Thank you, Bo teachers

Dear Bo Teachers,
We write to thank you and congratulate you on organising a very successful, enjoyable and productive visit. We are so impressed with the activities you enabled:
– getting pupils and teachers from every school to the BCC Waste Management centre
– improvements in many school buildings and teaching materials
– involving teachers in Global Learning, our Talking Rubbish Project, Waste Management and Climate Change
– your hospitality, friendship and care.

22nd  Feb 2020

Dear John Sandi and Bo OWL Teachers Group,

We wish to write primarily to thank you and congratulate you on organising a very successful, enjoyable and productive visit (9th– 16th Feb). As we sort through and reflect on our photos, videos, gifts and memories we realise we have so much to be grateful for, which took place in a concentrated week but whose effects will last much, much longer.

We are so impressed with the many activities and experiences you enabled to take place. 

  • You managed the logistics of getting two pupils and two teachers from every school to the Field Trip at BCC Waste Management centre and the Growth Centre. Most schools had chosen pupils who remained engaged and were able to express what they had learnt verbally and cascade this information to their schools the next day. This was effective and the learning should have an impact on the attitudes of staff, pupils and parents. We hope the key messages will be followed up by schools in future assemblies and lessons. We know many teachers are passionate about enabling this.
  • Tim and Liz visited all 15 schools and saw many positive developments; many more text books being used in classes (sometimes shared by pupils 1:3), new buildings, in some schools on-going repairs, the increased use of positive behaviour management strategies such as hand clapping or chanting. We also observed your considerable on-going challenges of over-crowding, lack of teachers, teachers still awaiting pin-codes after 5+ years and many others. We admire you so much for your perseverance and will discuss ways in which OWL might influence change.
  • Most schools sent three teachers to the workshop which covered Global Learning, our Talking Rubbish Project, Waste Management in Bo, Climate Change and literacy skills developed from ‘One Plastic Bag’ story. The engagement, effort and attitude of participants was fantastic. Some of the interactive tasks needed further explanation eg. The Diamond 9 discussion activity and the story-mapping, but you were not afraid to ask for further help and the results increased understanding of the skills and issues taught. We do now hope that what you have acquired from the workshop will be trialled in your classrooms and we eagerly await feedback and photographic evidence. Eg. A teacher at St Charles Lwanga used the Inside/Outside characterisation activity with the life of Mary of Nazareth. We urge you to go ahead developing one another’s digital capacity using mobile phones (mini-computers!) to access the internet for further Global Learning and increased global communication.
  • We were interviewed by SLBC for a radio programme the following evening to spread the positive work of OWL further.
  • You organised visits to many other places which have increased our understanding of life in Bo; the Waste site at Mile 5, the Teaching Service Commission, Paul School for the Blind, Sunday morning church at St Francis and St Teresa and a journey to Kenema, Segbwema and finally Yandohun village where we were able to pass on condolences to the family and friends of our dear late Chairman Maada Fobay. Here we also admired the recently renovated ‘barrie’ and re-built school and gave a case of resources to the school.
  • We were treated to a number of social events which have deepened our friendships and enabled us to know more about each other. A great evening out dancing at Sidami’s, followed by the boys being taken to Dreams to witness yet another aspect of Bo life. The Social Secretaries excelled themselves again, catering for both the welcome evening and the farewell party, as well as an evening for the June 2019 team to reunite over food, drinks, music and laughter. The gifts you gave us will be treasured along with our memories of this amazing visit.
  • The hospitality, friendship and care shown by the staff of the OWL Centre was, as usual, superb and we felt very welcome and comfortable.

All the above would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Teachers Committee and members (new and old) under the leadership of your able Coordinator, John Sandi. You have developed to be a considerable strength within OWL and now we hope many of you will be able to support the work of the parent body at a time of great sadness and loss.

