From Grass To Grace

by Salimatu Sinneh Koroma (Sierra Leone Teachers Union)

My story is about Isatu who is my contemporary. She was also born in the same town and the same street. This girl was very clever in school and everybody in the community wanted to be her parents.

At age fourteen Isatu became pregnant and this surprised everyone in our community. Most of her companions (age mates) advised her to mix some herbs which would terminate the pregnancy but she refused. Even her aunts, one was a sister and the other a nurse, both working at the Government hospital wanted her to have an abortion. One day they took her to the hospital to terminate the pregnancy. Isatu ran away from the hospital because she was afraid to lose her life.

She was stigmatized and provoked by people she passed by on the street when going to the hospital for treatment. She was ashamed, especially when she saw her class mates with their uniforms, going to school.

She was encouraged by some friends, not to lose hope. Months passed by and she fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. Isatu was a sickle cells patient. So, the doctor advised she should be in the hospital until her baby was born.

On hearing that Isatu had been admitted to the hospital, people from the community and some students, especially her form three mates, visited the hospital frequently. Their visits were not in a form of sympathising but to provoke her.

As God could have it, she gave birth to a beautiful and bouncing baby girl. When they heard the news of her delivery, so many people came to the hospital to see her, but the doctor had already instructed the nurses not to allow anyone in, except for her parents. The same day she was moved to a special ward.

After a year, Isatu pleaded with her father to allow her to go back to school.

Her father took a special teacher to teach her at home because if she went back to school she would face provocation from colleagues. Isatu was dedicated and very committed, so, she studied very hard. After two years her father found a primary school for her. After another year she sat for the General Certificate Examination (GCE O Level). She passed five subjects including Mathematics and English. Her father asked what she wanted to do next. She then told her father that she wanted to be a teacher. Her father agreed and bought an entrance examination form for her to do a Teachers Certificate Course. Isatu took the Examination and passed with flying colors. What I really mean is she passed all the subjects.

Isatu was admitted into the Training College in Makeni. Makeni is fifteen miles from Magburaka where she lived. During her first year in the Training College she fell ill and was admitted at the Makeni Government hospital. She was diagnosed with apendicitis and Sickle cell. She underwent an apendicitis operation. Isatu missed many weeks of college but due to the encouragement from her mother and father, she was able to continue her studies and was promoted to the second year without reference. She continued her studies for three years and completed with a second division pass.

Isatu went back to her previous school and continued teaching. She taught for another three years and thought she must upgrade herself. So, she continued studying. She told her parents about her intention and they were very happy and encouraged her to do so.

This time she bought the form herself and applied for a Higher Teachers Certificate Course in Secondary. She succeeded with the help of her parents. She went through hurdles but also succeeded and she completed successfully. She could not continue teaching in her home town because of the Civil war in our country. It was then very serious in the provinces. She had to move to the Capital City Freetown.

While she was teaching in Freetown, she engaged in the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) as an Activist in the Women’ Committee.

She was very committed in her Union’s work. She was then appointed to attend a Workshop at the Sierra Leone Labour Congress (SLLC), which is the umbrella body of all the unions in the country. During the Workshop’s closing ceremony, Isatu was asked to give the vote of thanks. Her performance made one of the International partners who came for the Workshop ask for her Curriculum Vitae (CV). She produced it and handed it over to her. She told Isatu; “You have to upgrade your CV”.

This inspired Isatu and from that point she was eager to further her education. She started working with local NGO’s in the community to raise funds so that she would be able to enter the University. It was really very challenging for her as she was now a mother with children, and had to pay for an apartment and school fees for her kids. As a teacher her salary was not even encouraging. She was very determined and nothing stopped her from achieving her goal.

Isatu had married a man with two children. He never cared for Isatu’s daughter, so she had to send her daughter back to her parents. Isatu and her husband had two children, a boy and a girl. Isatu took care of all the children including her husband’s. She never differentiated between her two children and her husband’s two children. Her husband was really not a caring father. A lot happened during the period of their marriage so they separated.

Isatu had gone through many challenges, not only in her personal life, the classroom and community but also in her union. She was the Women’s Committee Leader of her District, duly elected when she was in the province. When she came to Freetown, she started as an Activist and was elected as the School Representative (SR) in her school. When they had their District elections she vied for the position of the Women’s Committee in her District and won. When the term ended, there was another election. This time she went for the

Regional Women’s committee position. She succeeded unopposed. Nobody contested against her. She had been connecting the women’s affairs in her region.

In the year 2008, Isatu applied to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree at the University. She was accepted and there again things were rough for her, especially when her father was not there to help. He died in 1997 during the Civil War and the mother was like a living corpse. She had to take care of her mother while pursuing the course. Her mother died in 2011 before Isatu graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Development and Economics, specializing in Project Planning and Management.

Isatu who never completed year three in her Secondary Education is now a graduate. To God be the Glory!

As for her daughter, she went to school and sat to her WASSEC. When her mother was busy upgrading herself, she was also in the University studying. She is presently thirty six years old.

When Isatu visits her home town, people always admire her. Some of her age mates could not look straight into her eyes but she always come close to them, to encourage them and assist them when the need arises. With perseverance Isatu could do more.

As a change team agent, I am encouraging more girls and women to eradicate School Related Gender Based Violence and work hard to always lead and love others. Our girls who are teenagers should never give up in life. When you fall down, get up, dust yourself and bounce back. You will surely reach your goal.

To our Parents: Please support your children. There is no bad bush to throw away a bad child. There is no bad child. You the parent will make him or her bad.

To the society as a whole: Never judge someone, especially the girl child. If you see anyone suffering or having a problem, if you are able to help, do so. If you are not able to help, do not point fingers. There is a reason for everything to happen.

This story is dedicated to Isatu’s late parents for their effort in bringing her from grass to grace.

The views, opinions and words written in the article are solely those of the author. The article reflects the author’s journey, view point and progress in their own words.

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