19-year-old Gompou: “Education is the key to a happy life”

Secondary school students in the Bahn refugee camp in Liberia. Photo: Jari Kivelä
Secondary school students in the Bahn refugee camp in Liberia. Photo: Jari Kivelä

Gompou is 19 years old from Ivory Coast, currently living in Liberia. Here’s what he writes about the meaning of education:

[Excerpt]

The dark page of my education started on September 19, 2002, when the rebels invaded my country Ivory Coast. At that time, I was in the third grade, commonly referred to in Ivory Coast as “CE1”. On the exact day the rebels attacked, we were learning grammar. A few minutes before recreation time, we suddenly heard shots and cries in the form of a bitter noise and immediately teachers, students, including all those who came to sell on the campus, started to abandon the school facilities to pursue our survival. In this escape, we left behind us all our furniture because life was the only important thing at that time. Later on, I met my parents at home while already upset about my life. We later took refuge in the neighboring country Liberia, where we lived as refugees for two years.

While in our country of asylum, the only worry our parents had was their children’s education. Though we used to eat and live in a secure environment, still the parents were only satisfied when a temporary school for Ivorian refugees was opened in Butuo, a town in the eastern part of Liberia.

To be truthful, the education we received from that school was relevant because that was the only gift we can never forget about, even as far as in the grave. In effect, the education we received in that school helped us to keep in touch with learning our language, our history, our culture, and even enable us to be well equipped and up to standard when we returned to Cote d’Ivoire. That education thus helped us to continue our education in Cote d’Ivoire without any problem.

What is more, we even became bilingual because we were able to express ourselves in both French and English, and that education is what is helping me presently to write this essay in English, even though I am Ivorian. In addition to this, those of us who took that education serious are able to write, speak and communicate in English fluently, all because English was the dominant language in which we used to learn just because our host country was Liberia, which is of course an English speaking country.

The question that we want to ponder over is: why should education continue even in emergency situations?
The education that we received was necessary, though being in time of emergency. That education was very important because it kept us busy, prevented us from engaging in gangs, and from having a loose and immoral life course. Besides, it prepared us to be adequately equipped, in order to face successfully the challenges that awaited us when we returned home. Moreover, it made us useful in the society, rather than making us useless. That is to say, we lost everything we had (homes, parents, relatives, friends even food), but education was not lost, because it is the key to a happy life.

The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies organised a writing contest for children and young people living in the worst humanitarian crises around the world. Participants came from 52 countries. Twelve pieces were selected for publishing from the over 700 entries. Included are the essays of two young refugees from the Ivory Coast, who are living in a refugee camp in Liberia and study in a school supported by Finn Church Aid. This is one of them.