In Charlotte it is not only the health sector which has gone to waste. Education too is neglected in this forgotten mountain village.
For most of the children of Charlotte their day begins as early as 6am when they must get up and get ready. Latest 7am they must start their journey to school six miles away in Regent. With very little or nothing as breakfast, this little army of children trek through the lingering fog hanging over the mountain village as they seek education their only hope of living a better life.
The older ones coming from Mountain Rural Secondary School in Regent get home between 4.30 pm and 5pm. There are others who go to Jui which is almost three times the journey to Regent on the other end. Tired and hungry, this is when the day’s meal is being prepared. After that for a community which has not known electricity for it’s over one hundred years of existence, sleep comes early for the children who have to wake up again at the stroke of dawn to begin another journey to and from school.
Halfway in between Regent and Charlotte is Bathurst. It houses the Bathurst Rural Primary School for the young kids of Charlotte. Regina Sesay a house wife pointed to her two kids, one on her back and the other playing with the grass at our feet as her mother appealed “look at me how can I take these two every day from here to Bathurst and back for their schooling? It is difficult”.
For most of the parents the solution is to send most of them to Freetown to live with relatives. For those who cannot find the receptive relatives, the struggle continues.
In May 2006 a three classroom block school built with funds from the SABABU education project was officially opened. In that year (2006) the community came together to fund the salaries for three teachers championed by the village head Modu Conteh, but being faced with abject poverty the three teachers dwindled to one. Appeals to government to take over and support the school have not yet received any response. The ongoing school verification exercise stopped at Bathurst.
The SABABU project was not fully completed. The water well which was supposed to have been finished along with the school is still closed. The entire community, get their drinking water from the flowing streams. That may well be why the Cuban doctors identified worms as a prevalent ailment among the community. Whatever happened to the contractor is anybody’s guess.
With politics dominating almost everything nowadays, the name of the school Solomon E. Berewa Primary school, Charlotte village just might not cause it to attract the necessary intervention. The villagers agreed, changing the name might not solve the problem. The history of the village is replete with interventions from the ruling party. The road leading to the town which was tarred and the bridge was built by SAJ Pratt and opened by late President Siaka Stevens. So the question is if Charlotte featured so well in the political landscape why is it now so neglected?
Meanwhile the school building stands in the entrance to the village alongside the health centre, signifying hope and modernity, a few metres away from the residential area where the level of poverty needs to be seen to be believed.
Pa Simeon Showers a retired carpenter from the Road Transport Corporation pleaded “for us it is late now but please tell the government to help our children.”