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Mr Browning visits the Industrial and Cooperative Preparatory School in Freetown, Sierra Leone!
12th - 19th March 2010
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Amidst the pupils of ICOPs

As part of the Global Schools Partnership, which is funded by the British Council, Mr Browning visited our partnership school: the Industrial and Cooperative Preparatory Primary School in the Wellington district of Freetown.

Map of Sierra Leone Map of Freetown - our school is on the Kissy Road in the Wellington area to the west of the city centre.

"My visit to the school in Sierra Leone was certainly an eye-opener. On the first Monday morning, I had the surreal experience of teaching in a mud-floored building with a corrugated iron roof and no amenities.

Teaching in Africa! Lessons! The Reception children practise drawing Writing practice

The school had no electricity, running water or toilets to speak of. All hundred pupils were taught in one room, which was sectioned off by chalk boards hanging from flimsy wooded frames. There were few resources!

The school room Typical lessons, written onto the chalkboard Children bring packed lunch to school - there are no school meals. A basic roof!

Unlike our English classrooms, with their computers, interactive whiteboards, carpets, modern furnishings and heating, this was the exact opposite. The children started writing in their tatty exercise books, but the pages soon became dusty. They sat on rickety benches and leaned on equally dubious desks.

Rickety benches and tables are the only itmes of furniture. The eldest pupils' desks The school hall The older pupils and their teacher

All lessons were in English, which is the main language of the country, although Krio is spoken by the majority of people.

The school office! Our gift of sports balls, already dusty from one morning's play! A teacher prepares a meal for the guest! Preparing lunch Lessons at ICOPs

Despite the poverty, all of the staff and pupils were so friendly and prepared to share their meagre resources with me. I had to adjust to being called 'Uncle Paul' as the terms Auntie and Uncle were used for all the teachers!

There is no playground to speak of but the children have an outside area, which is dusty and stony. They enjoyed playing with the footballs and rugby balls which I'd brought from Hull. Indeed, everyone in the country seems obsessed with the English Premier League and, especially Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea! Watching Arsenal playing Hull City on a television in a Sierra Leonian Bar was quite an experience!

Playing rugby in the playground! Football Crazy! Girls playing 'Akra', a dancing-clapping game Pupils outside the front of the school
ICOPs pupils Playground games

I had the opportunity to see the neighbourhood, visit people's houses and sample life from the local's perspective, rather than as a tourist. The following group of photos show what the locality of the school is like, including one of two pupils in front of their home. This particular area has an ocean frontage, where small scale fishing is still an occupation for some people.

A front garden A typical neighbourhood street A typical home Bricks baking outside
Selling local wares Local fishing boats

Unlike other tropical parts of the Earth, which are geared up for tourism, Sierra Leone is definitely not.

The following photo is one taken during the civil war that raged from 1991 to 2000. During this time, there was incredible brutality, with many children being forced into taking up arms. Thankfully, following the mobilisation of 17,000 UN personnel and the subsequent ending of the war, the country has been on a more stable and safer footing since then.

This young Sierra Leonian boy was one of thousands forcibly conscripted into the forces.
In 2008 the country was deemed to be the least developed country in the world. It clearly has a long way to go!

Traditions of polygamy have resulted in extended families with many children. Only a few can attend school, so there are scores of children who are on the streets or tips.

Rubbish lines all the streets; there are few metalled roads with most being little more than rough tracks. For a capital city there are few imposing buildings, apart from the Parliament, Courts and High Commission.

Buildings in the middle of Freetown Market traders Buildings Rubbish is all around!
Market Stalls in Freetown Many items are carried on heads! A view over Freetown from the British High Commission - the smoke is rising from the city's main rubbish tip - an everyday activity! Buildings

We also managed to see other facets of Sierra Leonian life, including a traditional drumming group:
Advertising a local drumming band Expert Rhythm Makers Children dancing to the beat Matt and Alan, our global partnership guides filming the event
The drummers lived and played in a small compound A drumming workshop Local children Budding drummers of the future

All this compounded to give us feelings of guilt and sadness for the people. I had joined the headteachers from Pearson and Collingwood primary schools and we all came away with a sense of the enormity of the situation. Needless to say, I was given a great farewell, with the children performing traditional dances.

A traditional farewell Children dancing in traditional dress

There were many positives, including the eagerness of the Sierra Leonians to make links with us. There are many things we hope to do in the coming months and years. What an experience!"
Mr Browning


Stepney Primary School
Beverley Road, HULL, HU5 1JJ.
Headteacher: Mr P Browning
Tel: 01482 343690
Fax: 01482 348681
E-mail: admin@stepney.hull.sch.uk
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