Since I was young, I wanted to become a teacher. I believe it is our duty as Sierra Leoneans to help young people reach their potential, and see that they belong to society.
The primary school I am teaching in, EducAid Mathele Bana, located in the northern part of Sierra Leone, in Tonkolili District, along the Kono Highway, is also my former school. There are four of us teaching here that also once studied here.
The lack of education among the parents here means that they value education in theory rather than in practice. Parents here usually prefer the quicker returns of sending their children to farm and to mine gold rather than the high opportunity cost of sending them to school.
I often fight this battle with parents, trying to convince them to send their children to school in a context where the claws of poverty discourage education.
Sometimes it can be tiring, but I feel proud to be a force shining a light in the lives of young people, many of whom walk up to seven miles to reach school. Recently, we have experienced major drought – we have had to sieve then treat water by putting it in the sun for 12 hours on the roof.
Most young girls here leave school between 10- and 14-years-old to become wives to men twice their age or even twice their fathers’. They have many children and take the huge responsibilities of being a wife when they are too young; their hopes and dreams of a brighter future dying within the first forays of life.
Early marriage reduces the number of girls in school, and as part of EduAid’s mandate, I visit nearby villages to discuss with parents the need to send girls to school. We encourage young mothers to join our women’s project classes where they can provide them access courses and guidance to reintegrate them into the normal school system.
When children arrive at school, they meet in tutor groups. Each tutor group is divided into families with a family leader. All are encouraged to share stories about their home life, specifically any problems they have.
I also promote talk of their dreams for the future and to set themselves targets, which members of the family must be updated on. During this period, they talk about the positive behaviour of each family member and the qualities of a good learner; every voice counts in making decisions that affect the family.
Every day, we practice Ubuntu time. Ubuntu means “I am because we are”; during this time, children nominate those who have been kind, honest and community spirited.
The pupils are always interested and happy because they understand that by learning they are progressing, and this has changed their lives for the better. Teaching helps develop my thinking and more importantly, helps my pupils to become independent in their learning and the rest of their lives.
For more information about EducAid, visit their website: educaid.org.uk
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