UKA for Schools for the Blind in Sierra Leone
Homepage Blind schools in Sierra Leone People involved with the school Photographs of the students and the school Donations

Barbara Davidison

Deputy headmaster

First and foremost it remains the best thing I have ever done in my life. I arrived in Sierra Leone on 19th January 1992 as a VSO volunteer to teach typing to young women returning to the education system. However, there was a teachers' strike on, so I was invited to visit the Milton Margai School for the Blind to see if I would like to use my spare time to read to tile blind children and play games, etc., with them. I heard about the school history and then they sang for me ....... and oh! what such amazingly beautiful angelic voices! I was so moved and the only thought in my mind was - I want to work here, I have to work here! During the next few months, I asked VSO to let me transfer - as it happened, another volunteer was available to teach the young women - and I was granted my request and started full time at the school in September 1992. In 1994, VSO left Sierra Leone and since that time I have been finding my own funding.

I teach the senior primary pupils typing on 'ordinary' typewriters so they can use the written word when they are integrated into secondary schools and college/university, to do their assignments, exams, etc. We now have one boy (reading Law) and one girl (reading Sociology) at the University. I also transcribe printed books, etc., into Braille (which I taught myself) and assist with all aspects of administration and I liaise with organisations and individuals both here and overseas to get assistance for the school.

There have been a couple of times when I was not happy - two times to be precise - once in 1977 when, four weeks after the rebel incursion, I had to leave Sierra Leone for my own safety; and again in May 2000 when there was again trouble and I was evacuated. The time I had to spend away was very difficult because, although I knew it was better' "to be safe than sorry", I felt guilty at leaving the children behind and not knowing how they were. As time went on I was able to keep in touch by phone and having a strong Christian faith, I had a firm belief that I would return to Sierra Leone on both occasions.

Like many people, I still find it hard to understand what possessed the rebels to inflict such devastation to property and tile incomprehensible mutilation of their fellow country men and women and children: it is beyond the normal human being's understanding. The scenes of devastation and the sadness and desolation of the people I saw, is something that still touches me very deeply.

The positive picture in all this is that, thanks to the presence of the British Joint Forces (and UNAMSIL), who have done such tremendous work here and are very much respected and loved by the people, there is hope for long lasting peace which, after all, is what these friendly, resilient people deserve.

I pray I may be able to continue nay work here in the wonderful Milton Margai School for the Blind to help these blind children acquire a good education and help them to a better future.