Gbarnga — Sitting at the front of her 12th grade class in her school uniform, Shirley Kollie listens intently while she writes an English topic of subject-verb agreement in her notebook. The 43-year-old secondary student of the Assembly of God School in Gbarnga has become one of those persons with strong will to change her condition.
Kollie said she had her education stalled in 1996 due to the lack of sponsorship, a situation that made her drop out of school. "My parents didn't have money to send me to school and my aunts I was stopping with didn't have money to send me to school also. I started school at the age of 12 years, I dropped after two years," she said.
Kollie, a mother of four, says she went back to school 10 years ago to inspire her children and girls who feel age has caught up with them to achieve education. "I had some of my friend who refused to go to school because of their age. That made me mad. I decided to show them that education is important,' she said.
Kollie says she confronts her peers who are not in school and ask them why. "They tell me they are too old," she says. I tell them, well, "I am at school and so should they."
She said there is a still a lot to learn. "I am still learning a lot of things and I am very proud of the progress I have made in my education sojourn to reach this level," she says.
'Education has no age limit'
Kollie says though she sometimes gets bullied by her classmates for being the oldest in the school, it has never deterred her from acquiring education. They call me grandma, she says. We play during recess. We talk like peers. I like school.
The vice principal of the school, Augustine Yarton, describes Kollie as a model student. "She advises our girls, she advises our boys. She participates in everything including PE (physical education). She's good at literature and mathematics. "She is one of the brightest students at our institution and we are proud of her," he says.
The Yarton believes Kollie is an example for her class. I am very proud of her, he says. "Kollie has been a blessing to this school, she has been a motivator to all the pupils," he says.
"She has been doing well... considering her age I can say I have seen a big difference in this school since she came."
In her blue and yellow school uniform, she tells her experiences to her classmates during break hours, she says. Her classmates can listen to her, she says.
A 22-year-old girl and a classmate to Kollie, Theresa Borley, says she is Kollie's best friend on the school campus "because she tells us stories about life - what to do and what not to do. "She has been an inspiration to me for the past six years since she enrolled here. She has helped me understand the meaning of life," she says.
Also, another classmate of Kollie, Abraham Moore, 27, says Annie is a blessing to the entire school. "We are very pleased to have her around us. She inspires us through motivational stories," a classmate said.
Kollie's enthusiasm is already paying off. Her second daughter, 22, is also a senior student of the Tubman Gray High School in Gbarnga. She says, she will be proud to write the West African Senior School Certification Exams with her daughter. "It will be one of the greatest days of my life to write WASSCE with one of my children. I can't wait for that day. We will study together and we are looking for a successful pass," she says.
Kollie wants children in Liberia to take education seriously. "I want to say to children of Liberia, especially girls, that education will be your wealth, don't look back and run to your parents," she says.
Kollie's own lesson is that it is never too late.
As Kollie prepares for WASSCE, support seems to be a challenge for her. "Things are very difficult for me and my children because of the lockdown. "My daughter and I don't have anything and we are looking out there for any assistance from humanitarian.