Childcare and schooling

Finding the right childcare is a headache at home, let alone in a country you don’t know.

So if you’re doing the job yourself, an informal weekly playgroup – hosted at members’ homes – offers a way to let both toddlers and parents mix. Use the Freetown Announce Yahoo Group to make contact.

Many expats with small children take the option of employing a nanny, costing £70-120 per month. Not only does a nanny offer a personal touch and flexibility in terms of hours but they may be able to look after other chores such as shopping and cooking.

Having someone familiar who’s willing to look after kids in the evening also opens up opportunities for socialising, which entices many wealthy Sierra Leoneans to employ someone.

If you prefer something closer to Western-style daycare, there are a number of good nurseries.

Freetown Montessori, at Hill Station; YAS Learning Center, off Spur Road; and Kidzone, at Bottom Mango, all come recommended. Expect to pay in the region of £500-600 per three-month term. We have experience of the first two and their programmes, even for very young children, are impressively professional.

They each have pleasant, covered outdoor spaces with play equipment and homely atmospheres. There are generally up to a dozen children in each age grouping. Be warned, however, there are differences with nurseries at home.

No organic home-cooked fare for lunch, here. You’ll have to send your child in with a pack-up. This can prove troublesome when your little one finds that nice healthy banana you’ve sent in less enticing than their classmates’ biscuits.

It’s also a different environment from a health and safety perspective, although we’ve had no particular concerns. I once walked in to a nursery to find my daughter lying asleep on a snoozing nursery assistant. I thought this was lovely. Others might be less keen.

Some nurseries – such as Freetown Montessori – also provide primary schooling and we’ve heard good reports of their work.

Many expats opt for the American School for three to 14-year-olds, off Hillcot Road, which has an excellent reputation. However, it’s not cheap – at between $15,000 and $22,000 a year – so it helps if your employer is footing the bill.

Photos: YAS Learning Center/Facebook