St. Mary's pupils learn about life in Sierra Leone
Pupils from St. Mary’s College have been learning at first hand about life in one of the world’s poorest countries. A party of nine Sixth Formers, accompanied by teachers Nicola Addy and Nick Vagianos, recently visited the West African state of Sierra Leone which is ranked seventh in the global poverty league table.
The aim of the ten-day trip - based in the capital city of Freetown - was to understand the day-to-day lives of people in Sierra Leone, and find out more about the work that the Christian Brothers are doing in the country. The brothers - who founded St. Mary’s College in 1919 - are involved in a number of local charitable projects, focusing in particular on education, which they believe is the key to rebuilding Sierra Leonean society.
The St. Mary’s pupils spent time teaching in one of these education projects, Sengbeh Pieh REC School in the Hamilton area just to the south of the capital.
The school has no running water or sewage facilities, not enough classrooms or teachers and children are taught in large groups of up to 80. Staff are not even able to afford fuel for the school’s generator, which means there is no electricity to operate donated computers.
The Crosby students taught lessons in Maths, English, Art, Science, Geography and Citizenship, and also left a suitcase full of resources like exercise books, coloured pens, glue and glitter which they had brought with them from home.
Elsewhere during the trip the students visited the slums of Freetown and also Sierra Leone’s second city of Bo, where they spent time in the homes of families supported by the Christian Brothers. Here the majority of adults are women, as most of the men were killed in the country’s civil war, and up to eight children are sharing a single bed. The pupils organised an impromptu collection to buy food and toys for the children they met.
The party also took time out to visit the beautiful riverside village of Blahma in the rain forest, and a sanctuary for chimpanzees which are now an endangered species in the country. They even visited River 2 beach, one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world. This was once used as the location for a Bounty chocolate bar TV advert - a huge contrast to the run down, litter-filled streets of Freetown only a short distance away.
Science teacher and trip leader Nicola Addy said, “This trip enabled us to see the huge gulf between the way we live here at home and the conditions people have to endure in Sierra Leone. It was a real eye opener for everyone who took part. I was, however, very proud of our students for the enthusiasm, friendliness and compassion they displayed with everyone they met during what was a very busy but rewarding schedule. Now that they are back in Crosby they are determined to continue supporting the Freetown school by raising funds for projects such as a library, and building a well to provide pupils with fresh drinking water.”
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