Garage money drives learning

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Peter Songu, a refugee from the civil war in Sierra Leone, fled to England 14 years ago equipped with little but pidgin English.

He has dedicated his life to learning and acquiring skills that enable him to run his own garage in Bristol and fund learning for his staff, while ploughing his profits into educating an extended family in his home village.

Had his father not worked for a British company, Peter would never have moved to Freetown and learned about car engines. His life would have been in the bush, scratching a living from subsistence agriculture. Once in England, however, he followed advice from friends.

"They told me I couldn't get a job here without qualifications, so I went to college to learn English and motor mechanics," he said.

Peter's adult learners' week award reflects his commitment to self-improvement. "You never stop learning," he said. "I have taken Improving Own Learning level 2 and 3 (GCSE and A-level equivalent) and Working with Others. I've also paid for motor mechanics courses for two people on work placement."

Meanwhile Peter has founded a school in his home village in Sierra Leone.

"I started this project five years ago," he said. "I pay pound;60 a month for the three teachers, and pound;30 for food for the pupils."

The community in St Paul's has rallied to the cause. A recent dance raised pound;800. Peter was given a Land Rover which, until the axle broke, was an invaluable means of transport for the village school. He has transported educational books and other equipment including a generator-powered television.

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