Silhouette of a young person studying

Bringing Education Home: Girls Getting It Done in Sierra Leone

Young people need to make the right to education a reality in Sierra Leone, says Mbalu Thoronka

Whenever I saw people in my village struggling with illness I always wished I could help. That’s why it became my dream to become a medical doctor. I had seen how people, especially children, die from curable illnesses, and this was what pushed me to get an education.

Getting an education

But for everyone here in my hometown in Sierra Leone, accessing education is still difficult.

Many children in my community in Sierra Leone, have either never attended school or have already dropped out due to the numerous challenges they face. We heard of the government’s new Free Quality Education Initiative, but the majority of us here couldn’t access it because the schools are so far away, or because we had other responsibilities that prevented us from focusing on our studies. 

I was fortunate enough to transfer to a school in the chiefdom headquarters town, about 10 miles away from my village. There, I made friends from other villages who, like me, also went there just to get an education. We all knew stories about other people, who became successful, and were then able to help their families and villages because they were educated. These were the stories that pushed me through that long 2 hour walk to school every day. It was very exciting to be in this position but did add an extra pressure of expectation. 

Making education rights realities

I understand the importance of education and from legal documents I’ve been able to read through my education, I know that every child has a right to education. However, many of my peers were never able to access education. And in rural areas the pass rate for public exams is very low. In Kambia, a largely rural area on the Northern border with Guinea, only 61% pass their primary school qualifications. And nationally only around 5% of Sierra Leoneans who take their final exams leave secondary school with passes in 5 subjects, compared to 69% in Ghana and 66% in Nigeria.  

It is essential we make this right a reality. In order to do so, the government in Sierra Leone should prioritise establishing more schools in rural areas and resourcing them with qualified teachers. This can be done by using the teaching service commission to assign qualified teachers to various communities.

Giving an education

Mbalu Thoronka from Sierra Leone working on an education based project called Leave No Girl Behind
Mbalu Thoronka volunteering with Restless Development as a mentor on the Leave No Girl Behind: Every Adolescent Girl Empowered and Resilient project (EAGER)

In 2019, I sat my WASSCE examination (a certification of my completion of secondary school), but I didn’t get the grades to go to university. It was not easy for me to get an education, but with what I’ve learned I am hoping I can help make it easier for others. So, I decided to volunteer for Restless Development as a mentor on the Leave No Girl Behind: Every Adolescent Girl Empowered and Resilient project (EAGER), which I believe is a way I can give back to my community. 

I engage groups of adolescent girls and deliver life skills lessons to them that will help them to gain confidence, and avoid the pitfalls, to get an education. I meet with community leaders to discuss education challenges in our village. And though these meetings were initially unfruitful they have now started to pay off. There are plans to establish a school in a village about half a mile from my own. This will allow greater access to young people in my area. 

However, I know that I could help even more if I can continue my own studies and go to university. I believe that one day, I will create this opportunity for myself and fulfill my dreams.

Mbalu Thoronka is a community youth volunteer and Mentor on the ‘Leave No Girl Behind’ programme in Sierra Leone. You can find out more about this programme here.

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Bringing Education Home: Girls Getting It Done in Sierra Leone

by Vaishnavi Behl Reading time: 3 min
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