Saio, who is 17 years old, has a physical disability that affects her feet and makes walking difficult. She was missing out on a lot of her education because she was often in too much pain to walk to school.
In the past she also experienced bullying by other students, which can be common among children with disabilities.
Now a Sightsavers-supported inclusive education project has provided transport for Saio to get to school, as well as training for her teachers on how to make sure all students can learn and thrive, and this has made a huge difference.
“I live in Bombali district in Sierra Leone. When I wake up in the morning, I say my prayers. I greet my relatives, then I pick up a broom and sweep. After sweeping, I go and fetch water, take my bath and brush my teeth. Then I pack my books inside my school bag and go to school with my friend, Josephine.
“I normally reach school late – I walk to get to school. It takes me about an hour. The distance to the school is far and also the road is terribly bad. There are so many stones on the road: I normally hit my foot on objects and fall down. I get up again, I carry my bag and continue going to school. But today, I am not walking: I will go on a motorcycle!
“When we get to school, we sit inside our classroom and start to learn. I love to attend school. The thing I like most is when my teachers ask me to come and sit in the front row when they are teaching us, because they want me to get educated.
“At school, I spend time with my friends – they are not abandoning me. Sometimes, there are many who will not play games with me. Because of this, sometimes I am shy about going to school – sometimes I feel shy about passing where they are. They look at me and watch me. Some of those who like me, they will play with me. So because of this, I feel good whenever I go to school.
“On Fridays, I normally rest. My mother usually asks me why I did not go to school and I reply that I am not able to go today; my feet are hurting me. When I go to school, when someone asks her about my whereabouts, she says: ‘Saio has gone to find an education, she has gone to school.’ She wants me to get educated so I can prosper.
“The corridor to the classroom used to be very high, but now they have built steps there, so I feel at ease entering the classroom. Since the start of this programme, the teachers are encouraging me; my friends are encouraging me. That is why I am happy to go to school.
“Let me get educated. After I finish school, I want to study, to learn how to sew. I want to secure a very good job, like tailoring or hairdressing.”
Watch the video below to find out more about Saio’s experience.
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