One of the biggest mining companies in Kono District, Eastern part of Sierra Leone, Koidu Limited, is currently at the completion stage of the neglected Kono Blind School in Koidu Town.
Responding to an interview, the Principal for the Kono Blind School, Mr. Philip Deen Sesay narrated that the school for the visually impaired pupils in Kono District had been established way back September 6th 1988, 35 years ago.
As the present principal of the school, Mr. Sesay said, on June 26th, 2020, he was having an interview with the Society for Radio Democracy, FM 98.1 about how the school was survived by the government quarterly subvention but, he said, it sometimes takes the school administration about 6 to 7 months without getting subvention support from the central government.
During the said interview with 98.1 in the year 2020, a philanthropist and a son of Kono, Mr. Ibrahim Turay, called on the moderator of the program and made a commitment that Koidu Limited under which he is working would step in fully to salvage the current predicament or problem which is affecting the normal operation of the school, especially the dilapidated school building which was substandardly built under the Sababu Education Project.
Mr. Sesay confirmed that the first consignment or gesture which was extended to the management of the school by Koidu Limited was Seventy Million Leones (Le70M) through an organization known as the ‘Kono Lives Foundation.’
Mr. Sesay, who attended the Milton Margai School for the Blind in Freetown, said during the ceremony which marked the handing over of the Le70M to the blind school, the management of Koidu Limited also used the occasion to commit themselves that they would stepped in full force to rehabilitate the dilapidated school which was about to collapse or fall down.
“But with the timely intervention of Koidu Limited through a white expertriate by the name of Mr. Phillip, who helped to carry out a successful visibility studies in the school, observed that the building had become dilapidated and if urgent action was not instituted, it might fall down and caused an untold damage or ruin”, he told this medium and continued that in May this year, Koidu Limited commenced or started a massive construction and rehabilitation work on the school.
Mr. Sesay further maintained that the Kono Blind School was first built by the Sababu Education Project about 15 years ago with substandards materials, adding that with the emergence of Koidu Limited through Mr. Ibrahim Turay, the most desired massive rehabilitation of the school had been achieved or actualized.
Mr. Sesay emphacized that not only the school, but a Barry had been built a quarter for him the principal and family members.
Mr. Sesay maintained that many passerby, including journalists were happy over the sustainable transformation of the school which they went further to described as it resembled a college or any improved tertiary institution as a result of the robust modernization which had taken place.
He frowned at people who are still thinking that the blind or visually impaired people are less useful in society and he substantiated that there was no need to neglect those class of people in society for the fact that, he stressed “There is ability in disability” and recalled how the school properties were stolen by reckless people because there was no better school structure and storage facility to properly keep school materials.
He said the contractors of the school building had completed the rehabilitation of the school and they are now constructing the boys and girls quarters to fully equipped the bordering home for the blind pupils equally live a better life and sleep well.
In a sad mood, Mr. Sesay told this writer that the children supposed to eat three times a day, but the prevailing hike or inflation of prices of food and other essential commodities had limited the children to eat only two times a day.
He accounted that the total number of blind pupils in the school is 72, noting that the school administration spent One Hundred and Forty Thousand Old Leones (Le 140, 000) every single day and a bag of rice lasted for two days.
He emphacized on the uneasiness involved to run a bordering home.
On the issue of salary for teachers, Mr. Sesay explained that the school existed in two folds, including six (6) vuluntary teachers who are not in a pay roll and four teachers including himself are in pay roll.
He further intimated this press that the school is facing too many challenges, including the absence of sufficient food to satisfy the children and the absolute lacking of teaching and brailing materials across all the blind schools in the country as they shared similar stories.
Mr. Sesay proclaimed that the brail teaching materials were not for sale in Africa, except they have to be ordered or imported from either United Kingdom, America and beyond.
Sesay said as now is a computer world, the blind school needed typewriter no more, but interested to have more computers so that the children would be abled to compete with their counterparts as they are integrated in secondary schools. Sesay expressed thankfulness to a humanitarian organization known as Sustain For Life to approve their project which aided them greatly to secure about twelve (12) computers and one printer.
He gratified the management of Koidu Limited because the issue of building the blind school was not part of their mandate but they stepped in as a mining company to support the course of serving humanity, especially when the project had to do with the educational development of our visually impaired brothers and sisters.
He prayed for the management to continue actualizing the promised to give more strength to the school feeding program so that the poor children will continue to eat three times a day as usual by January 2023.
However, Mr. Sesay recalled that last year, the SLPP led Government of Sierra Leone supported the school with quarterly subvention for the whole year which they used not only to pay salaries to academic and supported staff like the cooks, drivers, cleaners and among others, but they also used part of the subvention to pay salaries to the six vuluntary teachers.
Mr. Sesay clarified that the subvention which was sent last year had been exhausted or spent because, the said subvention in the tune of Thirty One Million Leones (Le 31M) was not enough to run a whole learning institution throughout the year, he cited the general increased in prices on basic commodities in the markets.
In that regards, the Principal humbly appealed to the Government to increase subventions to all blind schools across the country for smooth operation or else it would be a story.
He commended the Deputy Minister of Sports who usually gives help to the school and one of our sisters in overseas, Madam Linda who had been helping the school through his brother in Sierra Leone, Mr. Joseph Kelly. He also extended gratefulness to management of the Telecon Road Ministry Hospital which had been curing blind pupils that fell sick.
In her brief testimony, a former student of the Kono Blind School who had sat to the WASSCE exercise and he is now preparing to go to college or university, Madam Kadie Turay explained that life was too challenging in terms of running the school without adequate resources by the school administration, noting that he was now over happy about the massive transformation which had taken place in the past two years in the blind school.
Madam Turay testified that even though he wasn’t paid, but he continued to teach primary pupils to fulfill his desire to mentor young people to be useful in society.
In her conclusion, Kadiatu Turay admonished pupils to be patient in their learning and focus on their studies to become not only self reliant, but good people who will take the administration of the country in the future