Mariatu lives in the Monkey Bush community of Waterloo. Education is not free in Sierra Leone; families must pay for tuition, uniforms, school supplies, and other school fees. With parents struggling to provide for their families, this expense is many times not possible.
Typically, those who can afford to send their children to school will choose to send only their sons. Girls will be left at home to tend to daily chores and their younger siblings while parents work.
This lack of education and supervision leads girls just entering into adolescence very vulnerable to teenage pregnancy. For girls who have not been given access to education, they are often left with no option but to marry as early as 16 years of age, so they can be financially supported by their husband.
Mariatu lost her mother when she was 5 years old. Her father was not able to provide for her needs, so Mariatu came to live with her aunt who hoped to give her a better life. Mariatu’s aunt is able to do small trading to earn income, but is not able to provide for Mariatu to attend school or provide for their family’s basic needs.
Mariatu has never attended school, but she very much wishes to be a schoolgirl so she can one day become a medical doctor. Mariatu spends her days helping her aunt with household chores, caring for her younger cousins, and even with preparing items for her aunt to sell.