either with ordinary soap and water or, if you can afford it, with chlorine.

Ebola is also hurting the country’s economy in no small measure. Many businesses have closed down, national and international markets have been closed and it has become very difficult for business men to travel. In Kambia district specifically, the international market at Bamoi Luma has been closed. This means that for many in Kambia their main source of income and means of survival has been cut off. Prices of commodities, including food, are rising on a daily basis. Life on the whole has become very miserable for people.  I fear that with Kambia district being one of the poorest and most deprived districts in Sierra Leone, an outbreak will be hard to bear.

 

Joseph (back row, second from left) & children at WESOFOD's home for children with Disabilities

Joseph (back row, second from left) & children at WESOFOD’s home for children with Disabilities

 

Though every Sierra Leonean is affected in one way or the other, I strongly believe that Sierra Leoneans with disability are the most affected for the simple fact that they have a disability. To name but a few are the following ways the outbreak has affected them:

Increase in discrimination and neglect. Even before the Ebola outbreak, these are challenges faced by people with disability from both the community and family members. This outbreak has made it worse. A lot of people with disability are dependent on others to support their movement and general welfare, especially those who require mobility aids but do not have them. Now, because people are afraid to come into contact with other people, they are no longer willing to help people with disabilities get around. This means people with disabilities are now having to crawl on the floor to get around, they get wounds from falling and crawling and have to suffer the shame of toilet systems that are not disability-friendly. People with disabilities in turn are afraid of asking for support as they do not know the whether the other person may have come into contact with Ebola. Immediate family members are confused and do not know what to do. Some bear the risk, others abandon their vulnerable family members.

Exclusion from relevant decision making processes in the name of state of emergency. In our experience, people with disability have completely been left out in the fight to curb the spread of this deadly virus. For WESOFOD the reality and hard fact is that our effort and strides to contribute to the development of our communities is still not recognized by stakeholders. Despite our contributions in making schools and health centers in Kambia district inclusive, WESOFOD and our disabled members are still left out of important decisions. Because people with disability and their families were not represented in planning meetings on the Ebola response, the awareness raising programs do not target persons with disability and therefore, do not reach them.  For instance, a street rally on Ebola using Okadas (motor bikes) will only reach those who could run to see them pass. A radio awareness raising program will only reach those who could afford a radio. A sensitization meeting on Ebola held in a court barry or town hall will only benefit those who could climb the steps to the court barry or town hall. A holistic and inclusive approach is what will help us contain the spread of this deadly Ebola virus disease in Kambia District and Sierra Leone as a whole.

 

A sensitization meeting on Ebola held in a court barry or town hall will only benefit those who could climb the steps to the court barry or town hall.

A sensitization meeting on Ebola held in a court barry or town hall will only benefit those who could climb the steps to the court barry or town hall.

 

Closure of schools. There is a very high illiteracy rate amongst persons with disability. A study conducted by WESOFOD and Children in Crisis in 2011 found that 60% of children with disability who were of school going age in Kambia district were not in school. When asked what would help them most, 80% said ‘education’. Since 2011 WESOFOD have been working hard to make education accessible for these children. Now all that has had to stop because schools have been closed. For people with disability, education is the only hope for a brighter future for both the child and parents. We hope children with disabilities are included in any alternative education projects that are planned during this crisis.

High cost of living. Even before the outbreak life for people with disability was hard. They are the poorest of the poor. Most struggle to make a living and a good number are living on the street as either street beggars, or prostitutes or both. They are unskilled and the majority are unemployed because throughout their lives they have been denied education and opportunity. The Ebola crisis has made it worse. For those who were working- their businesses are closed. For those who were living on the street they are even more desperate now the country is feeling economic strain. This has further pushed people with disability into poverty and vulnerability.

 

Children with disabilities miss play and they miss their friends.

Children with disabilities miss play and they miss their friends.

 

The right to play is being removed. Play is the order of the day for children. It is what makes them happy. Children with disability are no exception. Due to the Ebola crisis (fear of contracting the disease), parents and caretakers try to restrain their children from play. Children with disability are confined on their wheelchairs and in homes. Children in the neighborhoods are also restricted from play. They miss play and they miss their friends.

Without targeting those most vulnerable you will not be able to ensure everyone is protected from Ebola, which is a risk to containing the disease. We very much strongly believe that a holistic and an inclusive approach is what is needed to curb the spread of this deadly virus disease in our communities and country as a whole.

 

Children in Crisis  and FAWE have launched an emergency appeal to help our partner communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia protect themselves from the Ebola outbreak.

Please donate today,  your donation can be matched pound for pound by the UK government.

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Marie Koroma – Sierra Leone – A voice from the lock-down

2 Oct

There was a feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and a remembrance of what it was like during the rebel war. My children don’t know that experience but I do.

