Gendema Ferry – a ‘Bush School’.
Gendema is a small village about a three hour drive from Bo along the Bo/Kenema Highway towards Kenema and then down a long bumpy, very dusty dirt track road, travelling inland through the bush. The settlement is on the banks of the River Sewa, home to crocodiles! The river must be crossed by flat deck pontoon ferry, which will transport cars and trucks as well as foot passengers.
Gendema was heavily targeted and virtually ruined during the War because it is a diamond mining region. The village is a sleepy back water which is almost in a time warp. Destroyed properties still remain in ruins. Very few of the adults speak English. The local chiefs would love assistance to develop education and to elevate their community into the modern world.
We took OAKS head teacher, Joe Williams and the bursar, Rey Jarrett, with us to assist with translation and also to get their gut reaction and advice on the development of a ‘bush school’. We needed objective local opinion on the pros/cons and general viability of a project.
An interesting tour of the village, through destroyed and abandoned housing, down to a small beach area on the river Sewa. We visited Maggie’s grandfather’s grave – he was the chief of this area when Margaret was a little girl. Then walking on inland to higgledy piggery dwellings, some more robust than others. We were shown a huge area of land that the chief and elders have earmarked for a school development, possibly up to 10 acres.
We were then escorted to an open cast mine. All work done by hand, picks, shovels and sweat, nothing industrial or romantic. Difficult to imagine how the native work force make any money for such hard work, in this very poor back-water environment.
Our head teacher thinks it is a community in much need of good education. They have the land and are willing to provide local materials for building. Another very worthwhile project – but how to finance? Building costs would not be too high, but teacher’s wages would be an ongoing and rising commitment, plus we probably would have to provide basic teacher accommodation on the site.
This would be a very challenging but interesting and rewarding project, so very different to the built environment of Bo, such a contrast.
Certainly much food for thought for the future, we would obviously need a few very dedicated sponsors.
After our initial approach, there is much research to be done through the Education Authority and the local Paramount Chief. If this project is of interest to you, please let us know.