Geography students fundraise for Sierra Leone
Students to raise $10,000 for Kayima Community Primary School
Professor Tony Binns of the Geography Department introduced the project to the students. Binns has recently been made an honorary local chief for the work he has done for the Kayima village over the past 40 years. After meeting with 20 of the local teachers earlier this year, Binns
discovered “the biggest issue was the pressure they were facing trying to fit the children in.” He told Critic, “the issue is, many children want to go to school, but there are simply not enough classrooms to allow that.” As well as the 400 students at the primary school, there is also a secondary school in the town, which currently has around 300 students. Students in the region tend to only stay in school up to the age of 14.
Anna-Marie Mirfin, a Geography student on the committee, said the project is “a great chance to directly help a group of people who are in need of our support.” She said, “through Tony’s close link with this community, there’s no ambiguity about where the money raised will go; we know that our efforts will be effective. By providing more children with an education, we hope to broaden their perspectives for the future.”
Sierra Leone is currently one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Binns said, “the poverty increased severely due to the devastation caused by the [1991-2002] civil war,” which “set the community back considerably.” Life expectancy in the country is only 42 years, compared with New Zealand’s average life expectancy of 81 years. Binns also noted that the country has an extremely high child mortality rate, with 180 in every 1,000 children dying before the age of five. Kayima, which is home to around 3,500 people, is an extremely remote and isolated community that is much poorer than the rest of the country.
Binns told Critic the clinic in the town “also desperately needs help, as does the local secondary school.” These are both projects he is hoping to run in the future. He said “I’m keen to strengthen [Otago University’s] link with the [Kayima] community.”
Students in the Geography department have spent time with Kayima community. Geography PhD student Jerram Bateman has recently spent six months in the region, continuing the work that Binns has been doing within the community. Hana Cadzow, a Geography Masters student at Otago, has also been studying in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city. She is investigating the role of women in producing vegetable crops to supplement household food and income.