Everybody has dreams of helping someone they love. Some people have exceptional dreams of creating something that will help many loved ones far into the future. The proposal to build a school in the village of Madina, in Sierra Leone, West Africa is that kind of dream.
Francis Mustapha was born in Madina, a little farming village started by his father.; Francis was a twin who was not expected to live. Six older siblings had all died before reaching age five, and at birth, his twin also died. Francis owes his life to the return of Auntie Abi Margai, the first trained nurse from their region, who was challenged by his father to take charge of the puny baby and make sure he lived. Auntie Abi not only took charge of his physical survival, she also influenced him throughout his life. She taught him to cook, encouraged him to choose Christian mission schools, and inspired him to put a high value on the education of women. Auntie Abi Margai called him the proof of her education.
Forty-five years later, after teaching in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the United States, Francis was honored for his excellence by becoming 1994 Indiana Teacher of the Year and Finalist for National Teacher of the Year. He also was awarded $25,000 as a Milken Educator Award and attempted to fulfill his dream of building a school in his home village. He traveled to Sierra Leone in December 1994 and presented the leaders of Madina with a major portion of his award money for the purpose of building a small elementary school building.
While Francis and his son Tim were in Sierra Leone, civil war broke out and displaced all the people living in Madina and the surrounding area. After a very frightening time of being separated from each other for five days, Francis and his son found each other in Freetown and escaped the chaos of the war, flying back to Indiana.
Unfortunately for Francis’s dream of a school, but fortunately for those left behind, the large sum of money intended for the school was used for food and survival. In the next seven years the country was reduced to rubble and many thousands of people were brutally killed. These included Francis’s brother, Takiu, and 79 other men from the area around Madina, who had formed a local defense force against the rebels.
The Sierra Leone Civil War resulted in the destruction of 1,270 primary schools and 67% of all school-age children out of school, according to World Bank Publications. Rebuilding of the nation’s schools has fallen mainly to private mission groups. Madina Village School has been constructed almost entirely by private donations.
Francis is confident that education means “life.” He firmly believes that he would not have survived infancy if it weren’t for the nursing education Auntie Abi Margai received. His life-long dream has been to provide a school in his home village, to provide “life” for others through education. That dream is a reality but the work is not finished. Ongoing support is needed to pay teachers’ salaries, provide materials, and food for the children’s hot lunch program. Can you help to give “life” to the children of Madina Village School?