Conflict disrupted my education but I did not give up

Photo: Agnes receiving an award from Ms. Hendrina Doroba, FAWE Executive Director, after winning the 2016 Most Significant Change story competition / Copyright: FAWE

My name is Agnes Feima Kenneh. I was born on the 16th February, 1993 in Sierra Leone. In 1991, war broke out in Sierra Leone that lasted for 11 years. My mother and father were in Kailahun District located in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. As a child, I was out playing with my friends we heard gunshots & saw people running shouting in our native language “we are dead! We are dead! The rebels have stepped their feet on our land”. So we all left running for our lives into the bush leaving everything behind. We spent nights and days travelling through bushes and vacant villages in search of refuge until we finally arrived at our country’s border and crossed over to our neighboring country, Guinea. In Guinea, as a refugee, my father made effort to admit me in a school unfortunately all the schools were purely French speaking, so I had to stay out of school .This and other factors motivated us to return to our country. We heard about a Methodist bus that was travelling to our country with food supply that was how we luckily got free transportation to Freetown, Sierra Leone.

In Freetown, we stayed at a Displaced Camp called Clay Factory. My father tried for our admission at a nearby school but we were rejected because we were referred to as “rebel children”, language barrier and our outfits were unbearable – scattered hair and no foot wear. My parents couldn’t afford our education. But as God could have it, one day we were informed that 8 schools for the displaced were being established, among which, one was purely for girls and that was the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) School. FAWE gave us that opportunity to get education that we so much desired. They admitted us, provided us with uniforms, shoes, learning materials and even a daily meal which our parents could not afford. They encouraged us that we could make it despite the challenges we had gone through.

FAWE was the only organization that catered for displaced children at that time. The Organization had a slogan “Send your girl child to school” and I loved it so much. This slogan was transformed into a song which became popular in our nation. Other lines of this song further explained that girls could also be lawyer, doctors, bankers, teachers etc. when they are educated and their talents nurtured. We had good teachers, sufficient learning materials, scholarship facilities and free lunch. All of these activities and facilities inspired me to learn and remain in FAWE primary school where I spent 6 years and sat the National Primary School Examination (NPSE) in 2004.

My performance throughout my stay in FAWE was very good as I was always in the top 10 in my class. I took the NPSE and enrolled in the Annie Walsh Memorial School with a score of (337) taking the 4th position that year. With the confidence and hope FAWE instilled in me I became more focused in my studies to achieve my dream and change my life and the life of others. I continued to work hard and passed my Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and proceeded to the Senior Secondary School. I chose the Science department because the Government of Sierra Leone offers scholarships to girls who pursue science studies at tertiary level. I sat the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in SSS 3 and got my qualification to the University. I furthered my studies in the faculty of Engineering at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone and specialized in Civil Engineering where we are very few ladies. I will be graduating in few months time. The encouragement I had from parents, FAWE and the government contributed to my access, retention and exemplary performance in my academic pursuit, thus awakened the sleeping giant. No Matter what never give up, keep going!