Blamawo community is in the lower Patalo section Baoma Chiefdom, Bo District, Southern Sierra Leone and about 32 kilometers from the District Headquarter town of Bo. It has a population of about 1,000 people, of which 60% are women.
The major livelihood activity is farming but wood selling, small-scale petty trading and vegetable gardening are also undertaken to supplement household incomes.
The vegetation of the community is characterized by secondary bush with small stretches of tropical rainforest and thick shrubs largely found along the Sewa River. Trees found in the forest are used for timber whilst the various species of wild life, birds and rodents are hunted for food.
Although there has been little non-formal primary school in the community for the past years, Illiteracy among women is significantly high. Reasons for this are abject poverty, cultural belief/ barriers, parent’s refusal to send girl children to school and early marriages.
The decade long civil conflict directly impacted on the moral status, domestic commitments, farming activities, control over resources, high illiteracy rates and power imbalance of the communities.
The main ethnic groups in the area are Mendes with traces of Temne and Fula with subsistence agriculture as the main economic activity.
The educational system though gradually improving is faced with numerous problems ranging from infrastructure, availability of teaching and learning materials, de-motivated teaching staff to poor monitoring and supervision.
With enrolments generally improving there is still significant drop outs among girl children as a result of labour, early marriages, and poverty.
This situation for instance is more striking in Baoma chiefdom where the percentage of children in school as against the school going age is 3% and 12.05% respectively as against 58.59% in Kakua chiefdom the neighbouring chiefdom because of inadequate school structures.
Before the intervention of ActionAid, children used to walk long distances attend school. This had its disadvantages especially for girls especially who faced the risks of being raped on their way to school.
However communities remain committed to ensuring that their children are provided with the basic educational facilities.
ActionAid supported the establishment of a REFLECT circle in 2007 and followed up on this with a school construction project in 2009.
Since then a lot has changed in favour of the women and children. The project supported the formation of a viable women’s farmer group, organized sensitizations /trainings on issues of girl child education and retention, violations and how women could monitor progress of their children in school.
The women farmers in this community were also supplied groundnut seeds specifically to augment fund raising and improve their seed banks.
Michael K. Sundifu is 45 years; the Head teacher of the Blamawo Community School had this to say.
‘’A six classroom school building now standing in Blamawo is a real dream come true; a paradise, some thing I hoped for but never knew when it would come. Since we started this community school it has been very challenging. We constructed makeshift structures ten times because they collapsed whenever it rained heavily. Teachers came and left because of the poor infrastructure. But this this year, I have received a lot of applications from qualified teachers who want to come and teach in our school since it is now more conducive. I even hope to have increased enrolment at the start of the next academic year’’.
‘’Thanks to Marple Access through ActionAid for their tremendous support to this part of Sierra Leone’’