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Kentish Town children fight to save Ebola-hit school

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 November 2014

Jude Goodall,10, Sawdah Mohamed, 11, with headteacher Kate Frood collect money at the school gate to help pupils at their Ebola-hit sister school in Sierra Leone. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Jude Goodall,10, Sawdah Mohamed, 11, with headteacher Kate Frood collect money at the school gate to help pupils at their Ebola-hit sister school in Sierra Leone. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Schoolchildren in Kentish Town are on the frontline of a fight to save an Ebola-hit school in Sierra Leone from permanent closure

Pupils armed with collection buckets stood outside Eleanor Palmer School in all weathers last week to ask for donations from school-run parents and passers-by in aid of their sister school in Freetown.

The charity-run African primary school was temporarily closed in July under orders from the Sierra Leonean government, but as the Ebola crisis worsens, its future looks more and more uncertain.

Pupils and staff at Eleanor Palmer stepped up to raise more than £1,000 to help keep teachers in place at the African school when it re-opens.

Headteacher Kate Frood said: “You read about the crisis in the newspapers, but when something is personalised, it really makes it so much more powerful.

“It has really stirred us to action,” she added. “Everyone has been really generous.

“Ebola is very difficult to talk about in primary schools, but we want kids to know why it’s spreading there and not here, to reassure them that it’s nobody’s fault and that it’s about wealth.”

Eleanor Palmer partnered with the African primary school in 2010 and, since then, children at both schools regularly talk and share their work with each other.

However, all communication lines went dead in July and it is not known if any teachers or pupils at the sister school contracted the infectious disease, which is so far thought to have killed about 4,500 people worldwide.

Closure

The Freetown school is run by Planting Promise, a charity which set up farms and factories to provide jobs and fund five schools in Sierra Leone.

However it struggled to hold onto teachers after the closure of the schools and the loss of their revenue streams.

The money raised will pay for about 16 teachers’ wages for a month, which will make it more likely that its partner school can re-open quickly once the government gives the order.

Ms Frood said: “Ten years of rebuilding a war-torn country has been devastated by Ebola.

She continued: ‘‘It has really de-stabilised a very fragile country. Usually at a primary school you have a dress-up day to raise money but then we decided to just ask for donations because it’s not about fun for our kids, it’s about getting money to keep this very special project going.”

n Details of how to donate can be found at eleanorpalmer.camden.sch.uk/news/help-our-partner-school-in-sierra-leone.

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