The Ebola crisis has left a legacy with more than just the health system. During the epidemic, schools were shut, leaving young people with little guidance. A spate of teenage pregnancies occurred and many schools wouldn’t allow girls to continue their education whilst pregnant. Falling behind in school, plus the responsibility of a child, can prevent these vulnerable girls from ever returning to school.
VSO supports the FINE SALON (Fambul Initiative Network for Equality Sierra Leone) project, which runs an informal school for young mums to continue their basic education whilst pregnant and even bring their newborns to school until they are ready to return to the mainstream classroom. Fudia Suma, 21, mother to 21-month-old Mohammad, is a graduate of the Teenage Mother’s School.
“When I was pregnant, I thought I couldn’t be enrolled in a school. I wasn’t allowed to continue with my studies because it was thought that I would be a bad influence on other girls. I felt bad. All my friends were still in school.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to go back to school again and I wanted to be an accountant.
My family rejected me and they asked me to leave the house. I felt so alone.
The Teenage Mothers School was announced around the village on the community radio. I heard that if you were pregnant and wanted to go to school, you could come here for free classes. I just said yes.
The teachers were encouraging us pregnant girls. It was free so I could attend. I could breastfeed my child in class. That can be annoying and when they make noise it can be disturbing but it’s a good thing to have a baby with you. You know that it’s in good hands.
I am so happy because I know that education is here. Now I’m back in mainstream school and that is because I was able to keep up my studies.
Education is the key to everything. It’s so important. I want to explain my story to my son so he won’t have the same thing happen to him. I will tell him and other girls that nothing should stop them.
I feel like I have the same responsibility that my mother has. I feel like I understand her now.”