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3 January, 2017 - 11:58 By Tony Quested

First Kate Gross Community School opens in Sierra Leone

Kate Gross Community School Sierra Leone

The inaugural Kate Gross Community School has opened in Sierra Leone – thanks in no small measure to generous donations from Cambridge entrepreneurs.

Sir Michael Marshall, president of the Marshall of Cambridge Group, and Dr Darrin Disley – CEO of gene editing business Horizon Discovery – made handsome personal contributions. Horizon staff and Business Weekly contributed funds alongside donors at the Business Weekly Awards dinner to help the charity Street Child pass the total needed to complete the first school in Kate’s memory.

Kate Gross dedicated her young life to bringing enlightenment to Africa. The wife of Cambridge entrepreneur Billy Boyle, she died from colon cancer, aged 36. But her legacy to Africa burns brightly – and her family, along with Billy and the charity Street Child – united to carry the torch she passed through the community schools initiative.

Business Weekly weighed in to inaugurate the Kate Gross Prize for Social Enterprise – won by ARM for its own global education through technology initiatives. But the main objective of the Award is to raise awareness of the role education can play in saving and transforming the lives of women and children – especially in deprived territories.

Building more community schools and associated community facilities in Africa is prime in the initiative. Street Child is committed to working with Kate’s family to build primary schools in some of the most deprived villages of Sierra Leone. 

Building schools is only part of the battle. Teachers need to be found and teaching aids resourced. In some of these villages there are no basic utilities – certainly no electricity.

The first school in Kate’s memory has now opened in Kpondu, the village where Ebola first entered Sierra Leone and a very poor region in the east of the country. Street Child has built it from scratch and the project is historic. There has never been a school in this area.

Street Child is supporting the school with teacher training, furniture, textbooks and so on and also seeks seed funding for an income generation initiative like a farming collective, so that the school is sustainable in the long term.

One of the key factors in transmission of Ebola was an inability to understand basic messages about how to prevent it. The local community leader expressed the wish that such a calamity would never befall the community again, with the help of the school.

The job isn’t done with Kpondu by any means – volunteers have toilets and a well to build to even have a chance of getting the school approved by the government, and the building the quality of the teaching is the biggest challenge in any of the region’s rural schools. But it’s an unusually high quality school to have been built in such a remote place, and the community will behind it is tangible.

The fight goes on to enhance the inaugural project and to trigger the next school.

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