AWOL off to Gondama!
All of Works of Life (AWOL) left Freetown for Gondama, Tikonko Chiefdom in Bo District, where the development organisation will host this year’s annual Day of the African Child School Feeding and Awards Programme, for school children on Sunday June 16th 2013. (Photo: Pupils of SLUIM rush out of their classrooms to welcome AWOL advance team last week)
The group, about 30 members, will drive in a convoy of their individual vehicles in the company of a high powered media team that will cover the event and turn the spotlight on the abandoned Chiefdom, which once hosted refugees from Liberia and internally displaced persons.
This year’s programme targets about 2, 000 pupils drawn from five primary schools in the Chiefdom: Sierra Leone United Islamic Mission (SLUIM), Ansarul Islamic Mission, Every Nation Academy (ENAPS), St. Augustine Services and Methodist Primary.
The pupils will be fed, awarded learning materials and scholarships, and admonished on the virtues of hard work and the importance of education for self reliance. The pupils in turn will tell their own stories through skits, songs, poems and other forms of expression.
The event will take place at the Brigade Battalion School (BBS) of the 5th Infantry Brigade of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) at Gondama Barracks.
Local authorities and stakeholders including Principals, the Town Chief, the Police, Army, the Bo City Council and the Resident Ministry South, have all been notified by an advanced AWOL team that visited the community last week.
According to the Chairman of AWOl’s June 16th Committee, Mr. Abdul Kabba Kargbo, the choice of Gondama for this year’s programme is in line with the organisation’s principle of targeting less privileged communities, adding that the village has a unique history that must be highlighted.
“This is a community that played host to suffering refugees from neighbouring Liberia during the country’s two bloody civil wars between the 80s and 90s. Apart from that, Gondama also hosted Sierra Leoneans displaced by our own decade-long civil war. In this post-conflict period therefore we need to return the favour for their hospitality in those difficult times,” said Mr. Kargbo.
The international theme for this year is “eliminating harmful social and cultural practices affecting children: our collective responsibility” but AWOL, as usual, is working under their own theme: “All Pekin for Go Skul”, emphasizing the need for every child to be in school.
AWOL Chairman, Anthony Navo Jnr, said the annual June 16th programme is the organisation’s own contribution to the development of education in the country. He said through quality education, most bad influences affecting teenagers today will be avoided.
“With the right education, our children will not indulge in drug abuse, violence, teenage pregnancies, unsafe sex and the like; and they will grow up to become responsible citizens capable of assuming leadership roles in the various endeavours they will find themselves tomorrow,” he said.
Last year, AWOL fed about 10, 000 school children in 10 towns across Sierra Leone under the theme: “Our Children. Our Future. Our Survival.” In the previous years, the organisation reached various less privileged schools in deprived communities such as Kroo Bay, Mabela and Grafton in Freetown.
With Gondama this year, AWOL hopes to continue to inspire as many pupils as possible and build on its contribution to the educational sector over the years. AWOL also hopes to throw light on Gondama and the entire Tikonko Chiefdom in a bid to bring much needed development to the community.
Gondama, which is about seven miles from Bo towards Pujehun, was once the largest refugee camp in Sierra Leone. Following the return of peace and stability in Liberia and Sierra Leone, most of the refugees returned home and internally displaced persons reunited with their families.
However, some decided to stay and start a new life all-together. According to Town Chief Musa Car, the community is made up of almost all the tribes in Sierra Leone, including Liberians.
The 84 year-old Town Chief estimates the population of Gondama at 3, 500 with 550 houses, excluding personnel of the 5th Infantry Brigade. The inhabitants survive through farming, fishing, petty trading and mining, especially sand mining.
By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
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