Kadiatu is a 17-year-old secondary school student living in Kissy, Sierra Leone. Her biggest challenge growing up was getting an education. Since her parents only went to primary school, Kadiatu and her siblings were never shown the importance of education and were raised in a small village without a school.

Alpha and Kadiatu sitting outside Kadiatu's home laughing in Sierra LeoneBut Kadiatu had a desire to better herself and so, she and her siblings made the difficult decision to leave their parents’ village to be closer to a formal school. While her parents remained in the village, Kadiatu and her siblings moved in with their uncle in Kissy. Kadiatu, her now 28 year-old brother, and 11 year-old sister all shared one room.

At age 17, Kadiatu should be finishing secondary school this year, but she is a year behind. When Ebola swept over Sierra Leone, government officials implemented school closures to prevent the virus from spreading further. As a result, students like Kadiatu were left out of school for almost an entire year.

“It was terrible for us, we were reading our books Beautiful World gave us and listening to radio classes. I was just sitting at home, there was no playing because with Ebola restrictions there was no touching.”

Alpha and her brother Momo sitting outside their home in Sierra LeoneWhen the outbreak first occurred, Kadiatu was still with her relatives in Kissy. During this time, her father contracted the virus followed shortly after by her mother, who had attempted to care for her husband during his illness. Since health authorities had warned communities about travelling to infected areas, Kadiatu was unable to visit her parents when they became ill. Just shortly after contracting Ebola, Kadiatu’s mother and father died; she could neither say goodbye nor attend their burials. As the virus continued to spread, Kadiatu also lost her grandmother. With little of her family left, she was left alone and frightened.

Kadiatu, a Beautiful World student and her grandfather in Sierra Leone
Kadiatu, a Beautiful World student and her grandfather in Sierra Leone

Kadiatu describes the outbreak as a frightening time when people were too afraid to move from place to place, and with government restrictions preventing citizens’ movements. When Kadiatu would visit the market she tried not to touch anyone for fear of contacting the disease herself—as so many of her relatives had.

Although she was unable to see her friends and attend school, Kadiatu kept her mind occupied by focusing on her studies. She read the books Beautiful World sent her and listened to government classes on her radio.

Kadiatu describes the outbreak as the most frightening period of her life; it was a time of uncertainty—for the future, her community, and her own life. In the time since the outbreak however, she has become more hopeful. Kadiatu wants to continue her studies in commercial business and hopes to become a bank manager. Kadiatu dreams of one day being able to support her family. She “wants to remove them from poverty.”