31.05.2007, Sierra Leone, Project Report of the Forum of Conscience about working with senior
secondary school version of the TRC report
Forum of Conscience (Sierra Leone)
Commit to Partnership e.V. (Germany)
Truth and Reconciliation Working Group
c/o Forum of Conscience
89 Fort Street
Tel:+232 76 603038.
1 Situation Analysis
The FOC - Commit project in Sierra Leone was a pioneer project in the sense that it was the first time these two organizations worked together. The project was conducted by an intercultural team of six Sierra Leonean and six German (= Commit team) students under the guidance of the local partner organization Forum of Conscience (FOC). The promotion of the contents of the TRC report at secondary schools and therefore the creation of awareness on its issues amongst the pupils was the main goal of this project (conf. project plan). In this context the following stakeholders were affected by the project:
- Members of the FOC school clubs at 10 secondary schools in Sierra Leone
- Facilitators (teachers) of the FOC school clubs
- FOC staff members (mainly Marian Abu and Mohammed S. Dao in their role as project facilitators)
- Six students from the Milton Margai College, Freetown
- Commit team
The situation at the start of the project was the following:
In a program, which is mainly financed by CAFOD the FOC had build up 10 radio school clubs. Their main activity is the production of radio programs that deal with human rights issues from the surroundings of the pupils every day life. Topics range from “pupils’ rights and responsibilities” to “teenage pregnancy”. The clubs have originally been implemented as a means of trauma healing for children affected by the war. Trauma counseling is also an activity that is provided by the FOC staff in this context. However the main contribution to trauma healing seems to come from the normal group activities the children experience in the club. The biggest part of pupils in the clubs comes from Junior Secondary School, while some of the members are also from senior secondary level, depending on which school you look at. We estimate the average age of the pupils to be 14 years. This is slightly younger than what had been planned for. The reason is, that the decision, that we work together with the clubs has only been confirmed when the commit team arrived in Freetown.
The FOC has established strong links to the clubs through regular visits and activities.
None of the pupils in the clubs had had access to the TRC report before the project. Most of the booklets have indeed been distributed to secondary schools during the last year, but it is unclear what has happened after that. One problem is that the TRC report has so far not been taken into the official curriculum. This might be the main reason why teachers do not use it in class. On the schools we have visited the books were not openly available.
In average the pre-knowledge of the pupils on the TRC was (with big differences from school to school as well as between different pupils at the same school) marginal. So this basic assumption of the project was indeed found to be true.
2 Course of the Project
17th and 19th of February: Getting to know FOC Staff and the Students
First basic talks about the course of the project and the organization of the workshop took place with John Caulker, Adenike Cole and Marian Abu.
We learned that we are going to work with the FOC-Clubs, which were established one year ago and consist of 50 students from Junior- and Senior-Secondary-School each.
20th -24th of February: Workshop
- Set Ground rules for the Workshop
- Conflict scenario out of our live (Marian)
- Introduction of Commit (Basti und Becci)
- History of TRC and the TRC-Working group (John)
- Trauma (Adenike)
- Risk analysis on the basis of the project plan
- Conflict management and Peace Education
- Group work on the recommendations of the TRC (Marian)
- Presentation of the Group work
- Ground Rules for School Visits
- Conflict Prevention (Marian)
4. and 5. Day:
- Theater workshop under the direction of Michael
- Planning of two skits
26th und 27th of February: Benevolent School in Makeni
- Relatively unstructured and spontaneous approach as at that time just the different methods where set but no structure
28th of February and 1st of March: Sant Francis School in Makeni (Boys school)
- Still no fixed structure
2nd and 3rd of March: Pampana School in Magburaka
- First time working according to the by now set up structure (see attachment)
- Fixed arrangement of the working groups: always one Sierra Leonean and one
German Student and always one male and one female; change of partner after one
5th and 6th of March: Comercial High School in Magburaka
- Working according to the structure
7th of March: Return to Freetown
8th,9th and 12th of March:
- Because of scheduling problems no school visits; delay in schedule
13th and 14th of March: Tombo School
- Working according to structure
15th und 16th of March: Waterloo School
- Working according to structure
- First school where the TRC-Posters were hung up
