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Report from trip to Sierra Leone
Over February half term, Merchant Taylors' Schools teachers Mr Power and Mrs Mackenzie set off for a week with our partnership schools in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. Here is Mrs Mackenzie's report:
Reading "Elmer" to a crowd of eager faces in the gloom and stifling heat of an iron hut, it was hard to believe that we had left the sub zero UK only a couple of days earlier.
A long journey by train, plane, boat and jeep had brought our group of Liverpool teachers to the remote village of Waterloo in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries of the world. It is a beautiful country of lush green mountains and spectacular beaches untouched by tourism and it is desperately trying to rebuild itself after a civil war that decimated its infrastructure and people.
Our purpose was to spend a week in our linked schools, Mr Power in Nelson Mandela High School and Mrs MacKenzie in Hope Preparatory. We taught lessons, exchanged ideas with staff and pupils and took them as many resources as we could carry - a drop in the ocean. We wished we could have carried more. It is astonishing to see how much they achieve with so little. Much of what we saw being taught was similar to our own curriculum. In overcrowded classrooms, the children listen, repeat and copy into one treasured exercise book. They value their education, seeing beyond the classroom window so many children who do not attend school, victims of economic or family necessity.
As well as time spent in schools, we visited projects supported by the Waterloo Partnership such as bridges, a well, a bakery and a new school. Projects such as these are making a huge difference to the lives of the people in Waterloo. Wherever we went we were treated like celebrities, especially by the children who wanted to talk to us, shake hands, have their photos taken and make us laugh! The warmth and generosity of the people is humbling. It would be hard to forget the child who insisted on giving his only book to his MTGS pen friend, the child who invited a Stanfield year 6 pupil to her birthday party and the boy who invited Mr Power to his father's funeral.
Mr Jalloh, the Head of Nelson Mandela High School, visited MTGS last year. He was asked by a brave pupil whether he was jealous of what we had in the UK. With great wisdom, he replied that although he did not have financial wealth, he was rich in other ways. They are indeed rich in ways that we have perhaps forgotten in our society and it was a privilege to share it with them during our short visit.