When we spoke to him about his experiences as a blind student in a country where stigma around disability is rife, we could hardly hear his responses. Fast-forward two years, and the change in Henry is incredible.
We returned to his school in Sierra Leone in 2016 to see how he was getting on, and the cheeky, confident teenager who came out to meet us was barely recognisable from the boy who’d shied away from attention previously.
Sierra Leone can be a tough place to grow up for children with disabilities; many are written off and seen as not worth educating. For Henry, the value of going to school has been not just in learning, but in gaining confidence and social skills. He’s really found his feet, and his teachers are thrilled with his progress – they proudly told us how clever and committed to learning he is.
Like his friend Jenneh, he’s frustrated by the lack of materials to support him in learning maths, and he finds classwork difficult when people write on the board but don’t explain what they’re writing. But these setbacks seem unlikely to stop him persevering and achieving his goals.
When we ask what message he’d have for other children with disabilities, he says, “Come to school! Without education we are nothing. [We need to] show that we can do something [other people] can do.”