A New Week

Itís Wednesday now and weíre all feeling a like weíre hitting the wall of tiredness a little too often.

MondayÖ seems like a long time agoÖ

In the morning Franklyn, Simon and I visit the Cathedral School in Victoria Park, central Freetown.

It may sound charming, but the place is Dickensian. Iíve never seen anything like it. 1800 five to twelve year olds packed into a series of the most dilapidated, dusty buildings you could imagine.

Primary schools are paid for by the government (when the government feels like making a payment). This means that each child is subsidised to the tune of 2000 Leones per term. Thatís about 40p.

The principal of a primary school is paid £70 a month.

And no, itís not relative. Feeding yourself alone costs more than you earn. Try feeding a family and keeping a roof over your head.

What the hell is going wrong in this country? Rich people are building houses in the hills.

The five headteachers of Cathedral are wonderful warm women, and delighted by the possibility that a school in the UK (in this case Dorchester Primary in Hull) might be interested in getting to know them. They show us round.

In fact to say they show us round really doesnít fully describe what happened. They show us every class and I have to speak to all of the pupils. They show us the broken roof that lets in the torrential rain during the rainy season. They show us the shed no bigger than most primary school halls, divided by low, thin, broken plywood walls where around 400 pretty black infant faces stare through the darkness like baby chicks.

Itís choke back the tears time. Smile and sweat and suck a sweet.

I sometimes feel that itís a privilege to see this, but Iím starting to wonder.