Friday, 25 October 2013

Sierra Leone - Highlights of the First Half-Term

It's fair to say that seven weeks has passed pretty quickly for Laura and I in Sierra Leone. This week is half term and the boys have returned to their families for a week leaving the academy a little like a ghost town. Here are my highlights so far in no particular order.

1. This place is beautiful!  

We have a detached bungalow on site at the foot of the mountains with a sea view.  

We have a number of beautiful beaches a short drive away. Above - Tokeh.

Below - Bureh

2. These Kids are Amazing

Imagine walking down a corridor in a school in the UK and walking into a classroom which has had no teacher for 30 minutes. It's completely silent and all the boys are reading.

Welcome to my world.

We are blessed with a group of fantastic boys who love playing football and learning. 
A particular highlight this term was the willingness of one of boys to take an assembly on his own. Umaru, the team captain did an amazing job and got an emotional standing ovation from staff and students. It was particularly significant as Umaru was one of the shyest boys when he came to the academy. 


3. Professional Freedom.

There are many, many reasons why I feel this is the greatest job in the world.
Firstly, without the pressures on pure academic attainment from the likes of Ofsted, we are able to concentrate on giving these boys a rich education that nurtures their whole being and focusses on the many different intelligences. The first generation are now into their fourth year of their scholarships so we are teaching International GCSE's and hope that some of the boys will attain grades of C and above. One of the pathways we offer is an opportunity to attend a sixth form college in Gloucester which has academic entry requirements. We also have opportunities for some of the boys to attend a school in the USA on scholarship at the age of 14. Some of our boys however have had very limited schooling before they arrived with us so they will still receive some of these lessons but they won't necessarily sit the examinations. What we do strive for is that we will add considerable value to the boys in terms of academia, creativity and life skills. 
One of the new developments I have introduced into the school week are well-being and happiness lessons, taken by permission from the curriculum at Wellington College. I believe those lessons plus the new look 'thought for the week' assemblies and extra lessons in friendship by Gemma have contributed to less conflicts with the boys. We have a learning to learn/revise curriculum in the making as well as others. 

4. Great Lessons

I encourage our teachers to be creative, use the outdoors and take risks with their lessons. I observed one of our volunteers Myrthe's brilliant English lesson on 'giving specific instructions'. Armed with a bowl of water and soap she took the student's instructions literally so an instruction like "put water on you" meant she covered herself with water. This picture says it all.

A personal highlight for me was that I was able to take my Geographer's to our local beach (Mama beach - 2 miles away) for a lesson where we looked at wave direction and longshore drift. Geography heaven I can assure you. And of course it would be rude not to go for a swim in the unbelievably warm water.  

 Finally, a great thrill for all staff and students was the visit of Sean Mooney, Everest conqueror, chess boxer extraordinaire and friend of our Head of Development, David. Sean took a Geography lesson and also a whole school presentation after dinner. Truly inspirational. 

Sean captivating the Geography class

5. Staff Football Team 

Finally at the ripe old age of 40 I'm enjoying playing football again. With a few ringers we are able to turn out a team and play to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately with the exception of a few, we are all pretty unfit. Still, despite two losses we have scored some goals and are enjoying playing. I can also proudly say a national team manager (Johnny McKinstry - back row third from left) has selected me to play up front. Oh the kudos.



  1. This is truly inspirational stuff. I guess that 'Life is good' sums it all up. Lots of love to both of you from both of us. xxx

  2. Julie Blatcher23 January 2014 04:53

    I'm on my way.... what an opportunity!