With very best wishes and sincere gratitude, Liz, Tim, Cathryn and Harry (OWL Teachers – Warwick District, UK)

Bo Schools return on 1st July

Today, July 1st, Bo schools have opened again for Class Six pupils who will sit their NPSE exams in August. Teachers and pupils alike have come to school with their face masks.
Our schools link enables us to connect with people from a different culture to learn about life from friends. This helps us all to become compassionate global citizens.

Bo schools return on 1st July

 Schools in both Sierra Leone and the UK have been closed because of the virus but now those in Bo are reopening …
 
Over the past three months teachers across Bo and Warwick district have remained in touch through Whatsapp and, unlike the West African Ebola virus in 2015, this time we shared a crisis together- the Covid 19 Pandemic. Only about 20% pupils in Bo were accessing any education, mostly through the radio, or for those who could afford – private tutoring. 
 
Today, July 1st, Bo schools have opened again for Class Six pupils who will sit their NPSE exams in August which they need to pass to be allowed to move on to Secondary Education. Teachers and pupils alike came to school with their face masks.
 

Our schools link enables us to connect with people from a different culture to learn about life from friends. This helps us all to become compassionate global citizens.

Our One World Link teachers both in Warwick and Bo were able to celebrate the Day of the African Child on 16th June with a Zoom meeting connecting the communities
Sierra Leone, with a population of 8 million, has had 1,462 cases with 974 recovered. They suffered 60 deaths, compared to 4,000 from Ebola disease. Life has been made very difficult for the majority of people with food prices soaring due to closed borders.

Day of the African Child 2020 press release

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.
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 virtual meeting.

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!”

ENDS

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

For more information, email education@oneworldlink.org.uk

My first visit to Bo – the most incredible experience

Going to Africa for the first time was immense and the greeting I received from everyone that I met was full of joy and happiness. Having the opportunity to teach children at St Francis Upper Bo was surreal. It felt like a dream, the rapport that I had with all the children was immense, they would not let me leave the school, I felt like a famous person. I taught children in Year 4 and in Year 6 a variety of subjects including Maths, Literacy, Reading and Science.
On our ‘Field-trip’ day, two children from each linked school, visited the Bo Waste Management Centre. Here the children learned about recycling and why burning plastics is harmful to the environment. The boys from St Francis, were enthusiastic, energetic and passionate.

My first visit to Bo – the most incredible experience.
Harry Purewal

I was keen to visit Sierra Leone to experience different teaching cultures and further enhance the partnership between my school, St Anthony’s, and our linked school St Francis Upper Bo. Being a part of OWL (One World Link) and having the opportunity to teach children in another continent was an eye-opening experience. This enhanced my world view and I was able to bring back teaching methods that I had witnessed that my own children would benefit from.

My visit to Sierra Leone was the most incredible experience I have ever had to date. Going to Africa for the first time was immense and the greeting I received from everyone that I met was full of joy and happiness. Having the opportunity to teach children at St Francis Upper Bo was surreal. It felt like a dream, the rapport that I had with all the children was immense, they would not let me leave the school, I felt like a famous person. I taught children in Year 4 and in Year 6 a variety of subjects including Maths, Literacy, Reading and Science.

There were 15 linked schools overall in Bo, that have partnerships with 15 schools in Warwickshire. On our ‘Field-trip’ day, two children from each linked school, visited the Bo Waste Management Centre. Here the children learned about recycling and why burning plastics is harmful to the environment. Even basics (to us) such as throwing rubbish in the bin and not littering in the street will help. They found out that re-using materials will reduce the effect of pollution, whilst recycling materials such as plastic you can create bags, wallets and rucksacks, which can then be sold at the market.

The boys from St Francis were enthusiastic, energetic and passionate when they were speaking to the other children

The children returned to their schools and talked to their peers about good waste management practices and the potential benefits it has. They spoke of how the waste collection services can help. This really developed their confidence, especially the two boys from St Francis, they were enthusiastic, energetic and passionate when they were speaking to the other children. In our project we wanted to model how pupils can be great teachers too, rather than always the adult sharing knowledge. It was really good to see this idea working.

