Big deal, you’re thinking. That description could be applied to any number of 15-year-olds worldwide. But for a blind teenage girl living in Sierra Leone – where disability is often seen as a curse, and some people with disabilities are abandoned by their own families – just being able to attend school is a huge achievement.
And Jenneh’s not just attending, she’s excelling.
We first met Jenneh two years ago. Going to school had made a huge impact on her life: she’d learned to read and write in braille and was keen to train as a teacher in the future. It was amazing to see the difference going to school had made for her. Many children with disabilities in Sierra Leone are considered not capable of learning and are never given the chance to try.
In early 2016, we returned to Bo to catch up with Jenneh, whose goals for the future have only increased. She’s grown in confidence and is an ambitious student. She still wants to be a teacher, because she’s passionate about education, but she also wants to travel, and study overseas.
Jenneh is doing well in all her subjects. Her teachers told us that she raises the standards of the whole class. But there are still challenges in her way. She’s keen to progress with mathematics, but is limited by the lack of assistive technology, which is frustrating for her.
Maths is a subject that few students with disabilities are able to participate in, partly because translating equations into accessible formats isn’t straightforward and the costs involved can be higher. But Jenneh is focusing on her other subjects and, having attended inclusive schools supported by Sightsavers, is now preparing to start at a mainstream high school for the next phase of her education.
“I’m learning social studies, English, economics, science and cultural studies. I use a tape recorder, [so I can] listen back to class, and I use a typewriter for exams.
“When I leave school I want to be a teacher – teaching is very important, because it makes you know more about your community. I want to teach social studies and home economics. I’ll need to go to university; I’d like to do this in America.”