Salone Entry 18: Structural Work

December 7th

I can hardly believe it’s already been a week back. As much as I’d tried to distill and freeze in memory the experience of being here three years ago, coming back to Rotifunk has exposed how incorrect or incomplete so many of my memories are.

While I was walking with Rashid and Daniel, we passed a house with an old woman sitting on the porch. Upon seeing me she leaned out to yell “Ay! Lumthubu!” I didn’t think anything of it. Not the slightest flicker in my brain. Daniel reminded me that the woman had given me the name three years before. Lumthubu in Sherbro, one of the local languages, means ‘unity’. Only then did I remember the name, mostly because I remembered how much less I had liked it than my Mende name, “Munda”.

The construction work on the school has been very productive, and a good visible sign of progress to go along with our invisible (but just as important) capacity building work with the teacher trainings.

The school on the morning of December 4th, before any of the structural work had begun. Over the course of the week, the contractors would finish plastering the exterior of the three classrooms in view, and start working on plastering the pillars and foundation as well.
Students are in the middle of exams, and the school days don’t last much at all beyond 10:30am, once all the students have completed their designated exam. Once the students leave, the contractors get to work.

The focus of our structural spending has been the exterior of the junior secondary (JS, or middle school) classrooms. These three classrooms are completely unchanged from when I visited back in 2014. Although they’re unfinished and an eyesore for students and staff, there have been far greater building needs over the past three years, and as such anytime there is enough school fees or a small grant, the funds have gone to other projects, such as beginning the senior secondary classrooms.

Speaking of senior secondary, the SS students often double as willing workers when there is something that needs an extra pair of hands. Here, many of the students are unloading bags of concrete that have been brought from the town center.
The contractors mixing the concrete in advance of plastering the building walls.
However, there has still been a significant need to complete the JS classrooms, as the school very much needs improved security. Only one small room is fully secured. The other two JS rooms, though with doors and locks, have incomplete windows. What’s frequently happened over the past several years, is people jump into the open windows at night and vandalize school property. Bumpeh Academy has likely lost thousands of dollars in damage for broken chalkboards and desks.

Making the ‘ballostas’, the window bricks, which allow for natural light and a breeze to pass through the classroom, while still providing security.
Prepping the walls for plastering
By putting some funds, not even much, towards completing the windows, we can make sure that all three JS classrooms are secure, and Bumpeh Academy can at least then begin to think about buying and maintaining better classroom accessories.

A look inside one of the JSS classrooms. The back windows to the classroom have only been started, and are very easy for people to climb through. As such, the classrooms have for a long time been insecure, and Bumpeh Academy property has been damaged and destroyed for years by vandals crawling through these unfinished windows.
SS4 student Alpha Jalloh standing in front of the freshly plastered walls.

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