My name is Marie Koroma. I work with FAWE-Children in Crisis team in Kambia as a Community Education Support Coordinator. I am a mother of three children; two boys and a girl. I am also the guardian of two children whose own parents cannot afford to look after them.

I want to tell you about my recent experience of a weekend in lockdown during the 3-day national sit at home, employed as part of the Ebola response in Sierra Leone. No one was allowed to leave their house for 3 days while the Ebola Campaign Teams visited houses in an effort to identify cases, spread awareness and get the spread under control.

 

Marie Koroma, Community Education Support Coordinator for FAWE, one of Children in Crisis's partner organisations in Sierra Leone.

Marie Koroma, Community Education Support Coordinator for FAWE, one of Children in Crisis’s partner organisations in Sierra Leone.

 

The three day sit at home came at a bad time – my salary for the month had not yet been paid and because everyone was stocking up on food the cost of commodities was getting too high. A day before the lockdown, I joined the hue of people, mainly women, who went to procure food items at the market. I could afford to buy only a few items as prices of basic food stuff had increased by 50%-100%. Things like rice, fish, palm oil, pepper, onions and spices, to name but a few. The influx of people in market coupled with the hike in the price of food stuffs, made it difficult to buy all that was needed. Lots of food items were in short supply, despite high demand. All in all I was only able to buy enough food to last for two days. Going into a 3-day lockdown with not enough food for my family, and not really knowing if it would only last 3 days was scary.  Access to pure drinking water was a huge challenge during the lockdown as there were no running taps- we had to fetch water from a nearby stream. We never drank from the stream before now.

The sit at home day in day out for three consecutive days was difficult for my family, especially for my children. They cried because they couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed out to play.  I myself found the experience very stressful. There was a feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and a remembrance of what it was like during the rebel war.  My children don’t know that experience but I do. The sit at home brought back the memory of the fear I used to feel. I was feeling sick with it and then even started to worry that I was developing the symptoms of Ebola until I called my elder sister who provided some words of consolation.

At home I listened to the radio since we don’t have access to electricity for television. Every day for the three days I was glued to the radio, listening to messages on prevention and control, and the process and progress of the Ebola house to house campaign. Together with my family we prayed fervently and discussed issues surrounding the epidemic. To overcome the stress, we cleaned the house.

On the second day of the campaign, we were visited by the Ebola Campaign Team comprising of 4 people; a teacher, a health worker, a youth representative and a community volunteer. They talked to us about the disease, how dreadful it is, how to prevent it, how to control it and what can be done in case of any Ebola suspected case in our mist. A lump of Soap, sticker to indicate their visit and a pictorial flier carrying Ebola messages were given to me.

On a personal level I think the three day lock-down will not bring a complete end to the Ebola crisis in the country but I do see it as part of a process to combat the disease.  It comes with a difficult price, but it has helped to expose some of the hidden Ebola cases. More sick people showed up voluntarily and my misunderstandings of the disease were reduced.

 

Children in Crisis  and FAWE have launched an emergency appeal to help our partner communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia protect themselves from the Ebola outbreak.

Please donate today,  your donation can be matched pound for pound by the UK government.

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Amanda Jones – Sierra Leone – it’s all in the percentages

12 Feb

” ‘some’ soon becomes ‘all’ and ‘get through’ fast becomes ‘reach their full potential’.”

I’m nearing the end of this trip to Sierra Leone and, in meloncholy at the thought of leaving, I am taking the opportunity to reflect upon another month spent in the beautiful Kambia district.

And ‘reflect’ is quite the apposite word to choose, since ‘reflection’ has characterised the theme of my visit to the FAWE team this time, with whom we are implementing a UKAid-funded primary education programme.

This current project began in January 2012, and has targetted 45 schools with teacher training, school governance and management training, adult education support, and establishing community groups who are responsible for supporting the school.  The end of the project is nigh and so we have been talking to key individuals who have been involved throughout the initiative, to illicit their views on the gains made and challenges faced so far.

Before I go on, let me first set the stage.  As all good project teams do, we’ve been assessing ourselves as we go and, so far, our findings have been encouraging.  I will draw upon end of year class test scores as an example.

Looking at the 24 schools targetted in the first year of the project (target schools), the percentage of children who passed their end of year class tests last June increased by 9.4% compared to results from the year before we started our work.  Amongst those who passed the tests, 27.5% scored more than 70% (the pass mark is 50% so scoring 70% or more is a good result), compared to only 11.6% of children who scored more than 70% the previous year; so an increase of 15.9% here.

