For her project, the 18-year-old college-bound senior is building a library in Sierra Leone at the elementary school her father, Abdul, attended when he was a child.


Some students at Appoquinimink High School write 10-page research papers for their mandatory senior projects.

Not Mankappr Conteh though.

For her project, the 18-year-old college-bound senior is building a library in Sierra Leone at the elementary school her father, Abdul, attended when he was a child.

She calls her project - Project Equal Access.

Conteh wanted to make a difference, and she decided to tackle something she felt she’d be able to.

“There isn’t a good federal education system there,” she said. “It’s corrupt.”

Conteh’s parents, who both grew up in Sierra Leone and immigrated to the United States in the 1980’s, do medical missions to the impoverished African country, so the high school senior has seen first hand some of the issues that its people face.

When she visited her uncle about 10 years ago, she noticed that tin shacks surrounded his home. When she was nine, she didn’t read too much into it, but looking back she now views it as a corrupt nation; where there is one person with money and everyone else is stricken by poverty.

Some children can’t even afford to attend school, especially when teachers charge students extra to receive the second half of a lesson.

“I want to modernize the whole school so kids don’t feel like they have to pay their teachers or bring their own chairs,” she said.

By providing a library with educational resources, Conteh hopes that the students will be able to independently learn, for no extra cost, what they need and want to.

Conteh has already shipped 18 boxes of books to the Sierra Leone Muslim Brotherhood Primary School to hold for its new library. She plans to ship more, and even when she leaves for college, to continue to send a box each year.

Over the years, the number of students attending the school has diminished.

There were 700 children, but now there are only 500.

Conteh blames the corrupt system.

The Civil War was also a setback for many students.

More than half of Sierra Leone’s population lives below the international poverty line, making less than $1.25 per day.

In July, Conteh began fundraising with a goal of $8,000.

So far, $7,000 has been raised for construction, shipping supplies, electricity and providing the school library one computer with Internet.

Conteh spoke with the headmaster of the school over the summer and got a list of supplies that they would need.

On this list - was a librarian. But for the time being, that has to wait.

After Conteh’s father surveyed the school with a contractor, they figured that $3,000 would be needed for the renovations and construction of the library.

They also decided to put electricity in.

There isn’t any permanent electric in Sierra Leone, especially in the northern, rural providence where the elementary school is, so Conteh said she plans on using some of the money to purchase generators.

Then, the fundraising began.

Conteh, who works as a camp counselor at the Boys & Girls Club in Middletown, was able to collect 300 books through donations to start the library’s collection.

Her kids also helped raise money with bake sales.

At first, fundraising seemed hard.

Conteh wrote countless letters to non-profit organizations asking for their help, but she never heard back from any of them.

She began to get worried and lowered her goal, but her friends who held a performance as their senior project at Appoquinimink High School were able to help her raise $2,300 through ticket sales.

And as time went on, the Appoquinimink community continued to get more involved.

“Ms. [Christie] Payne [our librarian] has been very helpful,” the senior said. “She got everyone else in the district excited.”

The room that the new library will be built in is smaller than students here may be used to. In a 14 -by 14 - foot room that was previously used for classroom space, shelves and desks will be built, books will be stacked and students will have a place to go to do their studies.

Conteh said that this room will be painted, retiled, have the roof fixed and a steel door and windows added to it.

As a system to keep track of the books, she plans on using a log since the teachers at the school are not computer literate yet.

When Conteh graduates from Appoquinimink this spring, her work won’t be done.

She is hoping to send more computers over to the school and says it is a continuous project.

So far, she has been accepted to several colleges already and plans on studying global development or international studies with a minor in either pre-law or pre-med.

And the children in Sierra Leone aren’t the only ones profiting from this project.

Any books that are not appropriate to send over are being donated to local homeless shelters.