18th of March: Journey to Kenema
19th and 20th March: Holly Rossary Girls School in Kenema
- Working according to structure
- First school to receive the TRC-Reports
Members of the FOC-club receive the books on loan; they receive them on the first day of our visit so they have the opportunity to prepare for the second day
21st and 22nd of March: KKK in Kenema (Boys School)
- Working according to structure
- Time pressure because of exams
23rd of March: Blama
- Two schools at one day and just for one day ® necessary to meet the schedule
because of the delay in the middle of the project
- Working towards structure of day two
24th of March: Visit of the Young Farmers Initiative in Tikonko
25th of March: Return to Freetown
27th of March: Press Conference
- Aproimately 25 invited journalists and the Sierra Leonean TV attend the press conference
- Reading of the press release
- Answering questions
- Playing the skits
28th of March:
- Attending a press conference of the FOC
- Visiting the Special Court
29th and 30th of March: Evaluation
- German and Sierra Leonean students evaluate the project
- Closing meeting with John about the future of the Project
3 Project Evaluation
Situation: Expectations and Reality
There were several issues, where the situation we found during the project differed from the expectations:
1. Availability of the TRC reports: Although the distribution of the books was part of the planned project measures, the latest information before the school visits indicated, that all schools had received the reports. To the students we were working with they were not accessible. This was the reason for the decision to take a supply of books with us onto the second half of the project.
2. Age of the pupils: We had planned with a range of ages from 14 to 20 years. The average age of the children we worked with was 14 years. To accommodate this we had to use slightly different methods than originally anticipated. However the adoption to a younger target group was not a big problem. Still it might be worth to consider how to include more of the older pupils into the project.
3. Communication/Preparation between the German and the Sierra Leonean student team: The Sierra Leonean students had learned of the partnership only days before the
first meeting of the two groups. We did not manage to set up a communication between the student teams during the preparation phase. The reason for this seems to be the late selection process of the college by which also the FOC knew the students only few weeks before project start. Thus the Sierra Leonean students were not prepared to meet a team from Germany. This probably made the initial teambuilding more difficult.
Did we implement all planned measures developped and written down in the project plan?
Execution of the project:
Realisation of a one week workshop _ Yes
- A comparison between the German and the Sierra Leonean history was not done during the workshop. However, we (the intercultural team of German and Sierra Leonean students) agreed, that it was not as important as other points.
- The structure of our school visits has not been planned until our first week of the project, although it should have been planned during the workshop.
- One of the reasons, why we didn’t have a clear structure of the school visits was because we didn’t have enough information about our actual time at the schools.
- The first two schools had suffered because of our missing structure.
- However, ideas for the school visits have been developped during the workshop.
- We agreed that the structure of the school visits should be handled as flexible as possible during the project.
- Visit of Senior Secondary Schools _ No, as we were working together with FOC-Clubs at the schools – where the ages of the pupils are completely mixed – we also worked with pupils from Junior Secondary Schools. The topic and the contents of our planned program were made for pupils from the Senior Secondary Schools. We managed, however, to adapt the program to the younger pupils.
- Pro: 50 pupils in one FOC-Club _ A good group to work with
- Con: Age difference
Different levels of knowledge
- Visit 10 schools _ Yes
- Did we treat all schools equally? _ No
- We only distributed the TRC Report to the last 6 schools
- We worked with two schools at once on the last day (more students in one group) and we only worked with this school for one day.
- The first two schools had suffered from the worse level of our performance (as said above, the full structure of the School visits was only developed during the first week)
- Number of group members not stable from day 1 to day 2
- Time at the schools
- On three days of our school visits, we were too late, which we agreed on having to be improved the next time
- It was unclear to all of us how much time we would actually have for the discussion with the pupils. This shouls be coordinated earlier
- Football for Peace
- Too many pupils in each team, too little time for the game
- More explanation of the football for Peace is needed so the pupils can understand the deeper meaning of it.
