Sanoyea District — Daniel Sayon, 21, dropped out in 11th grade because he had to work in the mines to support himself.
"I started going to the mining area in January this year because I had no other option for survival," said Sayon, who lives in Haindee, Fuamah District.
"I had no place to sleep and food was also a problem."
Sayon and many young people who live in the towns and villages around the Jungle James Gold Mine abandoned their education to work in the mines because they need to support themselves and their families.
As Liberians head to the polls on October 10, 2017 to elect a new President and 73 new legislators, Sayon and his peers in Fuamah, electoral district seven, said education and job opportunities are the major issues that they want to hear candidates address on the campaign trail.
In addition to education, residents are also concerned about health care and poor road conditions.
In Bong County, 94 candidates are vying for seven legislative seats. Seventeen candidates are vying for a district of 26,765 registered voters.
Electoral District seven in Bong County comprises Sanoyea and Fuamah Districts.
Fuamah is home to the defunct China Union, a multimillion dollar company that gave US$1 million a year to the county social development fund from 2006-2012.
Despite the allocation of these funds, the district lags behind in education, health care and road connection.
Working in the mines is dangerous work, Sayon said.
The Workers have no boots and protective gears to shield them from blazing rocks.
"I will be voting for a leader whose dreams are to see the young people going to school," he said.
"Our President admitted that the education system is a mess, then why should I vote for Unity Party?"
Fahn Gorlormator, 26, dropped out of Bong Mines School after he was promoted to the 10th grade last year.
"I found myself working in the gold mines after my parents shifted from Bong Mines to Kakata and left me helplessly," he said.
Gorlormator plans to vote for the Unity Party because he believes the party can do better under Vice President Joseph Boakai.
For the legislative seat, he will vote for Corpo Barclay, also of Unity Party.
Bad road, no health center
Joyce Pewu, a resident of Jungle James, said she's concerned about health care. She became a widow last year after her husband died from malaria and diarrhea.
Pewu, a nurse and mother of five children, said her husband would have survived if the Degeh clinic in Fuamah District had medicine.
Mark Cole, 26, operates the ferry in Fuamah that takes about 37 passengers every day from Filikala, Deyeh to other towns and villages in Sanoyea district. Vice President Joseph Boakai provided the ferry in March this year.
Cole said he deals with a lot of medical emergencies.
On August 6, he lost one of his passengers. He received a call at 2:03 a.m. to take a 36-year-old pregnant woman who was about to have a baby to catch the ambulance in the town of Deyeh, about 10 minutes ferry ride from Filikala to Deyea? When there's a medical emergency from Fuamah, the ambulance picks of the patient in Deyeh and takes them to Bong Mines Hospital.
Cole said he alighted the woman in Deyeh before the ambulance took her to Kilibi. The woman, according to Cole, died upon arrival at the Kilibi clinic.
Yarwanee Singbah, 52, the victim's mother, said her daughter died because of bad roads.
If Deyeh to Kilibi had better road connection, 'my daughter would be alive," she said.
"Bad roads are affecting us and the ferry provided by the vice President can't help the situation," Singbah said.
"We would like to tell the vice President thank you for the ferry but giving a ferry and there are still bad roads all over doesn't mean anything."
On Oct. 10, Singbah plans to vote for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) headed by Senators George Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor.
The Unity Party, she said, failed to improve the roads in her district and she doubts that Boakai and Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay will do any better.
Solomon Matue, 43, also attributed his wife's death to bad roads.
"We are living in serious trouble and my wife's death is one of many difficulties we are faced here as a people. Every time someone gets sick, we walk about two to three hours to seek medical treatment to Kilibi,"he said.
Like Singbah, Matue said he will vote for the CDC over the Unity Party because the party has not done much in addressing the issue of better roads in the country.
"My wife can't die because of bad road network then I vote for Unity Party, I will be a fool to do so," he said.
Jerry Yarkpawolo, Deyeh's town chief, said accessto health care is an age-old problem in the district.
The ferry provided by the vice President has not improved things.
"The ferry is good but it has not helped the problems of bad roads we have been facing here," saidYarkpawolo, an undecided voter.
He said he's leading a campaign against the Unity Party because the town of 864 registered voters lacks basic necessities such as paved roads, clinics and school.
The place only has an elementary school.
BeyanSackie, 28, a resident of Deyeh, said the ferry can be dangerous at times.
It's only by the grace of God that people are surviving, he said. He said it is disappointing that the town of 1,000 people has no clinic.
"At time when I get sick I pray to God to heal me," Sackie said.
"We have nowhere to go. The nearest access to health center takes more than one hour while walking."
Sackie said he won't be voting on October 10 because he's tired of leaders making promises they can't keep.
In the past, he voted for people who promised to build roads in the district, but nothing has happened.
Motorbike fares in the Deyeh and other neighboring towns to Kilibi increased from LD$600 to LD$ 900 because of the bad roads, he said.
The nearest clinic is in Kilibi.
The lack of drugs and medical care at Bong Mines Hospital is a major problem in the area since China Union scaled down.
Emmanuel Smith, a first time voter, said he envisions a Liberia where people can receive treatment for minor illnesses, especially at a hospital like Bong Mines.
He said he will vote for Boakai because he believes the vice President has plans to revamp the health center.
But he said he will not be voting for incumbent lawmaker Barclay because she has not done much for the county.
Pregnant women at Kilibi clinic lament bad road
Four years ago, Africare built a maternal waiting home in the town of Kilibi for expectant mothers to stay as their delivery date approaches. The goal is to have the women at the home, so that they can easily access health care.
In August, 15 pregnant women were at the home. They all lamented the impact of bad roads on health care.
The women appreciate the home, but they said there is no electricity and they sleep on mats.
Harriet Stewart, 26, said she trekked from Bingaglaciata town for one hour forty five minutes to access health to Kilibi.
She said there is no clinic in her town and the road leading to her town is impassable.
Stewart, a first-time voter, said the only way to voice her concern about bad roads and lack of health care is at the ballot box.
"We have cried for better roads and clinics, but to no avail," she said, holding back tears.
Despite the lack of roads and clinics, she plans to vote for the incumbent--Unity Party in the Presidential race.
Stewart said she would vote against the incumbent lawmaker, Barclay of District 7.
She's voting for Boakai because he needs to be given time to prove his worth having served as vice President under President Sirleaf for 12 years.
For Barclay, Stewart said citizens have cried for better road network for 12 years but the lawmaker has not done much to fix the roads, despite the annual allotment of US$20,000 for legislative earmarked projects.
Korto Kollie, 36, of Quainta, a neighboring town about an hour from Kilibi, said health care is her major concern in the 2017 elections.
She urged her peers to campaign against incumbents.
"Voting for the Unity Party means that we are satisfied with the long distance we cover to seek health care," Kollie said why pointing her fingers to her peers as she sat on a wooden plank.