Well, the initial enthusiasm among the parents for approaching the community leaders to provide land for the school in Goderich next year has utterly disappeared, and not surprisingly. Here is the version of the story behind the disillusionment told to me:
When the parents met with the MP a few weeks ago and he offered them a parcel of state-owned land in a section of Goderich called Oba Funkia, feelings were very positive. He told the parents that they simply needed to claim the site by clearing it of any structures and all the bush. Well, word of this spread around the village so that the next morning a small delegation of parents sent to the parcel met a group of young men ready to defend the shanty someone had built there in order to lay claim to it himself. The parents wisely avoided a fight and returned to the MP, who refused to help them further since they had not done what he had told them to do.
When I heard this, I could have thrown up my hands in disgust, but not the parents, who were outwardly very calm. They seemed to be used to this kind of absurdity and they agreed to approach the local community leaders as soon as possible. The problem was that only one parent showed up for the appointment with those leaders. Somewhere between the last encounter with the MP and the appointment, the entire parent body appeared to have lost interest in securing a school for their children.
Now I am hearing the frustration in the voices of the handful of parents who still come around school to talk about what might be done for their children: "The children have more integrity than their parents! At least they show up for school every day," is a typical comment.
With the school year waning and no land or building on offer to the school for September, it is seeming increasingly likely that only a very few of the 190 Goderich Waldorf School pupils will be able to attend school next year, and those only because their parents are teachers at the school who will take them to the new campus. It is difficult to accept, but alternatives have not arisen. It certainly would be possible to buy land somewhere in the community, but the only offers we have received are incredibly expensive by local standards, and there is simply no money to pay such prices. In addition to the land, the school would need to hire new teachers, at least five, build a new building, and buy new school materials. It's all quite daunting, but not impossible.
There has been one nice development at the school: the school was able to fund the construction of an addition to the tiny kitchen where lunch is cooked, just in time for rainy season. It is built of poles and corrugated zinc, is large enough for three cooking fires, and has two windows for ventilation. The cooks are delighted, and lunch, once again, seems to be guaranteed through the end of the school year.
Old and New Kitchens
Mohamed, Cook's Husband and Kitchen Architect/Project Manager
Happy Cooks, Neighbors, Children
In the classes interesting things have been happening as well. As part of a main lesson unit on various trades, Susan Taylor, the Class III teacher, planted a patch of crin-crin, a nutritious green vegetable, with her class. The children prepared the bed, sowed the seeds, now water and weed it, and soon will transplant the seedlings. They have also been busy making piles of clay bricks, which last Friday they began laying onto a poured concrete foundation for a small house. While building, the children are learning the vocabulary of the brickmaker, the carpenter and the mason and clearly are enjoying the change in venue for their main lessons. They are very proud of their emerging building and very anxious to see it completed.
Auntie Taylor levels the first bricks
Watching the Progress
First layers of a wall
Finally, this past Saturday all but two students in Class VI sat the National Primary School Examination in order to qualify for entrance to junior secondary school next September. The students and their teacher, Amara Suaray, have been preparing all year for this test, attending test preparation courses six days a week and organizing mock tests and the borrowing of uniforms for the day of the real test. This is the first time students from the Goderich Waldorf School have sat this examination, so they were hosted by a local school run by the Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE). All of the preparation classes took place on the FAWE campus, and our students had to wear the FAWE uniform (borrowed from FAWE's Class V students) during the examination. The night before the test, all the students slept inside the FAWE school building (apparently this was replicated in primary schools throughout Sierra Leone that night), and there was something of a festive feeling about the whole event despite the anxiety about taking the test. In the end the children reported that they felt well-prepared for all sections of the test except the math section, but we will not know their results until the end of August at the earliest. I have pledged to pay the school fees for all those Goderich Waldorf School students who are accepted to junior secondary school and would welcome any help in continuing that support throughout their secondary school years.