Last month, the McKay School held one of its “Power of Teaching” lectures which are normally held several times each semester. The purpose of these lectures is to validate one’s decision to be an educator. Brad Wilcox was the featured speaker, and he brought a friend named Mariama Kollon with him. She is from Sierra Leon, a country in West Africa that is plagued by civil war. She lost her family, everything she owned, and barely escaped death. Mariama used to wonder why she even survived, but she has come to know that God saved her for a reason and she shared a beautiful message.
In Sierra Leon, Mariama had to plant or gather everything she would eat in a day. She wore shoes for the first time when she was thirteen and slept in a bed for the first time when she was sixteen. She said, “Don’t take for granted the things you have been given.” In Mariama’s home country, she made huge sacrifices to obtain an education. She was the first one of her family to go to school. At the age of thirteen, girls in Sierra Leon normally become a wife to an older man. She made
the choice to go to school, which meant she would have to leave her village and go to the city where she knew no one. She lived with a family in the city. The living conditions were harsh. She would be punished if her chores were not finished and she was starved. Mariama had to walk six miles to and from school, and so did her underpaid teachers.
In school, she learned to read and write. The ability to read was an incredible blessing because it allowed her to read the scriptures and learn more about our Savior, Jesus Christ. A high school education in Africa was very hard to obtain. She felt the blessings of courage, patience, and faith from her Heavenly Father. Mariama knew it was a privilege to be able to learn. Her friends gave up, but Mariama knew that God was preparing her for the future and she persevered. She will never forget her teachers. She shared with us the blessings that come and the incredible impact that occurs as we teach.
Listening to Mariama speak made me grateful for the country we live in and the all of the many opportunities we have to receive an education. Let us not forget the tremendous sacrifices that others make to obtain an education and the incredible opportunity we have to be educators.