How community members see our Eastern Sierra Leone Project
Our ‘Increasing Access, Retention and Performance in Primary Education’ project has contributed to change parents’ and community members’ views on education in Kailahun district, Sierra Leone.
Below are the opinions of some Community Sensitisation Committee (CSC) members.
CSC Member, Muslim women’s leader
Mother of 2 children participating in the programme
“I joined the CSC for the benefit of my children. It is a good thing for every parent to send children to school to become useful citizens for tomorrow. I enjoy going to speak to parents about the importance of education.
I have adopted a young boy who was being prevented by his mother from going to school. He is 9 years old. He is going to school now and doing well. His mother, who is a single parent, had previously abandoned him and gone to Guinea. This was a big problem, the boy was alone.
There are other abandoned children in the community who would like to become Young Facilitators. These children need help with feeding, school fees and uniforms, but basic sustenance is a real issue. The boy I have adopted presents a real challenge financially, so I requested support to meet the needs of the abandoned, vulnerable children.”
Town Chief, Member of CSC
“Many people left the village because of the war. The village was very affected by the war because it is so close to the Liberian border. Many stayed on in Guinea, not wishing to return because the people they depend on are no longer here. There are thus many widows and single parents and for those who are not educated and who have lost their husband, it is very difficult to survive with 4 or 5 children.
There is free education in Freetown, but not in Kailahun. The teachers are mainly unpaid, volunteer, community teachers; there are only a few, government (and therefore paid) teachers. The parents come together to pay them a small fee, but contributing to this is very difficult for the single parents. Consequently, their children cannot go to school.
We are trying to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable children but some children are still not going to school. Meanwhile, the schools are over-crowded.
I like the programme; it is good. It helps children to be fluent and more open to listen to each other and share their problems, which is very important. I now see children teaching their colleagues at home.
My daughter, who is nearly 11 and a Young Facilitator, is working with a medium-sized group. I admire her; she is building a career.”
27 years old, Youth Leader and Member of CSC
Mother of a Young Facilitator
“I have been a Community Sensitisation Committee (CSC) member for a year and I really
enjoy talking to the parents. Most of them are not prioritising education and I want them to understand how important it is, so I am sensitising them to enrol their children on time.
Parents do listen, although some amongst them don’t. They are sometimes ignorant; they don’t understand why it is important to invest in children. Some parents are impatient during the Young Learners sessions, because they want to know how they are going to personally benefit. Others face constraints because of the costs of sending their children to school. They can be deeply traumatised as a result of their experiences; especially, the levels of poverty are disturbing and many parents are forced to concentrate on subsistence farming.
I enjoy seeing parents change the way that they treat their children. The programme is really good, especially in preparing the pre-schoolers to enter school; it makes a real difference. I have seen a real change in the Young Learners, who now enter school on time.
I have also seen a big change in the Young Facilitators. Some of them had poor reading skills before the programme and also a low knowledge base.
I feel good to be a member of the CSC. The CSC talks about child rights and child protection. People still see child rights as controversial, and parents believe that their children are challenging them because of child rights. But the levels of child abuse, previously widespread, are dropping. People talk now about how to support and protect children.”
Chair of School Management Committee
“I have been a member of the CSC for a year. I am happy that the older children are helping the Young Learners, and pleased to see the Young Learners walking to school confidently; previously they didn’t do this.
Some parents have the wrong perception about school. In the first meeting with them, I encouraged them to send their children to school; I discussed the importance of education for their children. Parents are co-operating with the programme.
The adults who went to school are making headway in their lives and are able to provide for their families. I went to school until Class 3 but was then taken out, so being in the CSC and being a member of the School Management Committee is an important role.
It is important to disseminate information and exercise leadership within the community. Some days ago, I intervened in a labour exploitation situation. A small child was being asked to carry a very heavy load of water and I prevented this.
Changes will come gradually within the community. That’s why the programme must continue long-term. The children in the community are very vulnerable. Thanks to the programme, Young Learners are now going to school before they have even officially enrolled. They want to be there.
However, the programme should also consider the whole welfare of the child, particularly health, as some children are going to school hungry.”
“The rebel war was possible because of the low level of education as it was then possible to persuade children to murder and vandalise. We need children involved in their education.”
“I have children enrolled as Young Learners. My 3-year-old child can now count to 10 and beyond and knows her alphabet. The programme is very nice; it has made her more confident.”
“I am overjoyed with the project. The co-ordinators from Pikin to Pikin are really helping the community, as the small children now feel confident to talk to their parents. This is a good thing.”
“My children are participating and they have been given books and bags! My youngest child can now read and count, thanks to the programme.”
The names have been changed, in accordance with our Child Protection and confidentiality Policies.