College students have returned from war-ravaged Sierra Leone on a mission to help re-educate a population stricken by civil war.
The Trent Vale Catholic high school is the first school in Britain to embark on a charitable exchange pmgramme with the poverty stricken west African country. Last October eight staff went on a reconnaissance mission to see if the area was safe for students and last month eight sixth form students and four staff returned from the first of what is intended to be a regular programme of visits.
Now they have embarked on an ambitious project to collect two containers of books, equipment and clothes to help their adopted school, the Model Blessed Tansi Primary School, in the second city of Bo, which has 900 children aged from five to 13 years. but not a single exercise or text book between them.
St Joseph's College headteacher Roisin Maguire said: "Sierra Leone is a former British colony desperately trying to recover from 11 years of civil war. That conflict, infamous for the recruitment of thousands of child soldiers and the rebels' practice of chopping off hands and feet, has left Sierra Leone as one of the poorest countries in the world. It needs electricity, hospitals, sanitation and vaccination programmes, but above all it needs books. hi a country of almost six million people, there are only 20,000 library books — one for every 300 people. This deprivation means that only 40 per cent of the population can now