Corona Times: Stories from children on loss, resilience and learning
Today is International Children’s Day. As we start the countdown to June 16, Day of the African Child, we commemorate Children at a time where lives have been disrupted or lost to COVID-19. This June, Save the Children Sierra Leone amplifies the voices of children in communities across the country, sharing their stories of the impact of the pandemic on their lives and their learning.
“All I wanted was to survive”
Musu at a focus group discussion for children in Kailahun Town, May 2021. Photo credit: Abdul Sillah for Save the Children
Eleven-year-old *Musu Kamara lives in Kailahun District. She attends a local primary school in Kailahun town and is in class five. In 2019, her life would change forever after the President announced that COVID-19 was in Sierra Leone and schools closed at the end of March.
Musu lost most of her family at the onset of the pandemic in Sierra Leone. As she slowly recovers from her loss she still remembers what happened. This is her story:
“When corona came to Sierra Leone I felt bad. It killed my uncle, my grandpa and grandma. They all got sick and had to be taken to hospital. My uncle was the first. Within three days we got news from the hospital that his sickness had worsened. Later they told us he was dead. Then my grandpa fell ill. He was also taken to the hospital. After one week he was dead. My grandma died one week later.
At that time, I felt so scared and could not sleep. I lived in the same house with my uncle and grandparents and people were saying if you live with someone who has corona you catch it. I thought I had corona. I started imagining the signs and symptoms and how painful it would be. I thought I was going to die.
I was not thinking of learning and could not learn anything. All I wanted was to survive.”
Musu now lives with her mother alone in the house they shared with her uncle and grandparents. She is not as frightened as before, but still finds it difficult to get used to not seeing or hearing the happy chatter of family members around the house.
Musu is among over 500 school children that Save the Children through the Global Partnership for Education is supporting to ensure they return to a safe, gender-sensitive, and inclusive learning environment.
NOTE: *Musu Kamara, not her real name
It was hard to concentrate at school because “I was sad all of the time”
Foday drawing his learning experience during a focus group session in Kailahun Town, May 2021. Photo credit: Abdul Sillah, Save the Children
*Foday Mannah is 13 years old. He moved in with his grandmother in Kailahun town after his mother died of COVID-19 in 2019. She is now responsible for his care, and uses her meager resources from selling fish to provide for both of them.
“I felt bad when corona came to Sierra Leone because it killed my mother. We were at home [when schools closed] when she fell sick. We did not take her straight away to the hospital. But later when we saw that she was not getting any better, we called for help. They [117,emergency free line] came to check and confirmed that she had corona and was taken to the hospital. They checked all of us and found out that my grandma also had corona. They took both of them to the hospital. A few days later mum died but my grandma survived. They brought my grandma home and quarantined our house.
When mum died my life was not easy. I thought I was going to die too. I grew up without a father and she was all I had. There were many things I used to have when mum was alive that I don’t get any more since she died. What made the situation worse for me was when we were quarantined. I could not go anywhere. I could not play with my friends or take part in any social gathering. It took some time for people to accept me as ‘normal’ and have me join them. Everyone was scared of me when I came out of the quarantine.
Because schools were closed, I could not attend school or learn. I had no one to help me with learning and I was unable to support myself with my learning. My mum’s death affected my education a lot. It was hard for me to concentrate when we went back to school because I was sad all the time.
Thinking back to what he has gone through as a result of the pandemic as an orphan, Foday had one advise for government.
I want government to help children like us who have lost our mothers and fathers. Let them help us.
Foday is among over 500 school children that Save the Children through the Global Partnership for Education is supporting to ensure they return to a safe, gender-sensitive, and inclusive learning environment.
NOTE: *Foday Mannah, not his real name