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At a glance: Sierra Leone

Taking community schools to children in rural Sierra Leone

© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2005
A group of young school children in rural Sierra Leone.

By Ikem Chiejine

BOMBALI DISTRICT, Sierra Leone, 30 December 2005 – The 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone destroyed much of the country’s education infrastructure and denied an overwhelming number the rights of education during the conflict. After the war ended, these children – now over-aged - have enrolled in school, leaving no room for the younger ones.

It is estimated that about 375,000 children in Sierra Leone, mostly girls, living in poor remote communities, still have no access to education, about 60 per cent of the country’s school aged children.

To get these children back into school, especially the younger ones who have difficulty travelling long distances, UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Global Movement for Children, is working with local communities to bring low-cost, child-friendly schools into these poor areas.

“This is a new thing that has come to our community,” said Chief Sullay Turay, head of Rorinka community, Bombali District. “Our little children can now attend school without waiting until they are ten years old to be able to walk to the nearest school. Indeed this is development.”

© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2005
A completed school for young children, which all community schools will be modelled after in rural Sierra Leone. Much of the educational infrastructure was destroyed during the civil war.

The construction of the first 400 community schools designed for grades 1 to 3 benefited some 19,000 children, half of them girls. The one-room classrooms were designed as multi-purpose structures to be used by the whole community.

Eventually all community schools will be transformed into this model. The plan is to establish 1,300 such community schools throughout the country by 2007.

UNICEF and partners also provide essential teaching and learning materials, as well as the training of teachers and staff.

In November 2004, a group of 57 teachers completed basic training, which included issues like HIVS/AIDS prevention, gender equality and human rights. For most, this was the only training they had ever received. “Now we know what teaching is about – it’s about getting the best out of every child, and not beating them,” said one teacher. Another 3,000 teachers will be trained in the next three years.

In post-conflict countries like Sierra Leone, building affordable and sustainable schools for children are one crucial step in assisting the country to rebuild its shattered educational system.



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