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Newsletter 2 April 2004


Pupils and staff of Rogbonko Village School. December 2003


  In January two of the trustees of Rogbonko Village School – Aminatta Forna and Simon Westcott – visited Sierra Leone and travelled to the village. The journey takes about four hours from Freetown in a four wheel drive. The roads have suffered years of neglect as well as the effects of the recent war. The village was deep in the heart of rebel held territory for all of that time. You cross the Rokel River into Magburaka across an open bridge, high above the water and the people washing and doing laundry. The road from Magburaka to Rogbonko is a bush track – though quite good by local standards. You pass through several villages and cross a log bridge. Rogbonko is the very last village to be reached, in the heart of the forest. As you enter the village the first building you pass is the school and playing field.

Word had been sent of our visit and so we were expected. Within a few minutes of our arrival we were greeted by Augustine the head teacher, who told us the pupils had a recital ready for us.

The recital was simply stunning. A year ago very few of these children had even entered a classroom. Now they were singing, reciting poems and performing sketches. And in English, too. There were some natural stars, in particular a pair who performed a hilarious sketch of a sailor and his girlfriend. This, 130 miles from the sea. It turned out James Sankoh, one of the teachers, once studied drama – it was he who was the inspiration behind the sketches, written to help the children learn English.

The school’s progress has been outstanding. They have achieved more than any of us imagined. Credit for much of this must be given to Augustine Kamara, an excellent headmaster and role model for both teachers and pupils alike.

The next day the entire village including the elders, teachers and pupils met on the playing fields to see the sport’s equipment bought with money donated to the school fund: badminton nets and racquets, footballs, a basketball and hoop, skipping ropes, hoola hoops and a volleyball net and balls. We began by demonstrating badminton, which was new to everyone. Fortunately our skills were just about sufficient. Afterwards, to general amusement, Augustine and the other teachers pitched in to have a go, followed by the older boys and girls.

Volleyball is widely played in schools in Sierra Leone. Morlai, the school administrator told us he used to play with an old fishing net and a pair of poles. Morlai also used to captain his school team. Within minutes we had a real game going, with some fast serving and excellent returns.


The school building was constructed just over a year ago on land donated for the purpose by one of the village families. The first classrooms were built out of bamboo and thatch by the young men of the village who cleared the entire area, including the playing field, by hand. Such was the demand for school places that a second building was added after the rains in October 2003 for a further class, which up until then had been temporarily housed in the church.

The building has served its purpose well, and even withstood the unannounced arrival of a UN helicopter which used the playing fields as a landing pad last November.

However, as one might imagine, the building is not entirely weather proof. The thatch rots and needs to be replaced at intervals. The mud floor becomes waterlogged in the rainy season. In addition there is no store room and all the materials and equipment are currently kept in Augustine’s house.

As a result the school committee have put together a modest proposal for a permanent school building and store room.  The villagers plan is to contribute all the unskilled labour, food for the workers and  some materials, namely bush poles, sand and stones themselves. They will also make the bricks for the building.

The estimate for the remaining materials and workmanship is £4,000.

We are currently aiming to raise funds for a new school building in 2005 through donations and by applying to the US Ambassador’s Fund in Sierra Leone, which exists to help fund community led projects, with an emphasis on education. The deadline is December 1st 2004.


Thanks to the tremendous response to the appeal in the July 2003 newsletter we now have sponsors for the teaching salaries of all four staff at Rogbonko Village School. Sponsorship is £35 per month.

Teachers: James Sankoh, James Fullah, Isatu Kamara and Augustine Kamara

Rogbonko Village School is an informal school and as such the teachers, though competent, do not have formal qualifications.This is something we are urgently trying to address. In the new academic year Augustine, the school headmaster, will be enrolled as an external student at the Teacher Training College in Makeni. The Trust will provide him with a bicycle to make the twice weekly journey to Makeni.