Desperate to Go to School: Augustine’s Story

08/29/16

Augustine knows the value of education because he has tasted how hard life can be without it.


Before Children of the Nations was established in Ngolala, Sierra Leone, Augustine’s family was split up and he was living in a nearby village with an aunt who mistreated him.

Augustine has a vivid memory of seeing his mother after she learned of the mistreatment; she came marching up the road to confront his aunt—and to bring him home. But his parents still couldn’t make ends meet, and Augustine was sent to live with an older sister in another village.




                                     Augustine studies hard now that he has the opportunity to attend school.
 

Another of Augustine’s sisters, Selina, joined them. He and Selina were promised that when they had made enough money, they would be enrolled in school. Selina spent her days cooking for the family, and Augustine worked on the farm. “It was a long walk every day just to get to the farm,” remembers Augustine. “And soon they forgot about schooling.”


His sister’s family then moved to a village within walking distance of Ngolala, where Selina and Augustine’s parents lived. And the children were able to visit their parents for Christmas. When the time came for them to return to their sister’s village, both children hid. “I went into an unfinished building to hide, but because I was a small boy, I came out again after just a few minutes,” says Augustine, laughing at his younger self.


He was caught, but Selina was more determined. She had hidden under a bed. “We were all searching for her, but she stayed there for hours,” Augustine explains. “She didn’t come out again until we had left.” When COTN arrived in Ngolala in 2006, Selina was one of the first names added to the Village Partnership Program (VPP)—her hours of hiding had paid off. For Augustine, the wait would be longer.




Augustine is helping another one of his sisters, Amie, who has served for many years as a tailor in COTN’s skills center.
 

No longer allowed to visit his parents for holidays, Augustine spent his days working. The next time Augustine was in Ngolala, it was to visit the COTN clinic. “I had a rash all over my body,” he recalls. “My father’s second wife, my aunty, she began telling my parents that I should be attending school with my brothers and sisters.”

One of Augustine’s sisters, Francess, was attending COTN’s primary school, and she brought Augustine to an interview with the principal, Mr. Kaloko. “She tried to teach me my ABCs for one week before the interview, but I never got past H!” Augustine remembers. “I was 10 years old, and so Mr. Kaloko felt sympathy with me when I said I did not want to go and sit in the nursery class. So he asked me to say my ABCs. When I got to H, my sister started pinching me and whispering the other letters to me. . . . But Mr. Kaloko told her to stop. At the end of the interview I was placed in Class 2, and after one month, I knew all my ABCs.”

While COTN gave Augustine a school uniform, it was hard for his family to provide other supplies. “I came to school barefoot,” Augustine explains. His family was also unable to pay for the extra lessons Augustine felt he needed to succeed in the national exams. But he stayed focused and worked hard. He prayed on the morning of each exam, and his teacher prayed with him before the first test. Out of the 34 students at COTN’s school taking the exams, Augustine placed third.

 

COTN has provided Augustine with opportunities in education, faith, and health—even the opportunity to enjoy childhood with his parents. He has had the opportunity to dream, and he hopes to study law. He has come a long way from that little boy hiding because he wanted to go to school. But he believes he can go further still. And it’s only through your support that Augustine, and children just like him, can go that distance.

 

P.S. If you want help more children like Augustine, please give to the Million Dollar Challenge. For a limited time, your gift will be matched and your impact will be doubled!