Teachers humbled by Sierra Leone visit

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A group of 14 local teachers recently spent 10 days in Hastings’ Twin Town in Sierra Leone building on long-standing friendships with teaching colleagues in their link schools.

The group was led by Isabel Hodger, one of the Education Liaison Officers for Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link ably assisted by fellow teacher Mandy Hinxman.

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Mandy said: “In a world of inequality it is refreshing to see the determination and perseverance of the passionate youngsters in our partner schools and how collaborative projects can help to begin to enhance teaching and learning for all children.”

The group was chaperoned by Yvonne Johnson, who grew up in Hastings and Freetown in Sierra Leone and is now one of a large group of Sierra Leone ex pats now living in the UK and supporting the work of the Link.

British Council grants enabled the visits to take place. Teachers in both UK and Sierra Leone studied courses and set up joint projects. The Sanitation Super Heroes project run by The Baird teachers Emma Hughes and Laura Renesto encourages children in both countries to create their own avatar to decorate toilets, to reinforce the importance of washing hands after toilet and playtime and before eating.

Alice Hillen, teacher at St Leonard’s Academy said of the Sierra Leonean children: “Seeing their enthusiasm for learning has been one of my best teaching experiences. It has strengthened my belief that all children, regardless of circumstance, deserve an education which fosters their ambitions’.

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Isabel and Mandy visited schools and brought messages and work back for schools in the UK not represented this year.

Isabel also ran a Maths workshop with the help of Chloe Hinxman, teacher at Chantry Primary School.

Aaron Kamara, one of the link teachers who attended the workshop, wrote: ‘Today’s lesson was fantastic. 100% class participation again, especially when implementing the brilliant ideas from the workshop. Bravo for making the work easier with the help of the activities.’

Teachers also had the opportunity to explore some of Sierra Leone’s Western Peninsula. They visited the beach, and the big market in Freetown, as well as having a tour of Hastings Village.

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Faith Rew, teacher at Guestling Bradshaw CE Primary School, said: “An incredible experience. Everyone was so welcoming. But what stands out for me is that children are so happy but they have nothing”.

The visit was a huge success, with many new friendships made, and lots of ideas for developing partnerships further. Wendy Parker, teaching assistant at Christchurch, said: “This was an incredibly humbling and inspirational experience. Never to be forgotten.”

The group of teachers were accompanied by Christine Boulton-Lane, chair of the Link’s Health Sub-Committee who worked with local health workers to improve healthcare facilities. Richard Lane assisted Isabel with further work on the Schools Sanitation Project and Yvonne Johnson visited organisations working to support victims of the mudslide with donations from the Church of the Good Shepherd, supporters of the Link’s projects.

Find out more about the Friendship Link and the work it is doing in Hastings, Sierra Leone at the website: www.Hastingshastings.org.uk/about/.

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