By Durosimi Thomas
The bike ride into Tombodu Town from Koidu City of Kono is about half an hour. It’s a dusty road of which one local said it is tough riding on it at the peak of the rainy season.
Along the way there were abandoned mining pits flanking the road every other couple of mile. It may seem remote and could easily be perceived as journey to nowhere, but the traffic is surprisingly busier than expected as motorbikes and sometimes trucks ply the route.
After evading bumps, swings and rounding ditches, Tombodu emerges at the tip of a Y-junction. The right turn goes into the town and the first structure to greet the visitor is Tombodu Secondary School.
The school is 43 years old and has been the icon of learning for prominent Sierra Leoneans. Top of the list of former pupils is Sia Koroma, the wife of the Sierra Leone President.
The school yard is spacious and right in the middle of the U-shaped single floor structure is a volleyball court. Apparently at Tombodu – both in school and the town – they take sport seriously. There is an annex of extra classrooms in a building, which is a new structure built by the government.
Clearly, sport and education is a marriage made in heaven here. But one thing has always been missing to seal this combination. And the school has always been wishing for the day that manna will fall from heaven.
That day has come to pass and life in the town has not been the same. The Sama Foundation, which is based in Texas, United States, donated a full football kit with balls to the school.
The Sama Foundation has been donating regularly to schools and leagues across the country over the last decade. Tombodu is the most remote destination of the country it has supported.
“This gift is very timely,” Games teacher Tamba Chenabui Gbondoba applauds.
“We have not competed in schools competitions in the past two years because we didn’t have jerseys. We played in the school’s T-shirts. I love the texture and quality of these donated jerseys,” Gbondoba added.
“We can now proudly compete in school leagues with our heads held high,” acting vice Principal, Abdul Sheriff asserted. “The branding on the jersey sells the name of the school and it will make the pupils proud.”
The impact the jerseys have had on the community is evidently clear. The town is dotted with various football clubs. Most are aware that the school has a proper set of football kits. Games teacher Gbondoba said some of these teams have been coming to borrow it for their own matches.
“This is a special gift and we want to share what we have with the community teams,” Gbondoba explains. “However, we are strict and we make sure it is returned in good condition,” he continued. “A kit from the US – that’s talk of the town.”
The kit is used by both the girls and boys team of the secondary school. In their first friendly, using the new set of kits, the boys drew 1-1 with one of the biggest clubs in Kono, Porsche FC. But Tombodu were massacred 7-2 in the other game against Soccer Genius. The girls drew goalless in their own match.
“People ask me ‘where did you get these jerseys?’ and we reply that it is manna from heaven,” the Principal, Nuru Deen Koroma, recounts. “We appreciate this gift from a foundation none of us has ever heard about before.
“We are highly impressed. We look forward to have a very good relationship with the Foundation. In future, we hope Sama Foundation will assist us with boots, volleyball equipment and many more.
The sentiment now is that this donation will inspire others from the town to help support sport in the school and Tombodu.
In other areas, there has been some considerable support. The school uses solar power and the building has been renovated, according to the Principal. However, this was not the case in the past.
“The school was closed down between 1998 and 2004 because it was in a complete wreck,” Deen explains, adding, “But with the help of the community and Non-governmental organizations it was rehabilitated.”
“We also just benefitted from the government’s programme of Special Assistance to solve the problem of overcrowding with the construction of extra classrooms.”
With the new jerseys, though, there is belief that it will inspire change.
“One way to preach peace is through sports,” said acting vice Principal Sheriff. “Sport is used to resolve conflicts. It will be good for this to be replicated in schools so that children have love and play with each other,” Sheriff submits.
Ironically, Tombodu finds itself in the Kama’a Chiefdom, which means separation, but with this gift it will be a force for unification between all sides through a set of jerseys from the Sama Foundation.