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UM school gets firm foundation

 
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7:00 A.M. EST June 6, 2011 | BUMPETOKE, Sierra Leone (UMNS)


A retired United Methodist pastor (left), now a local chief, cuts tape to officially declare the opening of the new school in Bumpetoke. She is assisted by United Methodist Bishop John Yambasu(right) and Moyamba District Council executive David Woobay (middle). UMNS web-only photos by Phileas Jusu.
A retired United Methodist pastor (left), now a local chief, cuts tape to officially declare the opening of the new school in Bumpetoke. She is assisted by United Methodist Bishop John Yambasu (right) and Moyamba District Council executive David Woobay (middle). UMNS web-only photos by Phileas Jusu.

For the children in a remote coastal village in Sierra Leone, school was held under trees near the Atlantic shoreline.

The Bumpetoke United Methodist Primary School would be dismissed whenever the weather turned stormy or the ocean gushed violent currents onto the sand that served as a classroom floor.

But classes on the sandy shore are now history.

New school

The 244 pupils of the Bumpetoke school will hold future classes in a new $36,000 building.

On April 16, the Sierra Leone government officially dedicated and handed over the building to The United Methodist Church, which already operates 300 primary and 30 secondary schools in the West African nation.

The Magic Penny, a New York-based charity that supports the Bumpetoke community, provided funds for the four-classroom structure.

Lucy Sumner, who was raised in the Bumpetoke village, now serves as president of Magic Penny and leads recovery efforts in the village following the conclusion in 2001 of an 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone.


The new school in Bumpetoke in Sierra Leone is photographed on the eve of its dedication.
The new school in Bumpetoke in Sierra Leone is photographed on the eve of its dedication.

The school, which serves six villages, is about a half-mile inland from its former seashore site. The new school includes seven acres of land for future projects.

“Without education, I don’t think the children have a future. So with education, there is hope; there is enlightenment; and they can also learn to fend for themselves,” Sumner told United Methodist News Service on dedication day.

Before the building of the school, Sumner said, Bumpetoke children did not feel motivated to learn, and most of the girls got pregnant before they were 14.
She hopes the new structure will entice the students to stay in school.

More teachers needed

The number of registered students has already increased from 120 to 244. While this is something to celebrate, it also poses a challenge for the four-man teaching staff.

“We are receiving requests for admission every day from parents in all the six community villages,” said head teacher Ernest Kafay during the dedication ceremony.

Sumner fears the new school structure may not be enough by itself to draw additional teachers. Trained and qualified teachers rarely want to travel poor roads to the remote area. She hopes to overcome this by providing additional financial incentives.


Pupils celebrate new life and new hope at their new facility on dedication day.
Pupils celebrate new life and new hope at their new facility on dedication day.

“Pupils who excel will be given Magic Penny scholarships, and teachers who do very well will be given stipends in addition to their normal salary,” she says.

She also plans to provide a stipend to attract a female teacher who could serve as a role model for the girls. The school provides two apartments for teachers who do not come from the community.

The new primary school is just the beginning, Sumner says. The Bumpetoke community and school will continue to receive support from Magic Penny USA.

In addition to providing funds for the new school, the group has provided water wells and ventilated pit toilets. It also has started a community center.

Generous sisters

Sumner’s sister, Annie Bangura, administers Magic Penny’s Sierra Leone office, which implements the project the New York office funds.

During the dedication service, Emmanuel George, a local official, praised the sisters.


Community women celebrate the dedication.
Community women celebrate the dedication.

“When one looks at the school against the backdrop of high illiteracy and poverty rate in our community, one is compelled to say ‘bravo’ to Annie Bangura and her sister, Lucy Sumner on one hand and The United Methodist Church and the Sierra Leone government on the other,” he said.

David Woobay, Moyamba District executive chief, said the community was looking forward to seeing doctors, judges, teachers, paramount chiefs and lawyers graduate from the school.

“Annie Bangura and Lucy Sumner have proved to you how the sky could be the limit to any child yearning for progress and prosperity,” Woobay said.

During the dedication service, Sierra Leone Bishop John Yambasu encouraged participants to make a difference in the lives of  the less privileged. He also celebrated the presence of Annie and Lucy Lefevre, graduates of the United Methodist school.

“If the Lefevre sisters could make it under shade trees, I see no reason why the children blessed with the opportunity of a school like this should not prosper,” the bishop said.

*Phileas Jusu is a United Methodist communicator based in Sierra Leone.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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  • Gene Chow 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    May God bless those in the mission field. Most importantly, I pray that they spread only the anointed word. May God use these missionaries to set that country on fire for Jesus Christ.

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