Keeping our friendship with Sierra Leone alive: International “Day of the African Child” celebrations in Warwick district go virtual
Teachers from across Warwick District recently met online with teachers in Bo, Sierra Leone to celebrate the International Day of the African Child.
The “Day of the African Child” is an international event, celebrated every year on 16th June, to raise awareness of the continuing need to promote children’s rights and to improve education to African children. Leamington-based charity One World Link has been leading in celebrating this event with schoolchildren across Warwick District since 2009. Usually, we arrange a large day-long celebration involving over 500 local children. This year has – by necessity – been a little different.
Since the Coronavirus prevents us from getting together to celebrate this day, teachers and other OWL members in Bo and the UK met up in a Zoom meeting, the first time this has ever been done. The celebration started with the song ‘Tel am tenki’ and a video of recent teacher visits to Bo and the UK.
Bo OWL have been working with the authorities on the theme of ‘Access to Child Friendly Justice’, particularly for children in overcrowded remand homes. Their programme includes education and advocacy but their immediate ambition is to have children who have committed minor crimes released on this special day.
In the UK the theme has been the ‘Send My Friend to School’ campaign with emphasis on climate change. In a development of the successful Ecobricks projects, schools will experiment with cob mortar which is very much more friendly to the environment than cement.
Before closing the meeting with the song ‘You are my Brother’ we were treated to a recitation of the poem ‘I am an African Child’ (Eku McGred) performed by 12 year old Francess from Bo; a moving end to a remarkable celebration.
Organiser Liz Garrett commented:-
“We’ve celebrated our school links on 16th June every year since 2009, so it seemed right to adapt our usual plans and try meeting on Zoom this year.
In Sierra Leone, even more than in the UK, teachers have found it challenging to support classes during the pandemic. Teachers in Bo have been unable to continue teaching their classes because not enough children have access to computers or radios. Some of the children have been out on the streets selling goods to supplement the family budget.
“Despite the technology challenges in Bo, it worked and we were thrilled to be able to share time, stories and experiences with our teacher friends in Bo!”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
One World Link (OWL) promotes friendships between two communities across the world: those of Bo District in Sierra Leone and Warwick District in the UK. The link that has been running between these two communities since 1981 is inspired by a desire for justice, equality, human understanding and mutual support. Over the years it has helped to strengthen both communities and their awareness of global and development issues. At this time when ‘Black Lives Matter’ has major international attention, it is important to note that this message has been at the core of what OWL is all about.
The link has been maintained for nearly 40 years through a number of activities including exchange visits, cultural events, links made between schools and other organisations in the two communities, parties and social gatherings, pen friendships and regular shipments of school supplies and other goods to Bo.
16th June was the ‘Day of the African Child’ and we have, in the past, celebrated this annual event together in both communities with 15 Primary schools from Warwick District and 15 from Bo, taking part in parades and cultural activities. This year was, inevitably different with all parties affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. However, through a shaky Zoom link, our warmth and enthusiasm for each other was shared through song, discussion of our relative problems of implementing the curriculum in these challenging times and a heartfelt rendition of ‘I am an African Child’ by one of their pupils, at a safe distance. It was a great example of how two nations of differing cultures and economic statuses can come together to celebrate a shared humanity. If you would like any further information about our work please contact me or visit our website oneworldlink.org.uk
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