I dream of being a nurse: how children in Sierra Leone have been given hope through education….
Ad Feature by Save the Children
As she powers her way down the river to school in a dug-out canoe, teenager Tenneh regularly has to take shelter as the wind kicks up and makes the water too choppy to paddle in.
She’s often late for lessons as her journey is at the mercy of the weather but the 13-year-old is determined that nothing will stop her getting to her classroom.
Because she knows an education can change her life. Not only hers but her family’s too. And as a canoe is the only way to get to school in her remote village in Sierra Leone, Africa, she’ll do whatever it takes.
Desperate for an education: Tenneh, 13, paddles herself to school every day in Sierra Leone
‘I don’t really like it when the wind blows,’ admits Tenneh. ‘When I am sitting in my boat on the way to school and the wind is blowing, I go and park the boat and wait for the wind to cease, then I jump into my boat and cross over. I hurry up quickly so I can get to school early.
‘Sometimes my hands get tired when I get in the middle of the river. I have to stop the paddling of the boat and rest for a while for my hands to regain strength and start paddling again.’
Tenneh’s region of Sierra Leone is cut off from the mainland by lakes so boats are the only way to get around. She borrows her one-man canoe – which was fashioned from a tree trunk– from her grandmother. As it’s her key to a better life, she knows to take good care of it.
‘I look after the boat. When I get back from school, I hide it. If I’m not able to hide it, I sink it and turn it over. I empty the water when I go to school.’
For most of us in the UK who take a good education for granted, it can be hard to understand what drives a young girl to be so determined to learn.
But for years Tenneh didn’t go to school and had little hope of a better future – until 2017 when Save the Children stepped in to support ten primary schools in her Pujehun district of Sierra Leone.
Learning: Save the Children worked to support ten primary schools in the Pujehun district
The charity believes that if you give youngsters good food, a good education and the medicines they need to survive, they can go on to help themselves and lead productive lives that will help not just them but their families too.
So they refurbished all the school buildings in the area and set up a teacher training programme so the local students had enough good teachers.
They also provided all the materials the youngsters needed – school bags, exercise books, stationery and sports equipment – and kitted them all out with uniforms and shoes. Girls are also given sanitary products and lessons on menstrual hygiene.
What’s more, Save the Children also built a hand pump next to the school so villagers could get clean water.
Five years on and the children are thriving. Tenneh’s teacher Gassimu Kemo says: ‘Last year and this year, our pupils are performing very well, Because of this people are sending their children here.’
While we take getting an education for granted, the children in Sierra Leone are thrilled to be given the chance to learn and study for a better future
The number of students has doubled since Save the Children began supporting the school with 183 children being educated there a year – 76 girls and 107 boys.
Academically, they’re also hugely successful with their 91 per cent pass rate in exams making them one of the country’s top performers.
Tenneh appreciates the opportunity to learn. ‘I like the school,’ she says. ‘Whatever we need they will provide for us. I want to be educated and help my parents. I love social studies very much. I want to be a nurse.’
If she achieves her dream, she’ll be able to help her father, who has a serious health condition. He and her mother are farmers, growing chilli peppers and cassava, a root vegetable.
But Tenneh’s dreams don’t stop there.
‘I want a hospital in my village,’ she says. ‘We don’t have a hospital close to us. When our family members get sick, they take them really far away.’
It’s an ambitious aim but, with a good education behind her, Tenneh stands a good chance of making it come true.
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