In Sub-Saharan African countries such as Sierra Leone, the coronavirus pandemic has closed schools for months and because the vast majority have been unable to make the transition to online education, school closures have widening the pre-existing gap between how much rich children and poor children learn.
In Sierra Leone, it is estimated that only less than 5% of students have access to a computer at home, and more than half live in households that don’t even have electricity. In the world’s poorest countries, as many as 80 percent of children cannot read by age 10, and as school closures drag on, this crisis risks becoming a catastrophe.
But in Sierra Leone, we are seeing hope.
Schools in Sierra Leone closed for eight months in 2014-2015 to stop the spread of Ebola, and today the country is using the lessons learned during that crisis to provide inclusive remote learning as only 13 percent of the country’s households are connected to the internet.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic is stabilizing in the country, our longtime partner there, Rev. Francis Mambu, founder and executive director of Faith Healing Development Organization (FHDO) which operates several primary and secondary schools, informed us recently nursery schools have already reopened with, primary and secondary schools for follow next month.
According to CNBC Africa, as of September 8, there have been just over 2,000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the country and a total of 71 deaths in a country with a population of eight million residents, and government and school officials have determined that it is safe for students to return to classrooms, with precautions.
Thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®, over the years we have been able to assist Rev. Mambu and FHDO construct schools and add classrooms, supplement teachers’ salaries so they can continue support themselves, and most importantly, provide scholarships and assist with the school fees for hundreds of students who attend FHDO’s five primary schools and four secondary schools which serve a combined student body population of 533 boys and 515 girls, 1,048 students in all.
Among those who are able to attend FHDO’s Logos Academy, thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® is Ernest, whose mother is a petty trader selling rice and spices at a local market, and father is a police officer working as a security guard.
Rev. Mambu tells us that Ernest has a passion to become a medical doctor and the drive and determination to make his dream a reality. Even though both his parents work, their meager incomes are barely enough to keep the family fed and a roof over their heads, and it is only through the Bread and Water for Africa® school fee assistance program that this bright, promising student can continue his education.
Today, September 8, is the United Nations’ International Literacy Day which this year focuses on “Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.” The theme highlights literacy learning in a lifelong learning perspective, and therefore, mainly focuses on youth and adults.
“The recent COVID-19 crisis have been a stark reminder of the existing gap between policy discourse and reality: a gap that already existed in the pre-COVID-19 era and negatively affects the learning of youth and adults, who have no or low literacy skills, and therefore, tend to face multiple disadvantages,” states the UN.
At Bread and Water for Africa®, for more than 20 years — long before the current coronavirus pandemic which is creating great educational hardships for children and youth throughout Sub-Saharan Africa — thanks to our supporters we have been providing educational opportunities for thousands of students, specifically in the area of literacy the foundation of learning, by constructing schools and classroom additions, as well as paying school fees for students who would otherwise have no opportunity for an education.
Over the years and decades, some 15,000 students have been able to attend schools we have constructed, such as the Kipkeino Primary School and the Kebeneti Secondary School in Kenya, as well as schools in Sierra Leone, and had their school fees paid in the knowledge that education is the key to their success in the future and a life out of dire poverty.
In addition, nearly 200,000 students in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and elsewhere have benefited from the tens of thousands of school and text books we have shipped to the libraries of dozens of schools and universities for use by students and faculty members since 2014.
Since the coronavirus began in March forcing countless schools throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, we have continued our mission of working with our partners in countries including Cameroon, Chad ,Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to ensure children are able to continue their educations despite the massive challenges they face due to a lack of resources, persistent nationwide blackouts and no available internet service which creates not just a digital divide — but a digital chasm — that must be overcome.
Today, on International Literacy Day, we thank all of our supporters who made what we do possible, and continue to help us and our partners in our ongoing mission of educating children throughout the African continent regardless of the devastating pandemic.
For many years, Richard “Dick” Landis has been partnering with Bread and Water for Africa® to help improve the lives of Kenyan children.
First was his support of the Lewa Children’s Home, the Kipkeino Primary School and Baraka Farm, all integrated under the direction of Bread and Water for Africa® international spokesperson Phyllis Keino.
A successful retired businessman and track coach, Landis and his wife, Toini, have committed the biggest part of his retirement to working in Kenya, so far making the 18-hour trip some 40 times, notes a 2017 article in the Cornell College alumni magazine, his alma mater.
As noted in the article, he and Toini created a foundation to support their efforts which is building a high school and medical clinic with one of his former runners, a tribal elder.
That school is Kebeneti Secondary School in the town of Kericho where Bread and Water for Africa® and Mr. Landis have been partnering together for the past few years, first getting the start-up school established and then working on improvements and upgrades year after year.
Kebeneti opened in 2015 with 50 students, and has new grown to an enrollment of 480, where girls outnumber boys 244 to 236.
That former runner and tribal elder, Titus Korir, noted that the opening of the school four years ago was necessary because there was no secondary school in the area forcing children who had graduated from primary school who lived in the community to walk many miles to the nearest secondary school to continue their education.
Since the opening of the school, Bread and Water for Africa® has teamed up with Mr. Landis to construct six classrooms, as well as the construction of a chemistry lab and physics lab, which we then equipped with modern equipment.
Mr. Landis was quick to recognize the generous contributions of Unilever and the Finley Trust who supporting equipping the labs. “They were very helping with the labs,” he told us.
To accommodate the rapidly growing student body population, we are now in the process of constructing four more additional classrooms.
Most recently, we have just completed the construction of a dining hall and kitchen which was celebrated in grand style with a ceremony commending Bread and Water for Africa® and Mr. Landis on November 24 with ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mr. and Mrs. Landis.
