This week in Sierra Leone

Greetings from Sierra Leone, which is drying out slowly.. stop, .........hold that,..... we had a huge storm last night. The weather here is very changeable!!!

We've reached the end of our first week of term, with the addition of one classroom helper, Ysatu to replace Anita who left in the middle of last year for a job in a bank. We now have an extra class, making 82 pupils in three classes (30, 32, 20). We've lost about 6 pupils who've got fed up of our staff chasing them to attend every day and be on time.

I've been observing lots of lessons during this first week. I know that's cruel, but staff have engaged with that, been very positive and appreciative of the help and advice, and I've been pleased because our teaching is gradually improving!

We've had to avoid going into town over the last few weeks because the driving licences of both Moses and I have expired!!. We've tried to renew them now for over a month but the one and only official machine (Nigerian in origin!!) has broken down......... for the third time in four weeks. It appears that several thousand Sierra Leoneans are driving without a licence. The police are having a great time extracting fines from them, (even Moses yesterday), despite their protestations. Such a crazy country.

The doctors from our little local clinic called on Wednesday to collect the money which we owed them for treating our pupils during last year. The bill came to about £65. However, we managed to reach a deal to halve this by costing the value of some of the medical stuff which people in the UK have very kindly donated to us over the last year. So thanks to all those who continue to be so kind. Our last two barrel arrived this afternoon with the rest of the exercise books and lined paper as well as some medical stuff and some baby clothes for the mothers at the pregnancy clinic so lots more ‘bargaining chips’ for the medical bill next year.

I continue to chase a mosquito in my shower which seems to have attacked me several times over the last few days and then gone into hiding, unless, of course, it may be several of them working in a ‘pack’? Not sure what the collective noun is for maybe two or three mosquitoes, but tomorrow is ‘judgement day’. Its me or it/them. I’ll let you know the final score.

Mike

Christmas Update

Here is our new school badge! let us know what you think!

Dear Friends,

Jan and Mike, on behalf of Extra Mile, wish everyone a Happy Christmas and New Year. We are so sorry not to have had time to send everyone a Christmas card but hope you’ll understand how little time we’ve had since Mike returned from Sierra Leone last week.

Whilst Mike was out there we held our first Governor’s Meeting and the staff and pupils completed their second main assessment and also their termly exam. Staff completed their end-of-term report cards and held a parents’ meeting to share their successes. Overall, pupil’s academic progress has been very good and with attendance at an encouraging 88%. We now have three full-time teachers, including the deputy Principal, two part-time teachers and four volunteer teachers. We offer bread and tea every morning at our ‘Breakfast Club’ from 7.30 till 8 am and a small drink of water at lunchtime, around 11.30am. Brian Hoy (ex-Bolton RUFC) has been with us for a month repairing the roof, building shelves and cupboards and re-organising the weather blinds, for which we are very grateful indeed. Mike ran two half-day computer workshops with one of his ex-pupils and a half-day teacher-training workshop before coming home, thankfully without any further illness.

Finally, another piece of good news is that our full-time teachers are now offering extra classes after school and at weekends for our Class X (NPSE primary class) to help them prepare for their forthcoming external exams in May 2017. We especially thank all our wonderful donors who have helped and supported Extra Mile once again this year.

Best wishes and God Bless you all.

Mike

PS We hope you like our new school logo at the top of this letter, which now forms our school badge. Extra Mile, Ober-Funkia Community Secondary School – EMOFCSS

The school opens!

Good afternoon, on a very wet and windy Sunday, (18th September, 2016). Only another two months left of the ‘rainy’ season, “glug!”. One benefit of so much water is that Jan (one of our volunteers in SL) has transplanted most of Africa’s flora now, and hopefully its all going to filter out most of the salt crystals blown in from the sea which corrodes everything so quickly here.

With all the rain, the leaks from the roof into all the classrooms have increased. We tried to spread more than twelve huge, blue tarpaulins across the roof but sadly the rain crept beneath them and over a few days the leaks started again. Time for more serious action and this time we built sloping, wooden frames covered with eight feet long zinc panels with guttering, to run water off into a new water tank we’d built at the back of the school, sadly we've had no water for almost six months. Over the course of the month of August we stemmed the flow to a few drops wiped off the desks each day. Only then could we finish off the plastering and later the painting of the classroom walls and corridor before the pupils came for induction on the 12th September.

A phone call on Tuesday last week to tell me of the sudden death of one of our former headteachers. A stroke had paralysed him for the last two years. We had visited him only the week before to put a canvas over his leaking roof. Forty-eight years is no age to die. Rest in Peace, Komba Mbayo.

The last of our three volunteers has now left, back to Texas via Brussels. We’ll miss his ‘southern drawl’. He was a little bruised as he left, having ‘flipped’ off his bike and onto the road when he and Ismael tried to share a ride the night before.

We began interviewing pupils and their parents/guardians on the 18th August. We had filled all our places by the following day. Stories of complete destitution and despite such poverty, many of the orphans of ebola had been 'adopted' and now seek an education with Extra Mile. Traumatic interviews were only part of our difficulties, the turning away of so many more pupils and their guardians over the pervious four weeks was equally hard. Every day people would come from miles around, through intensive thunderstorms and unbearably hot days, only to be told that, ‘the school done fl-op’ (full up). Even today another two ‘aunty’s’ prostrated themselves on our verandah, praying and pleading that I would  ‘admit’ their wards. If only we could build another ten classrooms, but even then we would need another ten. Our mission now is to do the best we can to raise the hopes of those pupils we have admitted into the school and help them achieve the impossible, an enjoyable and successful education.

Please pray that we can achieve this ambition.

Mike.