- War scenarios
- The discussion about how to carefully deal with pupils that tell about their own war scenarios was too late. The topic was avoided in order not to raise traumatic experiences. Later in the project the FOC showed us how to deal with this by using the things we had learned on the workshop. Hence, the discussion about the war experiences did not take place in every school.
To what extent have the project goals been achieved?
Rising awareness _ Yes, but children reacted differently to our program
The pupils are interested in the topic _ Most of them were interested in the topic. They asked intelligent questions and it could be seen from their attention that the pupils were interested. Even more topics were discussed (Human Rights, the death of Hinga Norman,...) With this interest, the short term impact of our project can be seen.
The TRC-Report is accessible to the pupils _ Half-achieved, during term, the report is accessible for the pupils of six of the ten schools.
The knowledge of the pupils about the TRC, its goals and consequences is enhanced _ Yes. This can be proved with the questions we asked the pupils about the topic
German and sierra leonean Students are intensively working on one topic together during the period of several weeks. They have the possibility to learn from each other and exchange experiences and opinions _ Yes
Pupils have the opportunity to compare the history of their own country with the conflicts in Europe, especially Germany and to exchange experiences with students from Germany _ Yes, but the questions of the pupils were not very precise, it did not seem to be of high priority for them, they were more interested in other things of present Germany
A framework for a long term partnership between the FOC and Commit to Partnership e.V. are created _ Yes
A concept for the interactive presentation of the contents of the TRC report are developed _ Yes
A team of Sierra Leonean students has acquired skills of civil conflict management and didactic presentation of the civil war topic _ Yes
A platform for further discussion on the TRC report is established _ Yes
Were the goals realistic? Yes. We think the achievements that have been made show that we did not overestimate our capabilities.
Would there be any cheaper/better possibilities to achieve the goals?
- We should have distributed the TRC-Reports in all schools.
- A training/discussion about Human Rights during the workshop would be good to lead a better discussion about the topic in the school groups and convince the pupils of the importance of Human Rights.
- Moral Skills could also be an issue in the discussion at the schools to encourage the pupils to implement morality and Human Rights in their own life. (Also, a training during the workshop would then be necessary)
- The communication between Sierra Leonean and German students should start much earlier in the preparation phase and the Sierra Leonean students should get the opportunity to read the project plan earlier
Impact on the pupils:
The deeper impact of our school visits can only be measured on the long run, by doing a follow-up or waiting for the next team to visit the same schools again and to find out wether they remember our discussions and what they did with their new knowledge. However, possible impacts to come could be the information of the Sierra Leonean population about the TRC and other discussed topics, since we encouraged the pupils to spread the discussions we had in their own community and family. On our side we also promised to do the same in Germany. This way the interest of both populations for the violent history and the current issues of Sierra Leone would be raised.
It is difficult for us to measure the direct impact on the pupils. We miss the necessary informations to make certain and also to prove that they have learned anything.
Impact on German and Sierra leonean students:
After a short brainstorming we identified the important impacts of the projects on us:
- intercultural team experience (successful)
- opportunity to see places (some of the Sierra leonean had never been to the provinces)
- rethinking global affairs
- more confidence in working with children and young adults
- knowledge (about the TRC, Trauma, the current issues of Sierra Leone)
- better understanding of cultural differences
- work experience and new professional perspectives
- interruption of our everyday life
- individual development
- friendship and relationship
Under which conditions can this impact be sustainable?
We believe that all the impacts we wrote down here are sustainable since they are related to each one’s own experience. The only one we have to work on is the “friendship/relationship” impact, which has to be carried on with continued communication and exchange.
Were there any unexpected positive/negative impacts?
At the schools we were surprised to see so much intensive political discussions rising. We expected this topic to come up but we didn’t expect that a big part of the pupils would show such an interest for the political issues of their country. An unexpected topic which we also had to deal with at the schools was the Human Rights. We were not really prepaired to answer questions about that topic but we all considered it as being very important. So we managed to collect our different ideas and experiences on that topic during the debriefings, in order to be able to talk about it with the pupils. Also personal problems and bad experiences during the war were discussed in the groups.