In a card written by a student, the student wrote:
To Landis family,
Wow! Thank you for the lovely gift! Thank you for your kindness; thank you for being the person you are.
You are a person who makes life easier and better for everyone in need.
You put others before yourself, making us feel special and important! It is a privilege and a please to know you Bread and Water for Africa!
We appreciate you Bread and Water for Africa ®. We thank you Mr. and Mrs. Landis.
A plaque on the exterior of the dining hall, known as “Landis Hall,” states: “The construction of this hall was funded with donations from Mr. Richard Landis of Montana, USA, and Bread and Water for Africa. It was officially opened by Richard Landis and his wife Toini on Sunday, 24th November 2019.”
As Mr. Korir stated in his request for assistance in constructing the dining hall, “The dining hall and kitchen are essential as students are currently eating lunch outside and their meals are being cooked in temporary shade.”
He also noted in addition to having a place for the nearly 500 students to sit
down together at lunchtime, the hall will also be used for school assemblies and as a concert hall.
Kamera’s mother and father are hardworking and just like all parents in Sierra Leone and around the world only want the best for their beloved 11-year-old son.
Even with a relatively good job as a police officer, and with the extra money brought into the household by his mother through the selling of rice, pepper and other items at the local market, they barely get by with enough to eat and paying other required expenses.
Paying school fees for Kamera was something they could only dream about.
That is until the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® stepped up for Kamera and hundreds of other young boys and girls through their compassion and generosity enabling them to attend school.
Because of them, we were able to assist our longtime partner in the country, Faith Healing Development Organization (FHDO), construct the Logos Academy, Lumley Campus, where Kamera is today in the fifth-grade learning to read and write, do math and science.
“Kamera has always had the passion to become a medical doctor but his parents could not afford to pay the fees for an expensive private school,” reported FHDO executive director Rev. Francis Mambu.
And that’s exactly the reason Bread and Water for Africa® partnered with Rev. Mambu to not only construct the school, but to make it affordable for working parents like Kamera’s and provide school fees for orphaned and destitute children who have no one who could even pay minimal school fees.
“During the 2018-2019 academic year, Kamera ’s parents were able to enroll him at Logos Academy where the school fees are extremely affordable to enable him to pursue his dream of becoming a medical doctor,” said Rev. Mambu.
Kemera told us that not only was he thrilled to learn that he would be attending the Logos Academy, but his experience there has exceeded all his high expectations.
“The teachers of Logos Academy are very accommodating and committed which has helped me improve my school performance in the past two years,” he said.
“I appreciate Rev. Mambu and the supporters of Bread of Water for Africa® so much for establishing this school.”
Instead of wasting his days with no hope for a bright future, because of the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® he is filling his mind with the knowledge he will need to be a successful, self-reliant adult with one day children of his own to love, care for and send to school, as he heads off to work as a medical doctor.
For us at Bread and Waiter for Africa ®, it will be a rewarding journey to see a young boy like Kamera become a successful doctor in the future.
Kuda was born in the small Kenyan village of Jera in 2007 and never knew her father who left before she was born.
It was a struggle for her mother raising Kuda and her three siblings to ensure all the children got enough to eat.
“This was a big challenge for the jobless mother who would walk door-to-door in search of any manual jobs to sustain her family,” reported Patrick Odongo, project leader of the Seed School, Bread and Water for Africa® newest partner in the country. “In a rural environment where poverty knocks on all doors and unemployment is rife, Kuda stared at the future with uncertainty.
“Life was difficult and hopes were fast fading.”
Things started looking up for Kuda when her mother found work at a nearby elementary school in exchange for enrolling her in school.
But then Kuda’s mother’s health deteriorated quickly, leaving the 6-year-old orphaned.
“Kuda’s life sank even deeper being left with her minor brothers who could not support her in any way,” said Patrick.
However, when he learned of her plight, he managed to bring her to Nairobi to attend the Seed School and her bleak life turned bright.
“Today, Kuda is able to attend studies every day and benefit from the feeding program that we offer at the Seed School,” Patrick reported.
And at Bread and Water for Africa® we are working to raise funds necessary to provide for two meals each school day for Carol and more than 100 of her new classmates in school located in the slums of Kibera for an entire year – and thanks to our compassionate and generous supporters we are well on our way to achieving our goal.
“The solid financial support from Bread and Water for Africa® in supporting our feeding program is a step in the right direction in enabling our program to reach many more children in dire need within the slums of Nairobi.”
The Seed Foundation operates the school for children ages 3 to 14 in the midst of one of the largest slums on the continent of Africa, and the world.
“Children living in Kibera slums are voiceless and rarely get any education unless they get support from charitable institutions and well-wishers,” explained Patrick. “The Seed Foundation runs a school in Kibera that strives at transforming the lives of these children by offering them hope through education and giving them a regular feeding program while they are in school.
“We thank Bread and Water for Africa® for supporting our feeding program for an entire term. This enabled us to improve the lives of the children and increase their concentration in class. Due to overwhelming needs we are unable to secure support easily from any local institutions.”
Patrick added thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® he was assured of having the funds on hand to purchase corn flour, beans, corn, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and green vegetables and fruits depending on the season.
“Upon receiving the grant from Bread and Water for Africa® we were able to start the feeding program on an upper hand, as previously there was no reliability,” he said.
“These children come from over 80 different households. Unfortunately, due to the harsh poverty levels in the slums of Kibera, many of these households live in absolute poverty which denies the children their major basic needs, including education and a balanced diet.”
“We thank the Seed School and their American supporters for helping our children get a chance of attaining decent education besides two meals in daily feeding at school. Previously the children went through a lot of suffering and since they are still very young they were unable to understand the problems that we go through as their parents. Let us hope that this will go on for many years.” — Veronica Adhiambo, Seed School parent