Bandawoh Junior Secondary School, 2014

We are excited about our largest project to date, the construction of a Junior Secondary School (7th-9th grade) in partnership with the village of Bandawoh.

Bandawoh Village is in the Nyawa Chiefdom which is in the southeast of Sierra Leone.  Its location is both beautiful and unfortunate.  It is located just outside of the South Kambui Forest Reserve, a 2,175 acre home to chimpanzees, monkeys, and a prized population of over 90 different species of birds including some that are only found in this tiny part of the world.  However, it was also ground zero for the 11 year war that ravaged Sierra Leone.

The Bandawoh Junior Secondary School had been in operation for over 5 years before the Rebel War broke out in the Nyawa Chiefdom.  In the early years of the conflict, the RUF Rebel Army realized the forested hills near Bandawoh offered a strategic location. In 1994 the infamous commander, Foday Sankoh established the notorious rebel headquarters of Camp Zogoda there.  To build and fortify their encampment, the rebel forces looted materials from homes and buildings in the surrounding villages.   The rebels destroyed the school in Bandawoh for the (expensive and sturdy) zinc-alloy roof.

By the time the war finally ended in 2002, no junior secondary schools remained in Nyawa Chiefdom or even the surrounding areas of Koya Chiefdom or the southern part of Small Bo Chiefdom.  To continue their education, students had to relocate and board in the large towns of Bo or Kenema.

With the school gone any family that wished to provide a secondary school education for their children had no other option but to send them out of town.  The cost of food, lodging and transportation in addition to school fees made further education either impossible or an immense burden.  For families that managed to scrape enough money together to send their children out of town to secondary school, there was the worry of having their loved ones so far away.  The loss of additional hands to help on the farms was bad enough, however sending small children (10 to 14 years of age) without parental supervision led to all sorts of problems.  Boys were more likely to get in trouble with the law while girls were more likely to come home pregnant. 

After appeals to the government of Sierra Leone and a number of NGOs to assist in rebuilding the school went unanswered, the community of Bandawoh did what they could in an effort to keep their children in their village.  About 3 years ago the community built a primitive structure of mud and thatch in which the children attend Junior Secondary School.  Despite the unsound conditions of the school building, the institution is an officially government recognized school with qualified teachers who are dedicated and provide a good education.  And even in extremely cramped and dark conditions with a shorter school year than average because the roof is not watertight in the rainy season, the students are committed to learning and typically do very well on their BECE (Basic Education Certificate Examination) national exams for entrance into Senior Secondary School (10th-12th grade).  Among the 20 – 30 students from Bandawoh that sit this exam each year, only 2 or 3 do not pass and advance to Senior Secondary School.

The existing Bandawoh Junior Secondary School is the only secondary school in Nyawa and Koya Chiefdoms.  Bandawoh village alone has two primary schools (1st-6th grade) and multiple primary schools surrounding chiefdoms remain without a secondary school.  It is estimated that a large and proper facility would be able to serve this entire catchment area of about 10,000 people.

This is the current building. 

Despite the cramped and dark room, the students perform well, in a new school, they would flourish. 

A reliable permanent structure will provide a more encouraging and comfortable learning environment that can be used throughout the year, even in the rainy season.  This structure can also be used by the community for adult education classes and other gatherings.  Having a suitable school building will allow children to learn in their own community and allow the parents to monitor and support them so they do not go astray and the girls are not taken advantage of and end up with unwanted pregnancies.  The families will also be able to save money that they would have to spend on boarding fees to educate their children in a larger town.

After persevering for almost 20 years without a Junior Secondary school for such a large amount of people, and watching so many of their children have to cut their education off at 7th grade, we are so happy to be able to partner with this unbelievably strong community finally build the school they need.

Please donate whatever you can and check back with us for updates on the progress of construction.  Thank you, SLVP.

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