Other unexpected impacts apart from the schools are the public attention we attracted, the very intensive friendship with the Sierra Leonean students and the contact we could establish between John Caulker and Senesie (founder of the Young Farmer Initiative in Ticonko).
What kind of information is missing to evaluate the impacts of the project?
Since an immediate follow-up remains impossible because of holiday’s issues, we can not measure the long-term impact of our project. We don’t know wether their interest about the TRC has been raised for a long time or wether they don’t even remember the contents of our program.
A solution would be to let the pupils answer two questionnaires: the first one at the time of our visit and the second one after a while. The facilitators of the FOC-clubs could send us a feedback after having a look at the pupil’s answers.
Another solution has been discussed with John Caulker. He suggested that a member of Commit should come to Sierra Leone in June, visit the schools again and evaluate the project by talking directly to the children.
4 Feedback to Forum of Conscience
To further improve the partnership between Commit to Partnership and Forum of Conscience we give a feedback to our partners. These are points that came to our mind when we were reflecting on the project. They represent the impressions of the Commit-Team.
4.1 Communication in the preparation phase
It was very helpful for us whenever we received email from you. This helped us in our preparations. Even more rewarding was our meeting with Marian and Adenike in Geneva. For us it was really great that this meeting could have been arranged! So we were able to meet the people we would work together with and talk personally with them. Still some points could not be clarified and with more information on the following topics the team would have been better prepared: How the school visits would be organized, how much time there would be at each school and how much pupils of which age we could expect. Also the final version of the project plan was only discussed between us when the team was already at the workshop. Since that document was the basis of all of Commit’s planning for the project we had hoped for more participation of FOC in defining its contents.
Unfortunately it was not possible to set up a communication between the two student groups beforehand. In our opinion this would have made the first contact easier. Also the students were not aware of the project plan and the details of the partnership. We would have appreciated the students to be more involved also in the preparation of the project. However we realize that this was not easy to organize, since the students have been selected by the college.
4.2 Organization of the Workshop
We were very impressed by the organization of the workshop! We appreciated the topics and the way it was presented. It was a good mix of work in the big group, small group activities and interactive work.
The idea to have a theatre workshop which the FOC brought in we really enjoyed and we believe it gave a very important contribution not only to the school visits but also to the interaction in the intercultural team. It was great to play the skits together with our Sierra Leonean colleagues.
4.3 Organization of the school visits
We were very happy, that we did visit all ten schools as planned. Also we found it very good to spend two days at each school.
There are two things that we want to remark: On were three occasions we arrived too late at the schools and the pupils had to wait for us. It was not clear to us what actually had caused these delays.
In the middle of the project after returning from Makeni there were several days when we could not go on with the school visits. During that time it was not clear to us when we would be continuing. Although we tried to work out a plan together with Marian the situation was quite a bit confusing, which we found irritating, because we wanted nothing more than go on with the work at the schools. This delay later made the schedule in Kenema very tight. The last two schools had to be done on one single day.
4.4 Project end and evaluation
The project evaluation was done mainly by the intercultural team. We would have appreciated if Marian, John and Adenike would have been more present during that time. We would have liked to hear their opinions on project goals and impact in more detail. We realize that there were so many other things that kept them busy.
What we enjoyed very much was the visit to the special court in that last week. It was great that John could make this possible!
Although there was a misunderstanding concerning the financial issues of the press conference we really appreciated that we got the chance to present our work to the public. We believe that also cultural differences led to this misunderstanding and that we can only learn and grow from this experience. At the end of the day it was very satisfying to be able to see our work being acknowledged in the newspapers.
We think that open communication is the key to successful partnership. When we have the confidence in each other to talk openly about our expectations as well as possible problems we will be able to overcome all obstacles and succeed. We learned that especially problematic issues should be raised as soon as possible. If we can live up to that ideal we are on the right way.
5 Future Perspectives
Looking at the goals that have been reached and the positive impacts that we perceive we come to the definite conclusion: This project should be continued in the future. The main reasons for this are threefold:
1. The positive impact on the members of the intercultural team as described above convinces us of the value of this project. It cannot be emphasized enough what rich experience it was for the two groups of students to conduct the project together.
