By Mediatu Songu-M'briwa (YES 2016-2017, Sierra Leone, placed by YFU USA in Oxford, MI)
When I realized the huge lack of access to education in Hastings’ Wharf, located in the Western Rural Area District in Sierra Leone, it sparked my idea to build a primary school in the community. More than 2,000 people live in Hastings’ Wharf, a densely populated community in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.
I began further researching the state of education in Hastings’ Wharf and found that this community has only three makeshift primary schools, which are located at people's private residences. Children attending these schools perform very poorly on exams, and the rapidly increasing number of school children has resulted in shortages of benches, desks, and blackboards. The schools have had to improvise by using concrete blocks and boards as benches. The class sizes are extremely large, with sometimes as many as 100 students in a class. There are also not enough classrooms, forcing multiple grade levels to be grouped together in a single classroom. This lack of access to quality education has resulted in significant increases in dropout rates, which could lead to social issues in Hastings’ Wharf.
In order to address these issues, it is essential that the standard of education be improved by providing pupils with a standard school structure, learning materials, and furniture. Moreover, improving the students’ quality of education will benefit not only the students but also the broader community. Education has been proven to be a sustainable method of poverty reduction, and the government has declared that every child has the right to be educated.
Although I know that this project is a huge task, I will certainly complete it. I have always believed that you should dream big and believe in yourself. I am very passionate about this project and, therefore, I am willing to persevere until I see the end of the tunnel.
When doing anything in life, one must face challenges and should be ready to hear many "No's". Some of the challenges that I am facing when implementing this project now are a fear of failing to complete the project, receiving negative feedback from others, and not having the required funding. But I always remember the following Randy Pausch quote: "Brick walls let us prove how badly we want our dream, and they stop those who don't want it enough." I am sure that brick walls won't stop me from reaching my goals.
Although I have faced many challenges, I also have had many successes. For example, people in my community have volunteered their labor for the project. My mother has also supported the project by providing a small portion of land on which I can put up the primary school building, and I have been able to use some of my savings to construct it.
My YES experience played a great role in inspiring this project. On the YES program, I learned so much about community service, which has inspired me to make a difference in my own community. The YES program also helped me hone my communication skills, which have been essential in relaying and retrieving information about the project to various stakeholders and community members.