Today was my first day back in Bassa Town School. After a very bumpy drive, I arrived during the school assembly and received a warm welcome. It was lovely to see all of the staff and pupils again. For devotion (assembly) the children line up outside, sing songs and pray. Whilst the children sang the national anthem, all passers-by stopped and stood still. It was fascinating to see and made me feel slightly guilty, about not knowing my own national anthem. One difference I spotted straight away about the school is a new fence has been put up. The teachers told me this is because motorbikes were driving through the school compound and hitting children. Another main difference is a well has been built close to the school. Last year, the foundations for the well were only being laid and I’m impressed to see the progress.
One of the first questions my head asked me was how my dog was. I was touched she remembered Hamish. In Sierra Leone, most people here don’t have dogs as pets and there are lots of malnourished strays wandering the streets. The staff and children thought it was very funny when I told them Hamish goes to the groomers for regular haircuts.
To begin the day, the head teacher called a staff meeting, in which I outlined the aims for the week. Following this, the tailor came to take my measurements so he could make me a typical Krio outfit. Since we were next to the well, I had a go of pumping the water. This is a much more tiring way of acquiring water, than just turning on a tap! I’m extremely fortunate to live in a house with clean running water and electricity. It’s hard to imagine a life without these two basic essentials that I just take for granted. The headteacher then showed me around the school compound. I was introduced to the police officers in the station, the tailor, and the chemist.
I observed a mathematics lesson in class 4 about division. The lesson structure was very similar to a numeracy lesson at home. The lesson objectives were on the board, the lesson was modelled first. Then the children were solving division problems in groups by sharing beer bottle tops. I tried to help a group, but was told off by the teacher for ‘doing it wrong’. Next the children had independent work to solve followed by a homework assignment. I helped the teacher to mark all of the books which was interesting. If any of the children had found the activity difficult, the teacher called them to the board to help correct any mistakes. The teacher made each child stand up depending on what mark they had received. The other children had to ‘clap for them’ and the teacher told children to ‘clap for themselves’.
As a gift, I bought the children of Bassa Town a parachute. I had also brought some footballs with me. I was told I was going to do a physical education lesson with one class. Before I knew it, I had the whole school around me and I had to teach them how to use the parachute. This was great fun, the children enjoyed it lots. However, it created a lot of dust which really irritated my eyes.
This afternoon was extremely hot and sweaty. The ‘sports master’ in the school showed me how to play handball. I spent most of the game feeling confused about who was in my team and what the aim was. It was tough jumping around in sweltering Sierra Leonean heat. Next two school house teams played football against each other. Sitting underneath the cool mango tree, I was very impressed with the stamina of the boys being able to participate in such an active game in the heat. One of the teachers had her granddaughter in school today. It was very sweet watching her play with her friend and watching the two girls feeding themselves.
After school we went to visit the bakery project that the Waterloo Partnership has funded. It was impressive to see the developments that have been made in the bakery since last year. The bakery is now fully functioning and can bake 300 items a day. Following the bakery, we went to see a school which the partnership also helped to build.
On the drive back to the hotel we stopped off in Freetown. First we visited a beautiful freedom garden which remembers the war. Next we visited the Freetown museum which documents the history of Sierra Leone. Even though the museum had closed before we arrived, the guide allowed us into the museum and gave us a guided tour.