"I study to learn English and math," says Alpha with large eager eyes and a broad grin. "I want to become a doctor." Many of the children in Sierra Leone aspire to occupations that have brought the most good in their country. Their parents desire their children to acquire what the war took from them – the privilege of going to school. Even though the war ended in 2001, the opportunity to attend school has been difficult to achieve. Children who completed 6th grade in Yiehun had to walk 10 to 15 miles to attend middle and high schools. Unless these children have a relative to stay with during the week, they must fend for themselves. In fact, before the school was built in 2009, forty percent of the 12 to 14-year-old girls became pregnant. In 2008, when Mohamed and Safie, presented the idea of building a middle school to the village, the people responded enthusiastically, volunteering one day a week to help with construction. The opening of the Junior Secondary School directly impacted the pregnancy rate. In the 2009 – 2010 school year, only 2 girls became pregnant, and no pregnancies occurred in the 2010-2011 school year. In Yiehun, the number of young girls who became pregnant between the ages of 12 to 14 has decreased from a rate of over 40% to almost 0% in two years. The longer that a girl waits to have children, the better chance that she has to gain a higher education, and the more education that the people of a community obtain, the better the community as a whole improves. The next project that will ensue (finances provided) is the building of a high school in the village. The school, which will eventually become one of four universities in the country, is intended to be a place where the young people may continue their education in their own village, establishing a strong community in the chiefdom. Understanding the importance of a college education in Sierra Leone, Mohamed says, "They ask me for a high school. I want to give them a university."
The children stream from every part of the community, neatly dressed in blue and white uniforms, to line up to recite the Lord's prayer, sing the national anthem, and listen to their principal's encouragement to work diligently. These children have hope – for their future and for today.