Andrew Mitchell MP has visited Great Barr School just outside of Sutton Coldfield to meet with staff and students involved in the school’s UK-Sierra Leone Partnership.
Mr Mitchell was greeted by Mr Neil Morland, Advanced Skills Teacher, who invited Andrew as both a local MP and in his capacity as Secretary of State for International Development. Neil Morland organised the trips to Sierra Leone and has driven most of the work the school has done there.
Andrew heard how over the last five years, staff and students have worked hard on forging mutually beneficial links with schools in Waterloo, 30 miles south-east of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.
Mr Mitchell was shown presentations detailing how Great Barr funded and helped to construct a two-story classroom, fully equipped with 60 donated computers and a generator. This hugely important facility was funded and built from the ground up by students and teachers and was officially opened in 2010 by Sierra Leone’s Education Minister.
Talking about their current challenge – Project 3580 – Andrew Mitchell praised Great Barr’s fundraising which has blown their initial target of £15,000 and now reached over £25,000. Project 3580 will deliver a 40ft shipping container full of supplies and mosquito nets to a refugee camp with a population of 12,000 in Waterloo. The money will also see Great Barr help to refurbish three classrooms at the school in the refugee camp.
Speaking about the project Mr Mitchell said, “This is one of the best examples of a school twinning project I have ever seen. Everyone involved should be immensely proud of their achievement which is helping to transform the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.”
Students and MP then discussed the needs Sierra Leone would have in the future, particularly education, infrastructure and transparency, as well as highlighting the work of the British Government in helping to deliver these and other goals.
Andrew Mitchell MP said, “We can be proud that through British efforts we will immunise a child against lethal diseases every two seconds for the next five years, something as small and as simple as this will protect a life every two seconds. Projects such as this at Great Barr School are proof that generosity and empathy are part of British cultural DNA.”
Also present on the day were representatives from Greenholm Primary and Litchfield Cathedral schools who have contributed a great deal to the projects as well.
Mr Dan Locke-Wheaton, Assistant Head Teacher, said, “We have had to learn to deal with the complexities and logistics of transporting containers across the world and through foreign borders. Mr Mitchell was able to give us some excellent practical advice and suggest some useful agencies and organisations doing similar work from which we might gain advice and practical assistance.”