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News from Sierra Leone

By on March 23, 2012 in Sierra Leone with No Comments

I didn’t write this but the Director of the Extra Mile program sent it out as a newsletter this week.  It made me miss Sierra Leone a lot, and I figured he wouldn’t mind if I posted it.

 

Anyone that wants to contribute a few $ to help buy the Goderich schools some laptops feel free to PayPal my way!

From Mike:

 

News from Sierra Leone Feb/March 2012:

 

Greetings from West Africa with some black magic, late arrivals and a short paddle in the sea! Ibrahim Fatimah was an excellent head of ‘Modern Secondary School’, Freetown. Pupils and staff alike loved the man. So, when he died, suddenly, last year, there was great sadness and surprise. Otherwise healthy and at 47 years old, his life hardly spent; his death raised many questions. During the following year the school standards slipped alarmingly under the leadership of the deputy. Discipline ceased and a new head was called in to rescue this once prestigious institution. Within a month the new head was taken seriously ill with a stroke at 51. Not surprisingly the Ministry is not finding it easy to find a second replacement, especially with a very strong suspicion that black magic is at work here and with the deputy thought to be the leading suspect. Meanwhile the school continues to decline. Not sure if that circumstance figures in the Ofsted inspection manual!

 

When I shipped two barrels of goods from UK to Sierra Leone in late January 2012 I hardly expected to still be waiting on the 8th. March. After six weeks waiting for a two week delivery I finally got the barrels late on the evening before my flight home to UK. In a mad four hours the following morning, clothes, bibles, hymn books, laptops and textbooks were all delivered, almost all to the right people. Not sure who was pleased most, the churches who got the clothes or the young street girls who got the bibles! The schools did get their laptops – so thanks to our very generous benefactors.

 

After the manic morning of late deliveries I just made it onto the water taxi to the airport. A twenty minute crossing with big waves splashing the full complement of sixteen passengers later seemed the easy part of the trip. On the north shore beach the water was so rough the taxi dropped us off into the shallows. After emptying our pockets we waded waist deep or piggy-backed the staff to get ashore and onto the bus to the airport. Soggy but safe, no, of course no refunds were offered! All part of the rich tapestry of life out here.

09.03.12

 

Greetings from a very hot and very dusty Sierra Leone with a petrol baby, wheel clamping and a case of mistaken identity.

 

Running on empty as usual last Sunday hoping to find an open filling station. There, lined up were four amber, plastic, gallon bottles of petrol, the pumps behind long-since ceased to dispense. A young dreadlock rasta with a tiny baby in his arms trying to pour. ‘A de fo hold de picken?’ I ask. ‘Sure maan’. So cuddling a tiny, four month old baby, limp in my arms whilst he filled the tank. ‘She no well?’ I ask, seeing her grey, bloodshot eyes which should have been sparkling ebony and white. ‘Malaria and typhoid’. he said as he poured the last bottle. ‘A sorrio’. This is so common for young babies, most of whom do not survive their first year without treatment. I pay the petrol and return the child with a few thousand leones for treatment. ‘God greet you maan’. ‘And you both too’. I say as I depart. Poverty stills kills here in Sierra Leone.

 

Just a quick park on Goderich Street last week. A four minute shop, including a three minute ‘haggle’ over the price for a jeep cover to keep the dust off the vehicle whilst I’m away, and a rapid return. Only to find my number in the book and the front wheel firmly clamped with chains. ‘You no plead, you too late, de booking done done’. The officer said. ‘But I only park for four minutes officer’. ‘You park illegally!!’. There is little point in arguing that there are no signs to show where its fine and where its illegal, so I part with Le 100.000 (about 16 GBP) and ask for a receipt on next tomorrow as I recall the le 30.000 I saved when I haggled with the shopkeeper. Rough justice eh?

 

In 2007, at Educaid we had fifteen Ibrahim Mohammed Kamara’s in the school, five in the same class! So we had to number them Ibrahim Mohammed Kamara 1 – to – 15. It just so happened that this last month the Deputy Minister of Education’s nephew one Ibrahim Mohammed Kamara (not from Educaid), had applied successfully for a scholarship to study in the USA. All was duly approved and last week he was summoned to the Dean and presented with the award. Unfortunately the University of Sierra Leone got the wrong I. M. Kamara and try as they might to take back the scholarship from the student, the local media were alerted and he stood firm, having even better credentials than the deputy minister’s nephew. The Deputy Minister and the University were powerless to reverse the decision, so he has now set up an alternative scholarship and you can bet who might possibly get that. Unless that is the university ‘fouls’ up yet again.

 

That’s all for this week, take care wherever you are,  

                                                                                22.02.12

 

 

 

 

 

Just catching up with you from Sierra Leone, with a small crash, yet another puncture and a two hour traffic jam.

 

On a day when the searing heat drains every drop from your body I slow and grab a roadside drink whilst the young girl of about seven chases me for the money. I stop to let her catch up but before I could pay her my glasses are wrenched off and the money spills out of the car. A passing vehicle ‘ploughs’ into the back of the jeep. Another dent; I’ve stopped counting now. The whole front wing ‘stove in’ of the other jeep, no blame, I don’t ask for compensation unless its really serious and nobody’s insurance gives any payback. As I returned from Freetown earlier this week, following in the massive, red dust cloud of a huge excavation truck a herd of maybe 20 young goats, spooked by the truck darted across the road in front of me. I braked and turned almost full circle in the dust and gravel. As I drive on I hear shouts……’you done get flat, driver’. As I stop I’m surrounded by 20 youths excited about felling a nearby palm tree, chanting…’where di jack?…. where di spare?……where di spannas?’. ‘Sorry guys a no wan you for help’….unless of course I don’t mind losing all the tools in thirty seconds ‘flat’! Just a little, bristled, moslem, shopkeeper who came over and began to help. ‘Me a no pay you’ I say. ‘A jus wan blessing fo me happiness’…..’Just give me a blessing and I’ll be happy’. I find out where he lives and promise to visit him next time I’m around. As we ‘crawled from the city centre up Hillcot Rise and past the barracks, a few metres at a time. The evening heat, calm but sapping, red lights forming a thread of stationary beads and the occasional mad hooting as vehicles try to overtake each other to gain a precious place in the ever lengthening queue. There must be a serious accident ahead, but it took us another ninety minutes to find out that in the centre of Lumley thousands of people had spilled out across all the main roads to watch a new, massive video screen featuring all their music artist videos. The local police had retired for the night so every driver had to navigate through 50 deep crowds. Thank goodness no one was injured, no one lost except a few mightily tried tempers. Another week in the life of Salone, enjoy your week at home wherever you are.

 

29.02.12

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