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.