Queensmill, an outstanding autism-specific school in West London, is currently supporting a very small autism specific school in Sierra Leone, it is the only provision of its kind in Sierra Leone and currently supports 25 young people. In Freetown alone there are likely around 6,000 autistic young people.
We have had the opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone twice in the past 6 months, initially to support the NGO Disability Africa and speak at a Pan-African autism conference and then to deliver training and support for Browne-Penn school in Freetown. What we have learnt from experiences, research and ongoing discussion with others is that the plight of an autistic young person in Sub-Saharan Africa is heart-breaking. Many people are not aware of the condition and autistic young people often experience either infanticide, as a result of traditional cultural interventions, or systematic stigmatisation and abuse in their communities. In Sierra Leone most autistic people are completely excluded from society with extremely poor outcomes.
As I'm sure you will agree there is a moral and ethical obligation that perspectives are challenged and efforts made to advocate for this vulnerable group, to make them visible and accepted in communities. We are hopeful that we can continue supporting Browne-Penn School through the provision of autism specific resources and regular visits to Sierra Leone to continue training teachers, engage other teaching professionals and continue the dialogue with policy and decision makers about ensuring the rights of autistic young people are met and fair access to education is provided. Currently the Sierra Leone project is our starting template which, given the opportunity, we hope to replicate in other Sub-Saharan contexts.
Hopefully what is above has provided some context about the current situation and what we hope to achieve. We hope the travel again to Browne-Penn at the end of this year and will be hosting a fundraising evening of lectures in late September. Any support you would like to contribute would be hugely appreciated.