Sierra Leone - a snapshot
At first glance Sierra Leone might appear to be a prosperous paradise - long white sandy beaches along the coast, a tropical climate, a land rich in minerals including diamonds, and the third largest natural harbour in the world. Even its name, Lion Mountain, sounds exotic – given to the country over 500 years ago by a Portuguese explorer who thought the hills of the capital Freetown resembled a lion lying down. A small country of 5 million people nestling between Liberia and Gambia on the West African coast, a 6 hour flight from London in the same time zone as the UK, you would be forgiven for thinking it might be a major holiday destination.
The reality is a little different. Following British and UN peacekeeping efforts, a decade of civil war ended in 2002. The civil war funded by "blood diamonds" destroyed families, infrastructure and wealth. Much was lost, and the rebuilding process is fragile and slow... but happening. There is a functioning democratic government and a spirit of self help among the people. Nonetheless, according to the United Nations Human Development Index, Sierra Leone is third from the bottom of some 182 countries.
Education is a key factor in enabling progress and development. Secondary education has been given priority by the Government, leaving much primary schooling to the local communities – who have no money. Children need to get onto the education ladder if they are to reach secondary school. We aim to fund the building and equipping of 20 community primary schools in both urban and rural areas, with between 200 -2000 children in a school. Each school project will build a solid school structure of cement and wood, and the projects also include provision of a hand well and toilets. Health and sanitation go hand in hand with education if young children, especially girls, are to go to school. Local materials and local people are used wherever possible, and furniture is made by local carpenters. Teaching materials will be provided.
Some primary schools that exist today have been half built before funds ran out, most are made from corrugated iron or very basic and insecure structures. Class sizes are huge, up to a 100 children, and sometimes there are two classes side by side in the same room. Primary age is between 6 and 14, and there are wide age differences in a class and year depending on when a particular child started school. Each school project will involve the local community in the management, and will include teacher training.
An elderly woman, a community representative in one area outside Freetown said: "We can do this, we can improve their futures, we just need you to give us the seed and we will grow the fruit"
The support of those who have enjoyed bottles of delicious Millione since its launch has allowed us to change scenes like the two shown above, into brand new schools like these two below.
For more photos of the schools that we have built so far, please visit our gallery page.
ActionAid is a unique partnership of people who are fighting for a world without poverty in which every person can exercise their right to a life of dignity. They work in more than 45 countries to help end poverty and bring about long-term, sustainable change – decided upon by communities themselves. Together with more than 2,000 local, national and international partners, they work with and support the poorest and most vulnerable people to fight for and gain their rights to food, education, shelter, work, basic healthcare and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Among them are widows, orphans, the homeless and disabled, people with HIV & AIDS, tribal peoples and religious minorities.
ActionAid Sierra Leone
ActionAid started working in Sierra Leone in 1988 and has been engaged in an integrated development approach embracing community building, agriculture, health, water and sanitation, education and income generation. ActionAid is a registered charity no 274467