The proof of the pudding is in the eating

Posted on Oct 29, 2012

It’s incredibly motivating to get reports from the people actually using the schools Millione has funded. We knew they could transform the lives of the children and their families, but to get word from them that it is now a reality is just wonderful!

The first two schools have been open for six months. An email with a comprehensive report compiled by ActionAid Sierra Leone has just popped into my inbox. I can think of no better way to convey the benefits of drinking Millione Rose than to quote a few extracts:

A year on since the building work began they have both become thriving learning environments. Enrolment and retention figures are up and drop-out rates have decreased. More girls are joining the schools and are able to continue their education due to a wider understanding among their parents and the community about the value of girls’ education.

There was a high level of community participation in the project, for example women and young people were heavily involved in collecting water and moving materials to the construction site. During the construction period the school management committees were actively monitoring progress and the community teachers’ associations have become increasingly involved in running the schools and providing the support needed.

Reverend Ahmed Bartholomew Kaimapo, head teacher of Calvary Community Primary School said: “The number of children joining the school has shot up by almost 50% only a few months after the opening of the school – this is unbelievable. The nursery section alone has about 100 children. It was as if parents had been waiting for the school to be completed. With the child-centred teacher training for my teachers, I now see a big difference in their teaching. Before now most teachers didn’t prepare lesson notes or have subject corners in their classes. This has changed as they have developed positive attitudes towards teaching. My teachers and I have become proud of our school and some of them who wanted to transfer to other schools last year have changed their minds. All I would say is thanks to Millione and ActionAid for making us very proud.

Each school has a six classroom block, a well and separate toilet facilities for boys and girls. Some of the positive changes that have occurred include:

  • An increase in enrolment, which has been particularly apparent at Calvary Lutheran School with 214 girls in school in 2012 as opposed to 102 girls in 2010. Since the school opened numbers have more than doubled in size.
  • An increase in school attendance and a drop in attrition rates especially among girls. The average attendance rates during a term of 65 days were 56 and 55 days respectively for girls and boys… Neither school recorded any drop-outs in the first and beginning of the second terms.
  • The retention of qualified teachers in both schools as well as attracting one new teacher
  • Sanitation facilities have been provided with the construction of two ventilated pit latrines and six compartment toilets in each school. This is particularly important for girls who now have increased privacy and are less vulnerable to violence as a result of a separate toilet block which has led to increased attendance.
  • Safe drinking water is now accessible to both schools and families in the community as a whole, following the completion of a well and hand pumps in each school. As a result children no longer have to buy or fetch water which means they can stay at school all day and not have to miss out on their lessons or lunch break.
  • The furniture and teaching materials have dramatically improved the learning environment and academic performance in both schools. The pupil to textbook ratio has reduced from five pupils to one textbook before the project to three pupils to one textbook in 2012. In addition to this a greater emphasis on reading has been developed which has led to an increase in performance in both schools.
  • Scholarships were awarded to the highest 10 performing girls in the National Primary School exams. Each scholarship is worth 500,000 Leones (approximately £77) and with the scholarship comes a promotion to junior secondary school and funding for their education. The scholarship covers the cost of one year of fees for uniforms and learning materials and has saved parents the costly burden of having to pay for their children and it is also inspiring younger girls to work harder.
  • Two community meetings were held and two radio discussion programmes were broadcast to raise awareness of the importance of girls’ education and community participation.
  • Twenty teachers were given three days of training to keep them up-to-date with modern teaching methods known as child-centred teaching techniques. The training which covered areas including lesson plans, code of conduct for teachers, dealing with gender based violence, child rights, maintaining a healthy and child-friendly environment, and basic counselling skills has contributed to an improvement in the quality of teaching in both schools. Teachers have already noticed a positive difference among pupils already in response to their new teaching methods.

The third school is under construction in the east of the country and will be completed by the end of 2012. We have two thirds of the funds for the fourth. The more of us who pop down to Sainsbury’s and buy a bottle of Millione Rose the sooner we can build it!

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