Youth leadership and a community-led project overturned 12 years of inaction, now the children of Maborie will have a better education, says Bob Lamin.
Maborie is a small village in northern Sierra Leone. The community has an estimated population of 500 people and only has one school; the ‘Tonkolili District Council primary school’ (TDC). This two-classroom school was built with mud and sticks which is used for classes 1, 2 and 4, with a thatched structure under the mango trees for classes 3 and 5, housing a total of 42 pupils between 6 and 12 years old. When it rains the classes have to be pooled, and this lack of facilities is reducing education quality and leading to high drop-out rates.
The school has been in the community for over 12 years now. Even though the school has been approved by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (back then it was the Ministry of Education Science and Technology), there hasn’t been any significant change in the school infrastructure since its opening. Sourcing funds from authorities to improve the school infrastructure has always been a major challenge as people in the Maborie community mostly depend on subsistence farming for their livelihood. But now 12 years of inaction has been overturned by the power of youth leadership. Here’s how.
Restless Development has been implementing the Strengthening Accountability Building Inclusion (SABI) programme in the community for the past two years. SABI is a community-led programme strengthening accountability. It increases awareness of, and demand for, the delivery of basic services – including health, education, social protection, water, and energy. The programme works by building relationships between citizens and the state and encouraging citizens to fulfill their own responsibilities for social amenities. SABI is funded by UK Aid and is being delivered by a consortium of leading international and Sierra Leonean partners, led by Christian Aid. Restless Development, is implementing a youth-led model, using young volunteers to collect data on citizen’s perceptions of health, education, social security, water, and energy provision. This data is then used to hold decision-makers to account and ultimately improve service delivery for over 610 communities in Sierra Leone.
122 young volunteers lead the programme as Youth Accountability Volunteers (YAVs). YAVs work in pairs of community and national volunteers. Each pair of volunteers has one ‘hub community’ where they live, and many other ‘satellite communities’ where they also do activities.
The YAVs in Maborie begun by walking around communities and identifying the key stakeholders and services that existed. They then hosted open community meetings to explain the SABI project to the entire community. The YAVs then completed community mapping projects and citizen perception surveys. These were intended to gather holistic and inclusive data from people with disabilities, service providers, men and women, pregnant women, new mothers, school pupils, and stakeholders within the community. The data collected was then analysed and presented to the community as an infographic.
Various problems ranging from poor school structure, lack of water facilities, lack of toilets, etc. were identified, and ranked. Then action plans were developed to solve them. The Program Field Officer responsible for the district and the YAVs set up an effective follow-up mechanism to ensure that the community follows through with the due processes agreed to in the action plan.
The community then embarked on an individual contribution drive to enable them to raise funds. In just 6 months’, this ‘L Shape’ six-classroom building (below) was constructed together with preparations for a 2 room toilet.
When we heard about this, a team comprising of the SABI Consortium partners including Restless Development, Christian Aid, Focus 1000, and Sierra Leone Social Aid Volunteers (SLAV) together with Mr. Joseph Lamin, the Program Officer for Tonkolili District Free Quality School Education; the flagship programme of the current government, conducted a learning visit to the community. The visit was for the ministry to see if the building meets the required standard as a school.
Mr. Lamin, acknowledged that the school approval process was slow but assured that it would be resolved. He promised to follow up with the Ministry of Finance to ensure the transfer of the school subsidy. He also promised to discuss with the relevant officials at the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to support the community by supplying furniture for their new construction.
Projects like these change the mentality in communities – from expecting NGOs and politicians to solve their problems, to taking responsibility for their own community’s development. This change was a direct result of the YAVs dedicated work. This active involvement empowers citizens to ask for more and to hold everyone involved accountable to their pledges. That’s the power of youth-led accountability. That’s the power of youth leadership.