Sierra Leone is recovering from a civil war (a ‘civil war’ is when people from the same country are in conflict with each other) that officially ended in 2002. Let’s find out how people there are rebuilding their lives.
This is Patricia Sawie. She is 12 years old and the youngest of eight children in her family. She lives in a town called Gbap (pronounced Bap).
The land around Gbap is ideal for growing food, with fertile soil and plenty of water, but many people in the area have found it hard to grow enough to eat. This is partly because Sierra Leone is still recovering from a civil war.
During the war, many people were killed and many more had to flee their homes. Though the war ended in 2002, it has taken a long time to repair the damage that was done to homes and farmland – and perhaps even more time to repair trust between people who were caught up in the fighting.
In Gbap, people are hard at work dealing with the challenges they face. They’ve set up a village development committee — a group who work together to make life better for everyone in the town. It’s important that this committee listens to everyone, including the young people, so they can make decisions that improve life for the whole community.
Patricia (right) knows exactly what she wants. She would like to study hard so that one day she might be able to become the first female president of Sierra Leone. She says, ‘I would feel so proud to be the first woman president. I want to read enough so that I have the ability to be president.’
Young people with big plans need lots of energy and a safe place to study, so the village development committee is making sure the community works together to grow enough food to feed everyone. It is also making sure the town has a new school, where Patricia can study hard to achieve her dreams.
The old school was not safe: there were cracks in the walls, wooden beams hanging from the ceiling and termites nesting in the classroom. Everyone has come together to help the village development committee. They have been supported by the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone, a partner of Christian Aid, which provided some of the tools they needed.
Patricia is excited about her new school. She says, ‘It will be very good because we will have new desks and benches in the new building. We are happy that because the roof is new, the rafters will not fall on us again and the rain will not drop in our books. What we would like next is a school band!’
Christian Aid believes that education is very important – it helps children and young people like Patricia reach their potential. But there are still over 260 million children in the world missing out on education. That’s a lot of children! And it includes children in Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone it is more common for boys to go to school than girls. Girls are also more likely to drop out of school. There are many reasons for this: some families can’t afford to send them to school or buy uniforms and books; some girls have to work to earn money instead as their families are poor; and some girls have to stop going if they marry at a very young age. Let's meet Rejoice and Kadiatu to find out more.
Christian Aid and its partners in Sierra Leone are helping more girls stay in school – like Rejoice and Kadiatu. Rejoice is 16 years old and Kadiatu is 11. Rejoice wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, and Kadiatu dreams of becoming a doctor.
This is Rejoice. When Rejoice was younger, she was sent to live far away from home. Instead of going to school, she had to work to bring in money for her family to live. She was treated unfairly and couldn’t go to school. She said: ‘I saw children my age going to school, and I admired them.’
Rejoice made a brave decision to go and live with her kind uncle who encouraged her to go to school. Now, she is in a class with children much younger than her, but she doesn’t mind because she wants to learn. ‘School is good,’ she said with a big smile. ‘If I’m educated, the future will be bright for me.’
This is Kadiatu. Kadiatu is 11 years old and she has four brothers and two sisters. Her favourite subject at school is science and she enjoys playing football, basketball and skipping rope with her friends.
She believes that it is important for girls to go to school so that they can follow their dreams and make a difference in their communities. She said: ‘Education is very important for girls. Every parent should send their girls to school.’
Kadiatu wakes up at 5am so that she is ready for school in good time. Before she goes to school, she helps with some of the household chores. School begins at 7am and finishes at 2pm. After school, Kadiatu changes out of her school uniform, washes it ready for the next day, and then helps prepare the family meal.
Christian Aid and its partners want to make sure that more girls like Rejoice and Kadiatu can go to school and follow their dreams. In Sierra Leone, they’ve set up health clubs which help girls talk to each other and encourage each other to go to school.