Bridlington School spearheads Sierra Leone partnership

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Bridlington School is spearheading a unique partnership to help youngsters in Sierra Leone - and hopes to raise £10,000 to build a school in the city of Kenema.

The partnership will see Bridlington teachers and pupils raise money with a number of events to help pay for the materials for a new school building, and be in constant contact with Sierra Leone so that new teaching ideas and techniques can be shared.

Last Friday, the National General Secretary and CEO of the YMCA in Sierra Leone, Christian Kamara, visited Bridlington School to meet with staff and students and to formalise the partnership.

Mr Kamara said: “We are overjoyed to have established a partnership with Bridlington School in the UK.

“We believe in changing lives and bringing hope to children who might not have an opportunity to acquire education to contribute to the growth and development of our country.”

According to the European Commission, Sierra Leone is ‘one of the poorest countries in the world, where income inequality is relatively high. 70% of the population live below the poverty line and 26% in extreme poverty.’

But Mr Kamara, who made a flying visit to Bridlington and attended a special assembly at the school after visiting the YMCA World

Alliance Conference in Germany, is confident that the partnership will make the world of difference to young people in Kenema.

“With this new partnership we believe we can change the world and it will a better place for us all to live in regardless of race or economic opportunities,” continued Mr Kamara.

“The partnership will give a much greater perspective to our children and teachers; to be able to share and learn from each other’s culture and situations. Together we can make sustainable change that is long lasting.

“The students back in Kenema have lots of potential, but not always the best opportunities to express that. Things in Sierra Leone are very centralised, and there is a lot of poverty in Kenema.

“It is difficult at the moment that there are not the facilities for the children, but the new school being built will give them a spacious and convenient place to learn.

“But for the students to communicate with students in Bridlington will make them understand that they have brothers and sisters all over the world.”

Being inspired to ‘make a difference’ by the comedian John Bishop’s televised visit to Sierra Leone as part of Sport Relief 2012, assistant special educational needs co-ordinator and global school partnership lead teacher Mark Parker-Randall visited the YMCA schools in Sierra Leone last September and October. Having worked in Kissy Freetown and Bo, Mr Parker-Randall was particularly stirred when he visited the school in Kenema.

He said: “The students meet and are currently taught in a workshop area that has been cleared for their schooling. There are four different classes, back to back and side by side all being taught in one room.

“The students who have no electricity, no running water and no toilet provision but take great pride in their school uniform and very basic learning equipment.

“The opportunity for them to learn is the most precious treasure they have. If it were not for the work of the YMCA and Mr Kamara, those children would have no schooling or education.

“It was at the very moment that I saw two children with significant special educational needs, being both totally deaf and mute, seeking to learn in the most desperate and deprived circumstances that I have ever seen in education, I determined that we would formally partner and be a ‘big sister school’ to Kenema, and that we would assist them to build the school they hope and pray for.

“The foundations have been laid. Our students and staff will ensure the school gets built through the raising of much needed finances and provision and sharing of educational resources.”

Head teacher Sarah Pashley said: “We are extremely excited about our new partnership with Kenema. This is a great opportunity for our students and staff to develop links with a school in a different country, with a totally different culture from ours.

“We hope it will increase our global awareness by allowing us to build friendships with staff and students in Kenema and learn about our different cultures.

“In addition, getting directly involved in raising funds to build a new school in Kenema will enable us to really make a difference to the lives of our new friends, as well as helping us to gain a whole range of important skills and experiences.”

Last June, Bridlington School Sports College was given a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating, moving up from ‘Satisfactory’. The Global School Partnership will see it move towards ‘outstanding’.