School hits headlines in Africa with IT project

Students at Bishop Bell School made national headlines in Sierra Leone after supplying and setting up the first computer suite in a state school in the country.

The school was one of the top stories on SLBS TV, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service, and featured in national newspapers.

Over the past few weeks, a team of seven staff from Bishop Bell, including four post-16 trainees, visited their partner school in the West African country, The Schlenker Anglican Secondary School.

The visit was the culmination of 15 months of planning and preparation both in Eastbourne and Port Loko (the town which Schlenker School serves).

Sierra Leone was a war zone for more than a decade and witnessed many atrocities. The war ended in 2002 when British troops were brought in to defeat the rebels, the notorious West Side Boys.

Bishop Bell headteacher Terry Boatwright said, "Port Loko and Schlenker Anglican Secondary School were in the front line of the conflict.

"Indeed, the Bishop Bell team witnessed the bullet-strewn and ravaged buildings on the Schlenker site on day one of the visit.

"However, their sombre mood was quickly transformed by the optimism, support and capacity for progress in and around the Schlenker School.

"The welcome by the community of Port Loko was warm and consistently supportive, including a never to be forgotten meeting with the region's paramount chief, Sunday worship with Reverend Reggie at St James' Church and daily meetings with Schlenker's dynamic principal, Mr CS Kamara.

"By the end of the two weeks, the team had led lessons and worked with departments throughout the school."

Not only did the ICT team, led by Libby Brooker, set up the network in a purpose built facility, but they also trained Schlenker staff in the role of key programmes.

At the opening ceremony, the list of dignitaries included the Bishop of Freetown and the newly appointed Deputy Minister for Education.

One of the keynote speakers, Mr J Bangura, head of the Community Teachers' Association, described the school's journey over the past six years as moving 'from grass to grace'.

A ribbon was cut and the computer suite was formally opened.

The Bishop Bell team returned to the UK recently and is now planning phase 2 of the Computer Link Project.

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