2. The impact on the pupils can not be measured easily. However from the immediate reactions of the children to the topic and to the interaction with the team we had the strong impression of a deep interest in the topic and the apparent need of most of the pupils to discuss issues concerning the war, the TRC and all that surrounds those. The collection of questions from the pupils supports this thesis.
3. The partnership between FOC and Commit was (apart from some communication problems) exemplary. Both organizations have the same idea of what partnership means and how intercultural exchange is considered as a central component of the joint project. John gave us confidence saying that to him Commit is a “sister organization”. He even suggested that the FOC wants to take up more responsibility in the partnership when it comes to secure the financial basis of the project. With the current project being a success there should be chances to include some of the partnership-project into the running CAFOD program funding. This would allow Commit to focus even more on the personal commitment.
We derive some key points that should be at the heart of the project in the future:
Working in an intercultural team;
Workshop at start of project to facilitate teambuilding and preparation of school visits;
Reliance on the (expanding) network of the school clubs;
TRC as central topic of the work;
In the discussions between the team and the FOC some ideas came up, how to improve or enrich the project:
- Provide Human rights / Rights of the child training to the team during the workshop / preparation phase.
- Focus on different means of transitional justice: Difference between TRC and Special Court. How are these two perceived by the pupils? What are their opinions on this?
- Make a movie-documentary of the project. This could be done in cooperation with Michael, the Sierra Leonean director. A small intercultural film-team could accompany the project.
- Improve communication in the planning phase. Especially between student-teams.
- Commit could contribute its experience in HIV/AIDS education to Sierra Leone, where this is an issue that is still off-limits in the society but is becoming a serious problem. It is however not clear if the two topics can be easily accommodated in one project.
- Next year 14 clubs could be visited instead of 10.
To evaluate the long term impacts of the project it is ideal, that the next team will certainly visit the same schools as this year’s team. A list of evaluation questions should be prepared for that team. However since the membership of the pupils to the FOC clubs might change we again emphasize the importance of a midterm evaluation by FOC staff and possibly a Commit volunteer.
We like to thank all members of the Forum of Conscience who supported us in this project. Your friendship, hospitality and advice made the work in Sierra Leone an unforgettable experience for us. We wish you all the best for your important work at the FOC.
Our deepest friendship and appreciations go to John, who made this project possible and gave us confidence in all we did. You gave us the chance to come to Sierra Leone and make all these wonderful experiences. We thank you for your open friendship and for your enthusiasm which infected us and kept us motivated. We also want to thank Adenike. Your words at the workshop impressed us and gave us confidence that we could also handle difficult situations. You always had some friendly words for us, even when you were very busy. This made us very comfortable. We could have done nothing without Marian! Thank you for your enthusiastic facilitation of the workshop and for your company on our field trips to the schools. And special thanks for all the organizational work you did to keep this project moving. We know that this effort was on your shoulders alone. Thank you also for your patience when we were impatient and for your care for the group. Also to Mohammed we owe a sincere thank you! You were a good companion in the field and we enjoyed your valuable advice at the schools. Thanks to Mustafa for being the best driver we could have!
A special thank you goes to our colleagues and friends from the Milton Margai College!
Fatmata, Abu, Tina, Emanuel, Nancy and Komba – the experience of working and living together with you was a very special one for all of us. We will never forget what we all have achieved as a team and even if we are far apart our hearts are with you. We love you and wish you all the best for your future! Take care!
On behalf of Commit to Partnership e.V. we are grateful for your excellent co-operation and hope that our relationship will remain to be successful and mutually beneficial in the future.
On the side of Commit we want to thank first of all Dominique. Without you this project would never have happened. It was your courage to go to Sierra Leone and your enthusiasm for Commit that lie at the beginning of all this! Your support and your belief in the team carried us during the whole project. Thanks go also to Jule, an excellent team builder, fundraising counsellor and most of all a genuine friend and to Evi for the excellent training!
All the people at Commit who supported us, without you we would not have come so far!
Thank you all!
Becci, Moritz, Diane, Stefan, Maike and Basti.