Saturday, 21 March 2015

Education, Education, Education...


Education, Education, Education…


Before we start, let’s wrap up some loose ends. First, we have a new character. Ladies & gentlemen, I give you… ‘The Belgian’. You realise when you receive an email that begins, ‘Oi you’, you’re in trouble. ‘The Belgian’ took exception to some of my views. Let me provide balance by pointing out some interesting facts about Belgium. It’s about far more than beer, chocolate and Brussels being home to that value for money institution, The European Union.

Belgium’s the country that first introduced us to sax, as in saxophone of course; then later from the wind section… sprouts. Also, Napoleon met his final Waterloo here 1815, south of Brussels. OK, Belgium didn’t actually exist then. It did 30 years later though, when Karl Marx was inspired to write the Communist Manifesto. Obviously more to this country than first meets the eye…

We’ve all been at a dinner party when someone has said name a famous Belgian? Right? Perhaps at more highbrow parties where they shoot for three famous Belgians? Haven’t we? I’m going to try four, here we go…

… the tall fellow with the funny hair who occasionally plays for Manchester United quite poorly, what’s his name… Fellaini. Then there’s the chap who invented Bakelite … Leo Baekeland …. two more… easy, The Smurfs are from Belgium. One more…. come on, keep thinking…

Other loose ends. Well, Taggart, my miserly scrooge like Scottish next door neighbour, has really taken the wind out my sails this time. He’s only gone and made a second donation to the ‘Food Basket Appeal’ (FBA). A whole 25 Guineas & 10 Shillings this time.

A second time donation was also made last week by ‘Canadian Sumo’, a big … hearted N. American lawyer. He visited Sierra Leone in 2012 and broke one of our beds. CR, you’re welcome back any time my friend. Your support has been outstanding. Bring a reinforced hammock. Oh, and it was Senior Diva who reminded me of the collapsing bed escapade.

On a serious note, thank you both for those recent donations and to everyone who’s contributed so generously. The blog has raised over $12,600.

What you’re about to read cost around $1,000. Total spending from the fund is now $8.3k. We’ll keep going as long as we can. Every penny of this amount has been given by family, friends, and readers. I feel responsible. Every cent has been carefully spent. The change of emphasis is now to support education.

Two Fridays ago we made the first school delivery. Next one planned for this Thursday (26th). Three days before the donation we toured some of the schools. While at Huntingdon Primary (below), a church sponsored school in Goderich southeast Freetown, we couldn’t escape the constant sound of hammers on rocks. A distinctive sound in Freetown.

We already knew this was a deprived area. Poor children attend this school. Even then some are too poor to attend. The parents cannot afford the uniform, or the text books required. We followed the sound. Took us into an area with maybe 20 people breaking up rocks to sell. Most were children. Most were young. I was drawn to Kabba Conteh. He’s 9 years old. Same age as my daughter, ‘Tea Cake’. You might remember TC from a post last summer in the States. She wants a guest runner slot. She’s in training. She’s plenty to say, an apprentice diva in the making.

Kabba was sat cheerfully working away with his grandmother (below). He had a pleasant demeanour and a winning smile. I watched him for some time as I engaged with the family. I asked to take a couple of photos and in return bought three buckets of stones. I donated the stones back. Most times, as you walk away, you know you’ll never see these people again. Life just moves on. Bring a little cheer. Move on...



This time was different…

I should mention Violet from ‘Save the Needy Sierra Leone’ who did an amazing job organising everything. She was the star. The plan was to select 40 of the poorest children from a number of junior (primary) government schools in the area. We’d provide the text books they’d need for their respective year. Material for a school uniform, and stationary – exercise books, pencils, pens, rulers, rubbers, that sort of thing.



The ceremony took place at Agape School Hall, Goderich. It's 0930 hrs, and already sweltering. We began with prayers. Then a lovely welcome song from the children (below). This followed by an amusing skit by the children on why attending school is important. Some of us then said a few words and introduced ourselves. Belmon Renner, one of the schoolgirls, presented me with a bouquet of flowers. They went straight to Baby Diva to help celebrate some big news she has. This will be revealed in a future post, perhaps around August. Next the distribution by Mrs. Edith Kpendema, assisted by Natalie Cole (below in pink), our very own Senior Diva. Because this was a Friday both Divas were naturally dressed as Senegalese lottery winners.



The children came forward individually with huge smiles and collected their text books and stationary, and the cloth to make a uniform. A tailor was present to measure them. He will make the uniforms. Parents also attended, as well some volunteers from Violet’s organisation. Finally, everyone received a decent meal and a drink. An uplifting morning. $1,000 can do so much. 

Conditions in these schools; no running water, no power, no toilets, no secure perimeter, no meals in some schools. When the rains come these roofs will leak. Two shifts of classes usually; early morning until lunchtime, then the second shift. Sometimes three classes in the same room separated with dividers, the list goes on.

Despite everything the children are a happy bunch, like most kids most places. They don’t know of the things they don’t have. Schools have been closed since last June. Imagine this where you live.

Kabba Konteh. He turned about to be one of the 40 today. Now, this is one happy special little boy. He’s in Class 3 at Huntingdon Primary School. He has 8 siblings. If just one of them 'makes it'…



Seeing his face in this photo made it all feel worthwhile. This was completely unexpected. The children and invited guests had their meal and drink. We slipped away, Baby Diva with her bouquet, and drove back 30 minutes to the office. Some reflection on the way back…

Footnote 1: The schools are not opening at the end of March as planned. Probably September at the earliest. The final 10% of the curse of Ebola is proving stubborn. There’s another 3 day lockdown (the third one) beginning next Friday. The emergency measures have been extended until year end. The economy is in ruins. More in the next post…

Footnote 2: I’ve made it through without mentioning the French, my Mother-in-Law, or Robert Mugabe. How about I rectify this by mentioning at least 2 of them in one sentence.

So, what’s the difference between my Mother-in-Law and Robert Mugabe? Well, one is an elderly dictator who rules with a rod of iron. The other is… the President of Zimbabwe…

Footnote 3: Ha, that last famous Belgian… phew, have it… Tintin. Not nearly as difficult as I thought…

Footnote 4: ‘O’, I miss you…

Don’t forget to follow on Twitter: @roadrunnertns

No long gap to the next post this time, something to do on lockdown… see you real soon...