5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Mohamed Sidibay

In this series, GPE asks Mohamed Sidibay five questions on the power of education. GPE's financing campaign seeks to raise at least $5 billion over five years to transform education for up to 1 billion children in 87 countries.

December 17, 2020 by GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Mohamed Sidibay

1. As a GPE Youth Champion, you tirelessly highlight the power of education to enable people to have a voice and be heard. You have also previously mentioned how education helped you overcome being forcefully conscripted as a child soldier. Can you tell us a bit more about that journey?

In 1997, the war in Sierra Leone stole my family and robbed me of my childhood. At five years old, I was forced to carry an AK-47 for almost five years with the RUF [Revolutionary United Front] as a child soldier. When the war ended, I was illiterate, homeless and poor.

At 10, I started going to school because it was the safest place for me to be; I had a roof over my head and I felt protected, safe and wanted. I had nothing left to lose and I clung to the idea of becoming someone, a priest, a doctor or a lawyer.

2. Can you explain a bit more about the link between education and empowerment?

The knowledge and the ability to think critically, analyze and act is the most powerful weapon that anyone could ever have. I have that weapon; I have the sort of power that can never be taken, stolen, or destroyed: my education.

There is no greater empowerment than the education I have received, an education that has imbued me with the duty and responsibility to challenge, question and help rebuild institutions that have rarely existed for people like me. The outcome of the journey of becoming the master of my own fate could not have happened if I did not receive the education I now have.

3. As an international advocate for education, you have taken part in the ongoing conversations on the improvement of education systems in the global south. In your view, what is GPE’s added value in this area?

GPE's added value is that they mobilize funds and partnerships to drive meaningful change, support leaders in partner countries, and provide innovative technical support to improve education systems and ensure that every child can access education and keep learning, even in the face of adversity.

This approach has led to 160 million more children enrolling in school and doubled girls’ enrollment in GPE partner countries.

In my case, it was thanks to fortuitous connections that I got an education, but we cannot build nations on chance. We cannot leave it up to fate that children will meet the right circumstances that will enable them to realize their rights.

GPE works at the systems level to ensure that every child has access to education because it should not be by chance that children go to school and have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

4. You clearly believe in the importance of investing in education, as shown by your advocacy work and the program you started that has paid for 100 students in Sierra Leone to attend school. GPE shares this belief and has launched its 4th Financing Campaign, Raise Your Hand, with the goal of raising at least $5 billion over five years to transform education systems in up to 87 countries. In your view, what are the top 5 benefits of investing in education?

No society stands a chance of progress and stability, if education is treated as a privilege rather than a right.

If we invest in education, millions get lifted out of poverty. Education improves health outcomes and saves more girls from child marriage. Education helps eliminate civil wars, it saves lives and leads to more sustainable, peaceful and resilient societies. It’s a right that enables young people like me to have, beyond reading and writing, other critical skills needed for the 21st century.

Ensuring donors adhere to their education commitments will also ensure more children are supported by new technology and feel safe at school, like I did. GPE’s financing conference in July 2021 is a key opportunity to support these actions.

5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?

The classroom is where I felt the safest. I remember that my first teacher paired me with a girl who remains the most important tutor I have ever had. These two women taught me the value of education and opened the door that allowed me to reimagine a new future.

Protecting domestic budgets will ensure that more female teachers, like my role models, are recruited. I urge us to fight hard for education and push for the investments so critically needed for the reimagined future of millions of children and youth.

Read other interviews from this series.

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Financing 2025
Sub-Saharan Africa: Sierra Leone

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