“The challenge is not to see yourself as the answer – they are their own answer.” – Miriam Mason-Sesay, Co-Founder and Country Director, EducAid Sierra Leone
One night, Miriam was taking the rubbish to the city dump in Freetown in the middle of the night. One of the boys accompanying her pointed towards some bits of rusty corrugated iron tacked onto sticks in a section of the dump. “I used to live over there,” he said.
Miriam stared at what could barely be called a structure – there weren’t even walls. Pigs and dogs were lying in and around it and the ground was covered in filth. She carefully asked the boy, Abu Bakarr Kargbo, to explain further.
She learned that he used to live in this terrible place and about the life he led here. He was a child of the streets and violence, gangs, gambling, drugs, and theft were a normal part of life. They were the only way to survive.
He opened up and shared that he had first come to Miriam’s school organization – EducAid – to see what he might be able to steal. Miriam recalled that when he joined the school, he had a hard first few months, causing trouble and endless worry for his teachers. Several times he had left the school in a rage or been caught stealing. Each time, EducAid peer mediators worked patiently to calm him down.
Abu Bakarr was nearly expelled for his behavior and then, one day, he decided to make a change. As he told Miriam, he realized he wanted to be a good role model for the younger brothers and sisters he’d left behind in their village. He no longer wanted to live the life of the streets – he wanted to become a good citizen.
Before arriving at EducAid, Abu Bakarr had attended several years of school but had fallen behind. Through EducAid, he’s now finishing up his secondary education at the age of 22. He’s the head boy in the EducAid Freetown School and will sit for his senior public exams on October 5th. Abu Bakarr now has goals beyond academic excellence. He sees his education as an opportunity to become a positive member of his community. His education is about integrity. It’s about love. He dreams of a day when the Sierra Leonean government is run by people schooled in EducAid values – people who are outstanding members of a shared community forming a government that is not ruled by corruption.
“He is the most amazing and inspiring young man,” says Miriam. “I can’t wait to see what he does as he moves forward.”
Abu Bakarrfound his own answer within himself. EducAid and Miriam just helped him see what was there all along and gave him the support he needed to truly shine.
Miriam Mason-Sesay is the recipient of the 2015 World of Children Education Award. To learn more about Miriam and EducAid Sierra Leone visit: worldofchildren.org/miriam