At the end of 2021 in Sierra Leone, the "IMAGES: Improving MAnaGement of CSOs in Education Sector" project, funded by the European Union and based on close collaboration with local civil society organizations (CSOs) to improve their contribution in the education sector, came to an end.
Since the start of IMAGES in 2018, AVSI Sierra Leone's social workers have worked in 8 schools in the Western Area Rural District, while social workers from the local organizations Family Homes Movement and St. Mary's Homes of Charity have worked in schools in the district of Port Loko, Bombali and Tonkolili, implementing recreational activities for students.
The ultimate goal of the games is to identify possible situations of vulnerability that need to be subsequently followed up through individual support.
As in the case of Anthoney: concerned that the child was repeating the first grade for the third time in a row, a social worker arranged a meeting between the mother and the teacher. It became clear that the parent did not know that her child was repeating the year: in fact, she was illiterate and had great difficulty in checking Anthoney's homework.
Through a process of psycho-social support, both the mother and the school staff became more aware of how this situation was affecting the child's well-being and educational growth. After being followed throughout the year, Anthoney eventually passed the class and his mother also expressed her desire to return to school.
The recreational activities also helped the students realize how necessary studying is to pursuing their dreams.
As Binta tells, she recalls with great happiness the day a social worker asked the children to tell what they wanted to be when they grew up: "At first I was confused, I didn't understand the purpose of the game. But when I started writing and drawing on the paper all my ideas, dreams and thoughts, I realized how important it is to come to school."
Seeing Binta so happy to learn and listening to her talk about her future and her dreams also filled her mom with joy, who points out that the activities organized as part of the project help children focus, follow instructions and set their own goals.
The project also included a series of actions to promote the integral development of the families of the students involved.
Teachers and principals of the schools have in fact participated in trainings on leadership, educational risks, teaching strategies, while for the pupils' families and parents workshops have been organized, allowing many of them to be followed and accompanied by staff in a process aimed at the empowerment.
The closure of the project
To celebrate the closing of the project and the positive results achieved, AVSI staff was invited to the annual school event "Nine Lessons and Carols", a tradition where children read and interpret nine passages from the Bible interspersed with Christmas carols.
On this occasion, the directors of the schools where AVSI's social workers worked gave them the opportunity to celebrate with the whole school community the end of the project and to organize one last activity with the children, who were then asked to create "ropes" from a sheet of paper.
At the end of the day, many white ropes created connections among the students: this game was meant to teach them that they can build their lives as they wish, going beyond appearances.