Iye lives in a rented home with her two daughters, five sons, and four grandchildren. Her daughter Jene owns a shop on one side of the home’s veranda and their neighbor owns a smaller kiosk on the opposite side. The shops offer pens, soap, biscuits, juice mix, batteries, sugar, toothpaste, alcohol, cigarettes, and more. Iye briefly describes her childhood and explains the rules of a game called akala.

Iye's Story

My parents raised me in Kawaya village and I helped them on our family farm during my youth. My mother did most of the work at first, but I took over many of the duties as she got older. During free time, my best friend and I visited each other at our homes. We enjoyed spending time together and doing things in common. We even helped each other perform our farming duties. In our free time we played games like balance (dodge) ball, ludo, and akala. 

The akala playing field consists of a large rectangle drawn in the dirt split into a two by five grid of ten spaces. Each space is large enough to give a player standing room. The first player stands outside the first space on one foot and puts a stone on the ground in front of them. They must jump forward while kicking it so that both person and stone land in the next space.

The line between adjacent spaces is called a ‘die’—if a player or paper lands on a die, they leave the game. When a player successfully turns the corner and reaches space six, they say “Am Rest” or “I’m resting”. They take a break before proceeding down the other side of the grid.

After moving through all the spaces and exiting the grid, the player scores one point and dances with excitement. The player then stands on two feet where they originally started, this time with their back to the grid. The player takes the crumbled paper in their hands and asks “build or no build?” The other players shout “build!” Then the player asks “long or short?” The other players say either. If they decide on “long”, the player stands up. If they decide on “short”, the player crouches down.

Then the player throws the paper behind them. A “house” is built by drawing an X on the space where the paper lands. The paper should not land on a line! The next player then plays akala, but must now jump over the house when they reach that space. The game continues until one player is left alive or if all houses are built. The player with the most houses wins.

Iye changes topics and moves many years ahead in her past to share some experiences during the rebel war. Then she speaks about her life today and ends with advice to her children.

The rebels came to my village one day when I was an older woman. I remember sitting on the ground and watching them murder my husband, then I felt something strike the top of my head. A rebel hit me with a machete. These days I still experience very bad headaches and pain around the scar. This happens a few times every month.

Later during the war I left my village to live in a town. I met another man and we got married, then we had a baby boy named Mohammed. We felt very happy together and loved each other. A few years later I became pregnant again, this time with a daughter. 

The rebels attacked our town and killed my husband before I could give birth to our daughter. They left me there but I felt very unlucky and discouraged after losing two husbands. My children only had their mother now. I received news of my family’s passing throughout the war—my father, mother, sister, and brothers died for various reasons. I have one remaining family member, my brother. 

Today my children go to school. Thank God President Bio has brought free education to Sierra Leone. I don’t need to sell for school fees anymore. Instead my family can eat and enjoy whatever we grow. If I do sell, I can use the extra money to buy clothes and shoes. During growing season I work for people doing various jobs. Once harvesting season arrives I work with my children to collect our food from the farm. I don’t hire farm hands because I don’t have enough money for that.

I want to tell my children to learn in school and not waste too much time playing. That way they can help pull our family during difficult times. They’ll be able to take care of themselves and look after me in my older years. I don’t want them to drop out of school early. Let their full attention be on their education.