Alongside the other UK teachers, I also presented a workshop to teachers from the 15 linked schools. Their opportunities for professional development are much more limited than ours, so it was exciting being part of this teacher development. Our aims were to get the teachers thinking about climate change, sustainable development and opportunities to develop new skills for teaching. Our chosen text, a story called ‘One Plastic Bag,’ (about a Gambian woman and her successful plastic recycling project) was used as the main stimulus of the teaching. During my input I spoke about story mapping using pictures and arrows, this helps aid understanding especially when each child does not have access to the book. I taught this lesson at St Francis and the children found it fun and engaging and were also able to create their own story board. The best aspect to this method is that story mapping is adaptable to any story and I was so impressed when we visited St Charles Lwanga school later in the week to see a teacher using this method to teach about Mary. It made me feel joyous to see and it was so encouraging to observe the teacher put it into practice.

On my final day at St Francis, I had requested to play some football with the boys. To my surprise the whole school was outside and the head teacher (Mr Wonneh) had two teams (both dressed in kit which OWL had provided in the past) He was playing for one of them and myself the other. The match went all the way to penalties and my side were victorious! It was the ideal send off, the school were brilliant to me the whole week, the staff were kind, caring and the head teacher even invited me to his house for lunch twice. What a privilege to have this inside experience of life in such a different culture, but where I discovered we have more in common than different.

Some other memorable moments from my visit were seeing different schools in a variety of settings (a town centre government school, a rural school, church and non-church). There were some schools that had class sizes that were over 100, with only a single teacher. The children’s colourful uniform was also a highlight of the trip, whilst their singing was beautiful. Going to church was also extraordinary, then finally being able to relax at Bureh Beach was the perfect way to end the trip.

How it all began

Jane Knight conceived the idea of a friendship link after visiting West Africa in 1977, assuming that the idea would be welcomed by communities in both countries – it was not that simple! She has now written an Early History of One World Link describing the many twists and turns she had to negotiate before the link was established in 1981. With great frankness her daily diaries show how her spirits were frequently dashed by one person and then rekindled by another as she visited schools, hospitals and other contacts in Sierra Leone.

How it all began

Jane visiting a village in April 1981

As One World Link enters it fortieth year it is good to reflect on its early days. It was not an easy start. Many well-informed and well-intentioned people, both in the UK and in Sierra Leone, discouraged the idea of a link based purely on friendship.

Jane Knight conceived the idea of such a link after visiting West Africa in 1977, assuming that it would be welcomed by communities in both countries – it was not that simple! She has now written an Early History of One World Link describing the many twists and turns she had to negotiate before the link was established in 1981. With great frankness her daily diaries show how her spirits were frequently dashed by one person and then rekindled by another as she visited schools, hospitals and other contacts in Sierra Leone.

She found misconceptions on both sides. In Bo, for instance, “Many people I met think that England has a certain perfection because it is developed, but they really know nothing about our daily lives, the cost of living, and the loneliness that many people experience.” In the UK children asked how someone from a poor African country could be wearing a wristwatch. Above all she became more convinced of the value of personal contacts and the value of the link – and this is borne out by the healthy state of One World Link as we approach our fortieth anniversary.

You can download the Early History of One World Link here.

New Committee in Bo

Following the tragic recent deaths of Maada Fobay and Alpha Bah,  both active and key members of the OWL committee in Bo, the committee met on 14th March 2020 to elect a new executive. The new Chairman is Dr Wusu Sannoh, ex. Mayor of Bo, and Chairman of the Bo Children’s Hospital Board and a much respected elder in the Bo community.
They are a committed and active team and we can look forward with confidence to the future of One World Link.

