Recording Pikin to Pikin Tok’s pilot programmes in a UK primary school

April 2015

This blog post was originally published on Pearl Works website, available here.

by Penny Boreham, Series Editor of the Pikin to Pikin Tork, our radio education programme in Sierra Leone

We spent a day recording in St Mary and St John Primary School in Oxford, England. Penny Boreham, Series Editor of Pikin to Pikin Tork, explains why the audio will be an important element of the programmes.


Excitement was mounting at primary school, SS Mary and John in Oxford, even before we arrived.

SS Mary and John is a vibrant, multi-cultural primary school in central Oxford, with the children speaking twenty nine languages in total. Early years head and form teacher, Jane Godby, had been telling her class that special visitors were arriving that morning, and that one of them was a story teller!

Year two, Ash class were to play their part in radio programmes for children in Sierra Leone. They knew that children in Sierra Leone had been experiencing real and extreme challenges with the Ebola virus and that they were currently not able to go to school.

They also knew they would be hearing the recorded voices of children from Sierra Leone and that Usifu Jalloh, the acclaimed Sierra Leonean story teller who is also the presenter of the programmes for the younger listeners, would be entertaining them.

The children in Jane’s class (form one) had also made up their own song to share with their friends in Sierra Leone. It was about the importance of hand washing one of the main, life saving, preventative measures being encouraged in Sierra Leone, and absolutely crucial to not only protecting against Ebola but also many other diseases.

When we arrived we were greeted with huge warmth, a real buzz of energy and much eagerness to get going. PtPTork3

Usifu and Showers Jalloh, a musician and singer, had driven up from London and I had driven to the school with Child to Child’s early years consultant, Gulzar Kanji.

Gulzar, who is an internationally renowned early years expert, is a crucial part of the project , not only because of her huge experience but also because she has written Child to Child’s materials (‘Getting Ready for School’) and some of the stories she has written are being adapted by Usifu Jalloh for the programmes.

The day was a great success, the children were rolling around on the floor laughing at Usifu’s stories and were gripped by the audio they heard from Sierra Leone.

Usifu is a magnificent story teller, and the children were spell-bound.

SS Mary and John have made story telling a central part of their curriculum. They have found that learning and retelling stories is a very effective way of building children’s skills and confidence, especially for those who find listening and speaking more of a challenge.

Usifu Jalloh is passionately committed to making story telling more central to children’s education in Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leonean civil war, and the dislocation of family life since the war, now of course exacerbated by the impact of the Ebola virus, has meant that even the art of story telling in the villages is dying. Gone, he says, are the days, when the local story teller held children spell bound in the evenings. Some years ago he set up a festival in his own home town in Sierra Leone to encourage young story tellers.

Our first six pilot programmes are for the younger age groups, 4-6 years and 7-11 years, and both stories and story telling are at the heart of these programmes.