MARIE, 17 YEARS OLD
It’s been two years since I was in school. My father and mother separated and she had no one to take care of us. We were struggling and things got difficult. I was forced to drop out of school.
It was not that I am stupid. I came top in my class in the BECE [Sierra Leone’s national exam for 16-year-olds). I wanted to be educated, I wanted to be a lawyer, it was my dream. But my father wouldn’t support me and I had to leave school. What was I meant to do?
I was selling small goods to help support my family. Other than that I had nothing to do. People could see I had nothing to occupy me. It was hard. Then I met a guy who said he would support me. I understood what he meant. I was 16 and he was 25.
I came to have feelings for him. But that was because of what he was doing for me. He gave me hope. But I don’t think he liked me. Eventually he got me pregnant but said that he was not the father. I felt betrayed.
When I was pregnant I just felt weak. I wasn’t able to do hard work. I often fell over. My mother managed to get some money together to get me treatment, which helped me get through the pregnancy and then the delivery.
My friends told me I was too young to have a child. And that my poverty had made it happen. That hurt me. I never said anything but I didn’t ask for this. It was a mistake.
Now I have a son. But things haven’t changed much. I have a baby but there’s no father to support us. I live with my mother but things are hard. Sometimes I have to ask my Auntie for money. I help my Grandmother sell food at the top of our road to get by.
Education is important. When you’re at school you have the chance to change your life. I believe if I become educated those who have been talking down to me will have to change their views. I want people to look at me and say ‘you’ve turned out well’. And If I could continue school I’d want to become a lawyer. I want to defend people who can’t defend themselves. I’d want to make sure that people can get the rights that they deserve.
I wish I could go back to school. But we just don’t have the money for me to continue.