The Foundation’s most recent school build was the design and construction of a primary school on Yele Island. Yele Island is part of the Turtle Islands, an archipelago off the southern coast of Sierra Leone. The small, low-lying islands are inhabited by fishing communities who are amongst the most marginalised communities in an already poor country. A baseline survey carried out by the Foundation in April, 2012, found that despite a strong desire for education, less than 1% of adult women were literate and none of the children had ever attended school. (For more information, please see our baseline report)
Based on the needs and priorities expressed by the community on Yele, the Foundation designed and started construction of a school in April, 2013. Materials were locally sourced and transported over 63 nautical miles in 8 commercial boats, taking over 12 hours to reach Yele Island. Although construction was undertaken by a crew of 13 men, it took a community effort to make the build happen.
Less than a year in, the school was forced to close when the Ebola epidemic hit the country. Rather than leave, our teachers stayed on the island and provided lessons to students in small study groups, with the inclusion of basic health education and hygiene practices. We also started a school feeding program and have since seen our enrollment increase from 80 to 130 students.
The past year was a challenging one, but saw a strengthening of our community relationship and improved engagement by parents in their children's learning. The coming academic year will see the promotion of our first grade 6 students, who are not only our first students but the first from the islands to sit their primary level government exams. We look forward to supporting these students with their education through the Foundation's scholarship program.
In the coming months, the Solon Foundation will help refurbish the nearest health clinic to the Turtle Islands. Discussions with key stakeholders are underway, plans are being drafted and estimates are being made for facility repairs. Not only does the clinic lack proper mattresses and beds, but the roof leaks, the walls are crumbling and the toilet facilities need repairs. Following the refurbishment project, the Foundation will then aim to build a supporting health facility on the island of Sei.
Another key priority is the construction of additional toilet facilities. This past year, the Solon Foundation built a set of toilets for the Solon School at Yele Island. However these became the first and only toilet facilities on the island. Our goal is to raise funds and support the construction of additional facilities over the coming years, on the island of Yele as well as on the other Turtle Islands.
Solon School at Yele Island
read our baseline report on yele island
Literacy Education in Liberia
Building on a long-standing relationship between members of the Solon Foundation UK and Liberian educators, the Foundation built Life Literacy in 2008 and continues to support on-going school operations.
Located on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Life Literacy provides free primary education and a daily meal to its students. To address the wide range of student needs, the school arranges classes based on age and ability level, and has a strong emphasis on literacy education.
During the recent Ebola crisis, Life Literacy demonstrated its dedication to student learning by holding small study groups in private homes. They implemented Ebola safety protocols before each lesson and worked hard to ensure that those months of learning were not lost. With schools reopened as of February 2015, followed by a shortened academic year, Life Literacy is once again hard at work to improve student learning.
There is a strong sense amongst families in Sierra Leone and Liberia that sending their children to school will give them a better future. At the same time however, the quality of education is lacking and schools are failing to prepare students to be successful later in life.
To address the issue of quality education, the Solon Foundation UK has established a partnership with the Rising Academy Network, a provider of high quality, low-cost education in Sierra Leone, to provide scholarships for students to attend their junior secondary schools. The emphasis is on supporting students from particularly low income families, especially girls.
Over the coming year, the Solon Foundation will build a specific scholarship fund to support children from the Solon School at Yele Island. With only primary-level education available on the islands, the goal is to support children to continue on with their education. The prospect of attending junior secondary school has resulted in an increase in student attendance and motivation towards learning, and has improved support from parents, who now see education as having the potential to change the lives of their children for the better.
COMMUNITY Health Education
For the past year, the Solon Foundation has operated a health education outreach program on the Turtle Islands.
Our health team hosts educational sessions on key topics, geared towards women and youth, and encourages a peer education approach. This means that individuals who attend sessions then go out and share their learning with friends and family members, who in turn are encouraged to bring their questions back to the health team. The purpose is to facilitate increased health knowledge and health-promoting behaviours from within the community.
By building up community trust and engagement over the past year, the Foundation's health education program is seeing important change in behaviours and attitudes, nd is building the foundations for improved health in the island communities.
Monthly school operations are currently funded by Flash Vehicles
Monthly school operations are currently funded by Solon Capital Partners
Photo credit Bex Singleton
Photo credit Tommy Trenchard