Friday, 11 February 2011

Friday 11th Feb

Yet another eventful day! Today was African Friday, so our driver Mohammed wore his African dress. Today was also day 2 of the literacy festival. Another day of mingling with government officials and tribal leaders made me feel like an impostor!

There is a big focus in Sierra Leone at the moment on 'girl child' education. Whilst the guest speakers were speaking at the start of the conference, I shared my owl baby book with a little boy who was sitting next to me. Within seconds I had a whole crowd of children surrounding me, desperate to read my books. The children’s eye lit up whilst reading. Watching the pleasure that the children got from these books was so touching but also heartbreaking. Most of these children do not have access to books; however a lucky few have limited school libraries. A local library is under construction and will be finished next year.  At home I take for granted the fact that I’ve had access to books since birth and have always been encouraged to read. I think in the U.K. some people do not appreciate the amazing opportunities we have to support reading and education. The children took great delight and they were so careful with the books. One boy sat and read a selection of books, cover to cover, to the other children. Watching these children showed me the value and joy that books can bring.

Today I ran another two workshops. The teachers were really enthusiastic and I hope that I have showed them ways to bring books alive for children. At the end of each workshop, the teachers had the chance to ask questions. One man asked how we punish the children in England. When we told them that we do not flog (hit children with a stick) or carry out bumping (a highly exhausting form of punishment, in which the children are laughed at publicly, whilst repeatedly crouching down and standing up, whilst holding their ears) the crowd were shocked. We then explained to them about how we manage our classes.

Talking to a teacher aged 22 today, really highlighted to me how extremely privileged I am. He has been teaching for a year, following the loss of his Father and has never been to university. This man was desperate to learn new teaching strategies. He was such an inspirational person to talk to. He was very dedicated to his job despite the fact that he often does not get paid. During lunch, local children sang to us in a church. One little girl lost her mother last year. She has to carry out household chores before having to walk to school for an hour and a half to get to school. For being late to school, she gets flogged and has scars on her arm. Most people here have tragic backgrounds; they have experienced such hardship and loss. Yet, the people here are the most positive and uplifting people I have ever met. They never complain about their lives, they are so warm, welcoming and keen to help other people. Also the children here have the most amazing manners ever.

Above is the library which will be completed next year.
Following the conference, I bought some local pottery. I also bought a decorated sand bottle, made by a local group of scouts. Overall, yet another amazing, memorable day!!


  1. Again, a fantastic day for you...and reading this makes us feel very very humble and sad.Most of all makes me want to help the Waterloo Partnership.When you return home I will speak to you and see what i can do to try make a
    difference however small.thanks for doing this blog Clairey.I've woken up every morning eagerly switching on my lap top to read what you've been up to. How lucky am I? love all the clan x

  2. Bumping sounds like the strangest and yet one of the most horrible forms of punishment for a child ever.

  3. It was horrific to watch. It was extremely hard to stop myself running over to the young boy and telling him to stop. But it is their culture, it is what they are used to and I had to respect that. But yes it was absolutely appalling, especially in the sweltering heat!! I felt dizzy just from bending to pick something off the floor, and I’d had food that morning.

  4. they are good.jamie l

  5. theyarnispaul