New Committee in Bo

Following the tragic recent deaths of Maada Fobay and Alpha Bah,  both active and key members of the OWL committee in Bo, the committee met on 14th March 2020 to elect a new executive. The new Chairman is Dr Wusu Sannoh, ex. Mayor of Bo, and Chairman of the Bo Children’s Hospital Board and a much respected elder in the Bo community.

They are a committed and active team and we can look forward with confidence to the future of One World Link. At the first executive meeting the members had to keep themselves 2m apart in order to comply with public health instructions to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 virus. 

The full executive is as follows:

Chairman – Doctor Wusu Sannoh
Vice Chair – Janet Tucker
Secretary General – Francis Jusu
Assistant Secretary General – Jennifer Abdulai
Social Secretary – Kula M. Fangawa
Assistant Secretary – Nemahun C. Vandy
Financial Secretary – Catherine K. Kamara
PRO – Donald Mustapha.

Planning Bo’s future growth: the work continues

We have partnered with the Prince’s Foundation to deliver training and the development of a “toolkit” to help cities such as Bo plan for their growth. Bo City Council staff have been undertaking the next phase of the work themselves. One of the outcomes of the workshop in January was the identification of an area as a natural hub for this growing community,

Planning Bo’s future growth: the work continues

Bo planning workshop, 2020
Preparing for the OWL/Prince’s
Foundation Planning Workshop

One of the areas where OWL has been giving longstanding support is to help Bo City and District Councils plan the future growth and development of the city.  In this we have partnered with the Prince’s Foundation and have worked together to deliver some training and the development of a “toolkit” to help cities such as Bo plan for their growth. 

Philip Clarke from OWL and the Prince’s Foundation were – separately – in Bo in January to deliver some training workshops.  They were intending to return together in  April to deliver a further workshop however the Covid-19 pandemic made that visit impossible.  Undaunted, and with the help of some remote support, Bo City Council staff have been undertaking the next phase of the work themselves.  One of the outcomes of the workshop in January was the identifying of an area (Government Reservation in north west Bo) which is likely to see significant growth.  An area was identified as a natural hub for this growing community, and it was agreed that – with the permission of the landowners – some land would be marked out so it could be protected for key infrastructure (schools, clinics, roads).  These images show this work in progress. 

UK Teachers visit Bo, Feb 2020

Four UK teachers visited Bo in February 2020. Their busy schedule included both professional development and a deepening of friendships. They visited all 15 linked schools and saw lots of improvements. They were even interviewed on radio. The whole visit was ably co-ordinated by the Bo OWL Teachers Committee.

A letter to the Bo Teachers’ Committee from the visiting teachers.

22nd  Feb 2020

Dear John Sandi and Bo OWL Teachers Group,

UK teachers visit Bo. Feb 2020

We wish to write primarily to thank you and congratulate you on organising a very successful, enjoyable and productive visit (9th– 16th Feb). As we sort through and reflect on our photos, videos, gifts and memories we realise we have so much to be grateful for, which took place in a concentrated week but whose effects will last much, much longer.

We are so impressed with the many activities and experiences you enabled to take place. 

