Dankawalie Village Development in Sierra Leone: Towards A Holistic Approach
How does a remote African village rebuild in the face of post civil war challenges? The people of Dankawalie, Sierra Leone aren’t just rebuilding; they are using an innovative approach to make their greatest aspirations a reality. Badenya is a US non-profit that supports Dankawalie’s unique model of local decision making for identifying and meeting their needs and aspirations. Badenya’s team includes individuals who are artists and story tellers, environmental activists, economists, and community development leaders.
Badenya is dedicated to the holistic development of solutions to the various educational, environmental and cultural needs of the community. Alongside the local governance system, we address issues ranging from housing and the environment to education and cultural preservation. We identify and emphasize these issues through a variety of local and international tools including storytelling traditions, modern media and strategic planning.. By taking the best of these very different methods, this process fosters the continued evolution of indigenous systems of knowledge to identify what the community wants to preserve, what it wants to change and the best way to take action. Badneya’s processes, methods and traditions are all best exemplified through the establishment of the Dankawalie Secondary School (DSS) a sutainable and dynamic school in a post-conflict remote rural village in Sierra Leone.
Our grass-roots model relies on support from voluntary labor and in-kind contributions from villagers, school fund raisers, scholarships from the Sierra Leonean government, individuals and foundations and the US Embassy in Sierra Leone. This work started 26 years ago and Badenya became a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2003.
Badenya’s Dankawalie Secondary School (DSS) is a sutainable and dynamic secondary school in this post-conflict remote rural village in Sierra Leone. Before the school was built: children were sent away to school. The result was a high level of violence, teen pregnancies, and drop out rates due to the lack of community support. Students did not reap the benefit of the local social, economic and knowledge networks. Families also had to find a way to afford lodging and food and make up for the loss of help at home.
Now students attending DSS acquire:
- academic foundation for higher education;
- vocational skills useful in an agricultural community;
- exposure to arts (traditional and contemporary); and,
- multi-lingual proficiency.
DSS has been allocated land to expand to the college level. Four other villages are interested in replicating the DSS model. All 19 students who took the senior secondary school admission exam succeded.
Cultural Preservation and Community Governance
In a post-conflict country like Sierra Leone and in other extremely income-poor remote rural areas, the decision making capacity often falls short of the challenge to provide critical services like quality education. Badenya’s Dankawalie project proves that by using innovative approaches to building up governance capacity, ones that use both indigenous and external sources of knowledge creation, it is possible to create change.
Our project in Dankawalie is highly scalable in that it starts from the local traditions and capacities for knowledge creation and governance. In post-conflict locations this is the way to restore governance capacities and build the community’s confidence to learn from within and outside.
Environment and Housing
We helped regenerate the local agro-forest economy by planting a forest that has provided economic and environmental benefits to the community. After the civil war, the forest provided fruit for eating and commerce and lumber to assist the community in rebuilding the destroyed houses. We also raised funds to rebuild five of the village’s houses.