A student who arrived in the UK from Sierra Leone in midst of the 2014 Ebola outbreak has not only completed his International Baccalaureate (IB) studies, but been awarded scholarship offers to multiple US universities and a grant to return home to combat Ebola stigmatisation.
Abu Bakarr, 22, has spent the last year and half studying at UWC Atlantic College, an international residential sixth form college in South Wales.
By becoming a UWC Atlantic College student, Abu joined a community of more than 350 students from over 90 countries. Upon his arrival, he could speak only broken English picked up in high school.
After graduating high school in Sierra Leone in 2012, Abu joined Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), and was subsequently encouraged to apply for a place at UWC Atlantic College, who have close links with the organisation.
Today, Abu is preparing to graduate from the IB Certificate Programme in the summer. Having worked closely with the College’s English department and University Admissions Team, he is weighing up scholarship offers from Wartburg College in Iowa, Methodist University in North Carolina and Westminster College in Missouri to study Business.
Abu’s time in Wales has had a profound effect of his life today, but he almost missed the opportunity to start at the UWC Atlantic College altogether. Visa restrictions around the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa meant he could only arrive a month into the academic year.
As an UWC Atlantic College student, Abu’s time was split equally between his IB studies and co-curricular activities.
These activities are grouped into one of four faculties – Environmental, Global, Social Justice and Outdoor – and each contributes to an aspect of the college’s mission to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
Abu chose to join the Social Justice faculty, which sees students working within their local communities to aid refugees, the elderly, children from disadvantaged home backgrounds, and children and adults with mental and physical disabilities.
Abu’s believes that his passion for volunteering has made his co-curricular work to be one of the most rewarding aspects of his time at UWC Atlantic College.
Recently, he was awarded the College’s GoMAD grant – a £1,000 grant that gives students an opportunity to make a real-world difference and put into practice the ideals of UWC. Abu will use the grant to return to Sierra Leone in July immediately after his final IB exams to help combat Ebola stigmatisation.
West African children who have lost one or both of their parents to Ebola are often bullied by peers and cast aside by elders. Abu intends to combat this mentality by working with local media and stakeholders to change the way these children are viewed and treated.
Abu will fly to the US to start college immediately after this summer work, but his long term plan is to return to his homeland and continue his aid work.
He explained: “After university I will go back home and work to bring about a change in the society. I’m completely passionate about doing something meaningful – that’s my dream and what I am praying for. I am bit nervous about starting university so far from home, but I am sure my UWC Atlantic College experience will see me through the difficulties.”
John Walmsley, principal at UWC Atlantic College, said: “Abu embodies the true nature of what we at UWC Atlantic College seek to inspire. We believe that educational can be a true force for peace in our world, and we seek to instil this in each of our students.
“We aim to ensure that the all young adults who study with us take the opportunities they are presented with, and use them to make a real difference in the world when they leave our campus.
“As a VSO scholar, who intends to return home to help those in real need, Abu is a true example of this ethos in action. It is even more rewarding to know that the GoMad grant that will finance his aid work in Sierra Leone was itself created funded by UWC Atlantic College alumna.”