During the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone a large part of the educational system was devastated, which meant that a great number of children lost the opportunity to attend school. By the end of the war, less than 70% of primary aged school children had received basic education. Much has been done to rebuild the system over recent years. The government has earmarked 20% of its budget for education and has been determined to reach the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of achieving universal primary school education by 2015. This goal, however, cannot be attained without external help.
Project Kono was launched in 2008 and was originally a three years project, later extended to over five years. Focussed on the remote and war torn Kono district, the goal was to ensure that all school aged children in Kono were enrolled and kept in school to complete their primary education.
The project was a direct continuation of an earlier UNICEF project to construct 50 village schools, sponsored privately in 2006 by Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir and Ólafur Ólafsson, the founders of Aurora. The schools were built in remote and hard to reach areas in Sierra Leone and included water wells, toilets and teacher training.
As a result of this project, more than 200 teachers received training and nine new schoolhouses were built with the equipment to supply water, furniture and teaching materials. Great emphasis was placed on improving the quality of the education as well as adjusting it to the needs of the children, with a focus on girls. Retaining the girls in school for as long as possible means they are less likely to get married and have children while still in their teens. An involved micro-society was also activated by establishing parents’ associations at the schools as well as mothers’ clubs.
Representatives from the Aurora Foundation, together with representatives from UNICEF Iceland, visited Sierra Leone in the spring of 2013 to evaluate the results. Following the visit, UNICEF published two reports on the milestones reached, including the facts that there was a 9% increase in enrolment of children at primary school level and there was an 11% increase in the number of qualified teachers in the region. The reports can be found in the side bar.
This is the largest project that Aurora has supported in partnership with UNICEF Iceland. The project was implemented by UNICEF Sierra Leone in cooperation with the Government of Sierra Leone and has greatly helped to increase cooperation between UNICEF and the government of Sierra Leone.
The project is one of four projects that Aurora has supported in the educational sector in Sierra Leone through UNICEF in the period 2008–2016.