Sunday, April 20, 2008

Parent Meeting

Last Friday the school held its first parent meeting since my arrival last November. The faculty decided to call the meeting in order to inform the parents that a Canadian journalist would be visiting the school to film the students and teachers for a story about the school's mission and achievements educating vulnerable children in the community, but most of the meeting focused on a more pressing issue for the parents and teachers - the plan to move the school to a site on the other side of Freetown and out of reach of the current student body.

Although turnout was low at the start, students who arrived at school that morning sans parents were sent back home to retrieve whatever adult or even slightly older relative they could convince to follow them to the school so they could gain admittance to their classrooms. It worked pretty well, so that by the end of the meeting, we probably had well over a third of the parent body present along with a handful of obviously bored adolescent uncles.

The meeting was held in Krio, so I missed many of the details and subtleties of what transpired, but I was repeatedly impressed by the clarity and force with which many of the parents expressed themselves, standing up in the middle of the crowd to speak in a manner that seemed to have been picked up from their local pastors. Each one seemed to have mastered the art of presenting ideas in concise sentences punctuated by pauses long enough to allow the words to penetrate the listeners. Key phrases were formed and repeated with increasing power, rousing the energetic approval of the audience. By the end of the meeting, the parents had convinced each other that they would go to meet the local Minister of Parliament, the Honourable, to see what he would do to help them locate a site for the school in Goderich.

Late on Saturday morning I heard that the Honourable had been unable to receive the crowd of parents who had visited his house earlier that morning, but had asked them to return on Monday. Monday afternoon I heard the news that a huge crowd of parents had assembled to travel to Freetown to meet with not only the Honourable, but also a few cabinet ministers and that the result was an acre of land in the section of Goderich called Oba Funkia, not far from the present campus had been identified by the Minister of Lands (at least that's the title I was told) as land that the state owned and would hand over to the school as a freehold. Whew. My head was spinning and I was terribly suspicious of the whole thing.

As I had expected, Shannoh Kandoh, the school's director, was not convinced that the land would be permanently given to the school, and he identified for me the complicated land claims on that very acre that had bubbled up in just twenty-four hours after the land ministers' decree. Shannoh is waiting to see what will happen in the next few days and says he will need to go to speak to the community leader in Oba Funkia.

A lot of excitement, and really very good for the school that so many parents showed their interest in keeping a school in Goderich for their children, but the future remains uncertain.

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