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Rogbonko, in Temne, it means ‘the place in the forest’ is a village of 450 in central Sierra Leone, West Africa. During the country’s civil war the village was caught behind rebel lines and cut off from all contact with the rest of the country for a decade.

  In 2002 Aminatta Forna travelled to her family village as part of television documentary. Rogbonko was founded by her grandfather, a coffee grower and farmer, in the 1920’s. Years of national economic decline and war had turned what was once a flourishing community into mere subsistence farmers. Many of the people were desperate to send their children to school, which they saw as their only hope. The nearest school was five kilometres away, a river lay in between that in the rainy season could only be crossed by swimming, making it impossible for all but the bigger children.

  The idea to start a school grew from that visit. Later in the same year Aminatta Forna returned to Rogbonko accompanied by her husband, the photographer Simon Westcott. A teacher’s salary in Sierra Leone starts at the equivalent of £35 a month. In exchange for an undertaking to provide a teacher, the villagers agreed to build a school. Working around the clock, volunteers cleared the land by hand and erected a schoolhouse of traditional bamboo and thatch. On January 15th 2003, Rogbonko Village School opened its doors for the first time.

  Later in the same year the Independent newspaper in the UK ran a cover story telling the story of Rogbonko School. Thousands of pounds in donations were received from readers who were inspired to help, leading to the founding of the Rogbonko Village School Trust.

  Today Rogbonko Village School has 135 children and four teachers. The running of the school is entirely managed by the Rogbonko Village School Committee, made up of teachers and parents in the village. Financial assistance is provided by the Rogbonko Village School Trust, as well as donations of books, clothes and sports equipment. The salaries of all four teachers are sponsored by individuals in the United Kingdom.

  In October 2004 work began on a permanent school building with extra classrooms. Plans for the future include the addition of two more classes and facilities for adult literacy lessons.