Mark, a secondary school student, wakes early this morning and greets his uncle and aunt. He feels that too many people forget to greet their loved ones so he tries to remember. Afterwards he washes up and walks almost two miles to the swamp, skipping breakfast. He returns in the afternoon and shares his story.

Mark chose a pseudonym for himself because his story is very personal and he wants to be completely honest in telling it. He asked to be anonymous and approved of the accompanying photo.


We all work our own part of the swamp, but the others had more energy than me today since they ate gari (grated cassava) mixed with sugar before working. They finished first so they left me at the swamp alone. Now I’ve come home to rest. Later in the evening I will go play football at the mini-stadium with my friends.

I come from a small town with no more than forty-five houses. My mother tells me that my father was a rice farmer, but during the civil war he joined the Kamajors—Mende warriors who defended us against the rebels. The Kamajors are now gone because the war is over. My father died before I even reached my first birthday. 

My mother raised me in her village. When I reached junior secondary school form one (JSS1), I moved to town to live with my father’s brother. He’s a responsible man and has been very good to me. He bought textbooks, shoes, and school bag for me—everything I need to achieve success in school.

I don’t like when my teacher asks for money as practical, or money to raise my grade on the class test. It happened last term in math class. I did not give money because I don’t have any. I reached the top five on my own by studying. If I bribed the teacher I could reach the top three easily. Some of my friends paid but they still have not passed me in rank. This bribery nonsense must stop because teachers in the next level don’t accept bribes. I want to use the President’s new telephone hotline to report the corruption.

My daughter is one years old, born when I was nineteen and her mother was seventeen. My son is two years six months. I had him with a nineteen year old girl when I was seventeen. Condoms weren’t there so I didn’t use one. They were my girlfriends at different times, but not anymore. Both of my children live with their mothers in their own villages and sometimes I can go visit them. I want to find good work after my schooling to support my children. I didn’t plan to have them but I still need to help them. I would advise my schoolmates to use condoms or hold off on sex so they can avoid this situation.

I don’t have money for university yet, so I will work to save some. I want to work in the security field, maybe in Freetown. If I can’t enter the security field then I will become a soldier. Hopefully they would give me an office position because I don’t want to fight anybody.