Dankawalie Secondary School
Dankawalie Secondary School has been a project of Badenya, Inc., since its inception in 2007. Dankawalie is a remote rural village of approximately 3,500 people in post-conflict Sierra Leone. Before DSS was built, children were sent away to school. The students experienced a high level of violence, teen pregnancies, and dropout rates because of the lack of home community support. Students did not reap the benefit of the local social, economic and knowledge networks. Families also had to find ways to afford their lodging and food and make up for the loss of help at home. DSS provides the village community with an academic foundation for higher education, vocational skills useful in an agricultural community, exposure to arts (traditional and contemporary) and multilingual proficiency. More importantly, DSS has made it possible for students to learn and grow under their parents and ensure that cultural knowledge is passed on.
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Initiated in 2013, the solar grid provides electricity to Dankawalie Secondary School and Dankawalie Village.
Bring solar electricity to Dankawalie Secondary School (Sierra Leone) Classrooms and community Library.
DSS now hosts a traditional music and dance ensemble in the cultural space that was also created during 2018. The ensemble is composed of music, dance and theatre artists living in Dankawalie village. While the performance programs are not formally integrated into the school curriculum, students are encouraged to acquire performance skills that are periodically performed in school festivals. The performance group housed at the DSS also performs outside of the Dankawalie village by invitation. This development is a vital way in which the rapidly disappearing cultural practices can be preserved. In the same vein, the village’s mother tongue, Kuranko, is in a small way also being preserved.
DSS—Young Writers Club
An important part of community development and continuity is storytelling. At Dankawalie Secondary School both oral and literary traditions are encouraged. Since the 2011-2012 school year two DSS teachers who benefit from periodic refresher courses and mentoring in the art of running a child-centered classroom by the Sentinel English Language Institute (SELI), a 501(c)(3) operating in Sierra Leone, have conducted the SELI Young Writers Club workshop. The workshop meets at DSS twice a week in the school library. The aim of SELI Young Writers clubs is to strengthen the students’ language proficiency in all four language modes (reading, writing, listening and speaking) while building their critical thinking and cultural awareness skills. SELI also periodically assists with maintaining the school library.
Young Writers clubs help students succeed in school, but their effect extends even further. For many, the clubs provide students with their first experience writing their own thoughts on paper. Students edited stories, published on the SELI website, are printed as booklets that they can share with their families. They improve students’ oral English skills and develop critical thinking. By celebrating the home experiences students bring to their learning in school, they build students' cultural awareness and self-confidence. It's usual for teachers to report that regular members of the club become leaders in school activities and are among the highest school scorers on public examinations, something they had not been before. As many Young Writers say, “It makes me bold!”
Indigenous Language Preservation
Kuranko language, like many indigenous languages around the world are endangered. Now in Dankawalie, there is a mother tongue literacy class that was intended as a community activity of DSS, but meets in the evenings near the Badan-beh, big cotton tree, at the heart of the village for everyone’s convenience. Its two DSS teachers were trained by the Institute for Sierra Leone Languages (TISLL) in May 2013. It operates January-May to avoid the heavy farming season. The class uses TISLL textbooks, and a TISLL language coordinator came to Dankawalie to test candidates for graduation in June, 2019.
An important goal of the mother tongue class has always been to produce Kuranko reading books of traditional stories and proverbs. A fire was lit under this intention when the visiting coordinator encouraged it during his visit, saying TISLL was interested in publishing such readers although Kuranko is not one of its currently funded program languages.
Community learners who have become literate in Kuranko are offered the option of being taught beginning English lessons by the same teachers.