REBECCA, 18 YEARS OLD
When I got to grade 4 I had to stop school. I’d been doing well. But we didn’t have the money to pay my fees. I had to stop to help out my family.
My father had been carrying loads to support us but he was just too old and struggling to get the work. I sat down with him and said you can’t go on like this. You’ve got to rest and we’re struggling to get by. Let me stop my schooling so I can help support the family.
I wanted to go to school. But if you don’t have the money, you can’t go. So me and my mother went out to work. If we didn’t try to bring in a little money, by selling small goods or going out to work for people, we wouldn’t even have had anything for any of us to eat.
Then Ebola came. It took my mother. I lost my sister. I lost my Uncle.
Even now that Ebola has gone, my father is up in the countryside and he’s very sick. I went to go and visit him and when I saw him I was so discouraged. He was so ill. If someone called me to say my father had died I wouldn’t be surprised because he was so sick.
So I was already feeling like I had so little hope. And then I got pregnant. And the guy who got me pregnant denied it was him. He’s gone now and I’m left on my own to look after my son by doing small jobs here and there. People might give me Le3000 [60c] and then I can buy some food.
I’m well known here in this community. And that’s what helps me get by. I work for lots of people around here selling and doing odd jobs. Sometimes people feel sorry for me and will give me something to help out a little.
I wasn’t able to continue at school but I think education for girls is so important. If you have somebody to encourage you to go to school then that girl will be able to learn. If there’s someone who’s able to support you, help get you something small to eat at lunchtime, buy books get your uniform, then, yes, you can do well in school.
But if you have nothing? Then it’s discouraging, if you have no one to support you, no one to pay your fees.
Like, for me, if my mother had found the money or my father had been able to get work, I swear to God, I would have taken my education so seriously. I feel that so strongly. But if you have nothing, what are you going to do?
If I had someone to support me to go to school, to help me go all the way up through college and get my education, I would make sure I encouraged and supported other girls here in the community to go to school. Even now I tell them: “look, I’ve made mistakes, I had my son at an early age but you have the chance to go to school - so pay attention to your studies; if I had the opportunities that you’ve got, I swear I wouldn’t waste them.”
I’ve made my mistakes but these girls have an opportunity. I wouldn’t be happy to see anyone go through what I have. That’s why I encourage girls here in this community and advise them to stay in school.