Mariama, 18 years old
I’m now in my last year of Senior Secondary School. I hope to sit be sitting my WAS exams [Sierra Leonean equivalent to A Levels] this year. I’ve never dropped out of school. But many of my friends from this area have not been so lucky.
The main factor is money. Many of the girls around here won’t have the money for school so they end up on the streets to find means for money. Like going to their boyfriends and asking for money. That can lead to teenage pregnancy. That is why plenty of girls drop out of school in our country.
Another factor is their parents. If girls spend time going out to a nightclub or something instead of studying they might fail that grade. And many girls around here, if they fail once, their parents will not want to invest in them repeating that year.
There are so few girls around here that are able to continue in education. It makes me feel bad. The more girls stay at home away from school, the more it can lead to underdevelopment of the country. So I think if more pupils are in school there will be a better future for girls in this country.
The one time that I did experience not being in school was during the Ebola crisis. It felt awful. When we girls are not in school, we’re expected to focus more on helping out our parents in the home or helping to provide. We don’t have time to read our books or study. So it’s easy for our academic work to drop.
Even now that I’m back in school, I am the eldest of five siblings in my house. So you see, there are many of us. I’m the eldest and when school’s out, I’ll be sent to the market to sell packets of water and cold drinks to help provide. That is the expectation in my family. The money helps a bit to support our education.
And this is the same for so many girls in this area.
I despair of the situation. I want to advocate to make sure that girls stay in school. If girls and their families are aware that education is important they will have the zeal to make sure they’re in school. People in this community do want to help and people can learn the importance of supporting girls through school. But if we don’t reach out to them for help, if we don’t try to help them change, then it will never happen.
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