It’s a Dream Come True
The innovative girl child education Program, undertaken by the Forum for Africa Women Educationalists, (FAWE), changed my life significantly and helped me get to where I am today.
There was a brutal civil war in my country that lasted for over ten years, and that war left the most painful scars in my life. It started in 1991 and reached my home town (Koidu) in 1992. Koidu, the capital of the diamond rich district of Kono is situated in the Eastern part of the country, and was a focal point for both the central government and the rebels during the war, due to its natural resources. As a result, there were series of attacks and counterattacks which led to widespread destruction of properties and lives. Human beings were killed like lower animals, houses were burnt down and many more terrible things that any child should not see happened. In 1997 my family house was burnt down by the rebels and, God being our help, my Grandmother and I were able to escape from the town through a nearby forest with barely anything in our hands. My parents were not with us.
We spent four weeks running back and forth, away from gunfire and ended up seeking asylum in neighbouring Guinea. We reached Guinea with only two pieces of cotton and a bench which my grandma used to sit at every resting point during our long walk through the bushes. We ended up as refugees based in a camp (Nyadu) where life was tough. We seldom ate twice a day. We were regularly cheated of our meagre food supplies and were usually hungry. As a result we had to find an alternative means to survive. We started farming rice and other produce on a farm about an hour away, temporarily given to us by a Guinean family. I used to help my grandma sell some of the produce, and the rest served as our main source of survival throughout our three years stay in that country. A year later, I started going to school. It was not a comfortable setting as I can remember vividly having to carry my own bench every day to school so that I could have somewhere to sit during school hours. But it was fun going to school every morning and learning something new. To our greatest despair, the farmland was withdrawn and we were left with only one option which was to find alternative ways to return home. We used to say to ourselves, “there is no place like home.” Fortunately for us the repatriation program for those who wanted to go back home started and we immediately grabbed that opportunity (as it was what we longed for). We registered and moved to Conakry (the capital city of Guinea) and, from there, we were repatriated to Sierra Leone.
On our return I was finally able to locate my parents in Freetown, who were both jobless and struggling to make ends meet. School started, but at that time, providing the basic needs for the family was a big challenge, not to talk about catering for my schooling as a girl when the education of boys was a priority. My parents clearly spelt out that I had no chance to continue my education. I was bitterly disappointed and I had to sell vegetables whilst my mum sold doughnuts. From the sales we would prepare food for the day and send my brother to school. My family had already made plans to give me in marriage to a local businessman in the provinces. This was the fate of most young girls by then and many of my friends were victims of early marriage.
At this point I had lost all interest in schooling and thought it was not really necessary as I prepared to get married, until I met with the Head Teacher of FAWE Fort Street (Late Mrs. Bernadette Jojo). How I wish she were alive to read this write up! She met me and two other girls at a local well and, after interrogating us, she got to understand we were not going to school at all. She told us about FAWE and how they helped girls go to school at no financial cost. She did not stop there, but visited our parents to educate and orientate them on how important it was to send each and every one of us to school. It was unfortunate for the other two girls whose parents did not agree and thought they were ‘ripe’ for marriage. Luckily for me, I was admitted into the school. At this point, I want to say a big thank you to her for her efforts and to my parents, who agreed. Because of them, I received a free and quality primary education at FAWE. Their (FAWE) full support did not stop at primary school but continued through my junior and senior secondary school by offering me a scholarship with the help of a UK charity, (Sierra Leone War Trust for Children – SLWT). Upon taking the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) I was able to get the requirement that earned me entry into my dream course – medicine. FAWE also extended their support up to my second year in university and that was only stopped when they were sure I had started benefiting from the Sierra Leone Grants-In-Aid. I had always wanted to be a medical doctor and, now, that dream is about to come true. Any good I will be to society is as a result of the enormous support FAWE gave to me.
At this juncture, I will want to make a clarion call to all those present here and those who will be fortunate to read my testimony; to give FAWE the necessary support as there are many less privileged girls out there that need similar support.