Wailing and crying, Hadiza rolled on the floor with bitterness. She was all alone at the backyard, yet the echoes of her wails reached many around her father’s house. The scorching sun didn’t stop her, her father’s baritone voice and threats didn’t stop her either!
As she cried, she babbled and lamented.
“A-a-a-a-joke and Memuna are going to secondary school, w–hy is my own different?”
“Why is life so unfair to me? Why should I stay at home when Aliyu and Hassan are going to school?”
“And baba.. baba says I’m going to marry Chief Wazobia in a month’s time!!!!” “God, why…why me na.. why am I so unfortunate?” “Fourth wife! Ehn!”
Hadiza’s rants went on and on, attracting many including Corper Haleemah. Corper Haleemah was one of the numerous graduates observing the one-year compulsory National Youth Service Corps scheme at that time. She had been posted to serve as a teacher at the community secondary school in the village. Despite the low standard of living and remoteness of the area, she was determined to make positive impact in the community. Asides her duties at her place of primary assignment, she organized free tutorial classes for children to bring education closer to them; Corper Haleemah always preached “Education as a major tool in sustainable development”.
Haleemah approached Hadiza, persuading her to stop crying as she helped her to her feet. With a very low tone, she tried to inquire what the issue was but Hadiza couldn’t bring herself to talk. She kept on sobbing and stealing gazes at the back door of her father’s house. Haleemah figured out her fear and requested that she followed her home; she obliged.
“I have Indomie only in this house o, will you manage it?” Haleemah said with a big smile, trying to get Hadiza to calm down.
“No o Aunty Corper, I don’t want food. I just want to stay hungry and die” Hadiza responded. Haleemah laughed hysterically, walking towards Hadiza as she shrugged.
“(pulling Hadiza’s cheeks) Hadiza Hadiza, you won’t kill me! Funny girl…. Do you think it’s easy to die? Let me quickly arrange Indomie for you jor“.
Hadiza squeezed out a thin smile that disappeared almost immediately. Few minutes later, Haleemah returned to the room with a plate of steamy hot noodles and the aroma filled the room. She set the plate beside Hadiza on the bed and beckoned her to eat. She empathetically watched Hadiza sweat and intermittently wipe the streaming mucus from her nose with the back of her hand as she rushed her meal.
Hadiza finished her food faster than expected and with a mischievous grin on her face she hands the plate over to Corper Haleemah. “Aunty Corper, you forced me to eat this food o”. Then she finally explained her predicament to Haleemah. Prepared for moments like this, Haleemah engaged her.
“See Hadiza, no one will take you serious unless you prove your worth. Some of our cultural and religious beliefs have sabotaged the rights of the girl child, but you can make a difference. Children’s potentials should not be silenced because of the genitals they carry. Both boys and girls deserve access to quality education. But know this, to make it in life you must be determined to achieve your dreams despite the obstacles. That is life, my dear… I won’t deceive you. So here’s the plan, I will pay for your common entrance, tutor you myself and I will go and make a deal with your father”
Hadiza jolted and grabbed Haleemah’s hands. “Ah! Aunty Corper, don’t go o. Please don’t go to my father, he will flog me to death”. Haleemah rubbed her palms against hers with a big smile on her face. “Don’t worry Hadiza, I will handle this rightly”. Hadiza returned home happily; ready to prove a point to her father that she deserves education just as much as Aliyu and Hassan.
A few days later, Corper Haleemah visited Hadiza’s father and pleaded with him to give Hadiza a chance to pursue her dreams. She gave examples of women who have made remarkable impacts in Nigeria – from Queen Amina of Zaria, Nana Asma’u, Hajia Laila Dongyaro to Buchi Emecheta, Ibukun Awosika amongst others. After a long tensed conversation, Hadiza’s father agreed to sponsoring her for secondary education only if she performs better than her brothers in the entrance examination.
Hadiza’s self-confidence and strong-will aroused. She was very dedicated to her tutorial sessions with Corper Haleemah. Finally, the exams came and the results followed.
“Aunty Corper! Aunty Corper!!” Hadiza called frantically while knocking hard on Haleemah’s door. Haleemah hurriedly opened the door unsure of what the issue was.
“Aunty Corper, I overtook them like Dangote trailer” Hadiza exclaimed as she wiggled her waist to rhythm of ..(well, God knows what). Hadiza passed! She performed better than her brothers! She earned her right!
Well, it’s a beautiful morning 11 years after, Corper Hadiza is preparing for a community outreach focused on advocating for girl child education. Oh! and her usual closing remark- let us build a community where gender bias is completely silenced; a community where every child enjoys equal access to basic rights, especially education.