Sierra Leone is a small country in West Africa, roughly the size of South Carolina. The country’s GDP per capita is estimated at $800, with only 5 countries in the world ranking lower (this is less than 2% of the United States’ GDP per capita). Four out of every five people in Sierra Leone live in poverty, and over half of the population is deprived of drinking water. The average life expectancy in the country is 56 years.
More than half of the population relies on subsistence agriculture; resources for farming, fishing, and mineral harvesting are plentiful despite the country’s economic poverty. Sierra Leone’s official language is English; however, several other local languages are spoken in different regions of the country.
A Maryland Sustainability Engineering team successfully designed and installed a 1.5 kW solar array at the Abigail D. Butscher Primary School in the summer of 2012, improving the learning environment for the students and increasing the use of the building space. The installed system provides lights for the four classrooms, the principal’s office, the bathrooms, and the exterior of the school. In addition, outlets were provided for all of the rooms so that the staff at the school can use computers as both a teaching tool and for assisting with administrative duties. More information about this project can be found on the Past Projects page on the Maryland Sustainability Engineering website.
Currently, all 266 students who attend the Abigail D. Butscher Primary School are limited to the four classroom spaces. As the community around the school in Calaba Town continues to grow and thrive, overcrowding in the classrooms threatens the quality of the students’ education. Seven classes are held in four classrooms and the administration is forced to turn away over 50 students each year. The Madieu Williams Foundation is invested in developing the community infrastructure and is in the planning phase for the construction of another primary school in the coming year to address the overcrowding issue.
Maryland Sustainability Engineering Response
As the Madieu Williams Foundation moves forward with plans to expand the physical infrastructure around the Abigail D. Butscher Primary School in Calaba Town, Maryland Sustainability Engineering is excited to continue the partnership with this community and to undertake a second project in Sierra Leone.
In June 2014, the MDSE Sierra Leone team traveled to implement a rainwater catchment system, along with a ultraviolet (UV) disinfection system to provide the community with clean drinking water to reduce water-borne illnesses, as well as keeping the children of the Abigail D. Butscher Primary School hydrated. The team also took the first steps towards building a new secondary school for the community. They excavated the new school’s site and poured the building’s concrete footings. This new secondary school will allow students to receive education beyond primary school, as well as solving the overcrowding issue that the primary school currently faces. constructing the foundation of a new secondary school for the community.
The team’s most recent concern has been school capacity, as the primary school only educates students up to age 12. During the 2017- 2018 school year, the team hopes to design a solar panel array and an extension to the 2014 water system to accommodate the growing student population. This project caters to a wide array of interests, including structures, solar, and water systems.