  • You managed the logistics of getting two pupils and two teachers from every school to the Field Trip at BCC Waste Management centre and the Growth Centre. Most schools had chosen pupils who remained engaged and were able to express what they had learnt verbally and cascade this information to their schools the next day. This was effective and the learning should have an impact on the attitudes of staff, pupils and parents. We hope the key messages will be followed up by schools in future assemblies and lessons. We know many teachers are passionate about enabling this.
  • Tim and Liz visited all 15 schools and saw many positive developments; many more text books being used in classes (sometimes shared by pupils 1:3), new buildings, in some schools on-going repairs, the increased use of positive behaviour management strategies such as hand clapping or chanting. We also observed your considerable on-going challenges of over-crowding, lack of teachers, teachers still awaiting pin-codes after 5+ years and many others. We admire you so much for your perseverance and will discuss ways in which OWL might influence change.
St Francis School's resource bag
St Francis opening their resource bag at the workshop, with gifts from St Anthony’s
  • Most schools sent three teachers to the workshop which covered Global Learning, our Talking Rubbish Project, Waste Management in Bo, Climate Change and literacy skills developed from ‘One Plastic Bag’ story. The engagement, effort and attitude of participants was fantastic. Some of the interactive tasks needed further explanation eg. The Diamond 9 discussion activity and the story-mapping, but you were not afraid to ask for further help and the results increased understanding of the skills and issues taught. We do now hope that what you have acquired from the workshop will be trialled in your classrooms and we eagerly await feedback and photographic evidence. Eg. A teacher at St Charles Lwanga used the Inside/Outside characterisation activity with the life of Mary of Nazareth. We urge you to go ahead developing one another’s digital capacity using mobile phones (mini-computers!) to access the internet for further Global Learning and increased global communication.
  • We were interviewed by SLBC for a radio programme the following evening to spread the positive work of OWL further.
  • You organised visits to many other places which have increased our understanding of life in Bo; the Waste site at Mile 5, the Teaching Service Commission, Paul School for the Blind, Sunday morning church at St Francis and St Teresa and a journey to Kenema, Segbwema and finally Yandohun village where we were able to pass on condolences to the family and friends of our dear late Chairman Maada. Here we also admired the recently renovated ‘barrie’ and re-built school and gave a case of resources to the school.
  • We were treated to a number of social events which have deepened our friendships and enabled us to know more about each other. A great evening out dancing at Sidami’s, followed by the boys being taken to Dreams to witness yet another aspect of Bo life. The Social Secretaries excelled themselves again, catering for both the welcome evening and the farewell party, as well as an evening for the June 2019 team to reunite over food, drinks, music and laughter. The gifts you gave us will be treasured along with our memories of this amazing visit.
  • The hospitality, friendship and care shown by the staff of the OWL Centre was, as usual, superb and we felt very welcome and comfortable.

All the above would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Teachers Committee and members (new and old) under the leadership of your able Coordinator, John Sandi. You have developed to be a considerable strength within OWL and now we hope many of you will be able to support the work of the parent body at a time of great sadness and loss.

With very best wishes and sincere gratitude, Liz, Tim, Cathryn and Harry (OWL Teachers – Warwick District, UK)

Health Link Visit to Bo

Helena White and Richard Hall visited Sierra Leone in January 2020 to make contacts and discuss further development of a health link. They visited St Paul’s School for the Blind, Bo Children’s Hospital and Yemoh Town Community Health Centre to discuss future plans and to look at projects completed.
Alpha Bah took them to his own community on the outskirts of Bo, Ngeybayama, where there they were met with a full community reception. Sadly, Alpha died soon after.

Chief, Imam and health workers at Yemoh Town CHC
Chief, Imam, health workers and visitors open the new facilities at Yemoh Town CHC

Helena White and Richard Hall visited Sierra Leone in January 2020 to make contacts and discuss further development of a health link. They visited St Paul’s School for the Blind, Bo Children’s Hospital and Yemoh Town Community Health Centre to discuss future plans and to look at projects completed. At the community health centre they attended the formal ‘opening’ of their new facilities.

They also visited some of the remote rural areas with staff from Bo District Council. The size of the district and difficulties for travel and accessing services became very apparent.

Alpha Bah took them to his own community on the outskirts of Bo, Ngeybayama. There they were met with a full reception from the whole community, with singing, dancing and speeches. Sadly this was the last time they saw Alpha; he had been ill for some time and died soon after the visit

A the end of their visit there was a meeting of the Bo One World Link Health Link committee at the OWL Centre. This was a significant step in the development of the new link.

New delivery bed at Yemoh Town CHC
Health Centre staff and Helena with the new maternity bed at Yemoh Town CHC

Finally, back in Freetown, they had very encouraging meetings at the Ministry of Health & Sanitation and British High Commission.

Read the detailed report.