Transcript: Academics, Teen Pregnancy and Ebola

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Idrissa Kamara, Principal:  I am Idrissa Cosmo Kamara, Principal, Joseph and Carolyn Wagner United Methodist Secondary School

(Locator:  Kpetewoma, Sierra Leone)

When this educator walks through the streets of Kpetewoma village in Sierra Leone, he sees a lot of lost potential

Kamara: We are losing a whole generation of pupils because of this Ebola. Since we have lost a whole academic year, some very clever students who were going to school are no more going to school any more. And some of them, they have already lost their future. Some will never go back to school again. I assure you that some will never go back to school.

In a desperate effort to stop the Ebola epidemic, the nation slammed the door on schools over 8 months ago.

It happened at a time when gains were beginning to be made in secondary education – especially among girls.

Kamara: This one is now doing business.

Mariama Massakuoi: I am a business woman.

Kamara:  So, what if schools reopen again?

Massakuoi: Well, from this moment I am going to stay to do my business.

Jan Snider: What’s the likelihood of her actually going back to school?

Kamara:  Nobody will convince me that that one will go to school again and concentrate.

As Kamara walks through the village, he points out one of his prize pupils: a 17-year-old who is now married and pregnant. Teen pregnancy was already a problem in Sierra Leone but officials say it skyrocketed after schools were closed and villages quarantined for months on end.

Kamara:  Oh, my God. This is pathetic. It’s pathetic.

But, there are still many students who are anxious to be back in the classroom.

Abraham Jallo, Student: We want the school to be open now.

Kamara:  Do you think a generation is lost?

Jallo: Yes, a generation is lost without education there is nothing. Mr. Kamara, let me tell you something. For now, education is moving forward. Education is the key to success.

Success for students like Abraham means a job with an NGO – a non-governmental organization, or charity.  It’s these Ebola responders that have bolstered the economy since the outbreak and he wants a piece of the action.

Jallo:  The money is in NGO work, you know? Most people are getting money from the NGO.

At the height of the outbreak, many teachers took jobs with higher paying NGOs.

Kamara:  And they decide to stay there permanently. Then we have lost a lot of teachers.

Much weighs on this educator as he stands in the midst of this disheveled, dusty classroom.  It serves as a harbinger of all that must be put in order before Sierra Leone’s students return to the classroom.

Kamara:  We have a concern for them, a real concern.

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