Let’s spend a day with Christiana. Christiana lives with her father and brother, Peter. Her father had to stay at home to care for Peter after his son got sick, and as a result, he lost his job as a driver. His wife (the children’s mother) left him and he now has to look after his children. Christiana’s father finds it extremely difficult to earn a living and provide for his children.
The Fig Tree Children help support Christiana and Peter’s Father by paying school fees and providing school material’s for both children. Their transportation to school, lunch, uniform, books, tuition fees, pens, pencils are all funded and so Christiana and her brother are given the opportunity to an education.
On a typical school morning, Christiana gets ready by gathering her uniform, organising her breakfast and packing her bag. Once she is dressed, she has her breakfast and packs her school bag with her books, lunchbox and water bottle. On a normal day, she packs either some rice, bread, couscous or cassava. Her bag is filled with both exercise books and textbooks, 2 pencils, an eraser, a sharpener and a ruler.
Christiana’s brother gets ready to attend school alongside his sister. He, much like Christiana, gathers his school essentials and begins his journey to school. They travel together by taxi which often takes around 15 minutes. On the way, Christiana often ponders what exactly is in store for the day ahead. As science is her favourite subject, she wonders whether she will she learn a new word? Or will she get the chance to conduct a new experiment?
Once reaching the school grounds, Christiana rushes to greet her school friends and gets herself organised for the day. Her school has roughly 1500 students and 15 teachers. Classes start from 8:30 am and go till 2 pm. A typical school day schedule often starts with Devotion hour, morning teaching sessions, then lunchtime where she eats lunch and plays with her friends, afternoon teaching sessions then finally closure of school for the day.
Walking home from school Christiana begins planning her afternoon ahead. But what she is most excited for, and what seems to be her favourite part of her daily afternoon routine, is handwashing her school uniform.
Using soda soap (which is locally made soap from caustic soda and palm oil), cold water and a hand brush, she gently hand washes her school dress for half an hour. She loves to ensure it is spotless before leaving it overnight to air dry. Thankfully, Christiana has been provided with two school uniforms and so she is able to wear her second, clean one while allowing the other to completely dry.
“I love washing my school uniform” are the exact words that leave Christiana’s mouth as she scrubs away at her uniform over a small washing bucket. The pride she takes in her presentation is undoubtedly a reflection on her dedication to education.
It comes as no surprise that education is a privilege in Sierra Leone. It is also no surprise that education equals power, and with power comes success and opportunity.
Christiana is just one example of one young woman living in Sierra Leone committed to learning and studying. She is committed to pathing the way to a successful future. She is committed to making the most out of every school day. She is committed to expanding her horizons. She is committed to working toward creating the best possible version of herself.
While the illiteracy rate still remains high among adolescents in Sierra Leone, it is encouraging to see young women such as Christiana, devoting their energy and time out of the classroom to not only ensuring they are school ready but future-ready.