Aspiring journalist Augustine Conteh, aka “Big Chief”, reports from Freetown, Sierra Leone

A day in the life of the MercyHome kids

Some of you have been asking what life is like for us kids on a day-to-day basis. Well, let me tell you a little bit about life at MercyHome Freetown.

Early in the morning, at around 6am, myself and the staff get the other kids up for morning prayers, followed by a briefing, if there are any issues to be discussed. Here, we go through our plans for the day. Class sizes in Sierra Leone are very big, so many schools are overpopulated. This means that we are split into two shifts, morning and afternoon. Imagine a class of 15x15ft for about 20 pupils, or 28x28ft for up to 70 pupils. So because of the shift system, I supervise the kids on afternoon shift as they go about their morning chores, like cleaning. Meanwhile the bigger girls help the staff to prepare breakfast, which is usually rice and stew.

The morning shift kids will leave around 7.25am, after their breakfast. The afternoon shift kids will then spend time doing school work or reading while the staff already start thinking about lunch preparations. By about 12.30pm lunch will be ready for the afternoon shift kids, so they can eat before leaving for school.

When the morning shift kids return from school, they also have lunch. This is followed by a short period of rest, and then they start their home work and read through their notes from school that day. Once school work is complete, there is time to play.

The afternoon shift returns home around 6.30pm and they join the morning shift kids in their games. Bath time then follows, and then there is another hour of study time. If there is still time in the evening, we can gather together to watch movies on the new television, which was bought for us when James and Valerie visited in July. Then it is dinner time—we eat dinner quite late in Sierra Leone. Before bed at around 10pm, we have a short prayer time and then prepare for a sound night’s sleep.

Transportation to school

Transportation to and from school has been something of an issue since we left our old home at Fire Mambo, because we used to be able to walk there and back from the home. Though we have moved to a new home, the kids still attend the same schools, which means we now have to rely on motorbike taxis, which [home manager] Pastor Obi has organised for us. It is only possible to take one child at a time, which means four or five trips twice a day, every school day. We have to rely on the taxi driver to be on time, and sometimes it is a little scary to ride through the traffic. When James and Valerie came to visit in July, we addressed this issue, and when the new school year begins we will take a car instead, which is much safer, more reliable, and means that more kids can travel together. Unfortunately, there is no system of school buses in Sierra Leone.

Schooling in Sierra Leone

The standard of schooling varies a lot in our country, and it is often necessary to hire private tutors. Teachers in government schools are not well paid—if at all—so they often organise private classes to earn extra money to feed their families and pay to run their homes. The teachers are also paid to mark our assignments. Extra classes can be conducted in schools at weekends and each student has to pay.

I hope this gives you some useful background into our daily lives!

Augustine Conteh (Big Chief)