Times can be tough in Sierra Leone, and this is one of them. With Ebola rife throughout the country, and the population panicked about contracting this deadly disease, education can seem secondary to survival.
This is not the case. Our mission statement says that the education of young women and men is essential to unlocking human potential, overcoming poverty, improving wellbeing, building democracy, and providing the cornerstone for stable development. This belief is not just on an individual level, but for the country as a whole.
We see this played out in no better case than with Augustine Bundor, an alumni of EducAid and a student of medicine. On Miriam’s journey back to the UK this month, she encountered Augustine being instrumental in the Ebola screenings at Lungi Airport. The checks in place at Lungi Airport were documented in a Telegraph Article, with chlorine washes, visual assessments, and temperature-taking are required to even enter the airport, these are up to international standards. The decision to screen patients at airports around Europe and the US was a politicized decision, a way to calm an increasingly nervous western population about the threat of Ebola. However, it seems clear that when considering the long incubation period of Ebola, the financial resources and man-power being expended in Western airports be much better utilized on-the-ground in Western Africa since the chances of a passenger developing the symptoms of Ebola between takeoff and landing are surely little to none.
Regardless of the political pawn-play of the Western Governments, we are truly proud to have Augustine playing a significant role in the Ebola outbreak. Not only is he working to limit the damage on the international community, and helping members of his own country to identify and hopefully treat the virus, he has been instrumental in the teaching of safe practices in our school. Augustine has visited all of our school sites to train teachers and students the best ways of protecting themselves against the virus. He is an absolutely typical case of a Sierra Leonean in EducAid: a child of civil war struggling to find an education; back-breaking work and inadequate living conditions; an unsupportive family network; it was at EducAid he found the care and help to achieve his potential. Here is his story:
My name is Augustine Nyuma Bundor, born in Kailahun district, Eastern province of Sierra Leone.
I was born in a polygamous home of three wives to my father, each bearing him four children and I am the 3rd child to my mother.
The family depends solely on subsistence farming. With the exception of myself and my younger brother, neither the parents nor the other siblings are educated.
During the rebel war in 1991, we all flew to a neighbouring country (Guinea) where we stayed in refuge camps for 8 years. I attended refugee schools in various camps when I partially abandoned my family by ignoring their faming habit. I hated going to the farms all the time.
I then decided to return to Sierra Leone and stay with an uncle in the city (Freetown) with whom one of my siblings was staying. I was luckily voluntarily repatriated to Freetown and I found my uncle and brother. The uncle denied my staying with him. My brother took me to his single room where he lived with his wife and child, wanting me to be cleaning and laundering for the family. I spent more than a year with this brother, trying to convince him to support my schooling as he was a taxi driver. He too denied helping me so I left him and joined a local building and construction enterprise so that I could at least learn a trade.
Having given up hope for my schooling, I chose to become either a welder or an electrician. The enterprise was just newly formed with a single store for tools and equipment. Me and my other colleagues spent 2 years in this centre, sleeping outside on cardboard and old non-functioning refrigerators.
One day I met with a teacher from an English-based charity school, EducAid Sierra Leone, and explained to him my stories. He kindly took me to the school and helped me gain admission as a junior secondary student.
In 2003, I became a student of EducAid Sierra Leone. In this same academic year I sat to the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC). I passed with flying colours and was promoted to the senior secondary level.
With my basic knowledge in welding and electrical installations, I developed great interest for the sciences and became a science student.
It was quite challenging for me because I had to attend classes till 3 pm and after which I went to my work place (at the workshop) and worked almost throughout the night.
I then decided to forgo the workshop and concentrate on my studies. I joined the other home students and became a home boy, living in the school, in the classrooms. From then I became wholly dependent on EducAid. I was one of the boarding students throughout my junior and senior secondary levels (from 2003 to 2006).
In 2006, I sat to the West African Secondary Schools Certificate Examination (WASSCE) also conducted by WAEC. I passed all the subjects with university requirements in all the sciences. I was asked by the country director, Miriam Mason-Sesay, and her late husband, Mr Alhassan Sesay, to assist in the teaching. I was very happy to be taken as a junior staff having been one of the students of the school. I was sent to one of the provincial branches (EducAid Rolal) where I spent two years teaching junior secondary school sciences.
EducAid finally surprised me with a sponsor, Ann Beatty, in 2008 to further my studies in any of the sciences. I decided to study medicine and become a medical doctor because of the love and concern for humans I developed over the two years of teaching, and more importantly because of the poor medical services and few health practitioners in the country.
I then gained admission in the one and only school of medicine in Sierra Leone, College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) to undertake an 8 year course.
With focus, commitment, hard work, endurance and perseverance, I have been successfully going through all the academic years form basic to clinical medicine.
Currently I am in the 6th year and, hopefully by 2016, I will be a graduate medical doctor.
GOLDEN THANKS AND APPRECIATIONS TO MY SPONSOR, Ann Beatty, THE COUNTRY DIRECTOR,Miriam Mason-Sesay, AND TO EDUCAID AS A WHOLE FOR THEIR KIND COLLECTIVE ROLE IN EDUCATING ME TO THIS LEVEL. EVERYTHING BEGINS AT A POINT...
EducAid has been preparing to fight Ebola since it’s inception. By creating real opportunities for disadvantaged people, and providing the most basic support, we can help people to maximise their own potential. Referring again to our Mission statement, We ensure that everyone has opportunities to develop academically, socially, spiritually, morally, creatively, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
We are building for a life #AfterEbola. Support us now.