“Why is your name not on the list?” One of my friend’s asked. “I think these teachers favor you so much because you are the best performing girl in the class” she added. I just smiled at her and continued staring at the teacher who was still reading out the names of those who have not paid tuition fees, silently praying not to be called out. That was when we were in primary school grade eight and we had holiday tuition. My parents could not afford to pay for the lessons. The tuition was optional but I could not afford to miss it, so I used to plan very well to ensure I take part in the whole holiday session. I discovered that the teacher in charge normally writes down the names of all the students who will be available for the tuition during the first three days. So I used to be absent for the first three days, by the time I come in most of the students have paid their fees and teachers normally follows the list which does not have my name. I silently study like an “invisible” student, they only find out when we are done with exams and I appear to be among the top and by that time there is nothing they can do about it!
You see, I grew up as the first born of a very poor family with a disabled father who struggled every moment of his life for my siblings and I. I never had that conducive environment for me to learn, I walked a huge distance to school sometimes hungry and on worn-out shoes, but I knew what I wanted, just to learn. Somehow, a divine power kept on reminding me that if only I concentrate on my studies and work hard then I can be a source of change for my family and community. During our days in primary school, students from well off families used to leave most of their revision books in class when we go home, so I use to report to school an hour before others in the morning just to read their books before they turn up for morning preps. I was so afraid of borrowing every now and then, you see the things with poverty is that it really affects your self-esteem and confidence.
One day my lovely dad came home so excited, I was reading in front of our house and behind him was a guy carrying a new sewing machine. “I got a new machine which belongs to you, so you don’t have to study much because we have no resource to take you for any further studies,” He said. I just looked at him and felt deep in my heart that somehow I will find a way to university level and I did. Today my dad is a proud man.
Studying was really difficult but I thank God for that first-hand experience of what vulnerable girls go through especially during adolescence, from need of sanitary support to mentorship, moral support and support for opportunities to learn. That background inspires me to stand up for that vulnerable girl every moment. I believe that every girl needs an opportunity to learn and excel. I am currently advocating for girls’ education which is not easy, I remember begging a mother to take her daughter to school for three consecutive days. I exhausted every point and on the third day I just kept on saying “am still here.” Finally, she accepted but with one condition that I cater for all her school expenses because the family can’t afford. I just had to accept but I know it needs more than I can afford because So far we have several girls in school. Every day you meet vulnerable girls who need opportunities for growth, many need to be rescued from practices such as early marriage but I hope one day we will get it all done. I pray that someday every parent will understand that immense power in educating girls.