One Man’s Inspiring Journey to Lift His Country Out of Poverty


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One Man’s Inspiring Journey to Lift His Country Out of Poverty

June 21, 2023, 5:00 a.m. ET
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Video by Nicholas Kristof, Lucy King and Jonah M. Kessel

Mr. Kristof is an Opinion columnist. Ms. King is a producer for Opinion Video. Mr. Kessel is the deputy director.

Around the world we talk a good game about the importance of education, but we rarely act as if we mean it.

Here’s an unlikely exception: Sierra Leone, one of the world’s most impoverished countries. In the video above, I travel to Sierra Leone to chronicle that country’s campaign to get all children in school — and then to get them to actually learn to read, even in ramshackle schools with no electricity or plumbing.

The children broke my heart and also inspired me. If Sierra Leone can do this, other countries can — and surely the United States can emulate that same determination to help every child learn.

This education revolution in Sierra Leone is the brainchild of President Julius Maada Bio and his youthful minister of education, David Sengeh. A Harvard graduate, Sengeh was working for IBM when President Bio asked him to come home and help his country — but now they face a test. Nationwide elections will be held late this month, with Bio campaigning for another term.

I wrote a column about what we can learn from Sierra Leone — and about the ways the revolution still falls short: Children are sometime beaten for failing to pay school fees that are in fact illegal. Despite these failings, what I take away most is the hope reverberating through the nation. The world, in short, has much to learn from this nation’s determination to give every child an education. See it for yourself in this short film.

Lucy King (@King__Lucy) is a producer with Opinion Video.

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