The percentage of children who passed their end of year class tests last June increased by 9.4% compared to results from the year before we started our work

The percentage of children who passed their end of year class tests last June increased by 9.4% compared to results from the year before we started our work

We compared all of these test results to those from the 21 schools with whom we are working now (new schools), and had not worked with before the tests were taken.  This is where things get really interesting.  Now remember that in our target schools the percentage of children who passed increased by 9.4%.  Well the corresponding figure for the new schools was only 4.1%.  Likewise, the percentage  of children in new schools who scored more than 70% increased by only 0.3% from the previous year, compared to the 15.9% increase seen in the target schools.  I’ve included a table that might explain the findings better than I can put into words… too many ‘%s’ perhaps?

Table1 v2

So, tick.  Remembering that test results don’t capture the full extent of learning, and can themselves be flawed measures of progress, the findings suggest that learning is improving, and that our work is contributing toward this positive change.

"Flip charts have been flying, pen lids popping, and  stones (for voting) scattering."

“Flip charts have been flying, pen lids popping, and stones (for voting) scattering.”

So, motivated by these reassuring findings, we are of course eager to continue.  Now, we know there are still many challenges faced by the 45 schools, and education is still not at the quality that it needs to be to enable children to reach their full potential.  So who better to consult on next steps, but the people with whom we’re directly working?

So, over the past week or so, the FAWE office has been full of Head Teachers, parents learning to read and write, and community group leaders.  Flip charts have been flying, pen lids popping, and  stones (for voting) scattering.  Its been hectic, and a real tell on my Krio (the lingua franka) skills, but the results are now in and they are interesting to say the least!

We asked 12 Head Teachers if they wanted to continue working with us and all 12 said yes.  Great!  So we asked them what they would like us to do directly with the school.  83% said more teacher training, whilst 67% said more School Management Committee (SMC) training and 50% asked for more training for themselves.  Reasons given included:

 “I will prefer H/Teacher training because I am not opportune to be trained by MEST [the Ministry of Education].  I was just an assistant teacher that have been promoted to Head Teacher.  So I need to be trained as H/Teacher” and The teacher training will be very much important because most of the teachers are not trained and cannot afford to go to college because of financial constraint’”.

But we wanted to know how they would like to go about this training.  We suggested training options – would you like to have refresher training workshops, much like the approach we used last year, or would you like to try something new, and have Teacher Trainers placed in your schools longer term, for more 1-2-1 coaching and mentoring, and training workshops designed more specifically to meet your needs?  Two thirds of the Head Teachers interviewed opted for the more traditional refresher training approach (perhaps we’re onto a good thing here), whilst a third suggested the Teacher Trainer placement scheme.  Why refresher training?  The most frequent reason given was that training content is easily forgotten, and who cannot attest to that?!  What an insight into the need for continuous in-service training, even for qualified personnel (of which there is a severe shortage in the schools with which we work).

We asked members of the community groups that are supporting schools about the support and training they’d received through the project. From this we learnt that people wanted more training in book-keeping, and project proposal writing, so that they are able to access funds from other avenues (e.g. government grants, or grants from embassies).

With adult learners, we learnt that they have very differing aspirations for their own learning.  Some parents are eager to read books (one woman said she wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in telling her children to finish their education if she had not finished her own), whilst others are happy to learn just how to write their name as they do not have time in the day to progress past this level.  This has implications for the design of the adult education programme, as we need to be flexible to people’s  aspirations and availability.  We were also told that adult learners wanted to learn more about business skills (receiving 36% of a vote to prioritise topics suggested by the workshop participants), agriculture (23%), planning daily activities (23%), and family planning (18%).  We also learnt that the main problems facing the adult learning groups are the time constraints of the learners themselves as their other responsibilities make them late for classes, if they have chance to come at all, and means they have little time to study at home.

"back to the flipcharts, back to the priority matrixes, and focusing on planning..."

“back to the flipcharts, back to the priority matrixes, and focusing on planning…”

These are just a few highlights of our findings, all of which are currently being spilled over as we plan our follow-up support programme.  Of course we’re reflecting critically, and not taking things at face value.  Debate is raging in the FAWE/Children in Crisis office at the moment, I can tell you!

So we’re now back to the flipcharts, back to the priority matrixes, and focusing on planning activities that will bring this learning to life.  It’s fun and exciting and I am led to revel, once again, at incredible privilege I have to work alongside the innovative and inspiring FAWE team, school personnel and community members who despite all the odds, succeed in getting some kids through.  I take very seriously my responsibility to support these groups to build on what they have already achieved, so that ‘some’ soon becomes ‘all’ and ‘get through’ fast becomes ‘reach their full potential’.

Thank you for reading and if you have any ideas or questions, please feel free to contact Children in Crisis!

info@childrenincrisis.org / 020 7627 1040