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Maimuna Yusuf

Education is disregarded by so many. Everyone  wants to be successful, drive flashy cars, wear the most expensive clothes and carry the latest phones but we barely want to work for it. Education is essential for everyone; few people recognize that it is the level of education that helps people to earn respect and recognition. This attitude is very common in most  parts of our African countries.

 

I come from a community where western education is given no importance at all. And the people will definitely not adjust to technology because of their keenness for tradition. Therefore; anyone who tries to pick the western practice is seen as a deviant and a disappointment. Lekora Village is a northern community in Kaduna State of Nigeria where hawking is viewed to be more productive than educating a child, even Islamic education is hardly encouraged.

 During President Buhari’s regime in 1983, people were called to go back to farming to boost the nation's food production. However Our parents obviously misunderstood the government’s intention and pulled their kids out of school to join them in the farm, assuming that farming is of larger recognition even by those in power and the rich ones. This is one of the reasons why the only school in my village stopped functioning since even the children were not interested.

Kids are married off at a very early age. A 16year old boy has a family with no job; you will see a 12year old who already has a baby and is tied up to so many responsibilities. This is so practical that if any parent allows their child (female) to reach the age of 15 in the house, they are automatically irresponsible and the children will be insulted. At 15, the single girl is considered a disappointment because all of her mates are married. No man in the village will want to marry her again because they believe she will be too exposed by then.

I was 14years old when the school was revived for unknown reasons. Parents who settled for the progress only agreed to send their male children. But my dad had already made up his mind to do whatever it takes to send his children to school since he never got the chance to round up, he dropped out in jss3. I as the first born and both my younger brothers were sent to the school. I was the only girl in the whole school then.

With time, my friends started developing interest. Most of them joined because they found it as a way to escape house chores for a while and others were impressed by the little changes they saw in me. Registration and all was free so any one could join the school, parents could care less since they didn’t have to pay tuition or registration fees. As for my mum, she only allowed me to go to school because my dad said so, plus every morning she would package stuff for me to sell when I got to school.

If you come late to school or misbehave within the premises, you will be flogged by the teachers. This is the part most people disliked about going to school. In fact parents could just walk into the school and obnoxiously confront any teacher who had flogged or punished their children; they say it is not by force. So from primary1, my friends started withdrawing from school and getting married. My dad didn’t bother; he would flog me back to school anytime I tried to bring excuses. And a man was brought to the school from a more exposed community called Goro to teach us. He noticed my interest in studies so we got close in the sense that he checks my work and corrects me when I’m wrong. Anytime he didn’t see me in school, he’d come all the way home and take me on his bike to school because he didn’t want me to lose interest like others did.

By the time I Got to primary6, all of my friends had been married off and my relatives kept pressurizing my dad to marry me off at least to one of our relatives. They said: sending me to school at this age is the worse decision he’ll make because “Educated children end up spoilt and irresponsible”. But he refused. He was called names  for the decision he took. At a point he was even indirectly reported to the district head but that didn’t change a thing because he is the chief Imam in the village. He still tries to teach people on the importance of education during his sermons and in their little casual gatherings.

One day after I completed my primary school level, my father gathered the entire children in the house including my cousins and family friends who live with us. He asked us what plans we had for the future and how we intended to achieve them, keeping quite then meant full interest in marriage. Well, I was 100% sure that i didn’t want that so I spoke out. I told him how I will prefer to continue my studies up till the university level. He was impressed by my ambitious response and he gave his word to support me through the whole thing even though he was aware we didn’t have the money.

Three years into secondary school with no friends but my Dad, coupled with bearing  the long walks to school & back, the hardship, hunger, persecutions from my people and lack of funds almost made stop but out of the blues came in Girl Child Concerns (GCC) and they have been supporting me financially with fees and books since then. Despite my resolve and my father's support, I don’t think I would have made it to this level without  GCC.

I grew up to have so much love for learning but I’ve  had no means of doing what I really wanted till now, since I’m still in school and have no money. But with the little I know and the life skills development trainings by GCC I will continue to build myself. Which is why I and my dad decided that any time I come back home for holidays, I will be teaching my younger relations, married women and other youths who are interested on the little things I have learnt from school, including Islamic knowledge.

Many people are now impressed by this action I have taken, and wish they chose school over marriage. My sisters who got married are now telling me how they wish they had made a different choice back then, saying all sorts of unpleasant things about marriage, generally because once they get married, it’s the same routine all the time, chores, making babies and all with no money to take care of themselves. Even if they wanted to work its impossible because they don’t have the knowledge, so at the end of the day, they can only stick to being fulltime housewives or minor traders which limits their success.

As for those women I’m now teaching, they just keep wishing they had the chance during their time to go to school even for a day. They wish they had allowed their children also to go to school instead of marrying them off at such an early age.

Others, my relatives especially are still against it. Whenever I come back for the holidays they will look at me in piety and say: “oh maimuna, so this is the path you have chosen for yourself”. Well, “idan ba’a yi sharan masallaci ba ‘a yi na kasuwa” meaning- one day, in the process of getting western knowledge, I will end up with an unwanted pregnancy. These words of theirs hurt me and make me want to quit all the time but I have found a way to make it my focus statement. Whenever I feel like I want to give up, I remember that there are people out there wishing they had the opportunity, those waiting for me to fail, and that just strengthens my zeal. There is no holding back and I refuse to give up till I am sure they understand the difference.

You might be wondering why I wish to study health out of all the other courses. I have mentioned earlier, my village is one of those places in northern Nigeria where western education is unmentionable even though it is obvious we need help. It is a very big community with a large population and an unending problem of early marriage, which means new children, are born every day. But, till date, there is only one hospital with 6 wards and few attendants. It’s more like a pharmacy/ clinic because only minor injuries could be treated. For most problems, they will just prescribe panadol, drips and injections, without finding out what precisely the patient’s problem is.

Lives are at risk, and that touches my heart. I wish that by the time I’m done; I go back to my village and make a change. Help with the reconstruction of the hospital; treat as many ill people as possible, assist the pregnant, very old and helpless, also those who got caught up with sexual infections. I believe with good health only one can one attempt having the thought of being successful then we can all work to achieve our dreams. And that way, I won’t need to give explanation to anyone why western education is very important at every stage of our lives. This is the little goal I have set for myself and by god’s grace nothing will stop me from achieving it.

I will therefore like to use this as an opportunity to advice or rather plead with any parent who is reading this to please allow their children especially the girls to go to school. We should recognize that “the best gift any parent can give to their child is education”. Those who have been opportune to go to school should please try to share the knowledge which they have acquired with siblings, friends, whoever they can reach out to.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”

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