Pirez is a man who has come all the way through the EducAid system, and someone that typifies everything that we stand for. We asked him a few questions to give us an overview of what life is really like on the ground in Sierra Leone, from someone who is fighting the battle every day.
What is the mood like in Sierra Leone?
People are very scared, but they are still trying to go on with their normal lives. This is made very difficult due to the restrictions imposed because of Ebola; some people are trying to work, but many sectors have been closed down. There are both restrictions on certain businesses and markets, but many people are scared to receive people in to their shops for fear of Ebola. The morale in the EducAid schools is cool and calm; people are getting with their normal daily lives, though it is very worrying. It is most scary when there is a potential threatening situation close to us. Ebola affects every single Sierra Leonean; not only does everyone have contact with at least one person who has died or is ill with Ebola, many regions are closed down. This means we all suffer equally.
What do you perceive to be the greatest threat to Sierra Leone's recovery from Ebola.
The economic situation for many families, and the nation as a whole, is a huge threat. The decline in the economy due to the closure of businesses, and the paralysis of tourism will affect many many families. I am most concerned that this also affects the resources available for the general population for things such such as education and healthcare. There is also a huge worry that Ebola will further damage the relationship of the people in our society. The economy of the nation as a whole has been seriously affected, and people are upset by the our inability to control the virus. We can see by the civil unrest and rioting that has happened already in Freetown that the nation is concerned and, because of this, I am worried that there will be many drop outs, young pregnancies, and unwanted pregnancies. I fear for the children that are not only orphaned by Ebola, but finding another lost generation.
Are people being responsible in Sierra Leone?
There are still traditional healers operating in Sierra Leone. For example, in Mathonkara and Matech, there were chiefs who were taking patients to their house until one day the authorities found dead bodies in their custody. Eventually they were sacked. The government have tried to ban all traditional healers, and I think that the general public are becoming more responsible in terms of taking practical advice on the preventive measures to curtail the spread of the Ebola virus. The advice that we, at EducAid, give is: if a family member is ill, call for the Ebola team or take them for testing or treatment at any hospital. It is also necessary to practice the measures, ABC and AUM.
How can education help stopping Ebola?
It helps in all the procedures taken to stop the spread of the disease. It will help the people to understand the truth of the disease since the Ebola virus has a lot of symptoms. Help people to know the preventive measures, and this will help them not to contract the disease. It will also help people to know the need for not touching the dead.
What are the biggest challenges that EducAid is facing?
Getting funds to continue with the running of the EducAid schools. Having the Ministry of Education turn down our broadcasted educational programmes was horrible, as that was something that we had all worked together towards. However, the worst thing is not having most of our students with us because this means that our control over the disease is beyond our control or power.
We believe that ‘Sierra Leonean Ebola orphans face a situation worse than war, and an article posted by the Guardian agrees. We are trying to prepare ourselves for the fallout of Ebola. Through our #AfterEbola programme, we are preparing ourselves and our facilities for the huge influx of Ebola orphans that we will need to care for.
Without these facilities, we are - just as Pirez - likely to lose a whole new generation to psychological and social degradation. The financial situation that is likely to follow Ebola will leave children even more vulnerable and susceptible to the chaos.
Please keep supporting us in our fight to prevent Ebola, and our plan for the future. Together we can make a difference.
Donate to our campaign #AfterEbola now by clicking on the link.
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If you’d like to find out more about Pirez, you can read his story below.
Like many of our alumni, Pirez is a child of war. It is estimated that 320,000 children were orphaned by this terrible and meaningless conflict, many of whom were forced in to warfare, drug use, and abuse at the hands of their elders. Having lost contact with both of his parents during the chaos of the civil war that raged from 1991 to 2002, Abubakarr Kanu, later nicknamed Pirez, found himself living with his step-mother on Karie Street, Port Loko.
Pirez’s existence was a struggle for survival. When he was young, he fought for an education and went through Primary school to sit his National Primary School Examination (NPSE) in 2002. He recognizes the achievement when he describes how difficult the circumstances were.
“Transportation to school was difficult, and I survived by eating gari that I begged from my friends.”
Pirez unfortunately had to give up going to school when the financial constraints just got too bad. Instead, he was forced to wash bikes and vehicles in order to survive. Then, in 2005, he heard about EducAid.
“When I heard about EducAid, a free school, I was glad and I enrolled at the JSS. I worked hard and sat to the BECE. In 2006, I got promoted to the WASSCE class and successfully sat to the exam and was later retained as a volunteer teacher.”
In 2010-11 academic year Pirez was appointed as a deputy site manager. In the same year he was admitted to study at the Port Loko Teacher Training College on the distance course, and later graduated with a Div. 2 in Commercial Studies.
At the start of the 2013-2014 academic year Pirez was appointed to the role of the Deputy Staff Coordinator for EducAid country-wide. In the same year, I was later appointed as the EducAid 4M schools coordinator in the Tonkolili district, where EducAid has taken responsibility for four new primary schools. This is where he currently serves.
“My pre-EducAid life was very difficult but now things are much better with EducAid. I am now proud of my life and EducAid in my current life.
Thanks to all those that made it possible for me.”
It is stories like Pirez’s that demonstrate the true power of education, and of EducAid. It is easy to forget how difficult it can be for individuals to reach their potential in Sierra Leone; however, considering the circumstances that Pirez came through – a youth of civil war and poverty – all he needed was the opportunity to flourish, and flourish he did.