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 Newsletter 1, August 2003

               It is the end of the first school year at Rogbonko School. Exams are over and the results are being printed and will posted in the schoolhouse over the coming month.

                It is remarkable to think that the school opened its doors to the first intake of pupils just over seven months ago. Since then the number of children attending has swelled to 109 spread across four classes. The schoolhouse has been extended once already and now houses three classes. And just as soon as the rains are over (in October), the villagers plan to build an extra wing to the schoolhouse to accommodate Form 3, who up until now have been taught in the church.

                Rogbonko School is now the only fully functioning school in the area. One of the challenges facing the school committee is the increasing number of children from nearby villages being sent to them. Teachers in the government run schools are often paid sporadically, if at all. Perhaps understandably significant numbers of teachers in Sierra Leone have given up going to work and returned to farming to in order to provide food for themselves and their families. This is why the main priority of the Rogbonko School Trust is a commitment to paying the salaries of the teachers for a minimum of at least three years and hopefully for much longer.

                The school committee is currently in discussion with the Forum for African Women in Education (FAWE), to see how they might help in the running of the school. FAWE (an award-winning Nairobi based NGO) fund and run a number of non-fee paying primary schools particularly for war-affected children, as well as skills training programmes and a teacher training programme. A representative of FAWE has visited Rogbonko to advise the school committee, and the organisation have agreed to monitor our project. More importantly, our four teachers will be enrolled on the next teacher training programme to be held at the Teacher Training College in Makeni, about twenty miles from Rogbonko.

                In the years of war so few children received any education at all that the school has confined itself to teaching a limited syllabus, choosing to concentrate on the three R’s, with additional classes in environmental studies, social studies, creative and practical arts and physical education. Currently there are four classes (Forms 1a & 1b, Form 2 and Form 3). With the funding of the teacher’s salaries now looking secure, plans for the future under discussion include the addition of Form 4 and a new class teacher. The Trust is also considering the purchase of sports equipment (currently the school owns a single football) on behalf of the school. In time it is hoped that we will be able to replace the existing structure, made of mud brick and thatch, with something more permanent.

                A consignment of books donated to school was shipped last month ready for the new school year. The villagers have determined Rogbonko School deserves a uniform of its own. The degree of pride children in Sierra Leone take in their school uniforms – often hand sewn by parents – is something of a national trait. The plan has general approval and all that is needed is a decision on the colour.

                The salaries of two of Rogbonko Schools teachers are now being sponsored by individuals who have kindly established standing orders in favour of the Trust. We are asking for a commitment of just £35 a month  for between one and three years. Think what a tremendous gift sponsoring a teacher would make for Christmas or a birthday.

                On behalf of the Rogbonko Village School and the Rogbonko Village School Trust, I’d like to thank you all  your support without which much of this would have been impossible.

  “And will there be singing in the darkness in the times of darkness. Yes, there will be singing in the times of darkness.” Bertold Brecht.

Aminatta Forna
Chair, Rogbonko School Trust